Metro Atlanta foreclosure advertisements rise in July

Amid some signs of stability in the metro Atlanta housing market, foreclosure advertisements remained stubbornly high in July.

There were 9,317 advertised foreclosures, up from 7,670 in June. That is an increase of more than 21 percent, but Barry Bramlett, CEO of Equity Depot which tracks the numbers, said that is not a surprise. July had more days than an average reporting month.

"It's very, very consistent at this point," Bramlett said in an e-mail.

The high for 13 metro counties this year was 9,539 in May. The low was 7,046 in April.

Bramlett's report comes on the heels of a national real estate firm's report last week that Georgia had the nation's highest foreclosure rate in the nation in May, with one in 300 homes subject to an advertisement or repossession.

Foreclosure advertisements like those Bramlett tracks do not necessarily end in repossessions; they are an initial legal step in the process. Lenders may fail to proceed or move quickly, as some overwhelmed banks have slowed the process. Also, lenders can work with borrowers to find a settlement or write down loans.

Foreclosures have an immediate impact on the housing market as a whole. They usually sell at low prices, which drags down nearby home valuations and depress government real-estate assessments, which means local governments get less property taxes to pay for police, fire protection, schools and services such as libraries.

Not just homes are getting notices from lenders that the owners are behind on their loans.

"One thing that jumps out is the continuing number of large commercial properties we see," Bramlett wrote. "It certainly reflects the struggling economy. Gwinnett Place Mall being advertised on a $115 million loan, 200 Galleria Parkway on a $70 million loan, 120 Interstate North Parkway on a $20 million loan. A $448 million loan covering seven building in the Northlake Office Park, a $335 million loan covering 18 separate apartment complexes across the state. [It is] hard to fully absorb the economic losses that must be occurring."

Clearing the foreclosed properties off the market will help bring a return to home price stability.

Metro Atlanta has seen an increase in prices in June and early July, as fewer foreclosed low-end properties were selling, which means more homes priced above $100,000 were being snapped up by buyers. Some hot spots, such as trendy in-town neighborhoods, were seeing multiple bids come on many properties.

That was helped by some good economic news such as unemployment rates dropping into the 8 percent range and helped boost buyer confidence. Many national economists and housing experts, including those at the widely watched and respected Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Home Pride Index said the country could be coming off the bottom of the market, but it would take sustained economic good news to solidify the gains the housing market has seen this year.

Foreclosures in July

  • Gwinnett 1,904
  • Fulton 1,530
  • DeKalb 1,494
  • Cobb 1,089
  • Clayton 756
  • Cherokee 503
  • Forsyth 266