Ann Arbor Journal > News

Washtenaw County mortgage foreclosures at lowest since 2005, houses selling fast

Realtor Rick Taylor recently sold this house in Chelsea on the first showing. The housing market has improved in Washtenaw County, he said, although there are more prospective buyers than there are sellers to meet the demand. (Photo courtesy of Rick Taylor)

WASHTENAW COUNTY - After years of high foreclosure numbers in Washtenaw County, 2014 is currently on track to have the fewest mortgage foreclosures in nine years.

At the same time, available housing is getting bought up quickly in a real estate market that has also been doing better in recent years.

Rick Taylor, a Realtor with Charles Reinhart Realtors who specializes in real estate in Ann Arbor and across Washtenaw County, said for those interested in selling their house, this is a good time to sell.

Jim Dries, Washtenaw County's chief deputy clerk, said recording the number of sheriff's deeds, the main way Washtenaw County traces mortgage foreclosures, does help the county track the area's land economy.

Only 28 sheriff's deeds were recorded this June, according to Lawrence Kestenbaum, Washtenaw County's clerk and register of deeds.

"June's year-to-date total, 195 records, is 63.5 percent of the total recorded through last June, and is the lowest year-to-date total since June, 2005," Kestenbaum said.



Sheriff's deeds grew significantly in number between 2005 and 2008. The amount rose from 433 in 2005 to 703 in 2006, then to 1,151 in 2007, 1,439 in 2008, 1,196 in 2009, 1,399 in 2010, and 1,128 in 2011.

The number finally dropped below a thousand with 843 in 2012 and dropped lower still with 541 in 2013.

Jim Damron, civil bureau manager for the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office, said back in 2009 he would see around 38-45 sheriff's deeds on a weekly basis to be read off in court for the sheriff auction. Sometimes the number of sheriff's deeds would be higher or lower, he said, sometimes rising above 60. Continued...

At the time, this amount of foreclosure sales wasn't surprising to see, he said.

There were also many property adjournments, Damron said, as many as 470-480 a week. He said property adjournments are pretty much the banks saying what they have on their books and are likely getting ready to bring to sale.

By comparison, he said for July 10 he was bringing 10 sheriff's deeds to the weekly auction and there were 35 property adjournments. He said he is only seeing five to nine sheriff's deeds a week.

"There's just been this continuous drop," Damron said.

He also doesn't foresee any upcoming spike in the number of foreclosures, he said. He said he expects the number of sheriff's deeds to stay about the same rate for a couple of months, but he does expect some more foreclosures to trickle in when banks want more of the recent property adjournments off their books.

Reasons Washtenaw County is improving

Although a decrease in foreclosures is a trend not isolated to Washtenaw County, Damron said the county appears to be doing even better in this regard than region neighbors like Wayne and Macomb counties. Some counties have been hemorrhaging foreclosures for a while, he said.

At least part of the reason he believes Washtenaw County is doing even better is due to factors like the university-town atmosphere with the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, the local hospitals, and the area demographics, he said. He said he believes these factors help provide stability and ensure an influx of people coming in.

Part of the reason why Taylor believes Washtenaw County's housing market has recovered faster than its neighbors is because while the national recession didn't really hit until 2008, he said the county had its own recession of sorts in 2006 when Phizer left.

Phizer, a pharmaceutical business, had a large presence in Ann Arbor that employed thousands. Continued...

Hundreds of property parcels went on the market after Phizer left, Taylor said. He said since the county felt some fallout from its own recession, it also began its own recovery by the time the national recession came.

The year 2011 is when real estate in the county really began improving, Taylor said. He said 2012 was better still, while 2013 and 2014 have been through the roof.

The hottest real estate market in Washtenaw County is Ann Arbor, Taylor said, due to its location, the University of Michigan, and the university's hospital system. He said the city is very vibrant even in the worst of times. It's a very self-sustaining community, he said.

Other county communities share off how well Ann Arbor is doing, he said. He said in general, the farther away from Ann Arbor one goes in the county, the lower the property values become.

Damron is also optimistic about factors from a statewide perspective, he said, like a healthier job market.

"It looks like the trend is getting better when jobs are concerned," Damron said.

One reason the housing market has done as well as it has is the mortgage interest rate, Taylor said. He said the rates are now at around 4.5 percent. By comparison, he said rates in the early 1980s rose as high as 18 percent.

"We've been very fortunate," he said.

Another positive trend is that the real estate prices on foreclosed homes are also rising, he said, which helps them compete on the market.

During the years when the number of foreclosures were very high, Damron said the largest amount of foreclosures were in the Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township areas. He said now he feels the locations of foreclosures has evened out more over time throughout the county. Continued...

