Foreclosure filings in Beaufort County have dropped to their lowest level since the housing bubble burst nearly six years ago.
The number of filings in the first half of 2014 is down 36 percent from a year ago as the housing market continues to rebound from the Great Recession.
There were 726 Beaufort County properties in foreclosure during the first half of 2014, according to RealtyTrac, a housing-industry research firm based in Irvine, Calif.
At the peak of the housing crisis in the first half of 2010, nearly 1,800 homes faced some stage of foreclosure.
The statistics suggest the downward trend will continue.
In June, 88 properties were in foreclosure in Beaufort County, the lowest monthly total since October 2008, according to RealtyTrac, which tallies default notices, scheduled auctions and lender repossessions.
During the worst of the foreclosure crisis, the county was averaging 300 a month.
"The foreclosures aren't gone yet, but they are in sharp decline," said Chip Collins, owner of Collins Group Realty on Hilton Head and in Bluffton. "This brings a greater stability to the marketplace, which yields higher consumer confidence."
HILTON HEAD AREA
Hilton Head and Bluffton, sharply hit by the mortgage crisis, have seen a steady decline in foreclosure activity.
For the first time since 2006, fewer than 200 properties were in foreclosure on Hilton Head in the first half of 2014. Compare that to 2010, when 752 filings were made in the first six months, according to RealtyTrac.
The number of repossessed homes on the island has declined as well -- from 69 in the first half of 2013, to 44 in the first half of this year.
Collins said the decline marks a change from the downturn, when banks called him to list repossessed homes.
"That phone doesn't ring anymore," he said. "The inventory isn't there to sell."
In Bluffton, foreclosure filings in June totaled fewer than 30 for the first time since 2009. So far in 2014, 144 properties have entered some stage of foreclosure, the lowest six-month period since 2008.
Beaufort also has witnessed a marked dip in foreclosure filings.
The area saw 127 filings in the first six months of 2014, the lowest total since early 2008.
In June, 14 properties were in some stage of foreclosure. That's the fewest since September 2007.
Everett Ballenger, owner of Ballenger Realty, said the foreclosure crisis didn't hit Beaufort as hard as southern Beaufort County, where three-fourths of foreclosures were filed during the recession.
But "it certainly stabilizes prices not to have as many" foreclosures in Beaufort, he said.
"If you have a street with three or four houses for sale, and the foreclosure is in the middle, it certainly drags down prices."
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