Homeownership lowest since 1995 … Rental vacancies lowest since 1995

Posted in Economics, Employment, Housing Recovery, Mortgages | 57 Comments

From Bloomberg:

U.S. Homeownership Rate Falls to Lowest Since Early 1995

The homeownership rate in the U.S. fell to the lowest in more than 19 years as the market shifted toward renting and tight credit blocked some potential buyers.

The share of Americans who own their homes was 64.4 percent in the third quarter, down from 64.7 percent in the previous three months, the Census Bureau said in a report today. The rate was at the lowest level since the first quarter of 1995.

Entry-level buyers have been held back by stringent mortgage standards and slow wage growth. The share of first-time buyers was 29 percent in September for the third straight month, compared with about 40 percent historically, according to the National Association of Realtors said.

“The homeownership rate hasn’t bottomed yet,” Paul Diggle, U.S. property economist for Capital Economics Ltd. in London, said in a telephone interview. “Something like 64 percent seems like a reasonable floor. But that floor is now in sight.”

The homeownership rate peaked at 69.2 percent in June 2004 and is close to the average of 64.5 percent from 1965 to 1999, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The market since the latest recession has shifted toward rentals as millions of homeowners lost properties to foreclosure and potential buyers couldn’t afford to own a home or had trouble qualifying for loans. Demand for rentals sent leasing costs to records in some cities, spurred an apartment-construction boom and created a new industry of single-family landlords.

The vacancy rate for rental homes was 7.4 percent in the three months through September, the lowest level since the first quarter of 1995, the Census Bureau reported today. The rate was down from 8.3 percent a year earlier and 7.5 percent in the second quarter.

Rates go up now?

Posted in Economics, Mortgages, Politics | 133 Comments

From HousingWire:

QE3 ends, how long until interest rates rise?

The market expected the announcement of the end of quantitative easing Wednesday, putting an end to a more than two-year-old asset purchase program.

“Slightly less expected, however, is that despite the recent market volatility, the statement issued after the Federal Open Market Committee meeting was, if anything, more hawkish,” Capital Economics said in response to the announcement.

The new report left out two key details according to Capital Economics:

The statement also dropped the previous assessment that “there remains significant underutilization of labor resources.” The dropping of “significant” could be, well… significant.
There was no mention of the recent market volatility in the statement, or anything about slower economic growth in the euro-zone or China.

Unexpectedly, the Fed still thinks it will be a “considerable time” before it begins to raise interest rates. Indeed, the Zero Interest Rate Policy remains in full force, as it has been since inception at the end of 2008.

“We didn’t expect that language to be dropped at this meeting given there is no scheduled press conference, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it is changed at the upcoming December meeting,” Capital Economics said. “Overall, we still believe that the Fed will begin to raise rates sooner than generally expected, with a March 2015 hike the most likely outcome.”

NY Metro Home Prices Up 3.1% YOY

Posted in Housing Recovery, New Jersey Real Estate | 95 Comments

From the Record:

Home prices up 3.1 percent in region, 5.6 percent nationwide

Home values rose 3.1 percent in the region in the 12 months ending in August, the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index reported Tuesday – evidence that the housing market is recovering, but at a slower pace.

Despite recent gains, single-family home values in the New York metropolitan area are still about 18 percent below the peaks they reached in mid-2006, and have returned to the levels of summer 2004. Nationally, home prices were up 5.6 percent in August, and are back to the levels of spring 2005, about 16 percent below their mid-2006 peaks.

“Despite the weaker year-over-year numbers, home prices are still showing an overall increase,” said David Blitzer, head of the index committee at Standard & Poor’s.

The housing market’s slow recovery reflects the job market’s gradual return to health. While New Jersey’s unemployment rate has dropped to 6.5 percent, the state still hasn’t come close to recovering all the jobs lost during the 2007-2009 recession.

Single-family home prices in Bergen County dropped 4.9 percent in August from a year earlier, to a median $470,750, according to the New Jersey Association of Realtors. The median price rose 3.3 percent, to $315,000, in Passaic County. Those price medians are affected by the mix of homes sold in a month, unlike the Case-Shiller index, which tracks the same properties over time.

September Pending Sales Improve Slightly

Posted in Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 83 Comments

From Bloomberg:

Pending Home Sales Index Posts Small Gain in September

The number of contracts signed to buy previously owned homes rose slightly in September after an August decline, a sign the housing recovery remains uneven.

