From the Trenton Times:
Otis Boone describes his housing problem as “a funny situation,” but stories like his have become common in Mercer County and around the country.
In August 2005 he and his wife moved out of Trenton and got a zero-down loan on a newly built home on Saratoga Avenue in Ewing Township. Boone, who worked in the shipping department at a train manufacturer, hurt his back the following year, went on disability and saw his income cut in half.
He couldn’t keep up with the mortgage payments of $1,900 per month, plus taxes and other expenses, as well as the prospect of even higher payments when his adjustable rate mortgage resets, he said.
Putting the place up for sale brought no offers, so last August the couple moved out of their home, which remains unoccupied, and moved into an apartment in Hamilton.
“At the time when I wasn’t making the payments, something like this never happened to me before,” said Boone, 59. “I wanted to get an apartment before my credit really got bad. I don’t know where I can get the money unless I get a miracle.”
As years of unrealistic subprime loans collide with job losses, personal misfortune and the slumping housing market, hundreds of Mercer County residents face similar crises. The number of county properties entering foreclosure hit a recent peak in January, and mortgage counselors who try to help people keep their homes say they see no end in sight.
The county had 180 foreclosure filings in January, according to records kept by County Clerk Paula Sollami-Covello. The number fell slightly to 167 in February and remained relatively high in March, with 145 filings received through Tuesday.
In March 2007 the county had a similarly high 176 filings, while the figures were lower through much of last year. Banks and mortgage companies file foreclosures when homeowners fall behind in their mortgage payments, but most do not result in people losing their homes.
Tracking the number of foreclosed homes is difficult because some of the filings include more than one property. But records maintained by private real estate companies, and the experience of counselors, confirm that owners keep falling behind on their payments at high rates.
“The numbers for us continue to rise,” said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, whose Trenton office has been overwhelmed with homeowners seeking help. “We’re at overcapacity and we see nothing letting up.”
RealtyTrac, a California company that has its own system for tracking foreclosures, reported a recent high of 452 filings in September in Mercer County and 349 in October. Last month the company reported 216 foreclosures.
New Jersey as a whole had 5,598 foreclosures in February, the highest figure in at least a year, according to RealtyTrac.