A foreclosure counseling event in downtown Boise Wednesday offered a window into how homeowners are faring, years after Idaho’s foreclosure rate began to climb. The basic message was this: we’re not out of the woods yet.
2011, Idaho’s foreclosure rate was the fifth highest in the nation, based on data from RealtyTrac. But the last twelve months brought positive change. Property values took a turn for the better, homebuilders reported rising demand, and the state’s foreclosure rate began to fall.
Still, the rate remains high, and that may not change soon. Gavin Gee heads the Idaho Department of Finance, one of the foreclosure workshop’s sponsors.
“Our economy, I think, overall is getting better, but we still have a lot of challenges in the general economy and the overall broader economy, and as long as we have those challenges, I think we’re still going to have foreclosure issues,” he says.
And, says the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Craig Nolte, foreclosure is an issue that must be taken seriously, because it’s a serious problem for every Idahoan affected. “The problem is 100 percent to that individual,” Nolte says. “These people are members of our community. They’re our neighbors. And we want to reach out to them, because it’s a huge problem to them.”
With that in mind, lenders and housing counselors spent the day meeting with a slow and steady stream of troubled homeowners. Tom Birch, Director of Homeownership Counseling with Neighborhood Housing Services, says the problems people are facing come down to employment.
“The reason that they’re here is loss of job or loss of income, and they just don’t know what to do. In a lot of cases, they’ve been working with their lender and are totally frustrated,” he says.
Birch says it’s important that people in that situation know there is such a thing as free, face-to-face foreclosure counseling. “It’s available, it’s available, it’s available!” he says. “But they have to ask. They have to come and get it.”
And if they do, Birch says, homeowners will walk away with a better sense of where they stand, and what they can do about it.