Pending sales of existing homes increased 0.3% to a seasonally adjusted index level of 105 in September from August, the National Association of Realtors said Monday. An index level of 100 is considered an average level of contract activity. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast the index would rise 1% last month.

The data reflect purchases put under contract but have yet to close. The sales tallied for the pending-sales index typically close a month or two later.

“Overall housing activity remains uninspiring and we expect only a gradual improvement in investment,” said BNP Paribas economist Bricklin Dwyer.

August pending sales fell 1% from the month before. The decline was unrevised in Monday’s release. Pending home sales were up 1% last month from September 2013.

Regionally, Monday’s report showed stronger activity in the Northeast and South in September, and the fourth straight decline for pending sales in the Midwest. Pending sales in the West fell slightly.

Nobody happy about September’s New Home Sales

Posted in Economics, Employment, Housing Recovery, National Real Estate, New Development | 122 Comments

From HousingWire:

New home sales gains screech to a virtual halt in September

Gains in sales of new single-family houses in September 2014 came to a screeching virtual halt, printing at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 467,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This is 0.2% above the revised August rate of 466,000 and is 17% above the September 2013 estimate of 399,000, when sales were slowing dramatically on rising interest rates last year.

This was below analyst expectations of 462,000, and after August’s indecipherable 18% jump, which has now been revised downward 10%.

Worse, July’s sales gains were revised downward to a solid decline.

“The volatility of this report makes it difficult to gain a true picture of what’s going on when taking a granular look. Slowly but surely the housing market as a whole is improving, but it ultimately marches to the beat of the economy, and this is especially true for new home construction and sales,” said Quicken Loans Vice President Bill Banfield. “Once we see the economy and job improvement gain traction, the housing numbers will follow.”

The median sales price of new houses sold in September 2014 was $259,000; the average sales price was $313,200. This represents a 4% drop.

Foreclosure rate falls, NJ still near top

Posted in Foreclosures, Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 113 Comments

From MarketWatch:

Foreclosures at lowest rate since February 2008

U.S. foreclosures have fallen to their lowest rate since February 2008, as states clear the backlog of foreclosures from the crisis years and the market slowly returns to normal.

At 1.76% of active mortgages, the inventory of loans in foreclosure is at its lowest point since February 2008, according to data released Friday from Black Knight Financial Services, a mortgage technology and information services firm based in Jacksonville, Fla. This “first look” at September month-end mortgage performance derived from a database representing two-thirds of the overall market.

That equates to 893,000 loans in the foreclosure process, a 33% decline of 435,000 from 1.3 million last year. That bodes well for the housing market, experts say. Jed Kolko, chief economist for real-estate website Trulia, says the delinquency and foreclosure rate is 74% back to normal in the fourth quarter versus 56% a year ago, while home prices and sales are 75% and 80% back to normal, respectively.

The total “non-current” inventory — 30 or more days past due or in foreclosure — fell by 117,000 on the month to 2,878,000 in September. The inventory of “seriously delinquent” loans — those 90 or more days past due — declined by 25,000 on the month to 1,118,000 in September reaching its lowest point August 2008, and number of properties in foreclosure of 30 days or more fell 137,000 to 3,771,000. And the number of properties in foreclosure inventory fell 20,000 to 893,000 in September.

The states with the most delinquencies or foreclosures in September are Mississippi (14.41% of all loans), New Jersey (12.17%), Louisiana (11.16%), New York (10.76%) and Florida (10.55%). The states with the least number of delinquencies or foreclosures are North Dakota (2.43% of all loans), South Dakota (3.64%), Colorado (3.72%), Montana (3.89%) and Minnesota (4.03%). Mississippi, Alabama, Rhode Island, Louisiana and Massachusetts also had the most serious delinquencies (90 days or more).

More homeowners learn to swim, seriously delinquencies continue to fall

Posted in Economics, Housing Recovery, Mortgages, National Real Estate, Risky Lending | 113 Comments

From MarketWatch:

15% of homes still seriously underwater

According to a report released Thursday by RealtyTrac, 15% of U.S. properties (representing 8.1 million properties) with a mortgage are seriously underwater — meaning the homeowner owes at least 25% more than the estimated market value of the property. This is down from 17% of mortgaged properties in the second quarter of this year and the lowest rate since the company began tracking negative equity in the first quarter of 2012. The highest percentage of homes that are seriously underwater were those bought during the housing bubble in 2006 (40% of homes bought in 2006 are still seriously underwater), 2007 (35%) and 2005 (32%) in particular.

