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‘What foreclosure problem?’ rural areas wonder

John Seelmeyer

Nevada, the headlines say, has the biggest residential foreclosure problem in the nation with one of out 54 households in the state facing foreclosure at the end of this year’s first quarter.

But bankers and real estate agents in much of the state wonder what all the fuss is about.

Statistics unveiled last week by RealtyTrac Inc. the same figures that sounded alarms about foreclosures across the state found that five counties in Nevada didn’t have a single foreclosure action in process at the end of March.

Most of the foreclosure-free counties are among the most remote counties in the state Eureka, Esmeralda, Mineral and

Lincoln along with Storey County, which is adjacent to fast-growing Washoe and Lyon counties.

Several other rural counties posted foreclosure rates that are miniscule. In White Pine County, only two foreclosure actions were under way at the end of March. Humboldt and Lander County in the gold-rich center of the state posted only three each.

There’s a fairly simple explanation, say lenders and real estate agents who work in the rural counties. They didn’t experience anything close to the froth of the real estate markets in Las Vegas where 6,783 foreclosures were in process during the first quarter or Washoe County, with its 630 foreclosures.

“We just don’t have a hot market,” says Gordon Watson, president of Nevada Bank & Trust, which is headquartered at Caliente in Lincoln County. “We didn’t have a lot of investor-fed frenzy.”

In some of the rural counties, there’s hardly enough residential real estate to feed a frenzy even if investors decided to pile in.

Foreclosure-free Eureka County, for instance, has a grand total of 1,458 people, the state demographer’s office estimates.

“Living here is very different. There’s nothing for sale” says Sandie Halpin, vice president and market manager for Nevada State Bank in Eureka. The institution is the only bank in the 4,180 square miles of Eureka County, and the state Real Estate Division

says there aren’t any licensed real estate brokers or agents in the county.

Cultural differences between rural and urban Nevada also played a role.

“The people in rural areas are more conservative,” says Watson at his bank in Caliente. “When they buy a home, they purchase a home to live in not to flip it. People will work real hard to retain their homes.”

And Halpin says residents of small towns know each other personally a factor that keeps some from taking big risks or letting properties slide into foreclosure.

The real estate boom that left rural areas untouched either by a hot market or the collapse that followed played out differently in Storey County, says Jeni Temen, the broker and owner of Outdoor and Resort Properties LLC.

Temen, who’s worked extensively with buyers and sellers in Virginia City and elsewhere in Storey County, says relatively small inventories of homes for sale kept investment buyers at bay.

Buyers often were making some sacrifices to live in Storey County if nothing else, they’d often face a commute to work in nearby Reno or Carson City and that also tended to cool speculative fever.

“People have to make a choice to live here,” says Temen. “They really have to think about it. They’re not going to buy here on an impulse.”


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