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Housing advocates blame a lack of leadership at state level for Garden State’s highest foreclosure rate in nation

Housing markets have improved and foreclosure numbers dropped across the country since the Great Recession, but a decade on, New Jersey remains mired in a deep foreclosure swamp.

Statewide figures are significantly better than in 2009, the depth of the economic downturn. Yet some analyses cite Atlantic City as the worst housing market in the country, with Trenton not far behind. Overall, New Jersey continues to have the highest foreclosure rate in the country, according to real-estate data firms.

While many factors contribute to the problem, housing advocates point to a lack of leadership from state government as significant. Gov. Chris Christie, who used $75 million from national foreclosure-prevention aid to plug a budget gap in 2012, seldom mentions the issue.

“In the other states where we work, we have governors who have welcomed us and networked us to their housing agencies and counselors,” said a relative newcomer to the state scene, Jessica Brooks, a vice president at Boston Community Capital.

Nonprofit housing organizations like BCC work with lenders and borrowers to prevent foreclosures. Some for-profit groups also have sprung up, like Community Champions of Melbourne, Florida to fight the effects of foreclosure blight. But as the major federal foreclosure relief ends, a lack of state leadership in New Jersey means municipalities must find such partners themselves. Meanwhile, borrowers must remain alert to police their own mortgages, according to a top foreclosure defense lawyer.

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N.J. leads nation in foreclosures (again) in 2016


By Rajeev Dhir | NJ Advance Media for
on January 13, 2017 at 7:04 AM, updated January 13, 2017 at 5:20 PM

New Jersey led the country in foreclosures for the second year in a row at more than double the national rate.

Atlantic City topped the national list of metro areas with the highest foreclosure rate in 2016 at 3.39 percent, followed by Trenton at 2.16 percent. RealtyTrac tracks metropolitan statistical areas with a population of at least 200,000 or more.

The state posted an average foreclosure rate of 1.86 percent of housing units in 2016, according to data released by RealtyTrac. The national rate of 0.70 percent dropped to a 10-year low.

The state’s foreclosure rate for December was 0.2 percent, compared to the national rate of 0.06. The state saw an increase of 13 percent in overall foreclosure activity from last December, while the national average dropped almost 17 percent from a year ago.

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New Jersey leads nation in foreclosures


Kathleen Lynn , Staff Writer, @KathleenLynn312:06 a.m. EST December 15, 2016

One in every 598 Garden State households with a mortgage had some type of foreclosure filing in November

New Jersey leads the nation in foreclosure activity, as the state continues to unwind the mortgages that went bad in the worst housing crash in decades.

One in every 598 Garden State households with a mortgage had some type of foreclosure filing in November, according to Attom Data Solutions, a real estate research company that is the parent company of RealtyTrac, which tracks foreclosures. That’s down about 7 percent from a year ago – a sign that the worst of the foreclosure crisis may be in the past.

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Foreclosures prompt lawsuits against debt collectors


Foreclosures prompt lawsuits against debt collectors

AUGUST 31, 2014    LAST UPDATED: SUNDAY, AUGUST 31, 2014, 1:21 AM

* Homeowners challenging lenders’ right to collect

Seven years after the meltdown of the subprime mortgage market, New Jersey continues to be a hotbed of home repossessions by lenders, resulting in reams of foreclosure-fraud and improper-debt-collection complaints that mainly target intermediaries known as mortgage servicers.

Fort Lee homeowner Eun Ju Song, who was notified last year that he was in default on his loan and is facing foreclosure, claims mortgage companies botched transfers of ownership rights to the mortgage he signed in 2006 and forged documents to try to fix the problem. In a federal lawsuit filed in Newark in May against Bank of America and the mortgage servicer Green Tree Servicing, he claimed that they haven’t shown they have any legal right to collect.

“With no properly recorded owner of the plaintiff’s mortgage, there is no one or entity entitled to enforce the conditions of the mortgage obligation,” the complaint says.

Jerry K. Wong of Clifton filed a lawsuit in May against Green Tree, which for the past couple of years has been one the most prolific foreclosure filers in the state. Wong accuses Green Tree, based in St. Paul, Minn., and one of its subcontractors of misrepresenting themselves as creditors when trying to collect on his loan, which went into default in late 2012. Such practices are a violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, according to the lawsuit, which seeks $500,000 in statutory and other damages.

Green Tree did not respond to requests for comment.

In West Milford, homeowner Paul Onder has been in a stand-off with the Utah-based debt collector Select Portfolio Services for four years over the same question: Who owns the mortgage? He said he hasn’t made a payment on his $450,000 debt consolidation loan since 2010.

“They want me to pay money? Where is that money going?” he said Wednesday in an interview.

SPS could not be reached for comment.

Disputes like these could multiply in the months ahead as the numbers of new residential foreclosure filings continue to rise. New filings in New Jersey in the 12 months ended June 30 climbed 38 percent, to 47,534 filings from 34,347 the previous 12 months, according to the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts in Trenton.

In the year ended June 30, 2012, there were 12,341 foreclosures filed.

Foreclosure filings have implications for borrowers’ credit history. says a foreclosure will reduce a credit score 100 to 300 points and will remain on the borrower’s record for seven years.

Statistics from the state Department of Banking and Insurance show that loan servicers Wells Fargo, Green Tree, Seterus and Nationstar Mortgage have racked up the biggest numbers of foreclosure filings. Wells Fargo and its affiliates made the most filings by far, with a combined 1,770 new foreclosure filings in the second quarter.

“The trend we are seeing with regard to foreclosure filings in New Jersey is consistent with what the Mortgage Bankers Association reported in their latest National Delinquency Survey,” Kevin Friedlander, a Wells Fargo spokesman, said in an email.

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N.J. fourth in nation in number of vacant foreclosures


N.J. fourth in nation in number of vacant foreclosures

MARCH 14, 2014, 12:00 AM

* February level doubles from year earlier

New Jersey continued to deal with a backlog of distressed properties in February, ranking fourth in the nation in both the number of vacant foreclosed homes and the number of foreclosure filings, a company that tracks the market reported on Thursday.

While the worst of the foreclosure crisis has passed in most of the nation, New Jersey foreclosure activity doubled from February 2013 to February 2014, according to California-based RealtyTrac. About one in every 739 housing units in the state faced a foreclosure filing during the month. At the same time, overall foreclosure activity dropped 27 percent in the U.S. overall.

And in New Jersey, 8,595 homes were vacant and in foreclosure, up 24 percent from the third quarter of 2013.

“The biggest threat from foreclosures going forward is properties that have been lingering in the foreclosure process for years, many of them vacant with neither the distressed homeowner or the foreclosing lender taking responsibility for maintenance and upkeep of the home,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac.

“These properties drag down home values in the surrounding neighborhood and contribute to a climate of uncertainty and low inventory in local housing markets.”

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