While that sounds like good news — and it mostly is — there are some caveats. First, the rate of decline in negative equity is slowing, as home price appreciation is slowing, says Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac vice president . Plus, the negative equity problem is particularly troubling for those with more modest homes: More than half of properties worth less than $50,000 and more than one-third of those worth $50,000 to $100,000 are seriously underwater, compared with fewer than 10% of homes worth $300,000 and above.

Furthermore, residents of some states — in particular those that were hit hardest by the housing bubble — are still feeling the negative equity pinch — big time. In Nevada — one of the states hit hardest by the housing crisis — nearly 1 in 3 mortgaged properties are seriously underwater, making it the state with the highest percentage of seriously underwater homes; Florida (28%), Illinois (26%) and Michigan (25%) also have high numbers of seriously underwater properties. All told, in eight U.S. states, more than one in five mortgaged properties is still seriously underwater.

On a brighter note, plenty of homeowners are feeling the benefits of this housing recovery. The percentage of mortgaged properties that are now equity rich — meaning that the homeowner has at least 50% equity — hit 20% (representing 10.8 million properties) in the third quarter, up from 19% last quarter. Hawaii tops the list, as more than one in three properties (35%) in this state have very high levels of equity, followed by New York and Vermont (both 33%). Blomquist says that these states are seeing higher levels of equity richness because they “didn’t see as big of a deterioration in home prices [during the housing crisis] as in other states.”

Existing home sales stronger in September

Posted in Economics, Employment, Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 92 Comments

From the WSJ:

U.S. Existing-Home Sales Hit Highest Level of Year

U.S. home sales reached the highest level of the year in September, a sign of slowly building momentum in a housing market whose recovery has come in fits and starts over the past year.

Sales of previously owned homes climbed 2.4% from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million in September, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday. That marked the fifth increase in six months.

The report suggests the housing market resumed the steady climb it began early this year, rebounding from a soft spell in August. Interest rates are near historic lows, and stronger job growth is boosting consumers’ confidence and pay.

“The signs of life in the housing market are generally positive and the resale market appears to be strengthening again,” economist John Ryding of RDQ economics said in a note to clients.

Despite the latest progress, the market continues to underperform. Sales in September were down 1.7% compared with a year earlier. Many Americans are continuing to rent or live with others rather than buy, a sign that credit standards remain tight and many families remain financially strained.

Tuesday’s report showed housing inventory loosened. The number of for-sale homes rose 6% in September compared with a year earlier. At the latest sales pace, it would take 5.3 months to exhaust the housing supply

Home prices, meanwhile, continue to climb. The median sale price for a home last month stood at $209,700, up 5.6% from a year earlier. Prices have risen year over year for 31 consecutive months.

Sales in September rose in every region but the Midwest.

Investors made up 14% of home purchases in September, down from 19% a year earlier. Meanwhile, purchases by first-time buyers have yet to climb significantly after falling earlier in the recovery.

Trey calls BS on little houses

Posted in Demographics, Economics, New Development | 70 Comments

(IMHO, this guy, Trey Garrison, is the top real estate journalist at the moment. Holds nothing back. A few years back this kind of journalism out of a trade rag was unheard of. I’m still kind of surprised this kind of commentary is coming out of HousingWire.)

From HousingWire:

Nope, tiny houses are not the next big thing

Yes, a few hipsters and other assorted folks who make bad decisions are buying into this, but here’s the reality: Americans like their space. (OK, maybe not the island-dwelling herbivores in Manhattan and the central-planning, urban density pushing Eloi in other large cities, but pretty much all other Americans.)

That’s not just opinion.

According to the last Census report, the median house size is 2,384 square feet. That’s an increase from 1,525 square feet in 1970.

Moreover, in the last 10 years, the median house size has increased on average 25 square feet per year. The share of homes with more than four bedrooms and more three or more full baths continues to rise.

Newly built single-family homes in the United States are getting bigger, costlier to build and more expensive, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

In fact the only thing shrinking for new construction is the size of the lot they’re built upon, according to NAHB’s most recent construction cost survey of 3,019 builders. The survey was conducted in August and September of 2013.

The average size of a home in the 2013 construction cost survey was 2,607 square feet, which is about 300 square feet more than the average size of the homes reported in the 2011 construction cost survey, but still about 100 square feet less than the peak reported in the 2009 survey.

So, like skinny jeans for men and the Cronut, tiny houses are another fad already past the sell-by date, pushed by people who view humanity as a blight and private homes as subversive or something.

Unless you call that tiny house what we call it out in flyover country – a hunting or fishing cabin. Then it’s acceptable.

