New Jersey Foreclosure: Frequently Asked Questions

In a New Jersey foreclosure sale, your home will be sold in an auction-type setting. The sale will be publicly announced and will be open for anyone to attend. Since New Jersey is a judicial foreclosure state, the local sheriff will typically lead the auction. If the sheriff cannot conduct your sale, another public official will do so.

Everyone who attends the foreclosure sale is able to place bids in order to buy your former home. As in all auctions, “to the highest bidder go the spoils.” The spoils in this case refers to your mortgaged home.

So: you stopped paying your mortgage payment. For a variety of reasons, people sometimes do this. Maybe you ran into temporary (or permanent) financial trouble because you: lost a job, got divorced, fell ill, made some poor money choices – the potential reasons are endless. Regardless of how you ended up in foreclosure, it’s probably not something you hoped would happen to you one day.

No one goes around saying, “I hope I get foreclosed on at least once in my lifetime!” Because foreclosure something you didn’t wish for – you probably don’t know what to expect. As a general rule, we don’t sit around thinking about things that we don’t plan to experience. Therefore, now that you have found yourself smack dab in the middle of a foreclosure, chances are that you have some questions.

We’ve covered a lot of foreclosure sub-topics here on our blog. Today’s foreclosure question we’d like to answer for you is:

“Who gets the money from the foreclosure sale?”

The normal course of a foreclosure auction is that the bidding remains rather low and the final, winning bid is often less than the house is actually worth. In fact, many times foreclosed homes are sold for less than the original mortgagor still owes the bank. There are, of course, exceptions.

Here is a breakdown of what will happen to the proceeds from your foreclosure sale, who receives payment, and in what order:

  • The first person/entity to be paid from the foreclosure sale proceeds is the New Jersey lender who granted you the loan for the mortgage in the first place. The bank or mortgage company needs to recover as much money as possible because you didn’t repay them like you originally agreed. A small portion of the proceeds will also go toward settling the cost of having the foreclosure auction.
  • If there is still money left after the sale is paid for and the lender has fully recovered the amount they are owed, any secondary lenders (2nd or 3rd mortgage granters) will receive the full amount you borrowed (perhaps for a home equity loan) or as much as possible.
  • After the above parties have received payment in full is the only time you, as the mortagor, will be entitled to receive any money from your foreclosure sale. Keep in mind: you are not likely to receive much, if any, money from a foreclosure sale because foreclosed homes don’t typically sell for as much as they would in a traditional real estate transaction.

In fact, you may even owe money when all is said and done. If the winning foreclosure bidder pays less than you still owe on the property, your lender will suffer a loss. This discrepancy is known as a deficiency balance. As the mortgagor, you can legally be held accountable for this amount.

You can learn more about NJ foreclosure procedures, get the answers to common foreclosure FAQs, and find out how a foreclosure will affect your life on our NJ law blog. We can also help you save your home via foreclosure defense, if that is your ultimate goal.

Can the Bank Repossess My NJ Foreclosed Home Before Evicting Me?

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If your home has been through the NJ foreclosure process and the new owner has tried to take possession of the property before you have received formal eviction notice, it is important for you to know your rights.

Naturally, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of the foreclosure process in New Jersey, the fact that you’ll have to move soon should come as no surprise. With that being said, as the former owner of the home, it is within your rights to stay in the home until you have received proper notice of eviction.

After the Sheriff’s Sale of your home has occurred, the NJ County Sheriff must provide the bank/lender with the property deed within ten days. If the bank or lender was not the winning bidder at Sheriff’s Sale, the successful party who purchased the home will be the deed recipient. It is most often the mortgage company who ends up with the home since they are the ones who initiated the foreclosure process in the first place. Their reason for filing for foreclosure is so they can re-sell the home to recover part or all of mortgage loan that you (as the borrower) have failed to pay. Missed mortgage payments are what lead to foreclosure.

Upon receipt of the deed to the property, the mortgage company’s next step is to file a formal eviction motion in New Jersey State court. Without this official eviction (called a Writ of Possession in legal terms), you cannot be forced to leave the home even after it has been sold at foreclosure sale.

