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Report: Foreclosure rates declining in West Virginia

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West Virginia boasted the highest rate of home ownership for years, and that still holds true even after the 2008 economic recession.

The state weathered the economic storm better than most other states and that is evident in the low number of foreclosures in recent years, according to Erica Boggess, acting executive director of the Housing Development Fund. Since 2007, the state has seen 16,661 foreclosures, with most of those foreclosures occurred in Berkeley (3,229), Kanawha (1,592), Jefferson (1,438), Wood (912), Cabell (866) and Raleigh (693) counties.

Boggess told a legislative interim committee that the Washington, D.C., housing market could be one reason why the foreclosure rate is so high in the Eastern Panhandle.

"You can see the top counties there are the higher population centers of the state, and you would naturally expect to see more foreclosures there," she said. "Berkeley County and Jefferson County, in addition to the high population counties, have also been two of the counties more affected by a decrease in house price value. West Virginia as a whole has not suffered from that, but the Eastern Panhandle tends to rely on the D.C. marketplace, therefore they've seen some numbers we haven't seen across the rest of the state."

Boggess said one reason why West Virginia's foreclosure rate is low could be because state homeowners never experienced a housing bubble like the rest of the country did.

According to the Housing Development Fund's report, slightly less than 4.5 percent of loans are in the process of foreclosure nationally, while West Virginia's rate remains steady about 2 percent. Slightly more than 1.5 percent of loans from the Housing Development Fund are in the process of foreclosure.

Stephen Fisher, deputy director of program operations for the Housing Development Fund, pointed out not as many West Virginia homeowners fell victim to sub-prime mortgage schemes that affected much of the country.

"We just didn't have as much of that," he said. "Maybe you have good lenders, local lenders who are making good loans."

2009 saw the highest number of foreclosures in recent years at 3,419. However, 2010 saw 51 fewer, foreclosures in 2011 dropped to 2,901 and foreclosures between January and September 2012 number 2,100, a 28 percent drop from 2011.

The West Virginia Housing Development fund lends primarily to individuals or families with incomes of $20,000 to $50,000. The average loan is about $95,000, though they can go as low as $40,000 and as high as $120,000.