Per the Numbers: Tennessee foreclosures are historically low, but storm clouds are forming

My banker clients are a pessimistic bunch.

That’s partially because the bankers that I deal with are in “special assets” or are the bank’s general counsel.

Long story short, they aren’t the ones at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the expensive new restaurant; nope, my clients are the ones who get called in at the end, when the loan has gone bad and we’re figuring out what to do with used restaurant equipment. My clients always notice the storm clouds on the horizon.

With that in mind, for more than a year, they’ve been predicting a tidal wave of commercial and consumer loan defaults, followed by a spike in foreclosures.

And, generally, they’ve been wrong.

In Tennessee, one recent study showed that–to date–there have only been 3,316 foreclosure sale notices published (state-wide) in 2022. That sounds like a lot, but it’s less than a third of what we had in 2017 (10,810) and 2018 (11,711).

In 2022, the most sale notices have been published in Shelby County (496), followed by Hamilton County (304), Davidson County (271), and Knox County (223). Honorable mention to Williamson County (153) and Montgomery County (132).

The 3,316 figure for 2022 is an increase from 2021 (2,169). These drop aren’t entirely COVID driven, as Tennessee had just 5,982 sale notices published in the pre-pandemic glory days of 2019.

That low volume in 2019-2020 was the result of a number of factors, including COVID-related forbearances, sky-rocketing property values, and low interest rates. And, as you know, all of those factors are disappearing.

(Side-note: We can’t be sure about COVID, of course, but I’m pretty sure we won’t see mortgage rates in the 2’s and 3’s for a very long time.)

In the end, here’s where the bankers are probably right: There’s a backlog of foreclosures, and the crush is coming soon. The bankers are correct that the sky is falling; their timing was just off by a year.