HAC in the News Archives

Housing market stabilizes on Cape Cod

Posted on Wed, May 13, 2009

At the beginning of the year, Housing Assistance Corp. was receiving 22 to 25 calls a week from struggling homeowners worried about foreclosure.

Over the past two or three weeks, however, the phones have been ringing ever-so-slightly less often, with maybe 19 or 20 callers inquiring about foreclosure prevention.

"Therein lies a little glimmer of hope," said Nancy Davison, vice president of operations. "It sure is a little one, but at this time we'll take anything we can get."

As analysts and economists begin to wonder whether the worst of the recession is over, there are statistical and anecdotal signs that the rising tide of foreclosures the Cape has experienced for the past two years may be starting to subside.

The number of foreclosures completed in Barnstable County in the first quarter of the year was down 3 percent as compared to the same three months in 2008, falling from 135 to 131, according to real estate data and The Warren Group, a publishing firm that tracks real estate. Foreclosures were down in January and flat in February and March, according to the data.

And the Barnstable County Registry of Deeds reports that 36 foreclosure deeds were filed last month, compared to 60 in April 2008, a drop of 40 percent..

Foreclosures are also down so far in May, said assistant register of deeds David Murphy. As of yesterday, 13 foreclosure deeds had been filed with the registry, a decrease of nearly 28 percent as compared to the same period last year, when 18 foreclosures had been completed.

"The trend downward appears to be continuing," Murphy said. "Maybe not at such an accelerated rate [as in April], but still a significant decrease."

Part of the reason for the falling foreclosures could be that those most likely to default on their mortgages have already done so, Murphy theorized.

"Maybe a lot of the damage has already been done," he said.

Federal foreclosure prevention efforts may also deserve some of the credit, Davison said.

"The modification and refinance programs designed by the administration have given people more of an opportunity to be able to work with banks or lenders," she said.

And though the programs are voluntary, the list of lenders participating "is getting longer all the time," she said.

Some borrowers who were unable to work out a loan modification with their lenders six months ago are now able to make arrangements to save their homes, she said.

"We are now seeing some successes," Davison said.

On Monday, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that her office has reached a settlement with Goldman Sachs, in which the investment bank has agreed to $50 million in loan modifications.

Goldman Sachs has committed to reducing mortgage balances on more than 700 subprime mortgages, including some on homes in Dennis, Falmouth, Harwich, Mashpee, Provincetown and Sandwich, as well as a cluster near the border of Barnstable and Yarmouth.

"I think it's a good sign that these folks want to settle rather than go into court and drag it on," Davison said.

Not everyone is optimistic that the recent numbers represent a new, positive trend, however.

"I guess I have some fears that it might not last," said Timothy Warren, chief executive officer of The Warren Group.

As long as unemployment remains high, falling foreclosure numbers are unlikely to continue, he said.

In Barnstable County, 10.9 percent of residents were jobless in March, according to state numbers. This rate is expected to drop, however, as seasonal businesses do their hiring for the coming summer.

In addition, Warren said, many banks had temporarily held off on initiating foreclosure proceedings, while they waited to see what kind of rescue plans the Obama administration would implement.

"I suspect we'll start to see them grind back into action," he said.

Avoiding foreclosure

Keep paying: Even if you can't pay the whole mortgage, keep paying something every month. It demonstrates good faith and keeps your outstanding balance as low as possible.

Communicate early and often: Contact your lender as soon as you know there's a problem; the further you fall behind, the harder it will be to work things out with a lender.

Get help: Contact a housing counselor, who will be able to help you assess your situation, determine your options, organize your finances and negotiate with your lender. On Cape Cod, foreclosure prevention counseling is offered by the Housing Assistance Corp. at 508-771-5400.

Avoid foreclosure prevention companies: The fees charged by these companies could be better put towards paying down your mortgage, and the services offered can generally be obtained for free from counselors at your local housing agency.

Get online: These Web sites have more tips and information about foreclosure prevention programs:

  • www.hopenow.com
  • www.makinghomeaffordable.gov
  • www.hud.gov/foreclosure