NorthJersey.com

N.J. Foreclosure Activity Falls 30% In First Half Of Year

The Record (NorthJersey.com) — Thursday, July 16, 2009

BY KATHLEEN LYNN
NorthJersey.com
STAFF WRITER

Foreclosure activity in New Jersey was down 30 percent in the first half of the year, compared with the same period in 2008, RealtyTrac reported Wednesday.

The drop came at a time when national foreclosure activity rose almost 15 percent, RealtyTrac said.

According to RealtyTrac, which follows the foreclosure market nationwide, one in every 146 New Jersey households received a foreclosure filing in the first half of the year. In Bergen County, the number was one in every 206; in Passaic, one in every 95.

Passaic County was ranked first in the state in the number of foreclosure filings, RealtyTrac said.

Several housing counselors speculated that the drop in the Garden State was the result of state and federal government programs that encourage lenders to modify mortgages that homeowners can't afford.

"I think lenders are now offering more loan modifications to customers," said Sylvine Marabotto, president and chief executive officer of the Consumer Credit Counseling Center in Cedar Knolls, which works with many homeowners in distress.

Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, head of Newark-based N.J. Citizen Action, said her agency's housing counselors continue to see many homeowners struggling to keep their homes.

"You can't tell by us that foreclosures are down," Salowe-Kaye said.

But she added, "I think more people are aware of the programs that are out there to help them, and maybe they're negotiating with lenders before foreclosure notices are sent out."

"It doesn't mean there are not a lot of people in trouble, but it seems like in New Jersey, there are some other avenues they can take to avoid foreclosure," said Daren Blomquist, a spokesman for RealtyTrac. Governor Corzine signed legislation in January that offers mediation to distressed homeowners, along with state loans to help lower monthly payments.

One in every 84 households in the U.S. had some kind of foreclosure filing during the first half of the year. Those filings can range from a bank's notice that a homeowner is in default on mortgage payments, all the way up to sale of the property at a sheriff's auction.

"Unemployment-related foreclosures account for much of the increased activity," said James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac's CEO. And he said a high number of homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their home is worth, pointing to "a potentially significant future risk" of rising foreclosures.

California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada continue to have the highest number of foreclosures. Those markets are suffering from overdevelopment during the housing boom in the first half of this decade, along with loose credit standards that gave mortgages to many buyers who could not afford them.

Foreclosure Filings Chart

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