FORT MYERS, Fla. - New numbers suggest the housing crisis is far from over. Realty-Trac says nationwide, 357,000 homeowners filed for foreclosure last month. That's the highest they've even seen. Those nationwide numbers, however, are in conflict with Lee County numbers.
Lee County Clerk of Courts Charlie Green uses a graphic but appropriate analogy to describe the local housing market.
"We were first, we got our brains beat out first, we're still getting our heads battered about but not like we were," said Green.
March, 2010 brought slightly more than 1100 foreclosure filings. That's half the filings compared to March, 2009. On the contrary, Realty-Trac Inc. reported this week that bank takeovers nationwide are up 35% in the first quarter from a year ago. Also, households facing foreclosure are up 16% across the country in the same time period.
Green says local numbers are a positive but warns, the situation is still fragile. "There are a lot of homeowners right now that are holding onto their houses by the skin of their teeth, if they lose their jobs, our rates may go up too."
Homeowner Theresa Woodard met with a counselor today and hopes to qualify for a grant to help balance her mortgage.
"It's just stressful every day, it's miserable every day, I have a disabled daughter and to lose my house, we'd be on the street," said Woodard.
Eddie Felton runs the non-profit homeowners resource center. He gives people like theresa a fighting chance in the face of foreclosure.
"Basically, we are presently booked through the month of June," said Felton.
Green agrees, the housing market has a long way to go. But, he says lee county is in a much better place than it was.
"We got hit awfully early and I think part of that is because a lot of people just abandoned their properties, they just left. It was easy target and our banks jumped on it right away," said Green.
Right now, nearly 22-thousand foreclosure cases are waiting to go through the Lee County Court System.