ASPEN - The number of foreclosures in the Roaring Fork Valley plunged in 2012 after three tough years in which record numbers of homeowners failed to hold on to their houses.
The number of foreclosures initiated by lenders in Pitkin County remained the same in 2012 as it was in 2011, but the numbers fell significantly in the Roaring Fork Valley portions of Eagle and Garfield counties.
The number of foreclosures filed in the Carbondale-to-Glenwood Springs portion of Garfield County fell 25 percent in 2012 compared with 2011. Filings fell from 255 in 2011 to 190 last year, according to an analysis by Garret Brandt, a former land-use attorney and real estate agent in the Roaring Fork Valley. He recently moved to Texas but still tracks foreclosure data in the area.
In the Basalt and El Jebel regions of Eagle County, the number of foreclosure filings dropped 52 percent from 107 in 2011 to 51 last year, Brandt's report showed.
In Pitkin County, there were 113 foreclosure filings in both 2011 and 2012. The were a record 144 filings in Aspen and the rest of Pitkin County in 2010.
The foreclosure filings don't necessarily result in the loss of the property by the homeowner. The lender and borrower sometimes work out new terms of the loan, or the borrower uses other resources to hold on to the property.
For the Roaring Fork Valley as a whole, there were 121 fewer foreclosure filings in 2012 compared with the prior year, or 25 percent less.
There are different outlooks among some observers over what will happen with foreclosure filings in the Roaring Fork Valley this year. Lynn Kirchner, owner of a real estate company in Carbondale, said she feels there was a reprieve in foreclosure filings in 2012 and that they might jump again this year.
Many lenders "got their hands slapped" by the courts for the sloppy way they handled foreclosures, she noted. The lenders had to review their policies and implement changes in 2012, so filings dipped, she said.
Kirchner said her experience as a real estate agent also indicates that many midvalley residents are still struggling to pay their mortgages on properties where they owe more than the homes are currently valued.
"I still think there are as many people, if not more, in trouble," Kirchner said.
As evidence, she noted the continuing high number of short sales, where sellers accept less in a transaction than they owe a lender. She handled six closings of short sales this month. All deals went under contract in June or July, signifying how long that process takes. As far as foreclosure filings, she said she "wouldn't be surprised" to see the numbers go up again in 2013.
Mike Taets, president of Timberline Bank in Aspen, said his institution has processed all its foreclosure actions downvalley.
"From my perspective, it's a little better than a year ago," he said.
Taets said some lenders still holding nonperforming loans had to "reset" their procedures in 2012, so their number of filings might increase in 2013. He said he doubted that would account for a significant increase in foreclosure filings.
"I expect 2013 to be a lot like 2012," he said.
Foreclosures are tailing off significantly in Aspen and Pitkin County.
"It's behind us. There's going to be a few people here and there," Taets said.
In the midvalley, home prices are "firming up," so homeowners who were able to hold on are slowly moving to a better position, he said.
The dollar amount associated with the foreclosure filings in the Roaring Fork Valley plummeted last year. The dollar value of the property targeted by foreclosures in 2011 in the valley was $311.04 million. The dollar amount associated with the filings last year was $204.92 million, according to Brandt's research. That's a decrease of 34 percent.
In Garfield County as a whole, foreclosure filings fell 24 percent from 701 in 2011 to 534 last year.
In Eagle County as a whole, foreclosure filings fell 26 percent from 615 in 2011 to 455 last year.