Foreclosures still high in Mesa County

Rate is highest among state's 12 most populous counties

Mesa County foreclosure numbers held steady from January to February, with more than three times as many foreclosure filings in February 2010 as there were in February 2009 and nearly five times as many foreclosure sales in February than there were in February 2009.

Mesa County had the greatest leap in foreclosure filings and sales year-over-year among the state’s 12 most populous counties. In February 2009, 16 local homes completed the foreclosure process and 44 entered the process. Last month, 74 Mesa County homes were released to lenders through foreclosure sales and 142 homes entered the foreclosure process, according to data released Wednesday by the Colorado Division of Housing. In January, 70 homes finished the foreclosure process and 145 homes entered the process.

Mesa County’s foreclosure filing totals began to climb above 50 consistently last March, when filings reached 75, then went to 76 in April and 95 in May. The county spent the rest of 2009 with filings above 100 each month.

In contrast, Front Range foreclosure filings peaked in 2006 and 2007 and have been leveling off since 2008, Colorado Division of Housing spokesman Ryan McMaken said.

Whether or not Mesa County will take the same amount of time to even out is debatable, McMaken said, because foreclosures increased on the Front Range and the Western Slope for different reasons. The lending problems, increased interest rates and under-water housing issues that plagued the Front Range did not impact Mesa County foreclosure rates as much as unemployment did, he said. Mesa County’s unemployment rate was the lowest in the state in December 2008 at 4.6 percent. By the following June, Mesa County had the highest unemployment rate in Colorado, 8.8 percent.

“What we’re starting to see now, especially since the middle of 2008 when unemployment started to kick in, that it’s really a function of declines in wages and employment,” he said. “Grand Junction was an interesting place because you were immune to that until a couple of quarters ago largely due to the slowdown in oil and gas.”

Tim Powers, spokesman for the Colorado Bankers’ Association, said the state has enacted several laws in recent years designed to help homeowners deal with adjustable mortgages they couldn’t keep up with. Those new programs, however, aren’t going to do much good for homeowners in Mesa County, he said.

“With the lack of income and unemployment, people are just not able to pay any mortgages,” Powers said. “You guys on the Western Slope are feeling the exaggerated amount of foreclosures because of the unemployment, and the only fix to that is to get more jobs.”

Sentinel staff writer Charles Ashby contributed to this story.


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