Sonoma County’s real estate market saw a significant drop in the number of foreclosed homes and short sales in June compared to a year ago. But real estate specialists Tuesday weren’t trumpeting a turnaround.
Instead, those who specialize in foreclosures suggested that large numbers of homeowners remain in danger of losing their homes.
Doug Solwick, a broker associate with Keller Williams in Santa Rosa, flatly said he hadn’t seen any real change from a year ago. His prediction: “If you liked the last three-and-a-half years, you’re going to love the next three-and-a-half years.”
“Bank-influenced properties” amounted to almost 42 percent of all single-family sales in the county in June, compared to 55 percent a year ago, according to data compiled recently by Rick Laws of Coldwell Banker in Santa Rosa.
In June there were 180 sales of foreclosures and short sales, the latter meaning that the owner sells for less than the amount owed on the mortgage. There were 235 such sales in June 2009. In comparison, 254 regular single-family homes sold in June, compared to 192 a year ago.
On Tuesday four panelists spoke to the Santa Rosa chapter of the North Bay Association of Realtors. More than 175 people turned out for the breakfast meeting.
Panel member James Madison, an agent with Caldwell Banker, previously has predicted it could take another five or six years to work through the large inventory of distressed properties. On Tuesday he reiterated his belief that the banks this year won’t release a “tsunami” of foreclosed homes, but he also doubted that the solution for these woes will be short sales.
“One thing’s for sure,” Madison said. “There are a ton of properties out there.”
Terriann McGowan, a panel member and broker with Admiral Asset Management in Rohnert Park, said she has observed banks starting to offer to reinstate loans to troubled borrowers, even those whose homes are in foreclosure.
But within the past six months she also has dealt with people losing homes they have owned for 15, 20, even 30 years. The homeowners got into trouble by refinancing their homes and then being unable to make the new payments. She called the situations “a heartbreaker.”
Panel member Jeremy Olsan, a private Santa Rosa attorney who works on behalf of the local Realtors organization, said today many distressed homeowners are thinking about simply mailing their lender the house keys and walking away from the properties.
“Don’t be the person giving that advice,” Olsan told the agents and brokers. A homeowner who stops paying the home insurance premium and then has the house burn down could find the lender going after their remaining assets.
He advised the agents to recommend in writing that their clients seek the advice of an attorney on such questions. He said homeowners also can obtain free or reduced-priced counseling from such agencies as Catholic Charities and California Rural Legal Assistance.
— Robert Digitale