Foreclosures make their way to East Texas

By Morgan Chesky

When the foreclosure crisis began last summer the realtors we spoke with then believed that East Texas was immune. They said they were seeing growth while millions across the country lost their homes.

Unfortunately, recent numbers suggest that East Texas is not so immune after all. Back when we talked to him in July, Tim Barnett, a certified mortgage planner, was optimistic.

"Don't listen to the national news," said Barnett. "The national media hype. East Texas is doing very well. The economy is doing very well."

But this is what he is saying now.

"I believe its gonna be a little bit worse before it gets better," said Barnett.

Several months ago East Texas didn't have to worry about foreclosures. A diversified economy and its location attracted families and businesses who didn't plan on one big turn of events. Layoffs. Lots of them. Simply said, when thousands are out of work, paying that mortgage becomes a bit harder. October saw the closing of the Goodyear plant, Trane soon followed hitting the manufacturing sector and don't forget about retail, Goody's and Circuit City have added themselves to the list. County Clerk Judy Carnes says the trickle down may have taken awhile, but its here.

"We had been hearing about it on television on the national news for some time and the numbers are just now beginning to grow higher in Smith County over the last two and three months," said Carnes.

Growth that is plainly seen. At her office, stacks of foreclosure filings sit. December was a busy month with over 300 foreclosures filed in Smith County alone, putting the 2008 total nearly 25% higher than 2007. Discouraging? Yes. But in Longview, Barnett said if you can stay on top of your finances there is an upside.

"We're gonna see down house prices. We're gonna see people getting better deals and property than they would've a couple years ago because there are foreclosures in the area, explained Barnett.

A good change for once, making the thought of buying that starter home a little bit easier.

A study of projected population increase in Texas cities has the Tyler area seeing a serious rise in the coming years. It estimates almost 400 thousand people by 2040 in the Tyler area, meaning more money dumped into our East Texas economy.