Crye-Leike’s Jimmie and Bob Tapley Weigh-In On Upscale Dealing On Foreclosures: Fewer cases in suburbs, but bargains can be found – Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Crye-Leike’s Jimmie and Bob Tapley Weigh-In On Upscale Dealing On Foreclosures: Fewer cases in suburbs, but bargains can be found – Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, USA
FORECLOSURE - SECONDARY PHOTO - (FOR SALE)12 May 09 (kpforc2) by Karen Pulfer Focht: A vacant house at 2420 Johnson Road in Germantown has tall weeds and a decaying fence on one of the city's ritziest roads.A vacant house at 2420 Johnson Road in Germantown sits along one of the city's ritziest residential streets. Such scenes are not as common in affluent outlying areas, yet expensive properties are also prey to foreclosure. (Photo Courtesy of: Karen Pulfer Focht - The Commercial Appeal)

By early May, the 2-acre yard marred by tall weeds, dead tree branches and leaning fences branded the five-bathroom house in Germantown as a foreclosure.


With neighboring homes valued at more than $1 million, the feral yard at 2420 Johnson finally received a rough mow arranged by the city.


Germantown charged Florida mortgage firm $325 for the yard work.


Sold for an unusually high $1.3 million in 2004, the vacant house has been in foreclosure twice since 2005.


But while this picture may fit the stereotype of the national crisis, it is not a typical snapshot of the impact of foreclosures in the white-collar suburbs of Memphis.


In communities where protecting home values is practically the prime directive, the Shelby County Assessor’s office reports that values in suburban towns have risen since 2005, often by double digits.


And while they’ve climbed in recent years, the number of foreclosures tallied by the Assessor’s Office through trustee deeds remain relatively small: Of 6,882 throughout Shelby County in 2008, Collierville had a total of 79 and Germantown, 58.


“The subprime lenders did not make subprime loans to the typical Collierville or Germantown property,” said John Jordan, a veteran appraiser and Collierville resident with a business known as The Appraisal Network.


Jimmie and Bob Tapley warn against generalizing too much about the causes of foreclosures.


Jimmie Tapley is a vice president and Bob Tapley a broker with Crye-Leike Realtors in Memphis.


They’ve been arranging sales of foreclosed homes for about two decades. Their first belonged to a physician who lost his home after his wife committed suicide.


“The thing about foreclosures everybody needs to understand: There’s a million different reasons for a million foreclosures,” Bob Tapley said.


Loose lending and escalating mortgages are a major cause of foreclosures in the suburbs, too, the Tapleys said.


But even those mortgages might have remained viable in some cases if job or business losses hadn’t hit.


“It’s hard to say who is to blame,” he said. “I think there were a lot of mortgages made that should have never been made. What that would have meant though is a lot of people owning might not have been able to.”


Phyllis G. Betts, director of the Center for Community Building and Neighborhood Action at the University of Memphis, cites “pushing the envelope foreclosures” as a primary cause in the suburbs.


Two-year “teaser” mortgage interest rates allowed homeowners who would have succeeded with a lower-priced home to buy a more expensive one, she said.


They bet that home values would rise and that they could refinance before mortgage rates escalated.


However, one homeowner’s loss can be a another’s gain.


In upscale areas, vacant foreclosures are less likely to be abused or to attract flocks of investors, Betts said. In many cases they’ve become very good deals for those seeking home ownership.


The exception: Unfinished subdivisions in some areas of southeast Shelby County in particular won’t be good deals until a plan and assurances are made that vacant lots, unfinished streets and vacant homes will be taken care of, Betts said.


Bob Tapley said uncertainty about jobs and much stricter bank lending practices are major issues shaping today’s housing market.


Still, “don’t get me wrong,” he said. “There are a lot of people out there buying houses and there are a lot of people getting great deals buying foreclosures.”