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Incorrect Numbers May Add Up to Less Aid for Buffalo

RealtyTrac Inc., an online marketplace for foreclosured properties hasn’t accounted for lis pendens in the past, skewing actual foreclosure data according to Western New York Law Center’s (WNYLC) attorney and coordinator of Buffalo’s Anti-flipping Task Force Kathleen Lynch.
The Law Center’s Geographic Systems Analyst Joy McDuffie, also part of Mayor Brown’s anti-flipping task force, agrees saying it makes the situation look less dire than it is. Lynch and McDuffie believe that by not including these properties that are in danger of foreclosure, we may be less eligible for government aid for the entire region.
As a result, WNYLC is conducting its own search with the help of AmeriCorps Vista (Volunteers in Service to America) volunteers. A California-based RealtyTrac spokesman conceded that the company’s local independent contractors have not included lis pendens in the past, acknowledging that it may make forclosure numbers seem lower than they are. They will begin collecting data using WNYLC standards of including lis pendens starting the third quarter of 2008.
“We’ve been working at this since 2006,” Lynch said. “We have information on these homes that dates back through owners and lenders, linking them to mortgages. It will really show what’s been going on in the market. In 2007, we know that of 3,000 mortgages, there is a steady 20% rate of sub-prime mortgages in the half we’ve gotten through so far.”
The upshot, says Lynch, is that, “This will be actual data. Not trends. And RealtyTrac’s numbers didn’t always account for vacancy.” When asked if RealtyTrac was going to want WNYLC’s data to upgrade their records, Lynch said, “Everyone is going to want our data. This is going to be very helpful in order to get a sense of what’s actually a foreclosure. It could make a difference in the future of lending and foreclosures.”
Joy McDuffie went on to say that this isn’t a poor person’s problem anymore. “This is meat and potatoes, heart of America we’re talking about,” she said. “It’s the American dream to be a homeowner. And we want to help. If these people fall, everyone falls.”
“When government funds are passed down, we need to be recognized for our need,” McDuffie continued. “Kathleen has been working very hard for a very long time, and I admire her. She’s fearless.” Noting that part of the problem with foreclosures is the flight of people when they receive a lis pendens notice, only to realize years later–and much tax money in arrears–that they still own the house they ran from before it was taken away. McDuffie said that plans are being worked out for revision of the notification in order to eleviate that scenario.
“We need to keep people in their houses. We can’t have whole neighborhoods where only a few people are left,” McDuffie said. “We need to channel the help in the right direction.”

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