By MOCH N. KURNIAWAN
The wave of home foreclosures barreling across California appears to have bypassed San Francisco’s Mission District. Only one area home is currently listed as foreclosed, according to a Mission Loc@l analysis of local property repossessions.
Real estate insiders attributed the lack of foreclosures in the Mission to the neighborhood’s relatively stable real estate market where home prices have remained out of reach for most buyers.
“The median home price in the Mission was high. It stood at about $800,000 last year,” said Jane Duong, homeownership program manager at the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA). “Besides, the housing stocks in the Mission are more multi-unit condominiums than single houses.”
“Those situations do not fit subprime lending,” Duong said, referring to the lending practice characterized by high-interest loans to offset the perceived high risk of loan default. These loans have been widely blamed for the country’s recent foreclosure crisis. “Subprime loans usually happened in a single-family housing neighborhood such as Excelsior.”
Indeed, the Mission’s foreclosed home on Cesar Chavez Street is an anomaly compared to the number of bank-seized homes across the city and state. In the lower-income Excelsior neighborhood, there are 79 foreclosed homes on the market, according to the website Foreclosure.com. In San Francisco County, 348 homes are currently in foreclosure and around 170,000 homes statewide, according to recent statistics from Foreclosure.com. The website says it compiles its database from government agencies and more than 100 corporate sellers on a daily basis.
Despite the stability of the Bay Area’s housing market, it is not immune from the surge in California home foreclosures. Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties together account for more than 8 percent of the state’s foreclosures. In comparison, nearly 23 percent of repossessed homes are in Los Angeles and Riverside counties in Southern California.
Across the country, millions of homes have been foreclosed, forcing the federal government to propose a $75 billion foreclosure prevention program on Feb. 18 intended to help as many as 9 million families keep their homes.
The program will allow 5 million homeowners to refinance their mortgage loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac through the institution. Another 4 million will have their monthly payments decreased to 31 percent of their income, according to a White House press release.
But in San Francisco, as in other big cities like New York, real estate prices have been relatively stable. “The home prices rose about 10 to 20 percent a few years ago, and now decline by five to 10 percent,” said Denis Lancerin, a real estate agent at Vanguard Property. “This is better than other areas in the Bay Area where home prices declined by 20 percent.”
“As demand is always high in those cities, homeowners would [find it] relatively easy to sell their homes without having to deal with foreclosures,” said Daren Blomquist, spokesman for RealtyTrac, another foreclosure tracking website. “That’s why you do not see high foreclosures in those cities.”
But he warned that those cities remained vulnerable to a foreclosure increase due to the rising number of jobless.
“If you see the rise of people taking the unemployment benefit in your area, then you must be concerned about foreclosure again as families may not be able to get refinanced and pay their home loans.”