What to Look for in a New Jersey Foreclosure Defense Attorney

If you’ve received a foreclosure notice from your lender, you probably feel the panic rising – especially if you ultimately want to keep your home. Perhaps you have just started falling behind on your mortgage – you haven’t entered foreclosure yet but know it’s a real possibility in the relatively near future. In the worst case scenario – your home’s foreclosure sale (Sheriff’s Sale) is mere weeks away; you were in denial until today, but now you want to know if you have any options this late in the game.

No matter which of the above scenarios best fits the situation you’ve landed in, if foreclosure is in your life and you’d really rather it not be – you need help. Saving a home from foreclosure isn’t a DIY project unless you’ve somehow miraculously come into a large sum of money and can bring your mortgage current. Even this may not be effective if your foreclosure sale has already been scheduled.

What type of professional should you be looking for? The truth of the matter is, most people don’t know where to turn when it comes to foreclosure. It’s not a situation anyone envisions for themselves when they first set out on the path to becoming homeowners, so it isn’t a subject area that most happy homeowners give much thought to.

Unfortunately, even the best laid plans sometimes run afoul. When you’re looking at a future foreclosure, whether it’s just a possibility or if your home’s Sheriff Sale has been listed in the local newspaper already – you need a foreclosure defense attorney. Naturally, the earlier in the process you are when you reach out for help, the better. However, the best NJ foreclosure defense attorneys will tell you, “It’s never too late to save your home.”

Can just any NJ foreclosure defense lawyer help you save your home? The important takeaway here is that not all attorneys are created equally. As you launch your search for the right NJ attorney to help you keep your house – look for these qualities:

Foreclosure experience – You want an attorney who specializes in saving homes. Foreclosure should make up a substantial portion of his practice and he should have a significant number of foreclosure defense cases under his belt. Avoid an attorney who “dabbles” in foreclosure (when he has the time).

Also handles bankruptcies and loan modifications – As you move through the foreclosure process (whether your desired outcome is saving your home or not), you may decide to file for bankruptcy or apply for a loan modification in order to make your finances more manageable. If your foreclosure defense attorney also handles these areas, you’ve gotten a three-for-one deal!

Success rate – Ask your attorney for statistics about his foreclosure defense cases. Sure, he takes on foreclosures, but how well does he handle his cases? Find out his success rate before retaining his services.

Schedule a consultation with your potential attorney before finalizing your decision. Along with the above qualities, you’ll get a vibe when you first meet with him – be sure that your personality jives with his. Pay close attention to how he presents himself. Does he make a lot of eye contact with you? Is he distracted during your meeting or is his focus solely on your case?

Behind any good NJ attorney is a legal team. You’ll be working with your attorney AND his legal assistants. Take the time to speak with the staff while you’re in the office for your consultation. The right foreclosure defense team will make it clear that they care about your case, and about you as a person.

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Can I File for Bankruptcy to Delay Foreclosure on My Home?

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Filing for bankruptcy isn’t only helpful for alleviating excessive debt, although we primarily associate the two together. Sometimes, filing for bankruptcy can be used as a strategy of sorts in order to allow you and your attorney enough time to formulate an effective foreclosure defense strategy so that you can keep your home.

Another good time to file for bankruptcy is if you’re attempting to sell your home as a foreclosure defense strategy, but the real estate process is dragging on interminably. Bankruptcy’s automatic stay* feature will stall a foreclosure long enough to allow your real estate transaction adequate time to proceed.

I didn’t know I could sell my house during foreclosure!

Oftentimes, we hear stories of homeowners devastated and displaced because of lenders foreclosing on them and then selling the property after evicting the (former) homeowners. The typical foreclosure story involves people who’ve fallen on hard times financially. Because of significant money struggles, homeowners being foreclosed upon typically don’t want to leave their homes because they do not have the means to acquire a new place to live.

Due to the overwhelming stress that most foreclosed homeowners are under, many of them simply don’t take the time to learn about all of their options. Some people wait out the foreclosure, staying in their home as long as possible without paying the mortgage, yet failing to put a plan of action into place for their future. While it’s true that burying one’s head in the sand is an ineffective solution, for some, denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

At the end of the NJ foreclosure process your home will be sold at Sheriff’s Sale if you do nothing. Foreclosed homes typically sell for a lot less than is still owed on the homeowner’s mortgage. What this means for you as the homeowner is that your lender can seek a deficiency judgement that orders you to pay the difference between the Sheriff’s Sale price and the amount you still owe on the mortgage.

How can I avoid a deficiency judgement?

As soon as you start having money trouble that looks like it will likely end in foreclosure, list your home for sale! Yes, your home can be sold even if you aren’t making mortgage payments right now.

Selling your home before the bank has a chance to foreclose gives you a chance to achieve a higher sale price that will allow you to pay back any arrears and late fees, ensuring that your lender is paid in full. Doing so will cause a dismissal of the foreclosure and potentially put some of the equity (if you had any) into your bank account.

