From the Record:
New Jersey led the nation in foreclosure starts in the first quarter, as the state continues to grapple with the fallout from the housing crash, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Thursday.
About 11.5 percent of New Jersey mortgages were either in foreclosure or late on payments in the first quarter, almost double the national average of 6.5 percent, the MBA said.
While national foreclosure rates are back to pre-recession levels, New Jersey’s court system is still dealing with a large backlog of distressed properties. Last year, almost 36,000 residential foreclosures were filed in the state. So far this year, an average of about 2,500 foreclosures have been filed each month, according to the state Judiciary.
Mortgage troubles don’t just affect the homeowners involved, said Patrick O’Keefe, an economist with the accounting firm CohnReznick in New York and Roseland. They also “influence the value of neighboring properties,” he said, because homes in foreclosure tend to be poorly maintained and sell at a discounted price. That affects appraisals and prices of nearby homes.
The national foreclosure and delinquency numbers in the first quarter reflect “a consistent downward trend that began in the second quarter of 2012,” according to Marina Walsh, an MBA vice president.
A check of the properties heading for foreclosure auction in North Jersey showed many properties in lower- and middle-income places like Hackensack, Garfield, Elmwood Park and Paterson, with unpaid mortgages in the $100,000 to $300,000 range.
But more affluent towns have not been immune. Lenders have filed foreclosure actions against properties with million-dollar mortgages in Allendale and Upper Saddle River, as well as an Alpine home where $2.6 million is owed.