In Foreclosure, Real Estate, Short Sale


real estate sold sign with red brick building and trees blurry in the background

The foreclosure process in New Jersey used to take 2 years on average. That has been changing. The number of New Jersey home foreclosures by lenders has soared in the past two years and is on track to increase again in 2015, in sharp divergence to the national trend.

Completed foreclosures, where banks and mortgage companies have taken the homes, climbed 34 percent in the state last year, to about 5,780, after an 11 percent surge in 2013, according to The Record’s analysis of RealtyTrac data. By contrast, on the national level, completed foreclosures fell by double digits in each of the past three years.

Now foreclosures are moving faster. According to housing activists and lawyers who defend homeowners faced with foreclosure, the acceleration has coincided with a pickup in the real estate market. Although bankers deny it, homeowner advocates say that uptick seems to have made banks more eager to complete foreclosures, cash out and recover what they can from their losses.

Other contributing factors underscore the complexity of the situation:

  • Much of a backlog caused by large banks delaying new filings in 2011, while the state judiciary reviewed their foreclosure practices during the “robo-signing” scandal, has finally passed through the system. The same is true of the thousands of delayed cases that resulted from lenders’ not complying with homeowner notification requirements in the state’s 1995 Fair Foreclosure Act.
  • Homeowner assistance and mediation programs, which kept debt collectors at bay for years in some cases, have ended or have been winding down. More than 4,000 of the 6,000 New Jersey homeowners who participated in the $300 million federally funded Homekeeper program are no longer receiving funds.
  • Questions about whether a plaintiff debt collector has the legal right to foreclose in cases where the chain of title is murky have largely been set aside. State Superior Court judges, who have been instructed to complete these cases within a year, are generally handling them with greater efficiency, lawyers say.
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