Some in real estate thrive despite Yavapai having fourth-highest number of foreclosures in state
Brian Biggs said he and his wife, Nancy, moved to the tri-city area from Maryland four years ago "at the peak of the real estate market - right as it is spiraling down."
The Biggses, owners-brokers of Prudential Northern Arizona Real Estate in the Prescott Country Club, set up shop before the national recession caused the housing bubble to burst.
However, the couple appears to be thriving as others in the housing industry suffer with the continuing recession.
"We had our best year ever last year," Brian said. He and his wife sell a number of so-called "distressed" homes, which cover houses that owners lost through trustee and bank-owned sales, or cut their losses through "short" sales.
They sell homes in a county that
had the fourth highest number of foreclosure listings - 472 - of Arizona's 15 counties in February, according to RealtyTrac, an online marketplace reporting company. Yavapai County's totals dropped from 529 in January and 474 in February 2009.
Maricopa County had the highest number of foreclosure listings in February at 11,596, followed by Pinal County at 2,234 and Pima County at 1,230. Tiny Greenlee County had the smallest number at 6
RealtyTrac, based in Irvine, Calif., reported foreclosure filings totaled 308,524 nationwide in February, a 2 percent drop from January and 6 percent higher than February 2009. The report also shows one in every 418 American housing units received a foreclosure filing in February.
"It's devastating," Sandy Griffis, executive director of the Yavapai County Contractors Association, said, referring to the county numbers. "It is devastating to our economy, and it is devastating to our entire state, and our (federal) government needs to understand the plight of these people losing jobs."
But through a twist of fate, the Biggses and some other real estate brokers and sales people in the tri-city area are benefiting from the downturn by selling distressed homes.
In 2009, the couple sold 28 homes, with eight of the transactions involving distressed homes, Nancy said. Seven of the sales involved foreclosed homes, and the other one was a short sale.
By contrast, the Biggses sold only 14 homes in 2008, including two foreclosed houses, Nancy said.
Brian and Nancy said they are not benefiting from other people's misery.
"We're trying to stabilize the (real estate) market," Nancy said.
The couple and Dana Rae Newman, owner of Mile High Lending in Prescott, said some people who lost their homes in the economic downturn should not have bought houses in the first place.
"Not only did people overextend themselves from the housing standpoint," said Newman, who has worked in the field for 10 years. "They overextended themselves in every aspect of their lives: cars that they did not need, boats, ATVs, maxing out on their credit cards."
Newman said she is handling financing for a number of distressed properties.
"The majority of the purchases we are doing are bank sales and short sales" over the past two years, Newman said. "I would say probably 85 percent of the purchases that we have currently in the pipeline" were foreclosed homes.
She said some investors are buying bank-owned homes.
Investors buy homes from trustee sales at the Yavapai County Courthouse steps in Prescott, according to the Biggses. Once their investor clients buy the homes, Prudential lists them.
Brian said, "There are very few people buying them (homes) at trustee sales for a variety of reasons. There are very few that come at a price that is affordable."
Brian also cited potential risks that could include two or three existing mortgages on the homes.
Nancy commented, "The risk is that you do not know the property," adding a home might need extensive repairs.
The Biggses said consumers have more protection if they buy homes that revert to bank ownership because they did not sell at trustee sales.
Brian said potential buyers may see the homes and pay for title searches.
The prospective buyers of bank-owned homes are looking for the best deals, Brian said.
"People buying the best homes in general buy the home because they love it," he said.