Foreclosure Epidemic in Minneapolis: Who's Behind This Mess?

by: Colin Peterson

This weekend's Star Tribune had a fascinating article, Foreclosures take a toll on North Minneapolis.

In north Minneapolis, the epicenter of foreclosures in the Twin Cities, 1,400 houses have been sold at foreclosure auctions in the past 16 months alone. On the block of Logan Avenue N. where Cranford lives, 12 of the 27 houses have been in various stages of foreclosure since mid-2005.

For many of those homes, it was a story not of poor homeowners unable to afford their houses, but of shoestring landlords whose investments turned bad.

According to the article, there have been 1,400 foreclosure sales in North Minneapolis since January 2006. This is an area of less than 9 square miles that contains 12,810 single family residences.

Meaning: 10.9% of the houses in North Minneapolis have already gone through a foreclosure sale since the real estate collapse began.

This astonishing chart shows Hennepin County, Minnesota with a red dot for every foreclosure sale that has taken place since January 2006.

As you can see, there is an extremely heavy concentration of foreclosure sales in North Minneapolis. This is an undesirable part of town; the Governor has sent the State Patrol there to supplement the Minneapolis police department several times in recent years.

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office Civil Unit holds the foreclosure sales. They publish a list of foreclosure sales that have already happened online.

As you read this, remember that foreclosure sales are a lagging indicator, because they occur after the borrower's default and after the notice of default is filed.

I took a random sample of 194 of these foreclosure sales by examining all of the foreclosure sales that had occurred since January 1, 2007 on eight different streets in North Minneapolis. (That is a lot of sales for just eight streets during a four month period.)

As you can see, Mortgage Electronic Registration System, Inc. [MERS] is the most common listing for the mortgagee. However, MERS is just the nominal mortgagee. They are a clearinghouse for loans, allowing mortgage bankers to trade loans electronically without having to record the trade in the county land records.


Rounding out the list are our usual suspects and old friends: Fremont (FMT), HSBC (HBC), WaMu (NYSE:WM), Option One, and New Century (NYSE:NEW). (The New Century borrower stayed in their house longer than NEW stayed in business.)


Surprisingly, Deutsche (NYSE:DB), US Bank (NYSE:USB), and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) made quite a few bad loans in North Minneapolis.

I would be very interested to know who originated the loans that are now being serviced by MERS.

Anyone in the Twin Cities could help me do this by going down to the Hennepin County Recorder's Office and pulling the original loan documents.