McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

November 22, 2010

Foreclosures take toll on Oklahomans

Numbers show state is not immune to housing market collapse

OKLAHOMA CITY — Thousands of Oklahomans have joined the ever growing number of people nationwide who cannot meet their mortgage payments.

There were 5,806 Oklahoma foreclosure filings reported during the third quarter of the year – a 2 percent increase from the previous quarter and up 15 percent from the third quarter of 2009 – according to real estate data service RealtyTrac Inc.

Early on, Oklahoma avoided the fallout of the foreclosure crisis better than most of the country. The Sooner State ranked 31st in the nation last quarter for its foreclosure rate of one filing for every 282 housing units. Oklahoma's rate is about two times lower than the national average and dwarfs in comparison with some of the hardest hit states, such as Nevada or Florida.

Still, the hard fact is more Oklahomans are on pace to lose their homes in 2010 than in 2009.

“It is a larger problem than what most people are ready to admit,” said Jamie Reganall, a housing counselor with the Muskogee Housing Authority, who said she personally has worked with more than 200 homeowners this year who have gone through foreclosures. “The (economic) downturn trickled down to Oklahoma a little slower than most (places) so there wasn't a major crash and rebound like elsewhere. It's more of a steady pace.”

So what shielded Oklahoma from that major crash?

Doyle Province, president of the Oklahoma Mortgage Brokers Association, said the state's relatively low unemployment rate largely safeguarded the state from mass foreclosures. Oklahoma also saw less speculative property buying than most states and the low cost of living kept prices from fluctuating widely.

But, Province said, the housing market crash still is taking its toll on the state.  

Province said job losses remain the largest factor in the counties hardest hit with foreclosures. Tulsa and Wagoner counties – which both have unemployment rates far above the state average – saw the highest foreclosure rates in October.

The state's unemployment rate has yet to significantly drop since the jobless numbers began to climb at the end of 2008. With foreclosures usually lagging slightly behind job losses, further unemployment could worsen the situation.

“All in all, I think it is the jobs,” Province said. “Just about every one of our (foreclosures or mortgage modification requests) is about something job related, so if we had more problems with jobs, I think we would see more problems with foreclosures here.”

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