From Dow Jones:
dward Navarro, a former telephone clerk on the New York Stock Exchange, has been facing foreclosure on his attached two-family house in Woodhaven, Queens, since 2009.
On Friday, the 69-year-old had yet another day in court, his 12th in 14 months. While he was there, more than 200 people gathered in a nearby room, as court-appointed referees rapidly auctioned off 16 foreclosed properties, most of them modest homes like his.
Now there are signs of change. The number of pending foreclosures in New York City fell 5.8% in the first half of 2016, a steeper drop than in any full year since 2008, according to court-system data. In Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties, the number of pending cases fell 14% over the same period, the largest decline recorded in those regions.
In New Jersey, new foreclosure filings fell 28% in the first half of year compared with the same period in 2015, according to court-system data.
The drop in foreclosures has been attributed to several factors, from an improving economy, to speedier courts that are cutting down the backlog, to rising property values that prompted lenders to move more quickly with auctions.
Then in January, Justice Lawrence Knipel, the administrative judge for civil cases in Supreme Court in Brooklyn, ordered 6,000 foreclosure cases that had been handled by more than 20 judges to be turned over to a single judge. In an interview, he said that some judges had been reluctant to move the cases forward.
“Who wants to sign foreclosures? Not many people,” he said. “Judges were taking their time.”
Meanwhile, the bubbling real-estate market is driving up home values even in lower-priced New York neighborhoods with many foreclosures, such as Jamaica. Average New York City home prices rose 10% in the second quarter from the same quarter a year ago, according to the Real Estate Board of New York, to a new high. In Queens, average home prices rose 9% over the same period, and they were up 7% in Jamaica.
A study by PropertyShark.com, which tracks foreclosures in New York City, found 673 New York City properties scheduled for auction for the first time during the second quarter, a 33% increase from the year-ago period. The biggest increase was in the Bronx, followed by Queens and Brooklyn. That upward trend continued into July: In Queens, first-time auctions were up 58% from July 2015.
Jacob Inwald, director of foreclosure prevention for Legal Services NYC, a nonprofit providing legal assistance to low-income communities, said that for years, when home values fell, lenders “had no particular incentives to foreclose,” since that would make them responsible for a property’s upkeep.
Now, he said, “there are profits to be had.”