Fairbanks foreclosure rate climbs; experts say high fuel costs may be a factor for homeowners

Economic Indicators Associated Press

More Fairbanks homeowners are losing their homes to foreclosure and the high price of keeping them warm may be a factor, according to long-time observers of the market.

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According to statistics collected by the Fairbanks North Star Borough, 150 homes were foreclosed upon this year through September in the Fairbanks Recording District. The district covers smaller communities south of the Brooks Range and along the Alaska-Canada border.

In 2011, the foreclosure number was 102 for the same period, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1v3zLrx) reported. It climbed to 117 in 2012 and 137 last year.

Elsewhere in Alaska, foreclosures are down. Alaska saw 1,135 foreclosures in 2013, down from 1,386 in 2010, 1,272 in 2011, and 1,264 in 2012, according to state economist Karinne Wiebold.

"Utility costs have a lot to do with it," said Laura Burke, executive director of Fairbanks Neighborhood Housing Services, an agency that provides low-interest loans.

"We are hearing that people are starting to struggle, especially since the beginning of last year," Burke said.

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The agency is seeing a slight increase in the number of late payments.

"There is something in the air," she said. "I think it's going to hit us again pretty hard."

Audrey Foldoe, a real estate professional in Fairbanks for more than 30 years and owner of Meyeres Real Estate, said some people bought homes 10 years ago when prices were high and can't sell them for what they owe. She agreed that high heating costs contributes to making payments.

"One of the biggest factors is the fuel," she said. "There is no question about that."

The cost of fuel affects the cost of electricity, she said.

"A lot of people operate month to month," Foldoe said. "Any little thing is going to throw it off."

The Fairbanks housing market is strong with a large inventory and low interest rates, she said, but strapped sellers must make concessions to find a buyer.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com