The Calhoun County Probate Office reported 88 foreclosures during the first quarter of 2011, an increase from the 76 foreclosures reported in the final quarter of 2010.
Of the foreclosures reported so far this year, 14 were recorded in January, while 38 were recorded in February and 36 in March.
This quarter’s numbers are still lower than those reported in the same quarter in 2010, which had a total of 113 foreclosures. At the time, that amount was a record number of foreclosures in one quarter for the county.
The 2011 numbers, however, are higher than the 77 foreclosures reported in the first quarter of 2009 and the 55 reported in the first quarter of 2008.
The housing market crash and the economic recession started in 2008.
“Every expectation people have looked at for 2011 is that it will be a pretty bad year for foreclosures,” said Keivan Deravi, professor of economics at Auburn University Montgomery.
Deravi said high foreclosures are persisting around the country and keeping the housing market from recovering because of high unemployment.
“More people will probably go into the foreclosure stage because of the weak economic activity,” Deravi said.
According to the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations, the unemployment rate in Calhoun County is high at 9.7 percent. Alabama’s average unemployment rate is at 9.3 percent. The national unemployment rate is hovering around 8.8 percent.
Shad Williams, CEO and President of Cheaha Bank, said his bank has been dealing just with new foreclosures this year, as opposed to a backlog of old foreclosures that larger, national banks have been working through since the housing market crash.
“As long as we have high unemployment, people will still have problems,” Williams said. “We’ve got people out there who want to pay for their homes if they can.”
Still, market improvements in the area are occurring, Williams said.
“As I talk to our customers, a lot of people that have gone through lean times are telling me things are getting better,” he said. “Tradesmen who haven’t had a backlog of work are starting to get a backlog. But still, it will take time to get back to where they were.”
David Dethrage, who handles foreclosures for the Home Realty Company, said foreclosures are keeping the housing market down because there are still just too many of them.
“One reason there are so many of them on the market is that current demand does not meet the supply,” Dethrage said. “So when people get into trouble, they are not able to sell.”
He noted, though, that as eventually many of the foreclosed homes are sold, demand will increase, leading to the housing market’s recovery.
To help residents in danger of foreclosure, Gov. Robert Bentley in February initiated a $162 million program under the Alabama Housing Finance Authority to keep people from losing their homes.
The AHFA website states that under the program, called the Hardest Hit Fund, unemployed homeowners can receive assistance to help pay their current mortgage payment and other mortgage-related expenses, such as payments on subordinate liens. The fund can provide up to 12 monthly mortgage payments or $15,000 per household.
Deravi said the program would help residents in danger of foreclosure, at least in the short term.
“If the high unemployment rate continues, it will not have a positive impact in the long term,” Deravi said. “If these people can’t be gainfully employed, I don’t think foreclosure can be avoided.”
For more information about the Hardest Hit Fund, visit www.HardestHitAlabama.com or call 1-877-497-8182.
Star staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561.