Is your mortgage company attempting to force you out of the home without a formal eviction? If you have yet to see an actual eviction notice affixed to your front door, you have almost certainly not been served with notice to vacate the premises. Any efforts on the part of the lender to forcibly kick you out without eviction paperwork is against the law in New Jersey.

We typically advise our foreclosure clients to be prepared with an alternate place to live as of the date of the Sheriff’s Sale. Forcing your mortgage company to evict you can look bad to your future landlords or lenders – potentially marking you as a “difficult” borrower or renter. However, it is within your rights to remain in the home until you have formally been evicted, and staying there can give you several months to save money because you won’t be paying a mortgage or rent payment. Weigh your options carefully before you decide whether to vacate willingly or stay put until the Sheriff removes you.

The bottom line is that, legally, your mortgage company (or new owners after Sheriff’s Sale) cannot take possession of the home until you have been formally served with an eviction notice. If your foreclosed home’s new owners are attempting to prematurely take possession of the property by locking you out, removing your personal items, or moving new tenants in while you aren’t home – you need to contact your New Jersey foreclosure attorney right away in order to preserve your rights.

Image credit: Andy Wright

After Foreclosure: Living in a Bank-Owned Home

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As we make our way toward the end of the 2016 calendar year, we’re creeping up on the 10 year mark of the start of the U.S. housing crisis that began in 2007. Many states in the nation have recovered nicely by this point, with some reports saying that the housing market is the best it’s been in a decade.

In New Jersey, though, foreclosures are still a significant problem. The garden state has yet to find solid footing in the wake of the housing crisis (also called the housing bubble), and even nearly a decade later is still a state with one of the highest foreclosure rates.

Although it appeared as if things were moving in the right direction for New Jersey’s foreclosure situation this year, as we reach the end of 2016, the recovery rate has slowed to a crawl and nearly 13,000 new foreclosures entered the court system in the final quarter of this year alone. Because of the long, mandated legal foreclosure process in NJ, this new influx of foreclosures has once again caused a significant backlog in foreclosure court. We’ve taken a step backward in our recovery from the housing crisis, with Atlantic, Ocean and Essex counties  currently showing the highest numbers of new foreclosure filings.

One of the effects that the decade-long real estate recession has had on New Jersey is neighborhood blight in areas hardest hit by foreclosure. In reference to the housing market, blight is the dilapidation, deterioration or decay of certain towns and cities (or sections of those towns).

The reason for this phenomenon is that so many foreclosed homes are not being sold at auction. Since New Jersey hasn’t fully recovered from the 2007 crisis, buyers and developers are still wary about purchasing questionable properties, especially in areas that are downtrodden or showing potential signs of blight.

When a foreclosed home fails to sell at sheriff’s sale, the lender or bank retains ownership of the property. These homes are called REO: “Real Estate Owned.” Often the term “Bank owned” is used interchangeably.

REO properties are often empty for significant periods of time, which can lead to vandalism, drug activity, disrepair and squatters. All of these factors combine to create blight, especially when several or many homes in a neighborhood become bank owned and uninhabited.

Smart lenders realize the depreciation that occurs when a property becomes vacant – which means if you are at the end of your home’s foreclosure process and your home becomes bank owned (or REO) – you may be able to continue living in the home until your lender can sell it.

While not all lenders are amenable to giving former homeowners a “free ride” living mortgage free in a home that is now an REO property, some lenders acquiesce to the fact that a cared-for property is much easier to sell than one that has been destroyed by defacement and crime.

Your NJ foreclosure attorney can talk to your lender on your behalf if you are too nervous to do it on your own. If your lender is not open to letting you live in the home scot-free, there may be room to negotiate a rental agreement. Naturally, your attorney will request a monthly rent amount that you can afford. Lenders often realize that getting some money is better than getting no money at all.

If and when your lender does sell your home to another buyer, you will be given eviction notice. At that time, you’ve reached the end of the line in your REO home, and will be required by law to vacate the premises, usually within 30-60 days. So, if you are lucky enough to continue living in your home after its foreclosure sale, put away as much money as possible each month, and scout out a new living arrangement that you can afford. When the time comes, you’ll have a nest egg and hopefully your financial future will look much brighter.

Image credit: Orin Zebest

Can a Commercial Lease Survive a Residential Foreclosure?

