About a decade ago, a housing crisis swept the country. The crash devastated many communities and changed the lives of millions of Americans who experienced foreclosure or simply walked away from homes owing more than they were worth.
Here’s what we heard from resident's of Miami Township in Montgomery County at the time - neighbors living near vacant and abandoned houses:
"It’s very disrupting. It’s an eyesore."
"It smells like there might be a dead animal in the backyard. Honestly, there’s like a whole bunch of flies and it’s pretty nasty."
"We really stay away from it. The grass was at least knee-high, if not higher, and it was just let go. It was weedy it was really overgrown.” The situation has improved dramatically in Dayton over the last decade, but foreclosures remain a problem for some homeowners, and economic recovery has been slow in some parts of the Miami Valley.
Evidence of an improved economy can be found at the Montgomery County sheriff's sale happening every Friday inside the Montgomery County Administration Building. On this morning, around 30 people have gathered for a chance to bid on several foreclosed homes.
As the auction gets underway, a representative from the sheriff's office reads through the list of properties, citing it's location, appraisal price and minimum bid.
Sheriff's sales are the final step in the foreclosure process. These properties are on the auction block because the homeowners have defaulted on their payments and haven’t been able to work out an arrangement with their lenders.
Among the auction attendees are agents representing the lenders. They’ve come to the auction to try and recoup some of the money the lenders are losing. There are also real estate brokers and home buyers here hoping to get a good deal on a property that, in all likelihood, will sell below its market value.
Craig Kellogg, a real estate broker in Centerville with the Agora Realty Group, purchased two of thirteen properties on the auction block this day.
Kellogg says he’s been attending sheriff sales for almost 20 years - even before he became a broker in 2004. He says today’s housing market is much better than he remembers a decade ago. Sheriff’s sales back then were more crowded.
"Around 2007 and the mortgage crisis there was probably 60 homes a week in the Montgomery [sale]," he says. "And the banks were buying them back and the public wasn’t getting but one or two of them per sale.”
Kellogg makes regular appearances at sheriff sales in five counties, including Warren, Greene, Hamilton, and Butler, and says the number of homes up for auction at sheriff’s sales is down significantly.
“We’ve seen a decline in all counties - a lot less foreclosures. Butler county had one last week.”
And Kellogg says many foreclosed properties that end up at sheriff’s sales today sell at higher prices than a decade ago. That makes it tougher for homebuyers looking for a deal, but it’s often good for the lenders buying their homes out of foreclosure.
Higher prices are also good for the county. Clerk of Courts Russ Joseph says lower foreclosure numbers are helping to ease the budget strain municipalities felt during the mortgage crisis.
“In 2008 for example, about 45 percent of our civil filings were mortgage foreclosures and today that’s down about 28 percent, so you know definitely a drastic reduction, really almost year over year since the Great Recession,” Joseph says.
In 2008 there were 5,100 foreclosed properties in Montgomery County. By 2017, that number had dropped to just over 1,500.
Dayton’s housing crash during the Great Recession, and even decades before, was recently featured in a PBS Frontline documentary. The film presented a stark picture of the recession’s lingering effects on the city.
Russ Joseph says the program hit home, and was accurate on many levels, but he says producers overlooked what Dayton has gotten right in recent years.
“I was here for the great recession and know how damaging that was to our families in the community. They didn’t talk about the work that’s been done here to save people’s homes, the work being done on education and job training. They missed the whole rebirth of Dayton Story and I think that’s a shame, I think they need a follow-up honestly to show that because you would think nothing’s been done since NCR left town and that’s just not true.”
Still, some Dayton neighborhoods have a long way to go before they’re considered healthy.
And some advocates point to loosening loan regulations and other signs they say could indicate another housing bust is on the way.
For now though, many Montgomery County officials say they’re seeing signs of economic growth, particularly downtown. And they say with continued state and federal investment, Dayton neighborhoods will continue to recover from the last decade’s mortgage crisis.