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Increased 'zombie foreclosures' heavy burden on New Jersey

The beginning of 2014 saw a rise in a specific type of foreclosure, according to housing data website RealtyTrac. Distressed homeowners in the process of foreclosure have decided to simply abandon their homes avoiding the traditional foreclosure process altogether. These “zombie foreclosures” actually end up stalling the typical foreclosure process completely and are becoming a burden on the overall housing market in New Jersey.

Zombie foreclosures have seen quite a rise lately, increasing 24 percent between the third quarter of 2013 and the beginning of 2014. Most of these situations are the result of owners vacating their homes without keeping in contact with the lender, leaving the properties abandoned without anyone responsible for maintaining them.  

The vacant homes remain unattended for extended periods of time, which ultimately brings down the value of the surrounding homes and neighborhoods. The burden on the housing market is increasing with the increased vacancies and it is damaging property values throughout the state.

In addition to becoming an eyesore in their neighborhoods and a burden on the entire New Jersey housing market, these zombie foreclosures are also creating some tax issues. The abandoned properties, estimated at one in every 739 properties a couple of months ago, are also resulting in a great deal of unpaid property taxes for local governments, which creates a whole different kind of burden on the state.

Financial challenges, decreases in income, unemployment, and other hardships can be extremely stressful to deal with and at times may seem like a hopeless situation for homeowners. However, there may be options for people in these situations that don’t have to result in repossession of property or foreclosure. 

Even if the foreclosure process has already begun, there may be alternative options for relieving the outstanding debt other than abandoning the home altogether.  It is always best to seek out professional legal advice when facing a foreclosure situation. Proper guidance can help homeowners determine what viable debt relief options are available prior to becoming a statistic. 

Source: New Jersey 101.5, “’Zombie Foreclosures’ Plague New Jersey,” Dino Flammia, April 14, 2014

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