January 3, 2014 Updated: January 4, 2014 at 2:54 am
El Paso County foreclosure activity fell last year to its lowest level in 11 years, thanks in part to the recovery of the single-family housing market.
Foreclosure filings, which are brought by lenders against property owners after several months of missed mortgage payments, totaled 1,861 in 2013, a nearly 45 percent reduction over last year and the fewest since 1,594 filings in 2002, according to a report by the El Paso County Public Trustee's Office.
For December, foreclosure filings totaled 126, down almost 43 percent from the same month last year, the report showed.
The drop in foreclosure filings - most of which are brought against residences - marked a reversal of fortunes for area property owners. Local foreclosure filings already were climbing a decade ago. After the recession hit, filings set a series of record highs, peaking at 5,288 in 2009. They've declined each year since then.
Area real estate agents credit an improving single-family housing market for the slowdown in foreclosure activity. As mortgage rates fell, demand increased for homes, and property values began to rise. That made it easier for troubled homeowners to stave off foreclosure by selling their properties or refinancing.
Releases of deeds of trust totaled 44,038 in 2013, the highest number in seven years. Releases are recorded when owners sell their property, refinance or pay off mortgages - all positive signs.
"We had the best year we've had in a very long time," said Public Trustee Tom Mowle.
However, not all the news was good.
El Paso County had the highest number of foreclosure filings in the state last year, Mowle said. Foreclosure woes in Denver-area counties have declined at a faster pace.
"Their foreclosure rate is better because their economy is better, their unemployment rate is better," Mowle said.
Also, some El Paso County neighborhoods continue to struggle with higher rates of foreclosures, he said.
Foreclosure filings are concentrated in the county's southern and eastern areas, including the Fountain Valley south of Colorado Springs, neighborhoods on the Springs' southeast side and areas east of Marksheffel Road, Mowle's report showed.
Of ZIP codes with 500 or more residences, the Claremont Ranch neighborhood, northeast of U.S. 24 and Marksheffel Road, had the county's highest foreclosure rate in 2013; 1.8 percent of the area's residences received a foreclosure notice last year, Mowle's report showed. Claremont Ranch also had one of the area's highest foreclosure rates each of the last several years.
Other ZIP codes of 500 or more residences with the area's highest foreclosure rates included Pikes Peak Park and Panorama on the Springs' south and southeast sides, respectively; the town of Calhan and unincorporated Ellicott in eastern El Paso County; and Palmer Lake in northern El Paso County.
The lowest rates were found in Green Mountain Falls, Chipita Park and Manitou Springs; Black Forest areas;; and Cordera on the city's far northeast side.
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