I’m not saying everyone wants a McMansion, nor is the data saying that. But let’s call this tiny house thing what it is — a flash-in-the-pan fad of glorified trailers with fancy trim.

Housing market in NJ haunted?

Posted in Humor, New Jersey Real Estate | 103 Comments

From the APP:

Toms River still haunted by ‘Amityville Horror’

For some Toms River residents, the filming of Amityville Horror in the late 1970s and its subsequent and less memorable sequels of the 1980s, was in fact a real life nightmare.

So much so, that the town later adopted one of the most restrictive ordinances in New Jersey when it comes to film and television production inside its municipal boundaries.

In the case of Amityville Horror, Hollywood demons and their hapless victims were prone to making a great deal of commotion in the middle of the night, when, as any horror movie fan can appreciate, the portal to hell in the basement is the most active.

After a sequel was filmed in 1982, the then-Dover Township Committee adopted a blanket prohibition on commercial filmmaking in all residential zones.

The original 1979 movie was based on the book of the same name. Actors James Brolin and Margot Kidder played George and Kathy Lutz, who move with their three children into a lovely Dutch colonial house with its iconic eye windows in the coastal town of Amityville, N.Y.

The Lutzes get the house at a bargain price because of its history, which the real estate agent discloses. It seems there was a teensy-weensy massacre there involving the previous occupants, and to make a long story short, everyone died horribly.

“Houses don’t have memories,” George Lutz tells his wife, a line that will literally come back to haunt him when he becomes possessed by an evil spirit that resides in the home.

The colonial-style house at 18 Brooks Road in Toms River stood in for the real house where the supposed haunting occurred on Long Island. A superstructure was built around portions of the home to make it look like the Amityville one, complete with those eye windows.

In 1981, the house was moved after the filming and positioned directly on Brooks Road, rather than toward the corner of Brooks and Dock Street, where a new home was built. A boathouse that the film company built for the movie is now part of that new property.

In 2011, the house was on the market for $1.35 million.

Mastronardy said there were never any problems on the set or in town associated with the production, but he noted that he can’t speak about whether the lights and crowds of onlookers upset the neighbors — which then resulted in the tough anti-filmmmaking ordinance being introduced. The film was also shot in Point Pleasant Beach, and Ocean County residents will recognize several familiar local landmarks in the film.

Among other requirements, filmmakers are required to present proof of insurance for bodily injury in the amount of $1 million and name the township as one of the insured, notify all residents within a 500-foot radius of the shooting location, and provide the full cost of police protection necessary to maintain order, according to the ordinance.

Rate dip causes refi boomlet

Posted in Economics, Mortgages, National Real Estate | 11 Comments

From Bloomberg:

Rates Below 4% Leave U.S. Refinancing Banker Sleepless

The drop in mortgage rates below 4 percent has cut into Debra Shultz’s sleep. The New York City banker is busier than she’s been in months, working with three dozen homeowners eager to lower their payments.

Shultz helped a Greenwich Village homeowner on Wednesday lock in a 3.63 percent interest rate for a 30-year fixed jumbo mortgage of more than $900,000. An hour later, the rate jumped to 3.75 percent. One lender changed its rate sheet six times that day.

“It just went crazy,” said Shultz, a senior vice president of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate in New York. “I sent out a blast e-mail to 1,600 clients and had 30 responses right away.”

Mortgage rates are following a slide in 10-year Treasury yields as weaker-than-expected economic data from Germany to China combine with concern about the Ebola virus, sparking demand for safe investments. The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to 3.97 percent, the lowest since June 2013, Freddie Mac said yesterday. Borrowing costs spiked in September before dropping for the last four weeks, giving owners a new opportunity to refinance.

“This is bizarro world,” said Anthony B. Sanders, an economics professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. “Usually we associate lower interest rates with lower volatility. Now you’re seeing the opposite.”

A gauge of U.S. mortgage refinancing jumped 10.6 percent last week, the most since early June, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday. The share of home-loan applicants seeking to refinance climbed to 58.9 percent, the highest since mid-February, from 56.4 percent, the group said. In December of 2012, after the 30-year average rate hit a record low of 3.31 percent in November, borrowers wanting to refinance accounted for 84 percent of applications.

Housing sales, which have declined from a year ago, won’t get much of a boost from a short-term drop in rates, said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina. It typically takes months for buyers to find properties and close deals, and by then rates likely will have changed.

