by Joni Astrup
Home foreclosures have declined in Sherburne County, Wright County and statewide, but are still far from pre-housing-crisis levels.
There were 170 foreclosures in Sherburne County in the first half of 2013, compared to 294 the same time a year ago, according to a new report from the Minnesota Home Ownership Center. In Wright County, they dropped from 305 to 224.
Foreclosure activity is also down statewide, with 6,795 foreclosures from Jan. 1 to June 30, according to Ed Nelson, marketing and communications manager at the Minnesota Home Ownership Center.
“It’s slowly improving, but that’s tempered by the fact that even though these numbers are down rather dramatically, they are still much higher than they were prior to the crisis,” Nelson said. “We’re heading in the right direction, but we are by no stretch of the imagination back to a normal market at all.”
Minnesota has seen twin peaks of foreclosures, he said, with more than 25,000 a year in both 2008 and 2009. Prior to the crisis, there were 6,400 foreclosures in 2005, he said.
Exurban and north suburban counties, including Sherburne, Wright, Mille Lacs, Isanti and Anoka, have been particularly hard hit in terms of the rate of foreclosure — the number of foreclosed mortgages as a percent of total residential properties. Nelson attributes it to the overall economy in those areas.
“The number one driver for foreclosure is unemployment and underemployment,” he said. Underemployment includes such things as reduced hours on the job or job loss for one but not all members of a household.
“In areas like Elk River and further north, the job market is better but there are still a lot of people struggling to find full-time work, still struggling to find consistent full-time work,” he said.
There also was a “drive to buy” phenomenon in the mid 2000s where people were going farther and farther from the core of the Twin Cities to be able to afford property during the boom years, he said. Now with higher gas prices, that boosts the cost of living for commuters living farther out.
Nelson encourages homeowners struggling to make mortgage payments to seek help from a certified foreclosure prevention specialist who is a member of the Homeownership Advisors Network. To find a free local foreclosure specialist, visit www.hocmn.org or call 866-462-6466.
Minnesota counties with the highest foreclosure rates*
1. Isanti, .72 percent
2. Mille Lacs, .71 percent
3. Chisago, .67 percent
4. Sherburne, .59 percent
5. Kanabec, .58 percent
6. Wright, .53 percent
7. Pine, .53 percent
8. Anoka, .51 percent
9. Rice, .50 percent
10. Todd, .48 percent
*Foreclosure rate is the number of foreclosed mortgages as a percent of total residential parcels for Jan. 1-June 30, 2013.
Source: Minnesota Home Ownership Center