The Colorado Springs area is on pace this year for the fewest number of foreclosure filings in a decade, a sharp contrast from the height of the recession when the region saw record numbers of financially troubled properties.
Foreclosure filings totaled 138 last month in El Paso County, a 45.2 percent reduction from September 2012 and the fewest for any month since May 2004, according to a report this week by the El Paso County Public Trustee's Office.
Through the first nine months of 2013, foreclosure filings totaled 1,507, down nearly 43 percent from the same period last year, the report showed.
And at their current pace, filings would total about 2,000 for the year, which would be the lowest total since 1,954 in 2003, said Public Trustee Tom Mowle, whose office oversees the administration of foreclosure filings and conducts auctions of properties that have fallen into foreclosure.
Foreclosure filings - which are the start of a legal process that can lead to the sale of a home or other property - topped 3,000 over each of the last six years in El Paso County. Records numbers of filings were recorded for three straight years starting in 2007, topping out at 5,288 in 2009.
A combination of factors has helped drive down foreclosure activity, Mowle said.
Low interest rates have helped property owners to refinance mortgages or switch to stable, fixed-rate loans from those with variable rates, he said.
Rising home prices and values also mean fewer people owe more on their mortgage than what their house is worth, which puts property owners in a better position to avoid foreclosure if they get into financial trouble and need to sell their home.
The economy also has stabilized, he said.
"The economy hasn't gotten any worse locally," Mowle said. "It hasn't gotten that much better, either, but as long as new people aren't losing work, they're not going to be going into default."
Also, it's been several years since a rash of nontraditional financing tools - such as interest-only mortgages - were made available to property owners. The use of some of those so-called exotic loans and the availability of credit to borrowers with shaky credit histories led many to fall into foreclosure.
"If you were going to get into default, you probably already did," Mowle said.
Even as conditions have improved locally, El Paso County foreclosure activity continues to outpace that of Denver and other areas in Northern Colorado, Mowle said.
"Their economies are improving more quickly than ours," Mowle said.
Contact Rich Laden: 636-0228 Twitter @richladen
Facebook Rich Laden