From the Daily Record:
The Morris County Sheriff’s Office reports that the number of houses put up for auction within the first two months of this year was 40 percent higher over the same period last year. And houses placed on the sheriff’s list are much more likely to be sold at auction this year than they were last year at the same time, with fewer homeowners able to get their homes off that list.
And while Morris County foreclosure filings increased at a slower rate than the state average, according to state court statistics, they have been going up dramatically within the past two years after remaining stable for a decade:
• There were 1,146 foreclosure filings in Morris last year, up 36 percent from the previous year, 69 percent from 2005, and 89 percent from 1997.
• Within the first two months of this year, 74 homes were scheduled to be auctioned at a Morris County sheriff’s sale compared with 53 homes within the first two months of 2007. Last year, 21 homes were sold over that time and 31 homes came off the list. This year, 39 homes were sold and 16 came off the list.
Housing counselors here, as elsewhere, report that they began getting calls from homeowners having trouble keeping up with their mortgages last summer, and that the volume became larger in December. They report hearing many of the same stories — buyers receiving mortgages too large for their incomes, often with no money down and with adjustable rates that kept going up and left them unable to make payments.
Maria Jacome, director of ACORN Housing in Newark, which counsels low- to moderate-income homebuyers across the state, said most of her clients with mortgage problems are from Essex and Hudson counties. But 10 percent of her clients come from affluent Morris County. Some housing experts say middle- and upper-income families sometimes are more likely to get bad deals on mortgages because low-income families often participate in workshops sponsored by affordable-housing groups.
The National Association of Realtors reports that the median sales price of Morris homes for the fourth quarter of 2007 was $470,300. That’s an 8.7 percent decrease from the $515,300 median at the end of the previous year. Hudson was the only county reporting a steeper decline when comparing those periods.