Sedgwick County foreclosures up 44%

Sedgwick County foreclosures in the first half of the year were up 44 percent over the same six months in 2009, when the city descended into its downturn.

According to the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office, 2,058 houses were scheduled for foreclosure sale in the six months ending June 30.

The surge is largely the result of job losses, say experts, as house payments that were affordable before suddenly became unaffordable.

"The top reason is jobs, or the lack thereof," said Ryan Deitchler, housing counselor for Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

But, he said, the same factors that pushed people into foreclosure in good times also remain: death, divorce and high medical bills.

While homeowners of all ages and backgrounds have gone into foreclosure, the bulk tend to be those who have bought within the past six years using loans requiring little equity, said Stan Longhofer, director of the Center for Real Estate at Wichita State University.

When there's little equity, he said, there are few options for the lender to negotiate a reduction in the loan.

There is also less interest on the part of such homeowners to fight for the house, he said.

The actual number of homes sold at the weekly sheriff's sale is only about a third of the homes scheduled. In the first half, 816 homes were actually sold at the sheriff's sale.

For the other 1,200 or so homes that had been scheduled to sell, there are a variety of fates, Longhofer said.

The official notifications may have scared the homeowner into scraping together enough money to keep the home.

Or, the homeowner might have finally been able to sell the home on the open market.

But the homeowner and bank may have also negotiated a short sale in which the bank takes a hit on the loan as part of a sale, or the homeowner may simply have handed over the deed in lieu of payment.

The number of foreclosures in the second quarter were down from the first quarter, but it's not yet known if that is a trend, Longhofer said.

He expects the rate to drop in the coming months — possibly even before the economy improves — as those at risk of foreclosure go through the process and lose their homes.