Baton Rouge homeowners struggling to pay mortgage

Foreclosure starts jump 43% from 2018 to 2019, leading nation for similar sized areas

Baton Rouge had more foreclosures than nearly any other city in 2019

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Compared to 2018, banks began foreclosing on 43% more Baton Rouge homes in 2019, according to a new study released by ATTOM Data Solutions. The year-over rate increase was the highest in the nation for a metro area of Baton Rouge’s size.

The report indicates foreclosure rates around the country are at a 15-year low, painting a bleak picture for Baton Rouge.

The foreclosure process generally starts when a homeowner falls three to six months behind on loan payments.

“A lot of people have this mindset of, ‘You’re going to get what you want and not what you can afford,’” LoanDepot loan consultant Jeff Owens said in an interview with WAFB. “That’s ultimately what can do them in.”

Some experts believe the trend in Baton Rouge could be related to layoffs at major area employers, like Georgia Pacific. More people were unemployed in 2019 compared to 2018, according to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Owens says Baton Rouge may have lost some quality-paying jobs, but says the roots of the problem could be more systemic.

“It’s so easy to pick up your phone and go to Amazon and spend money. I can tell you from looking at bank statements all day, people are not saving money like they used to. Those teaching patterns that were in the past have kind of faded."

Owens contends young adults who are now of home-buying age have not been adequately taught how to save money, whether by a high school teacher or a parent.

Potential home buyers should make a budget by hand before considering buying a home, he says. He also recommends checking your credit score often, and meeting with a loan consultant to discuss options.

“People are going online for their lending right now, and that can play a factor as well,” Owens said. “If you’re going online, you’re not going to get that type of service to make sure you understand your budget and walk you through it.”

The unemployment rate in Baton Rouge has improved over the last decade, and the national economy has so far avoided a recession predicted by many economists. Some experts say it’s possible 2019 was simply an outlier for borrowers.

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