Some areas in the county are still recovering, Taylor said.

"Washtenaw County as a whole is doing really well," he said.

The housing market continues to recover

As of June 30, 2,018 properties of all types had been sold, about 1 percent below the 2,042 sold by the same point in 2013, according to the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors. Types of units sold include vacant, commercial, farms and condos in addition to single-family houses.

The average year-to-date sale price is $257,503, a 5 percent increase from 2013's average of $244,818 for the same period.

Last year was by itself a good year for real estate in Washtenaw County, according to the Realtor board's year-end report.

"More listings, more sales and higher prices defined a robust market where multiple offers were common," the report stated.

Overall, 4,536 properties were sold in 2013, a 1.7 percent increase from 2012. The number of new listings was up by 5.5 percent, 7,248, and prices were up 18 percent with an average residential sale price of $248,601.

The Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors anticipated the housing recovery seen through 2013 would continue into 2014.

"I've had the best year ever," Taylor said.

He has been in the real estate business for 13 years. As June 30, he has already closed on $11 million worth of property. This beats the record he set in 2013, previously his best year, when he sold $9.2 million.

Taylor does work with foreclosed houses, although they represent only about 5 percent of his business. He sells foreclosed houses for TCF Bank and GreenStone Farm Credit Services.

What is frustrating is there are not nearly enough sellers to meet demand in the county, he said.

"There are far more buyers than there are sellers," Taylor said.

This is a concern for buyers, who will have a more limited selection, and good for those who do decide to sell, he said. He said he's typically seeing multiple offers on houses within a short time frame from the listing.

Sales price values have really shot up, he said.

"We're pretty much at a fever pitch," Taylor said.

He does have one thing in particular he wants to tell those thinking of selling their home: "It's okay, you can sell your house now."

If a house is put on the market right now, he predicts it will be sold.

"Property values have been rising pretty steadily," Taylor said.

He does think the increase will be tapering off, he said. He said he expects house values to continue rising after that, just as a more modest rate.

One challenge for potential sellers though is many don't have either the cash or equity to buy a new house before selling their current one, Taylor said.

A strategy he is seeing many sellers use effectively is to put the house for sale and temporarily move into either a short-term rental property or with family members until it is sold, he said. He said the odds are it will sell. If the house for sale is available for a buyer to move in right away, he said selling is even more likely.

Staff Writer Ben Baird can be reached at 734-429-7380, bbaird@heritage.com or via Twitter @BenBaird1.
WASHTENAW COUNTY - After years of high foreclosure numbers in Washtenaw County, 2014 is currently on track to have the fewest mortgage foreclosures in nine years.

At the same time, available housing is getting bought up quickly in a real estate market that has also been doing better in recent years.

Rick Taylor, a Realtor with Charles Reinhart Realtors who specializes in real estate in Ann Arbor and across Washtenaw County, said for those interested in selling their house, this is a good time to sell.

Jim Dries, Washtenaw County's chief deputy clerk, said recording the number of sheriff's deeds, the main way Washtenaw County traces mortgage foreclosures, does help the county track the area's land economy.

Only 28 sheriff's deeds were recorded this June, according to Lawrence Kestenbaum, Washtenaw County's clerk and register of deeds.

"June's year-to-date total, 195 records, is 63.5 percent of the total recorded through last June, and is the lowest year-to-date total since June, 2005," Kestenbaum said.



Sheriff's deeds grew significantly in number between 2005 and 2008. The amount rose from 433 in 2005 to 703 in 2006, then to 1,151 in 2007, 1,439 in 2008, 1,196 in 2009, 1,399 in 2010, and 1,128 in 2011.

The number finally dropped below a thousand with 843 in 2012 and dropped lower still with 541 in 2013.

Jim Damron, civil bureau manager for the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office, said back in 2009 he would see around 38-45 sheriff's deeds on a weekly basis to be read off in court for the sheriff auction. Sometimes the number of sheriff's deeds would be higher or lower, he said, sometimes rising above 60.

At the time, this amount of foreclosure sales wasn't surprising to see, he said.

There were also many property adjournments, Damron said, as many as 470-480 a week. He said property adjournments are pretty much the banks saying what they have on their books and are likely getting ready to bring to sale.

By comparison, he said for July 10 he was bringing 10 sheriff's deeds to the weekly auction and there were 35 property adjournments. He said he is only seeing five to nine sheriff's deeds a week.

"There's just been this continuous drop," Damron said.

He also doesn't foresee any upcoming spike in the number of foreclosures, he said. He said he expects the number of sheriff's deeds to stay about the same rate for a couple of months, but he does expect some more foreclosures to trickle in when banks want more of the recent property adjournments off their books.

