From the Philly Inquirer:
The foreclosure nightmare that haunted U.S. homeowners during and after the Great Recession has loosened its grip considerably in most states.
In New Jersey, the bad dream just gets scarier.
Foreclosures there are 17 percent higher than they were in 2014, and bank repossessions of homes are up 18 percent, the housing-analytics firm RealtyTrac reported last week – even as the rest of the country logged the lowest foreclosure numbers in eight years.
One in every 234 homes in the state with a mortgage is in some stage of the foreclosure process – the fifth-highest rate in the nation.
New Jersey “should really be compared to where everyone else was two years ago,” said William Hall, manager of housing programs at the nonprofit credit-counseling agency Clarifi, which has an office in Cherry Hill and offered advice to 769 South Jersey homeowners in 2014.
In the first three months of this year, RealtyTrac reports, 14,524 houses were in the foreclosure pipeline in Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester Counties alone. The data show that 4,535 of those properties were vacant – “zombies” abandoned by their owners on lenders’ orders but for which the foreclosure process was never completed.
Philadelphia and its four suburban Pennsylvania counties have four times the number of homes as the three South Jersey counties but had just 12,046 foreclosures in the first quarter, RealtyTrac reports.
In the Sicklerville zip code, 08081, which spans Winslow and Gloucester Townships, RealtyTrac data show 1,088 houses are in foreclosure – more than in any other zip code in those three South Jersey counties.
Foreclosure numbers in greater Atlantic City rose 46 percent in the first quarter over the same period in 2014, meanwhile, giving it the highest foreclosure rate of any U.S. metro area over 200,000 population – one in every 113 houses.
New Jersey’s foreclosure issues push chances for a complete housing-market turnaround further out of reach, industry observers say.
“In my view, the aftermath of the crisis is still with us,” said Bruce M. Sattin, a lawyer with Szaferman, Lakind, Blumstein & Blader in Lawrenceville who represents clients fighting foreclosure.
“While the number of new foreclosure cases spiked after the real estate market crashed in late 2007, there are still cases from back then in the system,” Sattin said.
How did New Jersey end up in such a mess?
New Jersey’s continued high foreclosure volume has created problems for neighbors who are up to date with their mortgages but who find out their houses are worth less than they owe, Busler said.
About 50 percent of Clarifi’s clients said they, too, were “underwater,” Hall said, and those borrowers are more likely to default.
Add job losses and lower wages to the mix, Busler said, and “all of this means that recovery in real estate will be very slow.”