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W.Va. home foreclosures decline; fewest since 2008

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia home foreclosures dropped to 2,900 last year, the lowest number since 2008, according to a report released to state lawmakers Tuesday.The number of failed mortgages statewide is on pace to decline even more this year -- to about 2,800 by Dec. 31."West Virginia hasn't seen the problems to the extent that other states have," said Erica Boggess, acting executive director of the West Virginia Housing Development Fund. "We seem to be trending downward."West Virginia foreclosures peaked at 3,429 in 2009 amid the national economic recession and housing crisis.Even so, the percentage of homes that have gone through foreclosure in West Virginia has remained smaller than other states.Last year, 2 percent of all West Virginia home loans were in the foreclosure process, compared to 4.3 percent nationally, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association."All in all, while the rest of the nation suffered, West Virginia fared much better than our counterparts," said Steve Fisher, deputy director of program operations at the housing fund. "We really haven't had the foreclosure crises we hear about in the areas that had the [housing] bubble."Last year, Berkeley County reported 572 foreclosures -- the most of any county in West Virginia. Kanawha had the second-highest number at 153.Since 2007, Berkeley County had 20 percent of the state's total foreclosures -- the highest percentage, by far, in the state.
Jefferson County had the third-highest number of failed mortgages last year, as well as during the past five years combined."Berkeley County and Jefferson County, in addition to the high-population counties, have been two of the counties more affected by a decrease in house price value," Boggess told lawmakers at Tuesday's meeting. "West Virginia as a whole has not suffered from that, but the Eastern Panhandle tends to rely on the [Washington] D.C. marketplace, so they've seen some numbers we haven't seen across the rest of the state."Webster County reported the fewest number of foreclosures last year -- four.Of the West Virginians who did default on their home loans, more than 30 percent said they couldn't pay their mortgage because they lost their jobs or household income declined for other reasons, according to survey data from the Housing Development Fund.Another 28 percent said they had "excessive obligations" or debt, according to the report. "Families run themselves into credit difficulties," Fisher said.In other cases, lenders simply were unable to contact homeowners who held mortgages, he said.
The foreclosure process doesn't start until after three missed mortgage payments.Since 2007, more than 16,600 homes have been foreclosed on in West Virginia, according to the Housing Development Fund's report."Foreclosure results when there's a breakdown in communication between the lender and borrower," Fisher said. "It's a family-by-family issue. We have to take each family individually and craft a solution."Reach Eric Eyre at or 304-348-4869.
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