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Home foreclosures were down in 2009 in county

The number of home foreclosures showed a significant decrease in Dakota County in 2009. It is the first decrease in numbers since 2000, according to information released by the Dakota County Sheriff's Office.

Whether that downward trend will continue in 2010 is not known. Through the first 22 days of January, the sheriff's office had scheduled 184 sales, which does not appear to be encouraging.

One mortgage specialist in Hastings, however, believes there is some encouraging news that the trend will continue.

In 2009, the sheriff's office handled 1,859 sales, a decrease of about 10 percent from 2008, when 2,052 sales were handled by the office. The number of foreclosures handled in 2009 continues to reflect a huge increase from 1999, when the Sheriff's Office handled 199 sales.

From 1999 to 2007, the civil division of the sheriff's office processed 2,663 sales, compared to 5,598 from 2007 to 2009.

Why the decrease last year?

The sheriff's office staff believes part of it is that for some banks and financial lending institutions, there was a moratorium and postponement of foreclosures.

"That's what we are hearing from the people, the attorneys we deal with," said Sgt. Rob Shingledecker, head of the sheriff's office civil division.

As for the increasing numbers of mortgage foreclosures within the past 10 years, culminating in 2008, Shingledecker believes there are several reasons.

"Part of it is the economy," he said. "Some people bought homes for $250,000 to $300,000, and then they decreased in value. For some, they paid the sub prime rates, such as interest only."

Then, the time period ended for the special deals ended and the mortgage holders had a more difficult time making the payment, Shingledecker said.

Troy Weathers, mortgage consultant with North American Banking Co. said there are other factors beginning to occur. He considers the signs that point to a hope the number of foreclosures will at least slow down.

"There was some stimulus money that was released earlier in the year," he said. That helped potential homeowners "get off on the right foot," he added.

During the past year and continuing into January, prospective buyers had the opportunity to purchase homes at low interest rates, resulting in lower payments for some.

"This was a very good year for us, with the low interest rates," Weathers said. "And then there is the new stimulus money which is coming, money designated for mortgages."

How it works

The sheriff's office becomes aware of the sales when the law firms (who file notice of the sales for banks and lending institutions) notify the office. The sales are held at 10 a.m. Monday through Friday in the law enforcement center lobby. It is rare when someone other than a representative of the financial institution shows for the sales, Shingledecker said.

If a homeowner pays off the delinquent payments, the law firm can postpone the sale. Or if the homeowner files bankruptcy, that can stop the sale.

In most cases, after the foreclosure sale occurs, there is a redemption period of six months in which the homeowner can repurchase the property. The records of the sales and Certificates of Redemption notices are on file in the Dakota County Property Records Division.

According to state law, the homeowner has the right to redeem the property from the foreclosing lender. The homeowner is allowed to stay in the property for this time period.

The most common way a homeowner is able to redeem the cost is by selling the home, assuming he or she has enough equity. Occasionally, they are able to obtain new financing.

When the redemption period expires, homeowners must be off the property.

Foreclosure sale schedules are available on the Dakota County web site at www.co.dakota.mn. us/fore closures. There is a link at both the sheriff's office and the property records sites.

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