The Times, Trenton

In N.J., More Face Loss Of Homes

Mercer foreclosure filings for quarter jump sixfold

The Times of Trenton — Saturday, July 26, 2008

The number of homeowners facing foreclosure more than doubled nationwide in the second quarter compared with the same period last year, and New Jersey and Mercer County's numbers spiked even more dramatically, data released yesterday show.

The number of foreclosure filings in New Jersey jumped 140 percent during the three months from April to June to more than 17,000, according to RealtyTrac, a California firm that monitors foreclosures.

Mercer County had a nearly sixfold increase in foreclosure filings in that three-month period compared with the same time in 2007 – climbing from 70 filings to 418, according to RealtyTrac.

Even so, Mercer's rate of foreclosures in the second quarter of this year was the third-lowest among New Jersey's 21 counties.

Burlington County had the state's ninth-highest foreclosure rate, while seeing its number of foreclosure filings more than double from 371 in the second quarter of 2007 to 898 in that span this year, RealtyTrac data show.

The fIrm did not have municipal-level data immediately available yesterday.

New Jersey now has the 12th-highest rate of foreclosure filings nationally, RealtyTrac said, up from 16th in the first quarter of the year.

The latest report on rising foreclosure filings comes as the Senate is on track to pass a massive housing rescue bill.

The bill is designed to keep an estimated 400,000 homeowners out of foreclosure and support troubled mortgage fInance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. At a hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Rep. Maxine waters, D-Calif., called on the mortgage industry to delay or cancel foreclosures until the bill takes effect for those troubled borrowers who may qualify for the program.

New Jersey Citizen Action, which is working with homeowners to avert foreclosure, is hoping the legislation provides additional tools.

"We've had 290 foreclosure cases in the fIrst half of this year, which is more than the 182 cases we handled all of last year," said Bonita Holmes, a Citizen Action counselor.

Nationally, the number of foreclosure filings – including default notices, auction notices, bank repossessions and other types of filings – jumped to 739,714 during the second quarter, a 14 percent increase over the first quarter and a 121 percent jump from the second quarter of last year, according to RealtyTrac.

In New Jersey, the rate of foreclosure filings rose from one out of every 265 households during the fIrst quarter to one out of every 201 households in the latest quarter.

In Mercer County, the foreclosure- filing rate was one for every 335 households in the second quarter. Burlington County's rate was one for 192 households; Middlesex County's was one for 395; and Somerset County's was one for 269. The national rate is one filing for every 171 households, according to RealtyTrac.

While New Jersey's foreclosure rate is rising, the state is not one of America's foreclosure hot spots, said Patrick O'Keefe, a director at the accounting fIrm J.H. Cohn in Roseland and former chief economist for the New Jersey Builders Association.

"Nationwide, more than 30 percent of all foreclosures are in California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona," he said. "In our region, foreclosures are not a signifIcant cloud on the housing market."

The vast majority of New Jersey homeowners are current on their mortgage payments, he noted. And while the 17,289 filings in the second quarter represent a signifIcant spike compared with the second quarter of 2007, the state has 1.5 million owner-occupied homes on which there is a mortgage, O'Keefe said.

Still, New Jersey's foreclosure numbers keep climbing. According to the latest fIgures from the state Office of Foreclosure, there were 47,668 New Jersey foreclosure filings in the year ended June 30 up from 26,132 the previous year.

And according to the RealtyTrac data, the number of homes actually lost to bank repossession jumped sharply in the state, from 1,117 in the first quarter to 1,862 in the second quarter.

New Jersey may not have had the speculation-driven building boom seen in the Sunbelt, but "we do have a problem and it is starting to hit home," said James Hughes, a Rutgers University economist. He predicted housing prices in New Jersey will continue to decline and foreclosures will continue to be a problem at least until 2010.

NJ Foreclosures

Times staff writer Robert Stern and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Top Top | NJCA in the News | NJCA Homepage