As sheriff sales climb statewide, the Buena Vista County area seems somewhat insulated from the foreclosure crisis.
"I'm not saying we haven't seen an increase, but it has been a very slight one," said Buena Vista County Deputy Doug Simons.
"We saw it a lot worse in the mid to late 1980s when the farm situation was so bad. The emotions ran very high when we had to come in and auction those properties, and I hope I never see a time like that again."
In Polk County, there is a four-month backlog of sheriff sales, and it is estimated that 200 homeowners a month are losing their houses. In other counties, numbers may soon begin to rise as homes were abandoned in flooding earlier this year.
State officials say they are starting to see more higher-end homes, $300,000-$1 million houses, auctioned in foreclosure. With the failure of Regency Homes, some incompleted home projects could also be seized in the months to come.
Iowa's foreclosure rate is running about 2 percent, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, below national average. But about 7 percent of the state's home mortgages are currently delinquent or past due, well above the national average and signaling a potential glut of foreclosures ahead.
The majority of sheriff's sales in Buena Vista County are urban at this point, involving single-family homes in Storm Lake. "But then again, the majority of the county's home properties are in Storm Lake as well," Simons points out.
Despite the economic realities, so far the area has seen no crisis in people losing their homes.
"I think people in this area may have just conducted themselves better," Simons says. "I give the public credit - I think they have payed better attention to how they handle their finances. Also, it seems like we are seeing creditors working harder to try to solve difficulties well before it would get to the point of auctioning a home."
While selling off someone's home is not the most pleasant activity for the sheriff's employees, these days it is seldom an emotional situation.
"I can't even tell you the last time I saw the homeowner even attend the sheriff's sale - and that is very different from the 1980s. Usually only a leinholder is there," Simons said.
The sheriff's sale is a last resort when all other attempts to reconcile between the homeowner and their creditors have failed, and it often takes years to get to that point.
"There is usually some dispute over something, they get behind and then get further behind," Simons says.
The website Realtytrac.com currently lists eight foreclosed home properties in Storm Lake, valued from high $50,000s to high $70,000s. Statewide, it says 678 homes have been foreclosed so far this year, with an average value of $79,000.
Elsewhere, foreclosures are reaching disasterous proportions. In Michigan, lawmakers are considering a two-year freeze on foreclosures and evictions. In the Chicago area, the Cook County Sheriff is refusing to evict people from foreclosed properties, as many are renters who are not at fault when their building owners fail to make payments. "We will no longer be a party to something that's so unjust," Sheriff Tom Dart said recently.