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Halls foreclosures may have reached new peak
Hispanic families hit hardest in recent spike
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If the legal advertisements in recent issues of The Times have seemed hefty, there’s a reason, according to local real estate executive Frank Norton Jr.

September foreclosure filings for Hall County may have hit a new record — set in June — and developer foreclosures are the highest they have been in Hall County in recent memory, Norton says.

Plus, in Hall County, many foreclosures are disproportionately affecting Hispanic households, he added.

Nearly 400 legal advertisements for foreclosures appeared in The Times in the first week of September, said Norton, who keeps a running count of the notices. Each advertisement must run a minimum of four times — usually beginning with the first week of the month — and Norton said about 5 percent of each month’s advertisements are repeats.

Norton is president of The Norton Agency, a local real estate firm that also keeps track of area real estate trends.

He said the real number for September foreclosures hovers around 300, taking into consideration repeats from previous weeks. This puts September’s numbers about 10 filings lower than June, when 330 legal ads were placed in The Times — not accounting for repeats that month.

Still, the filings for June marked a record month for foreclosures.

"It’s interesting when you look at (July through September) of last year, September was the peak of last year," Norton said.

Norton also counts the advertisements of builder, developer and investor foreclosures. He said those types of foreclosures are at a peak.

"Many of the banks have been working with the developers very patiently, and that patience has worn thin or developers have run out of interest carry," Norton said.

Nearly a third of the county’s new foreclosure filings this month are Latino homeowners in lower income neighborhoods in Gainesville and South Hall, Norton said.

"That relates to, in my opinion, the predatory lending that we were claiming was happening in lots of Hall County," Norton said. "We felt that there was some predatory lending going on in the subprime market in multicultural aspects of our community ... and those people are now losing their houses and have been."

The higher rate of foreclosures this month likely is due to banks trying to dispose of bad assets before the end of the year, Norton said, adding that foreclosure numbers in October also could be high

The Norton Agency represents 32 banks, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Norton said.

"They’re telling me that most of the banks are trying to clean out the pipeline before the end of the year," Norton said.

Although, banks selling homes at a fraction of their cost creates another opportunity — the chance to invest in low-priced real estate.

"It makes the average person able to afford more house, with both the (low) interest rate and being able to buy it slightly below market," Norton said.