PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) — Banks that have largely overlooked delinquent borrowers in small housing markets are now turning their attention to the regions, leading to yet another spike in foreclosures in Eastern Oregon's Umatilla County, say real estate agents and a housing counselor.
"Some people haven't made payments in a long time and the bank just hasn't made them the priority," said Denise Jerome, housing solutions manager for Community Action Program for East Central?Oregon.
She said the housing crash that began in 2007 wasn't as devastating in the region as it was elsewhere, and "We're kind of late to the party."
Foreclosures peaked in Umatilla County in 2010 with 328, and are on the rise again in 2013,
They have already eclipsed last year's count, and are on pace to be the third-highest of the last decade. There are 212 active judicial foreclosures in the county, including 59 in Hermiston and 51 in Pendleton.
Judicial foreclosures involve courts and require a foreclosure prevention mediation program, while nonjudicial foreclosures happen when a homeowner defaults on a mortgage and the lender puts the house immediately up for auction.
"Since the housing market has started to solidify and come back, I think the banks have decided they want to get rid of those from their inventory," said Lewis Key, a real estate broker for John L. Scott Oregon Real Estate in Milton-Freewater.
Jeff Farley, co-owner of Coldwell Banker Whitney and Associates, said that's the advantage of being in a smaller town: You can see things coming. Trends begin in California, work their way up Interstate 5 and reach Portland before Pendleton begins to see the effects.
Farley said the average price of a house in Pendleton has dropped from $145,000 to about $125,000 in the past five years. But he is optimistic Pendleton has absorbed the worst of it and will at least stay steady going forward, if not improve.
"It takes a recession before we really appreciate the market we're in," Farley said.