By Jane Smith

meadville tribune

Because of changes in the way sheriff sales are processed, numbers are showing that the rate of people losing their homes in Crawford County has declined this year — even though the actual number scheduled for sale continues to go up.

Sales are held in a room on the third floor of the courthouse at the previously advertised time. Property to be sold is listed and when the property is announced, anyone can bid. The highest bidder is the winner. More often than not, the bank that filed the foreclosure ends up purchasing the property. The bank then must work with others to sell the house again.

In 2006, the rate of sales increased 37 percent from 2005 — going from 199 to 273. The number scheduled to be sold in 2007 was 325 — a 9 percent hike over 2006.

That number could still go up as more sales for this year are scheduled. However, the actual number of homes being sold has dropped compared to 2006.

Sheriff sales held in 2006 broke a record with 273, but it appears that won’t happen this year.

After the September sale held earlier this month, a total of 89 homes had been sold at the sales, which are scheduled when banks or lending institutions foreclose on a property owner who doesn’t make mortgage payments.

With only 89 sold to date and only another 89 scheduled so far, the total number sold this year may be less than 200 — if all those scheduled are sold.

Two-hundred-and-fifty-eight had been scheduled through September, but some were canceled when arrangements for settling the problem were made with the banks or the sales were postponed, according to Crawford County Deputy Sheriff Diane Sparks, who handles the sales on behalf of the sheriff’s office.

One reason the number of sales is lower this year than last is because of a change in the rules which occurred mid-year, according to Sparks.

She said the previous rules allowed sales to be “continued” only twice, which means postponed or delayed. Now, homeowners can have sales postponed three times. “A lot (of owners) will continue and (then) they will be put on the next month,” said Sparks, referring to the properties to be sold.

Sparks said when property owners gain a month’s reprieve, they often are filing for bankruptcy which then puts a hold on the sale until the final bankruptcy hearing is complete. Others are making payments arrangements to hold off the sale.

Jim Curry, president of the Greater Meadville Area Board of Realtors, said he has been told there “is somewhat of an increase (in sheriff sales) in the past two years, but nothing as dramatic as other areas (of the country). I noticed some flurry last summer, but now it is a stable rate.”

Two reasons Curry cites for the number of sheriff sales are “easy credit” and “optimistic reappraisals for refinancing.”

Many people have been getting credit with no down payments and don’t have a lot of their personal equity in their homes. As a result, many don’t have the commitment to make the payments compared with other homebuyers who made substantial down payments.

In addition, homeowners who refinanced to pay off credit cards or automobiles have had appraisals that may have been too high when refinancing. As a result, when they tried to sell their home, it could not be sold for the amount owed.

He added that when many homeowners “come to a bump in the road,” they have difficulty meeting payments or selling their homes and lose them to foreclosure.

Jane Smith can be reached by calling 724-6370 or by e-mail at

numbers for Dan to put into the chart

January: 43, 13.

February: 21, 9.

March: 28, 13.

April: 39, 14.

May: 19, 7.

June: 30, 7.

July: 37, 16.

August: 31, 12.

September: 29, 10.

October: 37

November; 11.

Sheriff sales for the past six years were:

n 2001 — 101

n 2002 — 149

n 2003 — 161

n 2004 — 180

n 2005 — 199

n 2006 — 273

n 2007 — 89 (first nine months).

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