In Onslow County the last two years, foreclosures dropped while overall sales rose and the trend is continuing in 2016, according to information from Jacksonville Board of Realtors

An improving housing economy nationwide has helped the area, which is affected by trends afield, Board President Alexis Pierson said.

“If we have people moving into the area and those areas are having housing issues, that inhibits people moving here from buying,” she added. “If they can’t sell elsewhere, that affects the market here. If things are improving elsewhere, that helps our market.

“Our market is improving.”

In 2014, Onslow County had 2,976 property sales and 30 percent of those — 898 — had been foreclosures. In 2015, the county had 821 foreclosures sold — or 26 percent of all 3,105 property sales that year, Pierson said.

So far this year, 619 properties have sold. Of those, 346 were resales, 145 were foreclosures and 128 were new construction.

“Resales are half of the market,” Pierson said. That means that so far this year, foreclosures sold amount to 23 percent of all sales.

Pierson attributed the trend to improved access to state resources and better education for homeowners enduring bad times.

The best way to avoid such hardship, she added, is to avoid getting too far behind before asking for help.

“It can be disheartening and discouraging,” she said. “It can be hard to get the motivation to get back on your feet. We want to help you. We want to keep you from drowning.”

So does the N.C. Foreclosure Prevention Fund, which helps homeowners struggling to make mortgage payments because of “job loss, reduction in income or temporary financial hardship, such as divorce, illness or death of a spouse,” according to the resource at NCForeclosurePrevention.gov. “The Fund also assists returning veterans who are transitioning to civilian jobs.”

For qualified homeowners, the fund can pay mortgage and other expenses up to three years “while you search or retrain for new employment,” according to the website.

“I think it’s a benefit to any homeowner who really wants to stay in their home and is having a tough time,” Pierson said. “I run into people all the time who have a hard time getting back on track.”

So far this year, 80 active foreclosures are listed on Multiple Listings Service in Onslow County, but that number changes daily, Pierson added. In addition, there are 101 foreclosures under contract, which means that someone placed an offer to buy and are doing the diligence to close on the property.

“I do think the historical data shows improvements in Onslow County,” Pierson said. “Foreclosures are going down, but our overall sales are going up.”

For more information, visit NCForeclosurePrevention.gov, N.C. Association of Realtors at NCRealtors.org and National Association of Realtors at Realtor.org.