Foreclosure filings in Whatcom County lowest since 2006

The distressed home market has nearly returned to normal, but Whatcom County continues to experience some aftermath of the real estate meltdown from eight years ago.

The number of foreclosure filings in Whatcom County totaled 314 in 2014, according to RealtyTrac, a national online database of real estate property. That’s the lowest annual total since 2006, matching a national trend.

While the foreclosure market is nearly back to the pre-bubble days, this area continues to have “zombie” homes on the market, said Peter Roberts of John L. Scott Real Estate. Zombie homes are those that are bogged down in the distressed property process and haven’t been put on the market. Roberts said a typical zombie home around here has sat empty for more than a year, has had minimum upkeep, is in the under-$300,000 price range and doesn’t have a “for sale” sign.

“I wouldn’t say there are a ton of them (zombie homes), but they are around,” Roberts said, adding that he expects banks to continue bringing them on the market if the real estate market improves.

These days, Whatcom County foreclosure filings are typically done for life-event reasons, Roberts said, such as a bankruptcy, divorce or unexpected medical expenses. The process does take longer than 10 years ago, as more attempts are made these days to rescue a home from foreclosure.

Across the U.S., 1.1 million foreclosure notices were sent out in 2014, down 18 percent from 2013 and is the lowest total since 2006. RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist said in a news release accompanying the data that the foreclosure market is stabilizing at a historically normal level, but there is still some activity left.

“A recent surge in foreclosure starts and scheduled foreclosure auctions in several states in the last few months of 2014 indicate that lenders are gearing up for a spring cleaning of deferred distress in the first half of 2015,” Blomquist said in the news release.

Washington state had the 17th highest foreclosure rate. Florida had the highest foreclosure rate in 2014, followed by New Jersey and Maryland. Among major metro areas, Atlantic City, N.J topped the foreclosure rate list, followed by Miami and Orlando.

Foreclosure filings

Here are the number of foreclosure filings in Whatcom County according to RealtyTrac, an online database of real estate property.

2014   314
2013   475
2012   546
2011   559
2010   863
2009   849
2008   430
2007   327
2006   158