Foreclosure activity drops dramatically in Merced County

MERCED, California

The tidal wave of foreclosures that once covered Merced County has now subsided. The latest numbers show 105 homes received foreclosure filings in July. That's down about 66 percent from the same time last year.

Merced County ranked first in the state for foreclosures in 2009. But now it's number 24. That's good news for families fighting to keep their homes. But many people looking to buy are now having a very hard time.

During the peak of Merced County's housing crisis, one in every ten properties received a foreclosure filing. That number is now one in every 796.

Realtor Andy Krotik says banks are under more pressure to do loan modifications and short sales instead, but that's also created a major lack of inventory.

Krotik added, "Within the city of Atwater, there are nine active listings for sale, only two houses under a hundred thousand for sale, it's just historic lows."

Jonathan Arnold and his wife have been trying to buy their first home for the past six months. The couple has made at least seven offers, but they've all been rejected.

"It's just been a long, drawn out process," said Arnold. "We get our hopes up, and now we don't want to get hopes up about bidding anymore because we don't know what's going to happen."

Arnold knows time is of the essence because prices are on the rise. The average home is now selling for $161,000.00. That's up 22 percent from the same time last year.

"In between prices going up, interest rates going up, we just feel stuck," said Arnold.

Investors are also making it more difficult for local residents to become homeowners.

Krotik explained, "We're seeing more than 40 percent of the close transactions are cash buyers, which tells me two things: 1) investors are back, but 2) there's huge confidence in the market."

Krotik says that confidence has also caught the attention of at least three different builders who are now considering new projects in Merced County.

"So maybe there will be some relief in the inventory due to new home construction," added Krotik.

While Merced County is seeing improvement, Mariposa County actually ranks first in the state right now for foreclosure activity.

Realty Trac says foreclosure filings there increased 50 percent from June to July.

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