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Aside from home-based businesses, there are many companies (typically small businesses) that have office(s) located in a residential building. The residential property in question may be a single family home, condominium, apartment, or townhome whose owner is paying a mortgage loan and renting the property out to the business owner.

A question arises if and when the residential property in question enters foreclosure. What is to become of the commercial lease and the company owner who is running a business at the location?

Can a business be evicted due to a residential foreclosure?

Unfortunately, commercial leases differ quite dramatically in comparison with residential leases. The most significant difference is that there are far fewer consumer protection laws in place to protect commercial lessees compared to residential lessees.

A company doing business in a residential building (that is, of course, zoned for permission to operate a business) will have entered into a commercial lease with the building’s owner, who then effectively becomes the company’s landlord. If the landlord falls behind on paying the mortgage and the property is foreclosed upon, what will happen to the business owner and his employees who work in the building? Will they be evicted or do they have the right to stay on after the foreclosure sale with the bank essentially becoming their new landlord?

There are two distinct possibilities that can result in eviction of the business owner:

  1. If the commercial lessee (tenant/business owner) was made aware of (and a party to) the impending foreclosure, and the lease was created before the property owner defaulted on the mortgage, the lender has the right to evict the commercial tenants, but they must obtain a court order to do so.
  2. Any lease that originated after the property owner had already defaulted on the mortgage becomes null and void on the official foreclosure date. No court order is necessary for eviction of the commercial lessees.

Because of the above two scenarios, commercial tenants must advocate for themselves when they are signing a lease. Specifically, commercial renters should scrutinize something called the SNDA (Subordination, Non-disturbance and Attornment) provisions that exist within nearly every commercial lease.

How can SNDA provisions save me from having to uproot my business?

Subordination, non-disturbance and attornment provisions are included in commercial leases specifically to protect commercial renters in the event of a foreclosure on the property. Unfortunately, many commercial tenants have a tendency to “skim” the SNDA sections of their rental agreement due to their excessive length and confusing legal jargon.

Despite the investment of time, commercial tenants should always certify that their lease agreement contains favorable SNDA provisions – specifically the Non-disturbance Provision. Although negotiating a Non-disturbance agreement that both parties agree with can take several months, in the end it will leave the renter protected against eviction in the event of default by the landlord on the mortgage.

If you are a business owner renting a commercial space in a residential building that’s in foreclosure, find out what rights you have by consulting with a real estate attorney in New Jersey. Conversely, business owners just beginning the process of locating rental space should do the same to ensure that your business location will be safe in the event of foreclosure.

If you want to learn more about commercial leases in relation to residential foreclosures, call Veitengruber Law for your free consultation meeting with one of our experienced real estate and foreclosure attorneys. We now have offices in Wall, Bordentown and Marlton, NJ. Visit our website to learn more about how we can help you.

Image credit: Dan Nguyen

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

Can a Dementia Patient be Served with Foreclosure Papers?

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New Jersey now has more residents than ever who are age 70 or older. This is in part due to the post-war baby boom that occurred after World War II soldiers returned home to their wives in 1945. Americans are also living longer due to technological and scientific advances in the medical field that have brought about cures and/or successful long-term treatments for many diseases that used to be fatal.

While an increased life expectancy is definitely something to cheer about, the fact that more New Jersey residents are living longer also comes with some challenges. Although people are living longer due to advances in medicine, the natural aging process can’t be avoided altogether.

For example, many older Americans are in good physical health but suffer from some form of memory loss – ranging from minor short term difficulties to dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Caring for a loved one with dementia obviously presents a number of hurdles, most importantly monitoring them for their own safety.

What, then, is to be done when a family member with dementia has made a mess out of their finances because of their inability to remember to pay their bills?

This question is now asked a lot among adult children who are now caring for a parent with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s a good question, but one that you probably didn’t contemplate until said papers have already been served and you find yourself in the middle of a complex legal mess.

Example: An 80 year old man with dementia, who lost his wife four years ago, now resides in a nursing home. Upon his wife’s death, the man stopped making any payments on their mortgage due to his worsening symptoms of dementia and lack of income.

