February 12, 2020 [Rich Exner, cleveland.com]
February 12, 2020 – CLEVELAND, Ohio – The ownership of more Cleveland homes was transferred by sheriff’s deed last year than at any time since 2008, but the reason is far different than during the depths of the foreclosure crisis. Banks and other lenders are no longer the big players they once were in grabbing properties that had become delinquent on mortgages. Instead, the activity now is largely the result of efforts to clear or rehab abandoned housing in the city. This is the work of land banks, primarily the Cuyahoga County land bank, which fixes the best of the homes for resale and clears the worst to offer parcels for a nominal fee to neighbors, cities or others. A cleveland.com analysis of property transfer data from the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Office found that 2,381 Cleveland homes – single-family homes, doubles or condos – transferred by sheriff’s deed last year. That was up from near 2,000 each year since 2009, but well below recent highs of 3,433 in 2008 and 5,371 in 2007. Nearly half of the Cleveland sheriff’s deed transfers were carried out by the county land bank, the records show. “We’re trying to address and bring into control the whole issue of slum and blight in the inner core and inner-ring suburbs,” said Gus Frangos, president of the publicly funded Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp. Roughly one-third of the land bank’s properties are rehabbed and resold, with the others being leveled before the properties are offered up as new vacant land, Frangos said. Frangos said about 90 percent of the new owners become reliable taxpayers for the properties. All the properties were vacant before being acquired by the land bank through direct sheriff’s deed transfers outside the auction process of sheriff’s sales, Frangos said.
A countywide look
Among all Cuyahoga County suburbs, 2,193 single-family homes, doubles or condos changed hands through sheriff’s deed last year. The number of sheriff’s deeds in the suburbs was nearly unchanged from 2016, and well below the recent highs of 3,749 in 2008 and 4,212 in 2007. Outside of Cleveland, the highest number of home transfers through sheriff’s deeds were in East Cleveland (305), Euclid (243), Cleveland Heights (177), Garfield Heights (172), Parma (161) and Maple Heights (147). Records show East Cleveland has a total of 4,600 single-family homes, doubles or condos citywide. So the 305 parcels transferred with sheriff’s deeds in a single year represented 6.6 percent of all residential properties. Cleveland was next at 2.2 percent, followed by Garfield Heights at 1.6 percent, and Euclid, Maple Heights and Warrensville Heights at 1.5 percent each. Countywide, the records show the county land bank acquired 1,403 homes, representing about one-third of all residential sheriff’s deed transactions. As an example of the change, in 2007 Deutsche Bank acquired 1,234 Cuyahoga County homes through sheriff’s deeds, and Wells Farbo acquired 907. Last year, those numbers were just 74 for Deutsche Bank and 151 for Wells Fargo.