Foreclosures jump in county

A record 20 foreclosed properties were sold to the highest bidders at a recent weekly sheriff’s sale in
Wood County – after their former owners could no longer keep up with mortgage payments.
"I keep hearing things are getting better, but they’re not," said Wood County Sheriff’s Deputy
Phyllis Haas, who handles the sales of foreclosed properties in the county. "It seems to have
gotten worse the last month and a half."
The statistics back up what Haas is seeing at the auctions. Last year, at the end of June the county had
293 foreclosures. This year at the same point, there were 342, according to Wood County Clerk of Courts
Cindy Hofner.
And it’s not just the lower income households having trouble making their mortgages.
"They are across the board. We’ve seen the $500,000 and the $60,000 homes, too," Hofner said.

In fact, the number of foreclosures have climbed so much that Hofner recently cautioned Wood County
Administrator Andrew Kalmar that her office would be requesting additional funds to meet the legal
requirement of publishing the notices in the newspaper.
"He said that’s not what he likes to spend money on," Hofner said.
An estimated 90 percent of the properties are sold back to the banks at the sheriff’s auctions, Haas
Bowling Green attorney Mike Marsh attends many of the sales on behalf of banks or out-of-town law firms.
Though the foreclosures are spread throughout the county, he sees many of the smaller towns hit harder.

"It’s disproportionately hit the smaller villages," Marsh said. "It’s unusual to see one
in Bowling Green. It’s almost an epidemic in some ways."
In his other role as village solicitor for small towns like Grand Rapids and Pemberville, Marsh sees the
ill effects of the rising number of foreclosures. When banks buy the properties, they often want to get
rid of them right away, so they price them to sell quickly.
"It drives down the relative market of everything else in town," he said.
Even if homeowners aren’t planning on selling, it drives down their appraisals.
"It really does affect everyone, even though people may not understand that at first blush,"
Marsh said.
Foreclosed homes that sit unoccupied for months create additional problems, he said. Before long, the
grass grows two feet high, "and the next thing you know, kids are busting the windows."
And village officials have no recourse since the homeowner has given up and deserted the property, Marsh
Brad Espen, director of environmental services at the Wood County Health Department, sees the problem of
dilapidated houses growing in the county.
In the past, the health department would get requests to demolish two to three houses a year. "We
could do six to 10 now and still not get to them all," he said. "They are everywhere."

By the time neighbors complain, often the homeowner is long gone and it’s very difficult to identify a
responsible party.
"It’s amazing how quickly a property can deteriorate," after it’s abandoned by homeowners,
Espen said. "Part of the problem is the home is foreclosed upon and the owners walk away. Then the
title goes from bank to bank."
Often the health department is asked to get involved to demolish dilapidated homes that are the victim of
foreclosures. But Espen explained that legal process can drag on for months.
"By the time we jump through all the legal hoops, it could be a year" before a property can be
cleaned up, he said.
Most of the deserted foreclosed properties are older homes, but Espen said some newer ones are popping
"Occasionally, we’ll see a very nice newer home," he said.