The man’s adult son has taken on the role of Power of Attorney, and is aware that no payments have been made on the home since his father moved into the nursing home. Assuming that any foreclosure paperwork would be sent to him as the POA, the son was simply waiting to receive notice of the foreclosure, which never came.

The adult son (POA) did not have the resources to save the family home and planned to let the house be sold at Sheriff’s Sale in the hopes that the situation would then be settled.

The man’s OTHER adult child, however, wasn’t privy to any of this information, as she lived across the country and could only visit on occasion due to her busy work schedule. As it turned out, she did have the means (and the desire) to save the family home.

Some family friends alerted the adult children to the fact that their father’s home was listed ‘For Sale’ in the local newspaper’s Sheriff’s Sale section. After doing some digging, they discovered that the lender had served their father with the foreclosure complaint.

Having no memory of this event, their father had no idea where the paperwork was or if he had signed anything.

Is it legal to serve a dementia patient with important legal papers?

As you can well imagine, it is both unethical and unlawful to do so. Rule 4:4-4.(3) regarding issuing a Complaint and Summons, reads as follows:

“Service of Summons, Writs and Complaints shall be made as follows…(3)Upon a mentally incapacitated person, by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint personally to the guardian of the person of the mentally incapacitated individual or to a competent adult member of the household with whom the mentally incapacitated person resides, or if the mentally incapacitated person resides in an institution, to the director or chief executive officer thereof.

Do you have an elderly family member who has been served unlawfully with a foreclosure complaint? You MUST work closely with a NJ foreclosure defense attorney if you want to save the home in question! You do have rights, and Veitengruber Law can save your family home, but you must act quickly. Call or click now: (732) 852-7295.

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Can My Homeowners’ Association Foreclose on My Home?

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You’d have to be living with your head in the sand not to know that failure to pay your mortgage will eventually result in foreclosure by your lender.

Banks and other mortgage lending firms generally only care about one thing when it comes to loans they’ve granted, and that is: getting their money back. When approving mortgage loans, lenders are extremely selective for a reason. They want to ensure that you will be able to handle the repayment schedule of your loan.

Failure to do so, even missing a single mortgage payment, sets off a red flag within most lending corporations. You will be contacted soon after a payment due date elapses. If you missed a payment due to forgetfulness, your lender will do everything they can to collect the payment (almost assuredly with a late fee attached) from you over the phone.

Further missed payments will force your lender’s hand into filing foreclosure against you, which can ultimately lead to the  repossession of your home. Although it may seem drastic, banks and lending companies depend on borrowers’ loan payments in order to stay in business.

As New Jersey foreclosure rates have soared over the past few years, most homeowners have become familiar with the concept of foreclosure for failure to pay their monthly mortgage bill. What many New Jerseyans don’t know is that their mortgage lender isn’t the only entity that can foreclose on their home.

Many New Jersey residents live in housing developments that are ‘governed’ by homeowners’ associations. These organizations, often referred to as HOAs, are in charge of making rules for the development and, in turn, enforcing those rules. Residents must pay monthly dues to their HOA, as they also oversee the care, upkeep and repair of common areas in the development.

HOA dues in New Jersey typically range from $200-$400 per month, but can be more or less depending on several factors, including: the average property value within the development and the existing amenities that require maintenance (tennis courts, swimming pools, parking garages, fitness centers, security systems and gates, landscaping and more).

When facing financial difficulties, many homeowners in New Jersey stop making their HOA payments and keep making their mortgage payments, thinking that this will keep them out of foreclosure. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t the case.

Falling behind on your homeowners’ association dues can result in your HOA putting a lien on your property. Failure to bring your past due HOA fees current gives your homeowners’ association the right to foreclose, even if you are current on your mortgage!

Just as lenders must file foreclosure via the NJ legal system, so must homeowners’ associations. This means that your HOA can file a foreclosure lawsuit against you in the same manner that your lender can if you stop making mortgage payments.

What happens to my mortgage in the case of a HOA foreclosure?

If your homeowners’ association successfully forecloses on your home, it can either continue making mortgage payments to your lender or not make any payments. Many HOAs will rent out the property (while making no mortgage payments) and wait for the lender, whose liens take precedence over the HOA’s liens, to file a second foreclosure.

