If you're looking for home foreclosure problems, don't look toward Wichita.
That's the conclusion of a national study and of local analysts who credit the city's conservative lending nature and pragmatic borrowers who pay their bills.
But there are no Wichitans on the coasts, according to a National Association of Realtors study that shows Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada at the center of what is becoming a regional foreclosure crisis.
According to the NAR study by economist Selma Hepp, Kansas ranks in the middle of states with distressed residential sales, at 23 percent.
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But those sales are few and far between in Wichita, according to local lenders and brokers — a fact Hepp acknowledges.
"That's pretty consistent with what we've found," she said. "Clearly, the hardest-hit areas are Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada. The numbers get exaggerated to other states, but the majority of the problem is in those states."
Wichita is conservative — buyers didn't snap up subprime mortgage products and overbuy, local lenders were more cautious in their lending practices, and there's good old-fashioned honesty — said Dan Jones, lending manager for Capitol Federal in Wichita.
"We didn't have the rapid appreciation of home values, so we didn't get the big fall," Jones said. "Our people here tended not to get hooked into some of the high-risk loan products, the subprime products, and buy more than they can afford.
"And a promise means something out here. We tend to pay our bills. A promise made means something."
But there are hardships, said Brenda Noffert, a short-sale specialist at Realty World, hardships that don't involve overbuying a home.
Owners can sell homes for less than they owe — a short sale — if they can prove hardships.
"What we have here are people who've planned on staying a long time and they can't get what they owe out of their home," she said. "They are being relocated, divorce, death, hardship of some kind. Short sales are the best alternative to foreclosure, because it doesn't land on your credit."
Gary Schmitt, who oversees lending at Intrust Bank, said "there just isn't any" distressed market in Wichita threatening to drive the housing inventory up.
"We have foreclosed on the properties that we've had delinquency issues on, and we initiate foreclosure immediately so we're holding no inventory," he said. "We foreclose, and as soon as we get title, market and sell them."
That prevents the influx of properties that have overrun lenders in Nevada, Florida and Arizona, "such an influx that they've held onto something hoping the market would recover," Schmitt said.
If Wichita had an inventory of distressed homes waiting to be unleashed on the market, it would have already materialized, said Tessa Hultz, chief executive of the Wichita Area Association of Realtors.
"I would have expected to see a spike in bank properties coming onto the market in conjunction with the homebuyer tax credit in effect last year if there really was an inventory of bank-owned homes," she said.
Hett's report targets several coastal states as the leaders in distressed sales — Nevada with 69 percent of all sales qualifying as distressed, Arizona at 55 percent, California at 52 percent, Florida at 46 percent.
Beyond those four, the number of delinquent loans is improving nationally.
In the last quarter of 2010, delinquencies more than 90 days late fell in all but four states — Washington, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.
"So my impression is that we are in a ton better shape than most states around the country," Jones said.
"Sure, we've seen people lose their jobs and lose their homes to foreclosure, but from a comparative standpoint, I'd have to guess that Wichita looks as good as anyone in the country."