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Foreclosures drop in New Jersey: Is it a calm before the storm?

The good news is that foreclosure filings in New Jersey dropped by a whopping 73 percent in 2011. While some may see that as evidence of an improving economy, others say it is simply the calm before the storm. Much of the statistical findings about this debt struggle revolve around what is described as a dysfunctional foreclosure process, with lenders relying on improper and sometimes even falsified documentation to repossess property. Those issues have had greater effects in states, like New Jersey, that rely upon the courts for resolution of mortgage disputes. That has led to delays throughout the state to the point where the average foreclosure takes about two and a half years to complete.

The issue is compounded in our state because of pending litigation challenging the right of a lender to proceed based on faulty paperwork. Specifically, the lender in the case before the New Jersey Supreme Court is accused of violating the state's Fair Foreclosure Act by failing to properly identify itself. One reason for the lag in foreclosures in Essex County and elsewhere is said to be the result of lenders waiting to learn the outcome of the lawsuit. At issue is what the consequences will be if the court determines a house was taken improperly, and mortgage companies appear to have been deferring action until they know the answer.

The bad news, then, is that foreclosures are expected to regain steam once the court determination has been made. Some observers predict an onslaught of new filings in the future. Many homeowners across the state have been hoping to obtain a mortgage modification or other relief to save the roof over their heads. It is not unlikely that some individuals and families in Essex County have fallen behind on their payments due to job loss, health issues or other circumstances beyond their control. Often they are uncertain of which way to turn to get the necessary relief they deserve.

Being proactive in obtaining information about available alternatives that fit a particular situation may be the best course of action. There are a variety of debt relief strategies that may help, including the right to bankruptcy protection. While each case has its own set of facts and circumstances, there are measures available to help homeowners achieve their financial goals while keeping creditors at bay.

Source:, "NJ foreclosure activity plunged 73 percent in 2011," Kathleen Lynn, Jan. 11, 2012

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