Foreclosures hit new high

Foreclosure actions filed in Lee County spiked up sharply to a record high of 2,160 in April - with almost a third for primary residences, according to statistics released Thursday by the Southwest Florida Real Estate Investors Association.
Investors and homeowners alike have been hit hard as the median price of a single-family home has fallen 34 percent from a peak of $322,300 in December 2005 to $212,500 in March.
Joanne Long is one of the homeowners who's facing foreclosure - she and her husband Matt McKibben expect to lose their southwest Cape Coral home because they can't pay off more than $236,000 they owe lender Franklin Credit Management Corp.
There's little chance of selling the house to pay off that debt because it's now worth only about $105,000, she said.
The straw that broke the camel's back was having to refinance with an adjustable rate mortgage to pay the water and sewer assessment to Cape Coral in 2006, said Long, who works at the Lee County clerk of court's office and also part time as a real estate agent. "We were paying about $1,000 a month but once that happened the payment jumped to $2,200."
The lender filed foreclosure proceedings against them last year and now they'll have to leave soon with their two children and rent a house, Long said.
Of April's foreclosures, 692 were homesteaded primary residences: 32 percent of the total and up from 554 in March. The percentage of primary residences has been holding steady at about that level for the past six months as the number of foreclosures has risen.
Mortgage broker and investor Jeff Tumbarello, who's also sales manager for real estate agency Engel & Völkers Fort Myers River District in Fort Myers, said foreclosed houses are coming back onto the markets as the banks take them back and then sell them.
"But they're losing, on average, 50 to 60 percent of what they lent," he said.
The bank sales have had the effect of finally boosting the number of houses being sold in the county because they're going so cheaply, he said. "The foreclosed homes are the pearl our market's got to offer."
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