EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 13, 2012

Foreclosures drop in Granite State

State on track for 100 less than 2011

By Doug Ireland direland@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — As New Hampshire’s housing market slowly improves, the state is expected to have the fewest number of foreclosures since 2009.

The New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority announced the state is on track to have approximately 100 fewer foreclosures this year than it did in 2011.

As of Sept. 30, 2,843 homes had been foreclosed on. That total is expected to reach about 3,750 by year’s end, according to the authority. There were 3,863 in 2011.

The number for September dropped from 301 in 2011 to 263 this year — a 13 percent decrease. That followed a 12 percent drop in August.

The trend is reflected in figures for Rockingham County, where there have been 581 foreclosures through the end of September. That compares to 832 last year and 849 in 2010, according to the county registry of deeds.

“We are seeing a decrease,” Register of Deeds Cathy Stacey said. “Are they lower? Absolutely. Should they be even lower? Absolutely.”

There were still 99 foreclosures reported in Derry through September, 66 in Salem and 41 in Londonderry. For that same period in 2011, there were 102 in Derry, 66 in Londonderry and 56 in Salem.

Stacey and Dan Smith, the authority’s director of housing research, are cautiously optimistic the number of foreclosures will continue to steadily drop. But they are realistic as well.

The housing market is seeing gains, but continued slow economic growth is having a major impact, they said.

“It’s improving, but very slowly. The economy is limping along,” Smith said. “As the economy improves, the housing market should improve right along with it.”

Two weeks ago, the New Hampshire Association of Realtors reported home sales and prices were on the rise — indicators both the economy and housing market are improving.

In September, the median sales prices for a single-family home in New Hampshire was $199,000, a 2.3 percent increase over last year. In Rockingham County, the median sales price rose 5 percent to $251,000, the association said.

Smith said even though foreclosures are decreasing, there’s still a long way to go.

“It’s going to take a while to get back to the numbers from before the recession,” Smith said.

There were nearly 500 foreclosures in New Hampshire in 2005, but that figure more than doubled to 1,157 in 2006. The total soared to 2,071 in 2007 and then 3,560 in 2008.

After declining slightly to 3,467 in 2009, the number of foreclosures shot up to 3,953 in 2010.

Rockingham County usually has about 20 to 23 percent of all the home foreclosures in the state, according to authority spokeswoman Jane Law.

Stacey said it’s nice to see the number of foreclosures drop, but more needs to be done to boost consumer confidence and help prospective homeowners. It’s difficult for many to get bank loans to buy homes, she said.

“It’s disappointing,” she said. “(Banks) make it so stringent and strict, people who can afford loans can’t attain them because of the restrictions.”

Local real estate agents agreed with Stacey and Smith that although foreclosures are decreasing, the economy and housing market could use a major boost.

Cindy Ronning, a broker for Sunlike Realty in Pelham, said the market was off to a good start in the spring before slowing down this fall.

“It was really clicking along,” she said. “Once Labor Day hit, it got a little slow, but still good.”

Peg Walther of Prudential Verani, which has offices in Londonderry and Salem, said a lot of foreclosures mean banks are putting these properties on the market and prospective homeowners are waiting to grab them at a modest price.

“We’re still seeing a demand for bank-owned properties,” Walther said.

Low prices and interest rates are helping to spur sales, she said.