Unemployment declines in NJ, but really, the numbers just suck

Posted in Economics, Employment, New Jersey Real Estate | 92 Comments

From the Star Ledger:

Economist says N.J. jobs market does ‘not have any momentum’

Despite the thousands of Atlantic City casino workers who lost their jobs last month, the unemployment rate in New Jersey ticked down slightly in September, according to preliminary federal data released by the state today, but still remained above the national average.

The state’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.5 percent in September from 6.6 percent in August, the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported, above the national rate of 5.9 percent. New Jersey’s unemployment rate in July also stood at 6.5 percent.

A spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie noted in an e-mail to reporters that “at 6.5 percent, the unemployment rate remains at its lowest level since November 2008” and that the rate had fallen 1.4 percentage points year over year. In September 2013, the unemployment rate was 7.9 percent.

The state also added 600 jobs overall last month, driven by a bump in public-sector employment that state officials attributed to larger-than-expected seasonal hiring in the education field.

Patrick O’Keefe, director of economic research at CohnReznick in Roseland, said the monthly report brought to mind a line from the poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”: “Day after day, day after day, We stuck, nor breath nor motion; As idle as a painted ship Upon a painted ocean.”

“That metaphor of a becalmed ship is really what occurred to me when going through it,” he said. “It’s good that we’re not sliding backwards but clearly we do not have any momentum currently in the state’s job markets.”

The preliminary data shows New Jersey lost 6,100 private-sector jobs in September following the closure of three casinos in Atlantic City, while the public sector added 6,700 jobs. The increase in government employment was due to “greater-than-expected seasonal hiring in the state education component,” according to state officials.

The state gained 6,700 jobs year-over-year, according to the report, with 7,000 jobs added in the private sector and 300 jobs lost in the public sector.

The state labor department noted that August’s employment numbers were revised in the report, “showing a gain of 2,900 private sector jobs instead of the originally reported loss of 800.”

October Beige Book

Posted in Economics, Employment, Housing Recovery, New Jersey Real Estate | 102 Comments

From the Federal Reserve:

October Beige Book

Second District–New York

Growth in the Second District’s economy has slowed to a somewhat more modest pace since the last report. Prices of finished goods and services continue to rise at a subdued pace; cost pressures remain fairly widespread among service firms but have largely subsided among manufacturers. Labor market conditions have shown further signs of strengthening, except in the manufacturing sector, where hiring activity has slowed. Contacts in most industry sectors report that business has been steady or improving, though manufacturers report that growth has stalled in recent weeks. General merchandise retailers report that sales were mixed but, on balance, weaker since the previous report; auto dealers report that sales were steady to slightly stronger. Tourism activity has continued to show strength since the last report. Housing markets have been steady or stronger, with inventories rising to more normal levels. New York City’s commercial real estate market has continued to strengthen moderately, and there are scattered signs of a pickup in commercial construction. Finally, banks report that household loan demand has leveled off but that demand from commercial borrowers continues to grow; delinquency rates continue to decline, particularly for commercial loans and mortgages.

Construction and Real Estate

The District’s housing markets have been steady to stronger since the last report, while inventories have risen from unusually low levels in some areas. Rents have leveled off in Manhattan and Brooklyn–in part reflecting extensive luxury rental development coming on line–while rents in Queens have continued to increase briskly. New York City’s co-op and condo market was generally steady in the third quarter. Resale prices for apartments were little changed in Manhattan but continued to rise moderately in Brooklyn and Queens; sales volume was down more than 10 percent from the extraordinarily high levels of a year earlier but little changed from the second quarter.

Northern New Jersey’s housing market has continued to be mixed. Demand for single-family homes has remained sluggish, and so has new single-family construction, as builders remain reluctant to build for inventory. In contrast, a strong rental market has continued to spur multi-family construction, especially in areas easily accessible to New York City. Housing markets in western New York State flattened out in August and September, as both sales volume and prices leveled off. Multiple offers have become less common, as the inventory of available homes has increased from low levels.

Six hundred down, thousands to go

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, Foreclosures, New Jersey Real Estate | 138 Comments

From the Philly Inquirer:

Camden plans to demolish nearly 600 houses

Within a two-block stretch of Sheridan Street in Camden, 13 homes have boarded-up windows and bright-orange Department of Public Works stickers marking them for a demolition day that has yet to come.

“I face four of them,” said Valerie Roberts, 26, who grew up in the neighborhood and now lives on the 1200 block. “I would love to see them come down. They’ve been like that 15, 20 years, though.”

For decades, Camden’s 77,250 residents have lived among vacant dwellings, which drive down property values, harbor crime, and create upkeep nightmares for residents whose homes are attached to crumbling structures.

