Fewer foreclosures in Thurston County last year

Thurston County: Trustee sales in 2011 down about 40 percent from 2010; real estate agent says it won’t last

Staff writerJanuary 16, 2012 

The number of Thurston County foreclosures fell sharply last year, according to Thurston County Auditor data, although one real estate professional thinks that is only a temporary decline and that the number of filings will start to climb again this year.

The data show that the number of foreclosures, filed as a notice of trustee’s sale with the Auditor’s Office, fell 40 percent last year to 948 from 1,593 in 2010, the data show.

Although Thurston County does not have as serious a foreclosure problem as some parts of the country or the state, the number of filings has steadily increased since 2007, rising with the downturn in the housing market and the beginning of the recession.

A notice of trustee’s sale is a document that sets an auction date for a foreclosed property.

Windermere of Olympia broker Steve Garrett, though, called the decline an “artificial trough.”

He said lenders paused last year to make sure they were following the proper foreclosure procedures and he also knows of a number of homeowners who still are delinquent on their mortgages. “I’m afraid those numbers are going to tick up,” he said about the filings.

Looking ahead, Garrett said the new year will continue to favor the buyer and remain challenging for the seller as foreclosures and short sales – a home that is sold for less than the value of the mortgage – continue to put downward pressure on home prices.

The picture for the prospective buyer – as long as they have stable employment and good credit scores – is much brighter because mortgage interest rates are “as low as they have ever been” and prices remain soft, Garrett said.

For the state overall, the real estate market in the new year will continue to be flat as it deals with an overhang of foreclosures and soft prices, Chief Economist Arun Raha said.

Raha offered a sneak peek of his upcoming real estate forecast, which he will present at a gathering of the Washington Association of Realtors on Thursday. The event will mark his last public appearance as the state’s chief economist after he announced last week that he had accepted a job in the private sector.

Although he expects the real estate market to be flat this year, the state’s population and incomes continue to grow, which ultimately will spell improvement for the housing market here, Raha said. He expects that change to take place in the next year to 18 months.

Lori Drummond, chief executive of Olympia Federal Savings, also expects another year of slow recovery.

“We’ll probably see another flat environment with positive little blips along the way, but nothing robust,” she said.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403

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