North Carolina as a whole, and Buncombe County in particular, are seeing much lower foreclosure rates than the U.S. as a whole. National reports show an 81 percent increase in foreclosures from 2007 to 2008. That’s 2.3 million foreclosures — almost half of them in California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada.
But foreclosures in N.C. increased at only 8.6 percent, with almost 54,000 business and home properties going into foreclosure, according to data released by the N.C. Commission on Banks. A broader report that collects data for earlier stages of the foreclosure process, however, indicates an increase of 16 percent in the state (reported by the California-based foreclosure tracking company, RealtyTrac). Buncombe foreclosures have increased by almost 20 percent, according to the state banking commission.
That’s not-so-bad news, says at least one mortgage lender. “We’re not like California. We’re not like Nevada,” says Rhonda Marcum, executive director of the Mortgage Bankers Association of the Carolinas. When asked why North and South Carolina haven’t been hit as hard by the foreclosure crisis, she suggests, “We have not been caught with as much of the speculative buying [and] subprime lending.” Historically, she notes, second homes and investment properties are the first to show mortgage delinquencies. There are fewer such properties in the Carolinas than in such states as California or Florida, Marcum explains. She also attributes the lower rates to more “prudent lending” practices in the Carolinas and “more integrity” in the buying population.
Look a little more closely, and there’s another difference: In Aug. 2008, Gov. Mike Easley approved the State Home Foreclosure Prevention Project, which requires lenders to give homeowners 45-day notice. The law targets subprime-mortgage holders, giving them a little extra time to work with their lender to fend off foreclosure. As Marcum emphasizes, “Lenders don’t want foreclosures. It costs us money.” She urges homeowners slipping behind in their payments to contact their lenders as soon as they can. “If you wait till you really need help, it may be too late,” she says.
For more information about the state’s Prevention Project, click here. Or call the Homeownership Preservation Foundation at their 24-hour, seven-days-a-week assistance hotline, 888-995-HOPE. The foundation offers counseling and information for all homeowners facing foreclosure, not just subprime-mortgage homeowners.
— Margaret Williams, contributing editor