ST. LOUIS, MO -- In 2013, 39,209 people had their homes foreclosed on in North Carolina. Those numbers are only January through October, November and December numbers aren't available yet. In 2010, when the financial crisis was at it's worst, 66,280 people had a home or business foreclosure.
Foreclosure is a difficult thing to deal with. But there may be a silver lining. Leisa Zigman with our sister station KSDK in St. Louis says the former homeowners and businesses may qualify for a lot of money they don't even know is there.
Luann and John Rusynyk had no idea when their 17-year marriage was put to the test.
"It's been very, very hard because I did sign the paperwork to pay for it, so I wanted to uphold that and I felt kind of low that I couldn't," said Rusynyk.
After consulting with financial counselors the Rusynyk's made the decision no homeowner ever wants to make: foreclosure.
What they didn't know before our sister station KPNX approached them, was that their foreclosure might be a source of $90,000. It's something called excess sales proceeds. Here's how it works.
When a house is foreclosed on, it may go to auction. But if the house sells for more than the amount it was under water, the additional funds are called excess proceeds. Once the lender gets the money that is owed on the house the extra money must be held at the treasurer's office for three years waiting to be claimed.
Chris Krehmeyer, CEO and president of Beyond Housing, explained how difficult the excess fund process can be.
"There is a way to do it but it's not easy. It's not simple and most homeowners don't know," he said.
Krehmeyer sees more than broken glass in the neighborhoods his organization serves. He sees broken lives due in part to foreclosures.
"It is not a good place to be because everything is stacked against you," he said.
Clayton, Missouri based foreclosure attorney Greg White agrees. He and others we consulted for this report say by the time letters arrive saying the borrower could be entitled to excess funds many people are long gone, or simply don't want to open another letter from a lawyer or trustee.
"They become so despondent that once the process starts, they simply abandon the premises and they literally don't look back," said White.
But with knowledge comes power. Charles Conner learned he was a candidate to claim excess funds and could get up to $138,000.
"This is something that can still be a positive even in the face of a gloomy situation," said Conner.
Last year, $1 million sat in the St. Louis County excess fund. Less than half was redeemed.
If your home was part of a tax foreclosure you can go to your county treasurer's office and ask to see what your old home sold for and compare it to the debt owed. Most of the counties we checked in Missouri and Illinois do not have these lists on line so you'll have to make the trip. The treasurer's office keeps these funds for three years. If they are not claimed they are sent to a public school fund.
If your home was sold in a bank foreclosure you should contact the foreclosure trustee. The trustees hold on to excess funds for five years and if the money is not redeemed, it is sent to the state treasurer's office and placed in the unclaimed property fund.
HOW IT WORKS IN NORTH CAROLINA
So how does it all work in North Carolina? We spoke with Holly Robinson in the Forsyth County Clerk of Court's office. She said a homeowner being able to recover money is rare. She said After a foreclosure, if there's any extra money, it only ends up in the county surplus if the attorney handling the proceedings can't figure out who it goes to. Then there would be a separate proceeding and hearing to determine who gets the money.
We've also tried to figure out the way it works in Guilford and Alamance Counties. We're waiting to hear back from officials in those counties to find out. When we hear back, we'll post it.
KSDK/WFMY News 2