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National foreclosure trend misses McDuffie for now

The housing bubble of recent years has burst, leaving both consumers and lenders to pay the price, experts are saying. According to the Mortgage Banker's Association website, late mortgage payments are at a nearly four-year high, and foreclosures are at record levels.

But, according to local bankers, McDuffie County has remained immune to that trend.

"We do make house loans on the retail side here in our bank in what we call, in-house loans," said George Lokey of First Bank. "On those loans, we have not seen any change, whatsoever, in delinquency rates or anything like that."

The small-town aspect is what local bankers think helps them avoid following the downward national trend. Most of the time, problems are handled face to face on the front end.

"I just normally work with people," said Mike Carrington of Queensborough National Bank and Trust. "Some cases it's just sorriness, but usually it's something, a divorce, a sickness, a death in the family or something that causes the houses to come back. ...Everybody else who has gotten in a mess and had to file, came to me ahead of time and said 'What do I do,' and I try to guide them in the right direction."

One of the problems cited in the association's recent survey of national mortgages is banks lending to high-risk borrowers. In McDuffie County, however, bankers usually tend to know the borrowers on a personal level.

Many adjustable rate mortgages were made during the housing boom to "subprime" borrowers who are now paying much higher interest rates. This has been the cause of many foreclosures, the report stated. But Mr. Carrington said he attempts to steer borrowers away from those types of loans.

"What I try to do is get our folks down here to meet with them and say 'Look, you want a mortgage, but you want a 30-year fixed or you want a 15-year fixed because once you're in that sucker and it's at five percent, 15 years from now it's still going to be five percent," Mr. Carrington said.

Web posted on Thursday, March 29, 2007

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