May 14, 2009 in Business

Kootenai foreclosures up

But in Spokane County, rates plunged in April
By The Spokesman-Review

Big gap

Kootenai County: One out of every 207 housing units was the subject of either a default notice or notice of trustee sale in April.

Spokane County: The rate was just one home per 3,680.

Foreclosures in Kootenai County accelerated in April, jumping 52 percent over March levels and to a level more than fourfold that of last April, according to statistics released Wednesday by RealtyTrac Inc., an online marketplace for foreclosed properties.

In Spokane, meanwhile, foreclosures dropped significantly month over month and year over year.

One out of every 207 housing units in Kootenai County – a total 283 properties – was the subject of either a default notice or notice of trustee sale. In March, 189 received notices, and in April 2008, just 61.

The foreclosure rate put the county third among Idaho’s 44 counties. And Idaho, with notices going to one out of every 255 homes, had the fifth-highest rate among the states. Nevada had the highest rate, with a foreclosure notice going to one of every 68 housing units.

The national rate was one in every 374 units.

Only 53 Spokane County homes were either bank-owned or subject to a trustee sale notice in March. That was down from 70 in March and 125 in April 2008. The rate of one home per 3,680 was 24 percent lower than the rate for March, and 57 percent lower than last April’s rate.

Katie Marcus, sales manager for residential lending at Mountain West Bank in Coeur d’Alene, said job losses and the collapse of a speculative bubble created by outside buyers explains much of the damage to the Kootenai County market.

Many homes were bought for investment purposes only, she said, or by people planning to retire or who wanted a second home in a resort area. Amid the recession, investors can no longer carry vacant properties and would-be transplants cannot sell their present homes, she said.

Those factors are mostly absent in Spokane, Marcus said. “We have more speculative things here.”

The good news, she said, is that supply pressures are pushing down prices just as federal incentives for first-time buyers are kicking in. The market should be able to absorb many of the properties, she said.

Re/Max Realtor Jeanette Karis, president of the Spokane Association of Realtors this year, said Spokane foreclosures are low in part because few lenders in the area sold subprime or other “toxic” loans to buyers who ended up with homes they could not afford.

Prices have weakened in Spokane, she said, but not nearly as much as they have in areas of the country where lending got out of control.

Like Marcus, Karis said she expects incentives for first-time buyers will boost sales, especially if Washington officials approve a program that will convert the $8,000 federal income tax credit into cash toward the down payment.

The Spokane County foreclosure rate was one-quarter the one-per-817 homes for all of Washington, which ranked 26th among the states. Fewer Washington homes were bank-owned or subject to trustee sale notice than in March, but the state total – 3,359 – was up one-third from April 2008.

Contact Bert Caldwell at or (509) 459-5450.

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