Home foreclosures: County seeing record numbers

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett County set a record this month, and it's probably not one the county wants to tell the Guinness people about.

But according to Gwinnett Daily Post records, the largest number of foreclosures ever recorded in the newspaper's legal section - 1,685 properties - are set to go on the auction block at the county courthouse next month.

The previous record for a month came in September 2008 when 1,403 foreclosures were advertised.

For the calendar year 2007, the Daily Post recorded 8,394 foreclosure notices advertised. In comparing that to 2008, where foreclosures advertised numbered 13,758, the increase is a whopping 64 percent. From 2006 to 2007, the increase from 5,707 foreclosures advertised to 8,394 represented a 47 percent increase. The increase from 2004 to 2005 was only 9 percent.

According to Realty Trac, which provides nationwide foreclosure data to MSN Real Estate, Yahoo! Real Estate and to the Wall Street Journal's Real Estate Journal, one in every 387 housing units in the state received a foreclosure filing during the month of November, making Georgia the state with the sixth highest foreclosure rate in the nation.

"Although foreclosure activity in Georgia has been steadily increasing since August, the numbers are basically back to the level where they began the year, and only slightly ahead of last year at this time," said James Saccacio, CEO of Realty Trac in a statement dated Dec. 29. "Home sales continue to decline throughout the state even with plummeting prices."

Saccacio also added that rising unemployment was contributing to the problem.

"More than 61,000 jobs were lost during the past year," he said. "The state's unemployment rate jumped 2.5 percent during this period and is now above the national average."

Realty Trac also reported a 12 percent statewide increase in the number of foreclosures from November 2007 to November 2008. For this year, it said foreclosures in Gwinnett numbered 1,175 for the month while neighboring Fulton led the state with 1,785. DeKalb County had 952 foreclosures while Barrow County reported 221. Walton County reported 215, Forsyth County reported 83 and Jackson County reported 44.

At the Board of Commissioner's afternoon meeting Tuesday, Chairman Charles Bannister in discussing the interim budget acknowledged the growing foreclosure crisis in Gwinnett and the times of economic uncertainty. According to county administrator Jock Connell, officials are well aware of the impact the foreclosures are going to have on the future budget as well.

"When we plan a budget, we look at revenue projections and our projections going into the 2009 budget process took into account the present economy - foreclosures included," Connell said in an e-mail. "At mid-year, we'll get another fresh look at revenue and we can make adjustments at that time with the adoption of a reconciliation budget."

As for actions the county is taking to make sure foreclosed properties don't become eyesores for entire neighborhoods, thus bringing down nearby home values even more, communications director Joe Sorenson said the county is doing what it can.

"What the county can do is what the county is already doing," Sorenson said. "We'll enforce the property maintenance ordinance. And our police department's quality of life unit is working with property owners, including banks, to correct violations."