Bradenton foreclosures hitting wealthy homeowners

MANATEE, Fla. — The surge of foreclosures is increasingly lapping on the steps of some of Manatee County’s priciest homes.

A $2.8 million mansion along the Manatee River, a $1.1 million house in Hawks Harbor and a $975,000 dwelling in University Park’s Warwick Gardens neighborhood were among the properties that lenders sued to foreclose on last month, according to court and tax records.

They join a growing number of more-expensive local homes falling into foreclosure as the mortgage crisis widens to include those with higher incomes and credit scores.

"It started at the low- and middle-income levels and is working its way up the income ladder," said D. Turner Matthews, a Bradenton lawyer who has represented borrowers in foreclosure cases. "It's affecting the higher-income people now."

Many are small-business owners and professionals who have been hit hard by the economy.

"They were able to afford those homes before but their business or income isn't what it once was," said James D. Jackman, a Bradenton lawyer who specializes in bankruptcy and foreclosure defense. "So now they’re between a rock and a hard place."

Local foreclosure suits, in which a lender or servicer contends a borrower has defaulted on a mortgage, have been rising countywide since late 2006. The spike originated among subprime borrowers, who typically had lower incomes and/or spotty credit histories and took out loans with higher, adjustable interest rates.

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