Reasons Washtenaw County is improving

Although a decrease in foreclosures is a trend not isolated to Washtenaw County, Damron said the county appears to be doing even better in this regard than region neighbors like Wayne and Macomb counties. Some counties have been hemorrhaging foreclosures for a while, he said.

At least part of the reason he believes Washtenaw County is doing even better is due to factors like the university-town atmosphere with the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, the local hospitals, and the area demographics, he said. He said he believes these factors help provide stability and ensure an influx of people coming in.

Part of the reason why Taylor believes Washtenaw County's housing market has recovered faster than its neighbors is because while the national recession didn't really hit until 2008, he said the county had its own recession of sorts in 2006 when Phizer left.

Phizer, a pharmaceutical business, had a large presence in Ann Arbor that employed thousands.

Hundreds of property parcels went on the market after Phizer left, Taylor said. He said since the county felt some fallout from its own recession, it also began its own recovery by the time the national recession came.

The year 2011 is when real estate in the county really began improving, Taylor said. He said 2012 was better still, while 2013 and 2014 have been through the roof.

The hottest real estate market in Washtenaw County is Ann Arbor, Taylor said, due to its location, the University of Michigan, and the university's hospital system. He said the city is very vibrant even in the worst of times. It's a very self-sustaining community, he said.

Other county communities share off how well Ann Arbor is doing, he said. He said in general, the farther away from Ann Arbor one goes in the county, the lower the property values become.

Damron is also optimistic about factors from a statewide perspective, he said, like a healthier job market.

"It looks like the trend is getting better when jobs are concerned," Damron said.

One reason the housing market has done as well as it has is the mortgage interest rate, Taylor said. He said the rates are now at around 4.5 percent. By comparison, he said rates in the early 1980s rose as high as 18 percent.

"We've been very fortunate," he said.

Another positive trend is that the real estate prices on foreclosed homes are also rising, he said, which helps them compete on the market.

During the years when the number of foreclosures were very high, Damron said the largest amount of foreclosures were in the Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township areas. He said now he feels the locations of foreclosures has evened out more over time throughout the county.

Some areas in the county are still recovering, Taylor said.

"Washtenaw County as a whole is doing really well," he said.

The housing market continues to recover

As of June 30, 2,018 properties of all types had been sold, about 1 percent below the 2,042 sold by the same point in 2013, according to the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors. Types of units sold include vacant, commercial, farms and condos in addition to single-family houses.

The average year-to-date sale price is $257,503, a 5 percent increase from 2013's average of $244,818 for the same period.

Last year was by itself a good year for real estate in Washtenaw County, according to the Realtor board's year-end report.

"More listings, more sales and higher prices defined a robust market where multiple offers were common," the report stated.

Overall, 4,536 properties were sold in 2013, a 1.7 percent increase from 2012. The number of new listings was up by 5.5 percent, 7,248, and prices were up 18 percent with an average residential sale price of $248,601.

The Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors anticipated the housing recovery seen through 2013 would continue into 2014.

"I've had the best year ever," Taylor said.

He has been in the real estate business for 13 years. As June 30, he has already closed on $11 million worth of property. This beats the record he set in 2013, previously his best year, when he sold $9.2 million.

Taylor does work with foreclosed houses, although they represent only about 5 percent of his business. He sells foreclosed houses for TCF Bank and GreenStone Farm Credit Services.

What is frustrating is there are not nearly enough sellers to meet demand in the county, he said.

"There are far more buyers than there are sellers," Taylor said.

This is a concern for buyers, who will have a more limited selection, and good for those who do decide to sell, he said. He said he's typically seeing multiple offers on houses within a short time frame from the listing.

Sales price values have really shot up, he said.

"We're pretty much at a fever pitch," Taylor said.

He does have one thing in particular he wants to tell those thinking of selling their home: "It's okay, you can sell your house now."

If a house is put on the market right now, he predicts it will be sold.

"Property values have been rising pretty steadily," Taylor said.

He does think the increase will be tapering off, he said. He said he expects house values to continue rising after that, just as a more modest rate.

One challenge for potential sellers though is many don't have either the cash or equity to buy a new house before selling their current one, Taylor said.

A strategy he is seeing many sellers use effectively is to put the house for sale and temporarily move into either a short-term rental property or with family members until it is sold, he said. He said the odds are it will sell. If the house for sale is available for a buyer to move in right away, he said selling is even more likely.

Staff Writer Ben Baird can be reached at 734-429-7380, bbaird@heritage.com or via Twitter @BenBaird1.

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