If your home has an offer from a seller when your lender is about to foreclose, filing for bankruptcy will activate that automatic stay* we mentioned earlier, giving you enough time to close the deal on your property before the bank has a chance to sell the home at a foreclosure sale for much less money.

Should I file for bankruptcy just to stall a foreclosure?

We don’t recommend that you file for bankruptcy if your only purpose is to delay a looming foreclosure sale, however most people facing foreclosure also have other debts that have gotten out of control.

If you have excessive medical debt, credit card debt, past-due personal loans and/or a second mortgage or home equity loan AND you’re looking a foreclosure square in the eye, filing for bankruptcy can help you hit the trifecta: discharge of your debts, foreclosure dismissal and successful sale of your home with potential equity in your pocket!

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Have You Been a Foreclosure Scam Victim?

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We’ve talked about foreclosure defense scams before – these happen to homeowners who realize they’re facing foreclosure but don’t think they can afford a foreclosure attorney to help them save their home. Desperate, they look for the cheapest option available to them, which usually comes in the form of a company that claims to be able to save any home from foreclosure for much less than the cost of hiring a lawyer.

Foreclosure defense scam artists lead homeowners to believe that they are working hard at saving their home from Sheriff’s Sale, requesting additional fees time and time again, drawing out the “process” as long as possible in order to suck as much money out of you as they can. Usually, little to no process is being made to keep your home out of foreclosure, and by the time you finally discover the truth, the fraudulent “company” will have vanished and moved on to another city with new homeowners to take advantage of.

Coming at this from a different angle, some homeowners are victims of foreclosure scammers with a twist. Instead of falsely claiming to help struggling homeowners to stay out of foreclosure, these fraud artists target those homeowners who are nearly or already in foreclosure.

Falsely claiming to have purchased the home at Sheriff’s Sale, this type of foreclosure scam has several red flags that should go up loud and clear. Firstly, if someone really did buy your house, you would have been notified that your home’s foreclosure sale was coming up.

Because New Jersey’s foreclosure process is judicial, every step of the process must be completed via the court system. As the homeowner, you will be served with official forms alerting you to your lender’s intent to foreclose, the actual foreclosure complaint and a final offer allowing you a chance to bring your defaulted mortgage current. Even if you do not respond to a single court document that you receive and foreclosure goes through, you will still be notified regarding the date of the sale of your home (BEFORE it takes place).

Therefore, if someone calls you on the phone or physically shows up at your door claiming to be the rightful owner via Sheriff’s Sale, be on high alert. Unless you have been out of the country or for any reason have not been retrieving your mail, there is absolutely no way someone could have purchased your home without your knowledge. Again: they couldn’t purchase your home because no sale will be held without you receiving notification.

If one thing’s certain, it’s that scammers are often quite persistent in their quest to deceive and make money. Some con artists will reappear multiple times, insisting that the home is now in their possession. They may present you with a set of demands, such as:

  • You can continue to live in the home as long as you pay them rent money.
  • The property taxes and HOA dues (if any) must be paid by you.
  • You must find a new place to live (AKA eviction) if you don’t meet their demands.

As you can see, this type of scheme allows the scammer(s) to get rich by scaring homeowners into paying them rent. There have been reports of homeowners who unfortunately fell for this type of conspiracy because the scammer produced official-looking documents. A little checking would have shown that none of the documents were signed by a judge, making them invalid in the judicial foreclosure State of New Jersey.

If you feel that you may potentially be the victim of a New Jersey foreclosure scam, you must take action immediately. Do not sign any papers presented to you without a NJ foreclosure attorney at your side. If possible, obtain copies of the “documents” that you were shown and bring them all with you to your first consultation with your New Jersey real estate lawyer, who may be able to help you recover any monies you’ve lost and will definitely be able to legitimately assist you in saving your home.

 

Image credit: Widjaya Ivan

What is the Best Foreclosure Alternative?

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Veitengruber Law spends a lot of time helping our clients stay in their homes. We work tirelessly on foreclosure defense matters, and we’ve saved countless properties from being sold at Sheriff’s Sale. Since we do focus much of our attention on keeping homeowners out of foreclosure, you may be wondering why.

In other words: if we dedicate so much of our time to avoiding foreclosure – it must be a pretty darn undesirable outcome, right? Foreclosure is right for some people, but many people have gotten themselves into an unfortunate financial jam and would like to get out of it without losing their home in the process.

What is the BEST ‘foreclosure alternative’?

When we are helping a client avoid foreclosure, it’s for one of several reasons:

  1. The homeowner doesn’t want to lose their home;
  2. The homeowner doesn’t want a foreclosure on their credit report;
  3. The homeowner wants to avoid a deficiency judgement.

