Register Square Construction

New townhomes under construction in downtown Napa. The county's foreclosure rate is at a 20-year low.

Back in 2009, at the peak of the Great Recession, a total of 1,555 Napa County homeowners were late in their mortgage payments during that year.

Since then, the annual number of default notices for local homeowners has plummeted.

This past year, statistics show there were 142 delinquencies, but only 27 homes were actually lost to foreclosure — an 11-year-low.

“It makes sense,” said Jordan Levine, economist with the California Association of Realtors. Homes in Napa County are worth more than they were more than a year ago, he said.

According to real estate data service BAREIS, the total value of Napa County homes sold in 2018 rose 4.2 percent – going from $1.30 billion to $1.45 billion, year-over-year.

“Even if someone faces economic difficulty,” in such a strong real estate market, the homeowner isn’t forced into foreclose, said Levine.

With house prices going up, “You can sell it for a profit instead of demolishing your credit score” by choosing foreclosure. The homeowner in distress can get out and move on, he said.

Levine pointed out that most of the buyers who got into the housing market during this recent economic cycle chose 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages.

That’s unlike before the Great Recession when buyers chose shorter adjustable rate mortgages with monthly payments that doubled or rose dramatically.

Homeowners today “know what their payment is,” and are usually not overcome by rapid increases, Levine said.

In addition, “The Bay Area economy is one of the strongest in the nation,” said Levine. “This suggests that people are still doing well economically.”

Levine said Napa’s housing market might even be a little bit stronger than San Francisco or the South Bay because the relative affordability of Napa is better.

Yes, “Napa is as expensive as it’s ever been but relative to the prices in San Francisco and the South Bay, Napa is more attractive to those folks who want to become homeowners.”

“If anything, there is that spillover from the major employment centers in San Francisco and the South Bay and that helps to bolster the housing market in the Napa.”

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.