How to survive the mortgage crisis Local realtors, experts offer tips

Paul is an African immigrant and a homeowner for two years who lives in the Heights section of Jersey City with his wife.

Paul, a teacher in the Irvington school system, is currently trying to unload – albeit unsuccessfully – his $475,000 house for $390,000, so that he can get out of his $4,700-per-month mortgage.

Coupled with all his other bills during this recession, Paul is having trouble making the mortgage payments. Adding to the frustration, said Paul, is that a tenant living in the house did not pay rent for seven months.

Looking back, he regrets taking out mortgages on the property for $380,000 at 8.9 percent interest and $95,000 at 12.7 percent interest, respectively. It was a lot of interest, but it allowed him to buy without any down payment.

These sorts of risky mortgages, given to people who might not be able to keep up with the payments, are often cited as a cause of the current financial downturn.

“I think before I ever decided to buy a house, there should have been a course where you need somebody to tell you that you can’t buy without any down payment,” Paul said.Housing crisis

“Mortgage” has become a dirty word recently as millions of unpaid mortgages across the United States have created a crisis amongst homeowners, financial lenders, home builders, and just about anyone else who is impacted by mortgages.

In particular, sub-prime mortgages, or mortgages issued by lenders to borrowers with less-than-stellar credit reports, have created much of the problems in the mortgage and credit industry.

The ripple effect has reached major Wall Street firms such as Lehman Brothers, which declared bankruptcy recently and Merrill Lynch, which was sold for $50 million to Bank of America.

In New Jersey last month, there were 6,475 foreclosure filings, according to California-based RealtyTrac, a company that tracks foreclosures. That is a 49 percent increase from August 2007.

Foreclosure is a process in which a lender takes title or forces the sale a property to satisfy the debt of a borrower.

For Hudson County, RealtyTrac listed, as of last week, 2,800 properties going into some stage of foreclosure.

Of those, 2,039 were at the pre-foreclosure stage, a grace period when homeowners are allowed by a lending institution to sell a house to avoid foreclosure.

Jersey City had the most listings in Hudson County, with 1,383, followed by 378 in North Bergen and 200 in Union City.

Is there a sliver lining?

Some local experts offered advice recently about the crisis. Don’t overextend; keep it short

Tony Deluco is a Jersey City developer and real estate manager who has been in real estate for over 20 years. He said people facing foreclosure can cope with the current mortgage crisis by being aware of the procedure known as a “short sale.”

That’s where the homeowner sells their property for less than the outstanding balance of the mortgage. All of the proceeds go to the lender to pay off a majority of the debt and the lender forgives the rest. However, the lender would have the right to approve or disapprove of a proposed sale.

Laura Skolar has been in the real estate business since 1982, working as an agent at Century 21 Plaza Realty in the Heights section of Jersey City.

Skolar said her agency currently has clients in Jersey City, North Bergen, and Bayonne whose homes are in various foreclosure situations, and they are trying to sell their home.

She offered advice to potential buyers who have been tentative about buying a home because of the problems with the mortgage industry.

“If you are ready to buy, you have the money, and interest rates are good, and as long this is where you are going to make your home and you are not speculating, then it is a good time to buy,” Skolar said. “Be conscientious and don’t overextend yourself, which is what people were doing before.”

Greg Malave is an employee in the Jersey City Mayor’s Action Bureau and a licensed mortgage broker.

Malave said people should do research on how much they want to pay and on the kind of mortgage they can afford. He said they should make sure they qualify, rather than “jump into water where they can’t swim.”

But Malave said he is optimistic that the current crisis will be resolved in the “next two years.” Comments on this story can be sent to


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