A vulnerable housing market during a struggling economy leaves many residents penny-pinching in order to prepare themselves for the risk of falling too far behind on housing payments.
According to RealtyTrac, an online marketplace for foreclosure properties, North Bergen had the highest percentage of foreclosures within Hudson County in July, with one in every 1,975 housing units, or 12 properties in town, in the process of being foreclosed.
“We have so much traffic coming into the office.” – Rosa Rooney, Executive Director, Hudson County Housing Resource Center
Is it the calm before the storm?
According to an Aug. 11 report released by RealtyTrac, the United States saw a decrease in foreclosures last month.
“July foreclosure activity dropped 35 percent from a year ago, marking the 10th straight month of year-over-year decreases in foreclosure activity and the lowest monthly total since November 2007,” said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, in the report.
Saccacio attributed the decrease to a foreclosure processing delay, as well as national prevention efforts. But he added that the decrease in foreclosure activities is not a sign of an economic rebound.
“Unfortunately, the falloff in foreclosures is not based on a robust recovery in the housing market but on short-term interventions and delays that will extend the current housing market woes into 2012 and beyond,” said Saccacio in the report.
Preventative measures are out there
With the highest reported rates within Hudson County, and market troubles expected to continue, North Bergen residents may worry that their homes are not safe.
“I cannot think of any reason why the foreclosure rate would be higher here except that it may be something of a statistical anomaly,” said North Bergen town spokesman Phil Swibinski.
Swibinski said that any residents who are at risk of foreclosure should seek guidance from the county’s Housing Resource Center, or the programs offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Both organizations offer support and advice for homeowners who are falling behind on mortgage payments.
Created in 1991, the Hudson County Housing Resource Center is a non-profit organization that offers counseling, attorneys, and mediators to all residents.
“We must have at least 20 active files,” said Rosa Rooney, Executive Director of the Housing Resource Center. “We have so much traffic coming into the office.
Rooney also echoed Saccacio’s claims that banks have fallen behind on foreclosures.
“The banks are close to three years now before they actually foreclose on a property,” said Rooney. “That’s how behind they are.”
Regardless of the current foreclosing delay, Rooney insists that when dealing with the threat of foreclosing, residents should seek help immediately.
“What we would like to see is that anyone that’s going to be in trouble – obviously someone who lost their job, or knows that they are falling behind – come and get advice prior to that so we can do more in advance,” said Rooney.
According to Rooney, the Housing Resource Center assists both tenants and landlords that are having issues.
“Basically people are not aware of their rights and their responsibilities as tenants and landlords,” said Rooney, mentioning that disputes between the parties often ends up in court – a process the Center also assists with.
“A lot of people go to attorneys, which costs a lot of money,” added Rooney. “We are doing that free of charge right now.”
Rooney states that the Housing Resource Center not only helps advise clients of their rights and duties, it also works with banks to help modify mortgages in order to help their clients with the payment process.
“My initiative,” said Rooney, “[is] putting the word out that there is help, and not to let yourself fall into the trap before you can get advice.”
Be wary of scams
Rooney also mentioned that many of the Center’s clients who are facing foreclosure have been subject to scams.
“If you’re falling behind on your mortgage, others may know it, too — including con artists and scam artists,” a report released by the Comptroller of the Currency, a federal agency, states. “They know that people in these situations are vulnerable and often desperate.”
The report mentions that many of these con artists approach their targets by e-mail. They also advertise on television, radio, and the internet.
“If someone offers to negotiate a loan modification for you or to stop or delay foreclosure for a fee, carefully check his or her credentials, reputation, and experience,” the report says, “watch out for warning signs of a scam, and always maintain personal contact with your lender and mortgage servicer.”
For more information about the Housing Resource Center, call 201-795-5615.The Center is located at 574 Newark Ave. in Jersey City, and is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.