Homebuyers feel deceived in Pa. county

Inflated sales prices, rates lead to rapid foreclosures

August 08, 2004|By Bob Laylo | Bob Laylo,THE MORNING CALL

A state study of the housing market in Monroe County, Pa., found that inflated sales prices for homes and high interest rates led to rapid foreclosures.

But the report offered no relief to frustrated homeowners who want their mortgages lowered.

About 100 homeowners who say they were victims of inflated appraisals and predatory lending practices attended a news conference Tuesday at East Stroudsburg University. Many demanded arrests of professionals in the housing industry, and nearly all walked out on Pennsylvania's secretary of banking, A. William Schenck III, after he outlined a plan to aid homeowners, prevent problems and investigate wrongdoers.

"I want real results," shouted Maria Yagual of Saylorsburg, who says her home was over-appraised by $40,000. "I don't need to be pacified."

The study, conducted by the Reinvestment Fund on behalf of the Pennsylvania Banking Department, started in January after hundreds of complaints from Monroe County homeowners.

Among the findings:

Monroe County loans in foreclosure probably involved inflated sales prices or had extremely high interest rates. Between 2000 and 2003, 66 percent of all Monroe loans in foreclosure were subprime loans, which have higher interest rates because of higher risk.

Properties were foreclosed quickly and often involved homes that lacked an inspection during construction. The average time lapse from loan origination to foreclosure in Monroe is 2.8 years.

Since 1995, there have been more than 6,100 foreclosures in the county. The study found that foreclosures increased by 34 percent since 2000 and by 242 percent since 1995.

The Morning Call is a Tribune Publishing Newspaper.

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