Home foreclosures continue to climbSt. Croix County hasn’t been able to avoid the economic hard times plaguing the nation since the bubble burst on Wall Street in October, especially in terms of real estate foreclosures.
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
St. Croix County hasn’t been able to avoid the economic hard times plaguing the nation since the bubble burst on Wall Street in October, especially in terms of real estate foreclosures.
Both filings in the clerk of court’s office and sheriff’s sales on foreclosed property were ahead of last year’s pace in November.
Lori Meyer, clerk of court, said as of Nov. 5 her office had handled 559 foreclosure proceedings, compared with 515 for all of 2007 and 447 in 2006.
Sheriff’s sales of foreclosed property have risen steadily. Office Manager Mary Martell said sales posted through November totaled 491 compared with 369 in 2007 and 188 in 2006.
“When I first started in 1995, there were one or two foreclosure sales a month,” Martell said. “Now I have them scheduled into February.”
Sheriff Dennis Hillstead said that two deputies on the staff have exclusive duty as civil process servers.
“In addition to foreclosures, they serve subpoenas, evictions, small claims notices and other civil actions, but foreclosures are a big part of it,” said Hillstead.
“As an example, our revenue for 2001 for process serving was $60,756.27. As of the end of October it was $148,794.20, and foreclosures accounted for the biggest percentage of the increase,” he said.
However, the revenue goes into the county’s general fund and not directly to the sheriff’s department.
“On the plus side, our revenue is up; on the down side, if one of our process servers is on vacation, or out sick, we have to take a deputy off of patrol,” Hillstead said.
The veteran law officer said when he first started serving papers in 1972, foreclosures were few and far between. Most were businesses or farms and not homes, like they are today.
“It is really unbelievable,” Hillstead said.
Meyer said that the increase in foreclosures has had a huge impact on her staff and the courts.
“We have to get help for the civil clerk because that area also handles a lot of appeals, but foreclosures are absolutely the biggest area of increase in the clerk’s office,” she said.
Foreclosures throughout the nation in August totaled more than 2.03 million on a pace to surpass 2007, when more than 2.20 million were recorded. Foreclosure filings rose more than 70 percent between July and September this year compared with the same period in 2007, according to data from Realty Trac.
University of Wisconsin Extension data showed a 48 percent increase in foreclosures in St. Croix County in the third quarter compared with last year. From July through September 2007 some 120 foreclosures were listed compared with 177 during the same period this year. Statewide, foreclosures rose 6 percent during the same period of time.
The clerk of court records show only 51 foreclosure proceedings for all of 1998. A slight increase occurred from 2003 — with 150 proceedings to 212 in 2005 — before things took off in 2006.
In 2003, sheriff’s sales totaled 40. They more than doubled in 2004, with 84, and continued to climb.
By statute, the sheriff conducts foreclosure sales in the main entrance of the Government Center at 10 a.m. on Tuesday mornings.
“I don’t recall having a Tuesday without a sheriff’s sale for the last three years,” Hillstead said.
He said there are few purchases of foreclosed property these days. “About a year and a half ago, sales dropped right off,” he said. “Nobody is purchasing except the mortgage holder or somebody that knows the property.”