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  IN THE NEWS

Foreclosures Totaled 207 in the County — The Evidence is There

By Drew Brooks
February 3, 2008


Two hundred and seven Cleveland County homes foreclosed on in a little over a year, 86 currently in pre-foreclosure, and an untold number of homeowners escaped foreclosure over the same time period.

Out of the 207 homes, the 168 still on the market are valued at more than $20 million combined, with a median value of almost $71,000.

The homes are found in every municipality. Sometimes, they are isolated, the only home to fall victim in the immediate area. Other times, they come in bunches, with several homes on the same street or in the same neighborhood. These numbers are from November 2006 to this January, according to realtytrac.com.

Who is affected? Two hundred and seven homes in Cleveland County. Hundreds of families in Cleveland County. Renowned bankruptcy lawyer O. Max Gardner III has been following the spike in foreclosures for some time.

As of November, he said numbers were up 120 percent from the previous year.

“The graph is almost going straight up,” he said. And the number of people filing bankruptcy to keep their homes is also increasing. In January alone, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of North Carolina listed 21 personal bankruptcy filings for Cleveland County. It’s unknown how many houses are involved in that period.

“I hate to turn people away, but you can only do so much,” Gardner said. He said the numbers were approaching those of the Great Depression.

Gardner knows a thing or two about that time period; his grandfather and namesake presided over the state during the first years of the Great Depression.

A state-run Web site used in classrooms credits the former governor’s “live-at-home program” as the reason many North Carolina farmers survived the Depression.

Still, the situation in Cleveland County is not as bad as it is in other parts of the country, Gardner said.

“Ours is worse than it’s ever been,” he said. “But it’s not nearly as bad as other areas.” According to Gardner, one out of every 32 homes is in some stage of foreclosure in Nevada. In Florida it’s one in 40 and in Southern California it’s one in 50.

“It’s hard to say that we’re better off than Southern California,” he said. “I don’t think that gives anyone any satisfaction.”

Who is at fault? Looking at the lenders listed on the foreclosed homes, there is no visible pattern. Many of those listed are national firms such as Wells Fargo or Citibank.

Rick Washburn, senior vice president at Shelby Savings Bank, said the names listed can be misleading.

“There are a lot of mortgage brokers in the area,” he said. Many of those operate through large national companies and those company names are what appears, not the originator of the loan.

Washburn said a new law inspired by the mortgage crisis would require the name of the loan originator to be placed on the deed, making it easier to track where bad loans come from and who is responsible for them.



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