April 1, 2014 Updated: April 1, 2014 at 5:35 pm
The number of Colorado Springs-area properties sliding into foreclosure increased last month and in the first quarter of the year, although one expert isn't panicking over the rise in activity.
Foreclosure filings, which are the start of a process that can lead to the auction of a financially troubled property, totaled 202 in March, an 11.6 percent increase over February's total and a 30.3 percent jump from the same month a year ago, according to a report Tuesday by the El Paso County Public Trustee's Office.
During the first quarter of 2014, foreclosure filings totaled 584 - 6.4 percent higher than the same period last year, the report shows.
The increase in foreclosure activity runs counter to the dwindling numbers of filings in El Paso County and across much of Colorado over the last two years.
One possible explanation: The Colorado Springs-area economy, while improving, still hasn't seen the robust growth enjoyed by the Denver area and Northern Colorado, said Ryan McMaken, a Colorado Division of Housing economist.
At the same time, more people have bought homes of late, either because they've taken advantage of still-affordable mortgage rates or because rising apartment rents have prompted them to buy, McMaken said. As a result, he said, the pool of property owners who could fall into foreclosure is on the rise.
"You're doing a lot more loans than you were last year and the last few months," McMaken said. "And so there's simply more activity - a larger universe of loans that could potentially foreclose."
Despite the rising numbers of filings, fewer properties have been sold at auction, McMaken noted. Foreclosure sales totaled 69 in March in El Paso County, down from 106 a year earlier, he said.
That indicates that even as properties fall into foreclosure, some owners have been able to avoid losing their property at auction by successfully putting it on the market themselves, working out a deal with a lender or refinancing a loan.
"The fact that your completed foreclosures are still down suggest there's still some strength (in the local economy)," McMaken said. "You certainly don't need to hit a panic button or anything. Nothing I've seen points to any shift yet in the real estate economy down there.
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