The Mortgage Meltdown: A look at Atlanta’s Foreclosure Crisis
In some parts of metro Atlanta the number of foreclosures has more than doubled in the last year—a trend that experts predict will only get worse. We begin a series of reports and interviews on Atlanta’s mortgage crisis where many of those lost properties have ended up—the auction block on the courthouse steps.
On the first Tuesday of every month, outside courthouses in all 159 Georgia counties foreclosed properties go up for bid. It’s a quaint, even old-fashioned ritual—as we discovered the first Tuesday of this month at the DeKalb County courthouse in Decatur.
That reading of a list of properties to be disposed of was several pages in length..and comprised just one law firm’s agenda for the day. Gradually, representatives from several firms handling property for auction take their positions on and around the steps. Andrea Arteburn, a so-called “crier” for the law firm Shapiro and Swertfeger describes her role.
Interested buyers will gather close to the crier..and submit their bids; often in a quiet, detached manner—a far cry from the animated bidding process that might characterize other types of auctions.
Bill Mixon has been an interested investor since the early 90s. Watching today’s scenes from the sidelines he shares an observation.
Mixon says the crowds of bidders are smaller now than they were then; the deals are different. Within an hour the number of criers has increased to a dozen—each reading their property descriptives simultaneously.
All auctioned properties begin with the Lender’s bid, and prices rise from there (from that point). With the recent foreclosure crisis however, many of the properties return to the Lender. One bidder—a slender woman in her 60s with styled blonde hair who declined to give her name—estimates as many as 90 of the properties go unsold. She says it’s because so many mortgages are upside down.
So, how did this pattern of increasing foreclosures evolve? What were the causes? Who are the participants? The winners? The losers? And, what are the solutions? We’ll be asking these questions over the next 4 days as we talk with experts, agents, investors, lenders and those trying to help homeowners from losing their property.
- Tracy Minch
We sought out the views of realtor Tracy Minich of ReMax Executives. When we spoke, we referenced the Atlanta Regional Commission study that showed most of the recent forclosures were concentrated in certain parts of metro Atlanta. Ms. Minich addressed that with her own findings.
- Patrick Vanderbeck
With Atlanta’s foreclosure rate ranking 11th highest in the nation—currently at 2.5 percent, many have laid blame at the feet of the mortgage industry for engaging in questionable lending practices. When we spoke with Patrick Vanderbeck, a senior loan officer with PeachState Mortgage brokers, he pointed to investors on Wall Street as having played a significant role.
- John Adams
While many people have lost their homes to foreclosures, surveys of metro Atlanta show a large number of foreclosures were not primary residences, but second homes, rentals, or investment properties. As we continue our series on the mortgage crisis, long-time foreclosure investor and real estate broker John Adams says he’s not surprised by those figures.
- Bill Brennan
What should you do if you are unable to pay your mortgage? We talked with William Brennan, Jr—an attorney with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, and director of their Home Defense Program. His experience makes him uniquely qualified to assess the worsening mortgage crisis in metro Atlanta.
- Dan Immergluck
We continue our look at the foreclosure crisis in metro Atlanta with some terminology and background. Dr. Dan Immerluck is an Associate Professor of City and Regional Planning at Georgia Tech, who has written extensively on real estate and lending policy. To begin, he provides a definition for a term that seems to be at the heart of the mortgage debate—the sub-prime loan.
- Frank Alexander
Was it a mistake to ease regulations on the mortgage lending industry (over the last 15 years)? Afterall, it allowed many more Americans to qualify for home ownership. The downside, however, has been dramatic—an unprecedented increase in the number of foreclosures. We spoke with Emory University law professor Dr. Frank Alexander. A national authority on housing, homelessness, and foreclosure law, Alexander believes the time-tested policy of mortgage lending in the U.S. better served both our economy and the borrower.
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