Either way, the homeowners’ association will achieve its goal of reducing or resolving its financial loss caused by your failure to pay your HOA dues. Takeaway: your mortgage payment and your homeowners’ association dues are equally important, and failure to pay either can cause you to lose your home to foreclosure.

 

Image credit: dodoyf

NJ Foreclosure and the Order to Show Cause

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A frequent topic here on the Veitengruber Law blog, foreclosures in New Jersey are still too numerous to count. Statistics show that the number of new foreclosures within the state are starting to decline, which is good news and tells us that the housing market is beginning to improve.

Since all NJ foreclosures are required to move through the judicial system, many of the existing foreclosure cases (that have been piling up since the Crash of 2008) are still causing long delays. New Jersey courts haven’t been able to get caught up because of the sheer number of foreclosure cases, and because of the many required steps that each case must follow.

Sometimes, because the current NJ foreclosure timeline is excessively long, homeowners can get too relaxed, thinking that they have all the time in the world to make any decisions about ‘life after foreclosure.’ It’s also common to want to ignore it, especially if it seems like nothing will ever happen.

In these cases, when their foreclosure nears the end of the process (Sheriff’s Sale), panic sets in. Properties that fall into foreclosure will be sold at a Sheriff’s Sale automatically if the homeowner doesn’t answer the original Complaint. This is known as an uncontested foreclosure.

In the event that your Sheriff’s Sale is imminent, and you (for whatever reason) left your foreclosure uncontested, the time to make a move is now. To do nothing means that your home will be sold at auction and you will be forced to move out, likely ten days after the date of the sale. Those ten days are known as the redemption period. If you can somehow afford to buy back your home, you can do so within those ten days and retain ownership of your home.

At Veitengruber Law, we’ve helped many clients who waited until ‘the last minute’ to make any decisions regarding their foreclosed home. There are several things we can do to help you save your home as long as the Sheriff’s Sale has not yet occurred – even if the sale is a few days away:

File for bankruptcy – Bankruptcy puts an automatic stay on any and all of your lenders, preventing them from attempting to collect on any of your debts. This includes your home lender, and the foreclosure process is halted until your bankruptcy case is resolved.

Short Sale – An alternative to foreclosure, short sale will still end with you losing your home. The difference between having your home sold at Sheriff’s Sale and selling it via short sale is that homes often sell for higher amounts at short sale. Additionally, your credit score will be much less severely impacted by a short sale instead of a foreclosure.

Order to Show Cause – The Order to Show Cause is a court application that can only be used in absolute emergencies wherein the petitioner (in this case, the homeowner) will be harmed irreparably without the help requested on the Order. In the foreclosure context, your attorney can file an Order to Show Cause if there has been an error in the foreclosure paperwork that will adversely effect the outcome of the case. It’s a long shot, but we’ve had success with this tactic before, gaining an additional 60 days for our clients to sell their home outside of the foreclosure.

We have many more “tricks” up our sleeves that have gotten out clients the results they wanted and needed time after time. If your foreclosure sale is approaching and you need help sorting out the details, call Veitengruber Law today so we can assist.

Image credit: Karen Neoh

 

My Landlord’s in Foreclosure – Can I Buy the Home?

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As we’ve previously discussed, New Jersey renters have significant rights if and when their landlord falls behind on making the mortgage payment and ends up in foreclosure. There are strict rules in place to prevent landlords from illegally evicting tenants in situations where the property has been sold at foreclosure auction and the new owners wish to live in the home.

Landlords are legally bound to give their tenants at least 90 days’ notice if the property will be changing ownership and the buyer doesn’t wish to rent the home out to tenants. This 90 days rule will be extended if the renters have a lease that goes beyond the 90 day timeline.

As a renter in this situation, you may very well decide to simply find a different place to live. That is certainly a viable option that works for many people. Additionally, it’s possible that the home’s new owners bought the property fully intending to continue renting it out. In that case, you can continue living in the home – the only change being who you pay each month for rent.

A slightly more difficult resolution to the problem of a landlord in foreclosure involves you (the renter) making an offer to purchase the home. If you discover that the home you’re living in will be sold at foreclosure auction (NJ Sheriff’s Sale), you may actually be able to buy the home yourself.

