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Everyday Economy

Not so fast

When the national economy zigs, Spokane's sometimes zags. Or at least lags -- showing less intense highs and lows than elsewhere during the recent housing bubble and subsequent recession.

It's been true with foreclosures and bankruptcies, which have been going up here, but not to the degree seen nationally. Now, though, as foreclosures are dipping nationally, they're showing a jump in Spokane.

RealtyTrac, a national firm that tracks foreclosures, reports today that foreclosures are down 10 percent nationally from December to January. Here's an article at SmartMoney that cautions us not to get too excited about that.

Month-to-month comparisons can ... be misleading, says Andres Carbacho-Burgos, an economist at Moody’s Short-term fluctuations can be too volatile for long-term conclusions to be drawn. “A three-month moving average might tell you a bit more about the underlying trends in foreclosures,” Carbacho-Burgos explains. (Moody’s uses quarterly statistics from the Mortgage Bankers Association in its housing reports.)

In fact, compared with January 2008, foreclosure activity in January was up 18%, making it the 37th consecutive month with year-over-year increases, according to RealtyTrac.

Meanwhile, foreclosure activity at the courthouse in Spokane is rising. In January, 166 notices of trustee sales -- identifying a 90-day window before a foreclosure is finalized -- were recorded at the county auditor's office. If that pace continued, it would mark the most such notices in more than a decade.

Meanwhile, Kootenai County -- which did see more of the big increases in home values that accompanied the bubble -- had a record year for foreclosures.

So it's possible that, even if things are brightening a bit on the national scene -- a big if -- that they might still get worse here before they improve.

Are you or people you know struggling to keep up with the mortgage?

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Shawn Vestal
Shawn Vestal joined The Spokesman-Review in 1999. He currently is a columnist for the City Desk.

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