From the Record:
The worst may be over for distressed homeowners in New Jersey, though foreclosure misery remains higher in the state than in the nation as a whole, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Thursday.
About 16 percent – one in six – of the mortgaged properties in the state were either in foreclosure or late on payments in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to the MBA. That’s down from almost 18 percent a year earlier, according to the MBA.
New Jersey’s rate of mortgage distress compares with a national rate of 9.57 percent, or about one in 10 homes with a mortgage. New Jersey has been slower than the nation as a whole to work through the foreclosure crisis, which grew out of lax lending standards during the housing boom, as well as the recession that cost many homeowners their jobs. New Jersey is among the roughly two dozen states in which foreclosures go through the courts, which slows the process.
“States with judicial foreclosure systems still account for most of the loans in foreclosure,” said Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist.
In addition, New Jersey foreclosure activity slowed to a trickle in the wake of questions about whether the mortgage industry was trampling on homeowners’ legal rights in their rush to evict.
But New Jersey has started the foreclosure pipeline moving again. According to the MBA, the state ranks second in the number of foreclosures started during the fourth quarter, right after Maryland.
Nationally, foreclosure and delinquency rates fell to their lowest levels since the first quarter of 2008, the MBA said.
“We continue to see substantial improvement in both delinquency and foreclosure rates, with most measures now back to pre-crisis levels,” Fratantoni said. He said the percentage of foreclosure starts, at 0.54 percent, is back to long-term norms.