Belleville's Rise In Foreclosures Expected To Continue — Thursday, September 2, 2010

Belleville Times

Federal employees say Belleville will continue its upward trend in foreclosure rates this year.

"Statewide, foreclosure is going up," said New Jersey Judiciary representative Tamara Kendig.

In 2008, Belleville experienced 53 foreclosures. Come 2009, that number soared to 371. Just how high 2010's figures will be remains to be seen.

"We are not finding that we are getting fewer people calling us this year; we're having more people call," said New Jersey Anti-Predatory Lending Project senior attorney Margaret Jurow.

Of the 8,373 residential properties in Belleville, 173 filed foreclosure between Jan. 1 and July 31 of this year, according to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

During that same time, 153 Belleville properties entered the pre-foreclosure stage, according to the national foreclosure database company RealtyTrac Inc.

Therefore, the pool of potential foreclosures for the rest of 2010 is a considerable one.

Additionally, the Office of Foreclosure has upgraded its administrative system to include electronic case filing, Jurow said. As such, she predicted the entry of foreclosure judgments "will pick up in the next few months".

Properties can be filed under foreclosure for 18 to 24 months before a sheriff's auction actually takes place, though. As a result, Jurow emphasized that the number of current sheriff's sales does not necessarily reflect the number of current foreclosures.

So, the 58 Belleville homes to be auctioned between now and November, listed on the sheriff's department schedule, are a piece of a much larger puzzle.

Essex County had the highest incidence of foreclosure last year in the state, with 6,992 filings made. Bergen County was in second place with 5,193, and Ocean County was right behind at 5,191.

As of June 30, Essex County held the highest incidence of 2010 foreclosures, too, at 3,107. Second highest was Ocean County with 2,643.

In previous years, Jurow's office found that most foreclosures were due to "loans that were bad from the inception." Today's foreclosures, she said, arrive predominantly from struggling homeowners undergoing mortgage refinance.

"In the last year or so, we've seen more people who have unemployment problems, and also, unfortunately, quite a few older people," she said.

Jurow said the fight to hang on to foreclosed homes is a more pronounced one in New Jersey, where "even rental housing is expensive." Most people would rather continue the struggle of paying a high mortgage than enter the struggle of paying a high rent, she said.

Residents who are in foreclosure are advised to contact the New Jersey Office of the Courts' Foreclosure Mediation Hotline at 888-989-5277. There, residents are linked to housing counselors and court-trained mediators, who work between residents and mortgage lenders to arrange affordable future payment options.

Residents who are not in foreclosure, but who have missed a payment or will soon miss one, are advised to call NJ Citizen Action at 973-643-8800.

"Go to a qualified nonprofit housing counselor, not somebody that's going to charge you money upfront, not a mortgage broker, a real-estate broker or friend of a friend," said Jurow.

She also said defaulted homeowners who feel they have a valid defense should contact an attorney, not the bank, as homeowners typically do.

"Just because you are talking with the bank doesn't mean that the bank's lawyer isn't marching right ahead towards sheriff's sale. It's very important to get things in writing by filing with the court. Protect yourselves."

For those looking to prosper from the current economic climate, Essex County foreclosure auctions are conducted every Tuesday (except legal holidays) at 1:30 p.m. in the Veterans Courthouse, Room 216-I, in Newark.

Copyright 2010 North Jersey Media Group Inc.

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