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Home loan failures have more than quadrupled in Mecklenburg County since 1999. More foreclosures are filed here, per person, than any other county in the state.
On average, 11 Mecklenburg houses are sold in foreclosure auctions every business day. The owners are evicted, their credit ruined, and they face thousands in court fees and moving expenses.
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Jackie Hendricks wept when a sheriff's deputy came to remove her family from their east Charlotte house in November.
"It was terrible," says the 61-year-old. "I hope no one else has to go through it."
Neighbors who pay their mortgages on time get hurt, too. Foreclosures can depress neighborhood resale prices.
Barbara Nause bought a new house in northwest Charlotte in 2001. Within three years, six of 18 houses foreclosed on her street. "We were going to sell and found out our house was worth $30,000 less," she said. "I can't take that kind of loss."
The rise of mortgage loans for people with lower incomes or credit problems let millions of Americans buy their first home over the past decade. But tens of thousands proved unable to make the payments.
In cities where prices went up, people escaped financial problems by selling or refinancing. But in Charlotte's lower-income neighborhoods, prices aren't rising. The Charlotte area ranked 252 among 265 metropolitan areas in house price appreciation since 2000, according to federal data.
Many owners couldn't sell for enough to pay their debts, and they didn't have enough equity to refinance. If they hit a rough spot financially, foreclosure may have seemed the only option.