Friday, June 11, 2010

Flat is the new 'up'

With the next several years looking quite grim, it seems that just neutral economic news will be good news.

From the Aurora Sentinel today:

Higher earners far from immune on foreclosure

AURORA | Not a single economic class or neighborhood in Aurora is immune to foreclosures.

Although foreclosures are more saturated in low-income neighborhoods, they are also dispersed throughout middle- and high-income neighborhoods, according to 2009 data from Arapahoe County.

Until recently, foreclosures were most prevalent in lower-income neighborhoods, among homeowners who were living paycheck to paycheck, afflicted with job losses and unable to pay their mortgages.

But as high unemployment persists and the aftermath of the recession continues to ripple across the state, wealthier neighborhoods with higher-income homeowners are becoming vulnerable to foreclosures as well.

Although the Arapahoe County Assessor’s office doesn’t track the incomes of people who have been affected by foreclosures, they do track the prices of homes that have been foreclosed upon.

Judging by those statistics, it’s evident that the rate of foreclosures has jumped from 2009 to 2010 in all levels of home prices — and, presumably in all economic classes.

“Every category did increase,” said Corbin Sakdol, Arapahoe County Assessor. “However, the heavy foreclosures are still in the $250,000 and below range.”

Since January, there were about 1,300 foreclosed homes in Arapahoe County in the price range of $250,000 and below, up from about 1,000 from January to June of 2009, Sakdol said.

In the price range of $250,000 to $500,000, there have been about 160 foreclosed homes since January, up from about 110 foreclosures in the same period of 2009.

The trend continues all the way up to the homes in the price range of $1 million and above. In that range, there have been 16 foreclosed homes since January, up from 11 in the same period of 2009.

Aurora still has the highest number of foreclosures out of any area in Arapahoe County, Sakdol said.

But data from the state of Colorado’s Division of Housing show that foreclosures are trending away from Aurora and into counties such as Jefferson, Douglas and Boulder.

“The fact that foreclosures have become more numerous in places like Douglas and Jefferson indicates that foreclosures are moving up the income scale,” said Ryan McMaken, community relations director for the state of Colorado’s Division of Housing. “We’re seeing movement in foreclosures toward areas that have more expensive homes, whereas they used to be centered in Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, and especially in Aurora.”

Foreclosures are quick to impact those people without college degrees, who most likely haven’t built coffers of savings to sustain them through a lull of unemployment, he said. That explains why the number of foreclosures were originally most concentrated in places like Adams County and Arapahoe County.

But since late 2008, as homeowners in high-income neighborhoods have slowly run out of money because of unemployment, they are now in the same position as those lower-income homeowners.

“The length of time that unemployment has been high is now starting to affect people with higher incomes because they are running out of savings,” McMaken said. “But people toward the lower end of the income scale are most impacted by the recession.”

Recent data suggests that the rate of people going into foreclosure statewide, including in Aurora, has reached a plateau.

McMaken said last month’s figures show the lowest foreclosure filings for counties since May 2009.

“Flat is the new ‘up’ in terms of good economic news,” he said. “Flat is what you like to see. Rather than foreclosures going up, if they can just stay flat for a while then you’re happy about that, and that seems to be what we’re looking at right now.”