MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The number of homes sold due to foreclosure or short sales is the lowest it’s been in more than a year. Economists say that’s a good sign for Minnesota’s housing market.

In fact, home sales across the country are up 3.4 percent. And in Minnesota last month, foreclosures and short sales were just 20 percent of all houses sold. That’s the lowest it’s been in 17 months.

While the numbers seem to indicate foreclosures are finding a bottom, a day in the Hennepin County Housing Court suggests the crisis isn’t over.

A WCCO-TV camera was allowed into a courtroom as part of a pilot project ordered by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

“Good morning everybody,” said referee Mark Labine. “All of you are here either because a landlord or owner is seeking possession on breach of a lease.”

Labine heard 43 cases before noon the day cameras were allowed in court. He says the housing court is one of the fastest courts in the state.

“Housing court is very fast,” he said. “There’s no other court in the state where things happen so fast. In a lot of countries it takes a year or two to evict somebody from a home, and in Minnesota it takes about two weeks.”

In Minnesota, most cases settle, Labine said.

“But over 90 percent of the cases involve non-payment of rent, and it’s pretty straight forward. If you don’t pay the rent, you’re probably going to be evicted.”

Of the 43 cases Labine heard,, 23 were settled with agreements, 16 led to immediate evictions, and only four went to trial. Although that seems like a lot of work, Labine says the numbers are down.

“In 2008, we had about 11,000 cases in housing court,” he said. “And we’re going to be lucky to hit 8,000 this year.”

Watch the video above to get a pulse on the pace of Minnesota’s housing court.


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