If you are financially stable with a good credit score, and owning your own home is something you desire, connect with a local NJ attorney who has experience in the foreclosure arena. He will be able to walk you through what you’ll need to do in order to purchase the home.

It is important to keep in mind that the mortgage company or lender has foreclosed on the current owner (your landlord) because the mortgage is currently in default. To be approved to essentially take over the property title, you’ll have to bring the default amount current, which means you’ll need to pay the money that your landlord failed to pay.

The mortgage company’s main goal is to recover as much money as possible, and if you offer them a satisfactory purchase price – this option is a real possibility. It’s not a slam-dunk, and it will require some negotiation between your real estate attorney and the lender, which may take some time; however, if there is a Sheriff’s Sale scheduled, your attorney may be able to have the sale postponed so that your sale can proceed.

This type of transaction often qualifies as a Short Sale, because you likely won’t have to pay the full value of the home. The only other alternative for the lender to recover any money on the home is to sell it at foreclosure sale, which would bring in a much lower dollar amount. However, you must realize that if you really want to own the home, you shouldn’t low-ball the lender, and be open to negotiating if the lender doesn’t approve your first offer.

It is important to work with a New Jersey real estate attorney on matters like this. To go it alone would mean probable failure. For more information on complex real estate transactions in New Jersey, continue reading here.

Image credit: Mark Moz

Buying a NJ Foreclosure Property: The Risks

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As we know first-hand here at Veitengruber Law, there are currently an abundance of foreclosed homes in New Jersey. In our practice, we typically represent the homeowner who has been foreclosed upon. Sometimes we help homeowners keep their homes out of foreclosure (foreclosure defense), while other times we walk them through the foreclosure steps (usually combined with a bankruptcy).

The fact that New Jersey has so many properties in foreclosure (although the numbers do appear to be slowing down, albeit very gradually) means that these homes are or will soon be available for purchase at Sheriff’s Sale.

Along with assisting clients who are dealing with foreclosed homes, we also approach things from the other end for those who are interested in purchasing foreclosure properties.

Whether for investment purposes or to simply get a great deal on a future residence, more and more New Jerseyans are realizing the potential that our state’s mass amount of foreclosures represent. For example, a foreclosed NJ property that sold for $1.3 million in 2006 may go for $300,000 at Sheriff’s Sale.* Simply looking at the numbers makes buying a foreclosure property look like a slam dunk.

If everything works out in your favor, buying a foreclosed home certainly can be a fantastic way to get a great house at a fraction of its original market value. With that being said, there are a number of things that you need to be aware of before setting one toe into the foreclosure arena.

The ‘perfect’ house can slip through your fingers at any time. As we work directly with homeowners whose homes are in foreclosure, we can tell you that a homeowner can stop the foreclosure process in the blink of an eye by taking one single action: filing for bankruptcy. If this happens, you may have invested a lot of time and longing into a home that suddenly becomes unavailable.

Even if you buy a home at Sheriff’s Sale auction, make your required down payment (20% of the price you agreed to pay for the home), the original homeowner still has the opportunity to pull off a miracle and decide to keep the home by bringing the mortgage current. They have 10 days following the sale of the home to do so, which is referred to as ‘redemption.’ While redemption is a rarity, you still need to be aware that it is a possibility.

If the original homeowners do not use the redemption period to redeem the home, the IRS has the right to take ownership of any foreclosed properties on which there is an existing federal tax lien. The IRS can take up to 4 months to decide whether or not to redeem a foreclosed property.

Foreclosure properties are sold ‘as-is.’ If you purchase a home at a NJ Sheriff’s Sale, you’ll agree to take ownership of the property without having any opportunity to do a proper walk-through or appraisal.

The unfortunate truth is that owners who couldn’t keep up with their mortgage payments most likely weren’t keeping up with home maintenance or repairs either. There may be significant problems for you to discover only after you’ve signed your name to the property.

Tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs may be necessary, depending on the size and scope of the home in question.  Whether you plan to rent the home for additional income or live in it, costly repairs will delay both, and could have you actually spending more money than if you’d purchased a non-foreclosure home.

Most importantly, if you still wish to enter into the process of buying a foreclosure property, you need a professional by your side, especially if this is your first experience with foreclosed real estate.

Image credit: Richard Elzey

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