On Tuesday, the city will launch what it describes as the largest single demolition project in the state by putting out requests for bids to demolish 61 properties in Whitman Park and three in Cramer Hill. A second phase, beginning in a few weeks, is to demolish 534 properties citywide.

“As a lifelong Camden resident, I feel the same way our residents do about vacant and abandoned properties – I don’t like them,” Mayor Dana L. Redd said. “Camden is now poised to undertake the biggest demolition initiative ever attempted in the city or state. . . . I truly believe this first phase will send a clear message that we are serious about transforming and improving our neighborhoods.”

Phase I will be funded with a $970,000 federal Community Development Block Grant. The second $8 million citywide phase will be financed by a bond to be paid off with revenue from a tax on city parking lots.

Camden has 1,629 abandoned residential properties, according to city code enforcement officials. Of those, 598 met the criteria for demolition and 1,031 are slated for stabilization, city officials said. Not all of the properties have been acquired by the city.

Since 2010, the city says, there have been 464 abandoned properties demolished and 2,272 boarded up.

When nonresidential structures are included, the total number of abandoned buildings in the city may be closer to 3,000, according to a survey by CamConnect, a nonprofit research group based in Camden. The group found that Camden has 8,142 empty lots. Vacant parcels and abandoned buildings occupy 37 percent of land in the city.

“There are far more vacant lots in Camden than abandoned buildings,” said CamConnect project manager Josh Wheeling. “It’s impossible to do something with all of them.”

Surprised that NJ let us all down again?

Posted in Foreclosures, New Jersey Real Estate, Politics | 62 Comments

From HousingWire:

The shocking truths for homeowners struggling against foreclosure

Several big banks have negotiated large settlements with the Department of Justice for their role in the housing bubble and subsequent economic collapse.

While the historic settlements sound promising on the surface, a study by Denbeaux & Denbeaux law firm exposes why struggling homeowners shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for relief.

The report, “Mortgage Fraud” finds that:

New Jersey homeowners subject to the first Agreement made by the Attorneys General were not apprised or made aware by Wells Fargo that they already had the protections and the right to the promised modifications that were contained in the California Class Action Settlement. Instead, these homeowners were sent the “new” settlement agreement which contained promises and protections they already had (not explained) and a check in the amount of $178.04 in exchange for all their rights and defenses.

The report also claims that Wells Fargo has perpetrated a seemingly endless cycle of misleading, deceptive and exploitative practices in response to its misleading, deceptive and exploitative practices.

“It’s all about enforcement by the states, and truthfully, New Jersey’s Attorney-General hasn’t made homeowners a priority,” said Josh Denbeaux, a partner in the firm. “Wells Fargo was allowed to revoke the terms of the original settlement for homeowners in New Jersey by brokering another deal where homeowners surrendered their rights to legal action in exchange for $178.04.”

Anti-foreclosure and housing advocates rightly point out that out of court settlements protect banks from exposing their predatory lending practices through evidence discovery in courts, which is why NJ Communities United is issuing a series of policy recommendations that the State of New Jersey should consider to provide relief for homeowners victimized by predatory lending and questionable foreclosure practices.

“The result of the legal acrobatics and out-of-court settlements has essentially let Wells Fargo and other big banks off the hook for their predatory lending practices in low-income communities of color,” said Trina Scordo, executive director of NJ Communities United. “Wells Fargo preyed on these communities then negotiated away the rights of homeowners to take legal action. Homeowners deserve their day in court – or at the very least, enforcement from the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General.”

The crisis is not lost on leaders in hard-hit Newark.

“As Newark’s Chief Executive, tackling the mortgage crisis is one of the highest priorities of my administration,” said Mayor Ras Baraka of Newark. “Not only is this problem creating undue hardships on too many Newark families, but abandoned homes due to foreclosure are decimating our neighborhoods and draining critical resources from the City’s budget. At the end of the day, the Wells Fargo settlements have not provided any real relief for struggling homeowners in New Jersey. In fact, it appears that the settlements – and lack of enforcement by the New Jersey Attorney General – have only paved an unimpeded path towards foreclosure for thousands of New Jersey homeowners.”

“I’m not hopeful that future bank settlements will provide any relief to homeowners,” said Trina Scordo. “This Wells Fargo case study exposes the legal maneuvering by banks to keep their crimes hidden while continuing to strip communities of their wealth. This is why we’re issuing policy recommendations to the Governor’s Office, the NJ Attorney General and the NJ State Legislature.”