By B.C. Manion
Lake Front Drive, in the Pine Ridge subdivision of Wesley Chapel, offers a microcosm of what’s happening in today’s local housing market.
There’s a house in foreclosure that’s up for sale, and another being sold in a short sale. There’s a for sale sign stuck in the lawn in front of one house and a for lease sign planted in front of another.
In neighborhoods scattered throughout Pasco County, the story is much the same. There are houses being offered for sale or for rent. And overgrown weeds in front of houses —on blocks of otherwise neatly manicured lawns — announce that whoever once lived there no longer does.
RealtyTrac, a California-based company that tracks foreclosures recently reported that Pasco County had a 60 percent increase in foreclosures, compared with August 2009. The number of foreclosures increased from July to August of this year by 43 percent, according to company figures.
By comparison, Hillsborough County fared better — with a 30 percent increase in foreclosures in August, compared to the previous year’s figure for that month, and an increase of less than 9 percent from July to August.
In actual figures, Hillsborough had one foreclosure in every 171 homes, while Pasco had one in every 136. Florida had one in every 155, a rate of 2.5 times the national average, according to RealtyTrac.
RealtyTrac’s report incorporates documents filed during all three phases of foreclosure, default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions.
Local real estate agents said there are a lot of dynamics at play in the rising foreclosure rates.
“It’s complicated,” said Carl Stratton, of Dennis Realty & Investment, 1022 Land O’ Lakes Blvd. in Lutz.
“We have people from all around the country who bought here,” Stratton said, but many of those investors are letting the houses go through strategic foreclosures.
“In this market, it has become almost common place that people aren’t paying,” Stratton said.
Russell Adams, of Russell Adams Realty, 2502 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes, has noticed the same trend.
“These are people who have the ability to pay. It’s a business decision,” Adams said. “It’s going to mess up their credit for awhile,” he said, but that doesn’t seem to bother them.
Unemployment is also playing a role, Stratton said. Families with two wage earners may be down to one, or none — making it impossible for them to meet their previous mortgage payments.
Tougher credit requirements are also making it harder for people to get into the market, Stratton said.
While the economy continues to struggle, Stratton said his office has seen sales improving slowly.
Both he and Adams think it is an excellent time to invest.
“The best time to buy real estate is right now — this very second,” Adams said. The price of real estate and excellent interest rates make for great deals, he said.
“The interest rates are at historical lows. In the 4s. It’s phenomenal. It’s unspeakable,” Adams said. He also noted that the quality of home construction is better than it has ever been because of strict hurricane standards.
Both Stratton and Adams said the demand for rental housing is hot.
Home ownership is decreasing and rental demand is up, Stratton said. Part of the demand is because poverty — at its highest rate since 1994 — qualifies more people for government subsidized housing, he said.
Adams said that people are wary about the real estate market, but said that prices are stable to improving, based on the multiple listing services for 2008. Adams predicts there will be even more improvement after the November election.
John W says
I have to complain to SOMEBODY! My local paper seems the best route.
Thank you for providing a valuable source of information on the local Land O’ Lakes area.
I am, unfortunately, one of those caught up in the foreclosure mess being felt in this country and in Florida in particular.
My complaint? I did not buy a house when I could not afford one. I did not buy an investment property that’s now a bad investment. I did not buy a much bigger house than I could afford. I have no desire to walk away from my home. I have worked very closely with my lender to reach a solution (great kudos to Wells Fargo!).
We moved to LOL in 2006. I took a paycut of about 20% in the move but could still afford the house we bought. It just so happens that the floorplan we liked the most with our builder was there smallest in terms of square footage. We live in a development with a minimal HOA fee (<$1,000 annually).
I was downsized from Citigroup 1/16/2008. I didn't find another job until 9/4/2009. By that time, all savings, retirement and even school funds were exhausted. When I did find a job it was 40% less than I was making at Citi.
We have maintained our home as if we will live here for decades. My main complaint? All houses in forclosure are lumped together with those who speculated in real estate and bet wrong. We bought our house as a place to live and bring up our child in a wonderful and warm state.
Land O' Lakes, FL