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Foreclosures are few in our area

FINGER LAKES—We should be pretty happy. Compared to the rest of the country, the Finger Lakes area is doing relatively well. And as far as real estate is concerned, “We weren’t part of that bubble as it grew so we weren’t part of it when things crashed,” says Vicki Schamel, associate broker with Prudential, Ambrose and Shoemaker Realty in Watkins Glen.
New York is not one of the top foreclosure states—those honors go to the sunbelt retirement areas like California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Georgia; and those taking huge industrial hits like Michigan and Ohio.
“Certainly our filings are up,” says Yates County Clerk Julie Betts. But not in great numbers, she points out. In the first five months of 2009, her office saw 32 lis pendens (the Latin word for suit pending) filings—the first step in foreclosure proceedings. In the same period of 2008, there were 30; in 2007 there were 26. “There’s not that much difference so far,” she notes.
Lis pendens is a court filing by the lender that is recorded against a property whose owner has defaulted on mortgage loan payments and is typically the first step in foreclosure proceedings. Often, the problem is resolved before further legal action is taken, if the owner catches up with payments or works out an agreement with the lender—or sells the property to get out from under the debt. If the problem is not resolved within several months, eventually all parties meet with a judge to determine a suitable outcome, which in some cases results in a judgment of foreclosure.
“Yes, we have had an uptick in foreclosures,” says Yates County Court Judge W. Patrick Falvey. “Some are in respect to sub-prime issues—we have a number of those coming in now.” New York State law requires the court to conference with the mortgagor and mortgagee, “to determine if the matter can be resolved short of a foreclosure,” Falvey says. “We’re not mandated to order that they settle, but we get them in a courtroom and try to facilitate something.”
Though the court does not delve into a borrower’s reasons for default, he’s observed the properties involved cross the spectrum from lakefront homes to modest rural dwellings. “It all boils down to how much money do you have to pay. They don’t have enough money coming in to pay their bills—including the mortgage.”
Schuyler County Clerk Linda Compton says, “We have actually had a sharp decrease in lis pendens filings. I can’t tell you whether it’s because of bank restructuring, if they’re working with people more, but there’s definitely been a sharp decrease since starting at the end of last year.”
Looking back, in the period of January through May of 2006, there were 19 filings. In 2007, for the same period, there were 13; then 33 in 2008, In 2009, so far there have only been seven.
While county clerks rarely learn the reason for a homeowner’s extreme financial distress, realtors do. “Most often, it’s a divorce,” says Vicki Schamel, Associate Broker at Prudential Ambrose and Shoemaker Real Estate in Watkins Glen.
“There are many ways a property gets repossessed, but our typical reason for foreclosure is divorce and the loss of one income. The rise in heating bills doesn’t seem to be a factor.”
Another large factor in foreclosure or repossession of a property is the counties’ repossession for nonpayment of taxes, she says. If a tax auction is held, often the bank will be the buyer, then remarket the property.
“In my opinion, anyone who thinks they’re close to foreclosure needs to talk to their banker, realtor, attorney,” she says. “They need to solve the problem before it gets away from them. Someone in trouble needs to be proactive rather than reactive, to save their home or the equity in their home.”

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