LAWRENCEVILLE - September saw a record number of foreclosure filings in Gwinnett County and experts expect to see more highs in the near future.
The county had 752 foreclosures this month, according to numbers kept by the Gwinnett Daily Post. This is the most foreclosure filings in a month in the last five years.
It's part of a recent trend in the county, with four of the five highest monthly foreclosure totals since January 2002 having been this year.
These foreclosure numbers represent properties in default and which ran legal advertisements in the Gwinnett Daily Post indicating the home would be up for auction on the first Tuesday of the following month. Legal advertisements for any property being foreclosed on within the county must be published in the Gwinnett Daily Post a month prior to the property being sold.
Alfie Meek, director of Gwinnett's economic analysis division, said he expects to see foreclosure numbers continue to rise through the first half of next year.
"If you look at the value and volume of ARMs (adjustable rate mortgages) that are scheduled to reset over the next several months, the number keeps going up and peaks in the spring of 2008," Meek said in an e-mail Wednesday. "The large majority of those ARMs are subprime and many of those will continue to default as they reset."
A December 2006 study by the Center for Responsible Learning said 2.2 million subprime home loans made across the nation in recent years have already failed or will end in failure.
Michelle Jones, vice president of counseling for the Consumer Credit Counseling Service in Atlanta, said this number indicates foreclosures will continue to rise in the coming months.
But has an increase in foreclosures in the county simply been a product of Gwinnett's population boom?
Meek said while some of the increase may be due to population growth, most of it is not.
Using foreclosure numbers from Equity Depot, Meek said there were 2.8 foreclosures per 1,000 in population in 2000. That number rose to 8.2 foreclosures per 1,000 in population in 2006.
"Even adjusted for population growth, the number of foreclosures is rising," Meek said. "The rate of foreclosures in 2007 (according to the numbers provided by the Gwinnett Daily Post) is on pace to be more than 3.5 times the rate in 2000."
Experts at the Atlanta Regional Housing Forum held Wednesday spoke about some of the issues surrounding foreclosure and how it can be prevented.
Eugene James, director of the housing market research company Metrostudy, said the rise in foreclosures could lead to stricter requirements for becoming a mortgage lender, which could possibly help reduce predatory lending practices.
"There are more stringent requirements to be a nail technician or a barber than there are to be a lender," James said.
Counseling is also an important factor in avoiding foreclosure. Andy Carswell from the Consumer Research Center at the University of Georgia said post-purchase counseling can be just as important as pre-purchase counseling.
"I'd even say (buyers) are more susceptible to predatory lending after they buy their home," Carswell said.
Jones agreed, saying that one of the best times to come in for counseling is after a homeowner has been in the house a few months and is beginning to see the expenses associated with homeownership. The problem is people get caught up with their daily lives and lack incentive to go for counseling until it's too late, she said.
"There's a real opportunity there, but there's no real carrot," Jones said.
Anyone interested in credit counseling and debt management help can reach the Consumer Credit Counseling Service at 1-800-251-2227.
The Impact Group in Gwinnett is another nonprofit agency that offers counseling and seminars and can be reached at 678-808-4477.