Foreclosure filings on the rise in lower Roaring Fork Valley | AspenTimes.com

Foreclosure filings on the rise in lower Roaring Fork Valley

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

The number of foreclosure filings in the Roaring Fork Valley portions of Garfield and Eagle counties is up significantly from last year, reflecting the ongoing tough times that residents of working-class neighborhoods are facing.There have been 71 foreclosure filings through September in the Basalt and El Jebel area of Eagle County compared to 58 at the same point in 2010, according to research of public trustees records by Garret Brandt, a midvalley land-use attorney and real estate agent. That’s an increase of 22 percent.In the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Garfield County, including Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, foreclosures soared to 175 through the third quarter compared 145 at the same point last year, Brandt’s research showed. That’s an increase of 20 percent.”It definitely looks like all of Garfield County will have more foreclosure filings than last year, which was a record year,” Brandt said.There have been 505 foreclosure filings in all of Garfield County through this September. There were 644 filings all last year.In Pitkin County, the opposite trend is unfolding: There have been 81 foreclosure filings so far this year. That is down 22 percent from 105 last year.Nationally, foreclosure filings soared in the third quarter as banks increased their pace of action after curing paperwork flaws.Brandt said the increases in the middle and lower valley this year don’t necessarily indicate a trend for more foreclosure filings. Construction work has picked up in the valley recently, he noted. That might allow at-risk homeowners to keep their property. In other cases, homeowners might be in such dire financial condition that they can’t stave off foreclosure even if the economy improves, he said.Brandt said recent foreclosures have been for smaller dollar amounts. Many of the foreclosures lenders filed soon after the recession struck were for large dollar amounts involving big projects, such as Base Village in Snowmass Village, Dancing Bear in Aspen and Willits Town Center in Basalt.A scan by The Aspen Times of recent foreclosure filings in the Basalt and El Jebel areas shows many are in neighborhoods like Willits, Old Town Basalt, Sopris Village and Blue Lake – where middle-class families live. Foreclosure filings don’t always translate into lenders repossessing property. Sometimes new terms of a loan are worked out or the borrower is able to scrape together funds to pay off the loan. In other cases, owners complete a “short sale” for less than they owe in an effort to reduce their debt.Greg Hunter, a real estate agent with Morris & Fyrwald, said midvalley property values still reflect the tough economic times. “Definitely foreclosures and short sales are affecting the market,” he said.But Hunter said he sees “light at the end of the tunnel.” The inventory of troubled properties is dwindling and the level of activity on property priced below $500,000 remains strong.The construction of the Whole Foods Market and surrounding commercial space at the Willits Town Center should help stabilize property at Willits, one of the hardest-hit midvalley neighborhoods, according to Hunter.Overall, he expects the Willits Town Center project to benefit the real estate market from Old Snowmass to Carbondale. The construction activity creates jobs, and those workers need housing and food, creating more spending in the midvalley, Hunter said.Glen Jammaron, president and vice chairman of Alpine Banks of Colorado, said he expects to see foreclosures taper off in the middle and lower valley by next fall. He said the recession hit the Aspen-area harder and earlier than the downvalley areas, but the recovery also came sooner. Now, short of a double-dip recession or other unforeseen issues, the lower valley economy should start to perk up, he said.”Downvalley is [now] where Pitkin County was last year,” Jammaron said.Like Hunter, Jammaron said projects like the Willits Town Center help build momentum toward recovery. The key is creating jobs – construction now and retail later.”You can’t make a mortgage payment without a job,” Jammaron said.scondon@aspentimes.com