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Foreclosure rates in Emmitsburg, Thurmont lower than surrounding towns

Stephanie Long
Emmitsburg Dispatch

(8/21) With news outlets everyday reporting that the “housing crisis” is a growing problem, an investigation into foreclosure rates in Frederick County and the surrounding areas reveals that Frederick County is on par with surrounding counties in Maryland, through significantly more than its neighbor to the north, Adams County, Pa.

Comparing the number of homes entering or in foreclosure according to Realtytrac.com and the number of housing units according to 2006 U.S. Census data, 0.42 percent of homes in Frederick County are in foreclosure. That rate is on par with Carroll County, which has a 0.45-percent foreclosure rate, Montgomery County, which has a 0.43-percent foreclosure rate and Washington County, which has a 0.44-percent foreclosure rate. Overall, Maryland has a 0.46-percent foreclosure rate statewide.

Emmitsburg Mayor James Hoover said that there are a lot of reasons for home foreclosures, but he believes much of it has to do with those types of mortgages.
“A lot of people were put in a situation, given an offer they couldn’t refuse,” Hoover said. “Immediate satisfaction overwhelmed long-term reality.”

Although Hoover said homeowners are not blameless for the current “crisis”, he credits some of the blame to homebuilders and banks who practiced “bad business” and became greedy.

“[Home owners] were blindsided be the greed of others,” Hoover said. “Now those home owners will suffer and there will be a major impact on the state economy which will be resolved somewhat on the back of taxpayers.”

Although Maryland’s foreclosure rate is lower than many other states, foreclosure is still a rising concern of many residents and government officials, including local officials.

Emmitsburg’s neighbors to the north seem to be fairing better. Carroll Valley, Pa., has no homes in foreclosure according to Realtytrac.com and Adams County, Pa. has a .02 percent foreclosure rate.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” said Bill Reinke, a Carroll Valley Borough council member who is a former mortgage broker. “Our (Adams County home) values didn’t get as out of control so values have held better.”

Reinke said the declining market in Frederick County is different than Pennsylvania, where the market hasn’t felt as great of a decline.

“My hypothesis as to the lower [foreclosure] rates is A- the prices weren’t out of hand… and B- Since the values tend to hold better here people aren’t in an upside down mortgage,” Reinke said.

An upside down mortgage means the owner owes more on the loan than the value of the home, which creates a problem when trying to sell of home and get out from under the debt. If Adams County has a lower upside-down mortgage rate, as Reinke believes, homeowners have an easier time of selling their homes or working with their bank. If the home values in Adams County did not get out of hand, as Reinke believes they did in Frederick County, homeowners are not feeling the crash of the market as much as those in Frederick County.

According to the “Property Foreclosures in Maryland- First Quarter 2008” packet from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, mortgage defaults rose 17.3 percent in the first quarter of 2008 compared to the fourth quarter of 2007.

Local Realtor Libby Briggs said many of the homes in foreclosure in Emmitsburg are new homes, mainly in Pembrook and Brookfield, that were purchased in 2005, 2006 and early 2007.

According to Realtytrac.com, as of August 19, there were 10 homes either entering or in foreclosure in Emmitsburg. In comparison with data collected from the U.S. Census, the 2000 census records 880 housing units in Emmitsburg, making the foreclosure rate 1.14 percent in Emmitsburg.

But Emmitsburg is not alone in its plight; Thurmont had a 1.5-percent foreclosure rate. Those rates seem miniscule to surrounding Maryland municipalities; Walkersville had a 5.09-percent foreclosure rate, Brunswick a 3.3-percent foreclosure rate, Myersville a 8.61-percent foreclosure rate and Frederick a 2.96-percent foreclosure rate, but Hoover is still concerned.

“It’s a growing problem,” Hoover said. “People will and have lost homes. I don’t think Emmitsburg is more immune to good or bad more than any place else.”
 

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