Therefore, the best foreclosure alternative depends on the desired outcome for each individual client. If you are in danger of losing your home to foreclosure but you really want to keep your home, Veitengruber Law can help you negotiate with your lender to get you approved for a loan modification or refinance. In doing so, we are often able to bring monthly payments low enough for our clients to manage, allowing them to bring their mortgages current and continue living in their homes.

Another way to avoid losing your home to foreclosure is to file for bankruptcy. In doing so, your bankruptcy case will engage an automatic stay. An automatic stay is an injunction that prohibits any of your creditors from collecting or attempting to collect any money from you until such time as your bankruptcy case has been officially settled. The automatic stay also stops any foreclosure action dead in its tracks, giving you and your foreclosure defense attorney time to determine the best course of action regarding your home.

If you don’t want to or wouldn’t qualify for bankruptcy, you would very likely be approved for a loan modification as mentioned above. Getting approved for a loan modification or mortgage refinance would keep a foreclosure and/or bankruptcy from appearing on your credit report

For the homeowner who is ok with the sale of their home, but would really like to avoid the credit score damage inflicted by a foreclosure, selling via short sale may be the answer. A short sale involves getting permission from your lender to sell your home for less than the amount left on your mortgage.

Short sales are great finds for buyers, but why would a bank agree to accept (often significantly) less than what they are owed? The answer is simple: a short sale is the lesser of two evils. Lenders will almost always receive (a lot) more money for a property that is sold through a short sale rather than a foreclosure sale (Sheriff’s Sale).

In addition, if you can find a buyer for your home in a short sale scenario, your lender is much less likely to file a deficiency judgement against you. In a foreclosure, a deficiency judgement can be obtained by a creditor (your bank or lender) for the difference between the sale price and how much you still owed on your mortgage.

Theoretically, lenders can also petition the court for a short sale deficiency judgement, but the reality is that they often don’t pursue one because they’ve received more money than they would’ve if the property had been sold at Sheriff’s Sale. Also, many lenders want to stay in the good graces of their customers, and chasing down already distressed homeowners after a short sale has repaid a significant portion of the debt simply isn’t good for business.

The bottom line is that if you’re looking for a foreclosure alternative, there are a wide variety of potential solutions. Veitengruber Law has seen it all, and we can help you determine the best fix for you and your home.

Image credit: Nicholas Cardot

Will NJ Ever Recover from the Mortgage Crisis?

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Some recent statistics show that some areas of New Jersey appear to be pulling out of the Mortgage Crisis (sometimes interchangeably called the Great Recession, the Housing Bubble, the Housing Recession and/or the Housing Crisis).

Rentals at many shore towns are on the rise again, overall sales in the state as a whole are on the incline, but foreclosures still have a tight grip on much of New Jersey. As you have probably read in the news, Atlantic City remains at the top of the nation’s list of cities with the most foreclosures. Trenton follows Atlantic City in a close second place – in the entire country.

Some pockets of New Jersey are experiencing an upswing in the number of homes being purchased, which has led to a sense of reassurance among homeowners in those areas. However, even though more properties are being sold in some New Jersey towns, overall home prices are far below where they were before the mortgage crisis, which started in 2007 and lasted until around 2009.

Unfortunately, there are a number of factors at play that are causing New Jersey’s cities and towns to struggle to turn things around like the neighboring cities of Philadelphia, PA and Brooklyn, NY have successfully done.

Primarily, New Jersey is one of the states wherein foreclosures must proceed through the court system, which makes the entire process lengthier, and when the Great Recession hit almost a decade ago, the number of NJ foreclosures severely clogged up the court systems.

The New Jersey foreclosure timeline stretched out to take years from start to finish. Additionally, at the end of the foreclosure process, foreclosed homes in NJ are sold at a Sheriff’s Sale, where many of the properties are purchased by speculators or investors.

Combine the effects of the recession coupled with damage done by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and what we’re left with is a large percentage of properties in the state of New Jersey that are now owned by corporations. In turn, the corporations typically rent out the properties, which draws a totally different type of dwellers.

Instead of the devoted members of the community, many towns across the state are now undergoing a demographic shift. Many former homeowners, outed because of foreclosure or damage from Sandy that they couldn’t afford to repair up to code, have been replaced with these new renters who simply aren’t as community-minded as the previous residents were.

Along with older New Jersey homeowners leaving the state because they lost their homes to foreclosure or Hurricane Sandy (or a combination of both), younger home buyers want to live close to mass transit for easy access to exciting urban areas.

What does all of this mean for New Jersey? The good news is that the rate of new foreclosures is slowing down, and the low home prices may very well be a result of homes that have finally reached the end of the foreclosure process and have made it to Sheriff’s Sale, where they’re sold cheaply.

While things still don’t look great in the New Jersey real estate market, and some towns may indeed undergo long-lasting demographic changes, the numbers are trending in the right direction. Real, lasting change may be in our state’s real estate market future, but it won’t happen overnight. As things are now, many New Jerseyans are still affected by foreclosure. If you’re one of them, Veitengruber Law can help.

Image credit: Matt_Lodi