For the first time in four years, New Jersey mortgage foreclosures declined in 2015.

(Spencer Platt, Getty Images)

Almost 36,000 mortgages in Jersey were under foreclosure last year. Economic analyst

"In excess of 10 percent of all the mortgages in New Jersey are under a foreclosure cloud," economic analyst Patrick O'Keefe of Cohn/Reznick in Roseland said.

In fact the number of mortgages under that foreclosure cloud is actually 12.7 percent for 2015. In 2014, New Jersey's foreclosure rate stood at 15 percent. A big part of the slower-than-average foreclosure pace here has to do with the need to bring every single foreclosure through the judicial process in the state.

"New Jersey has what is known as a, 'judicial foreclosure procedure,' which requires that the lender satisfy certain legal requirements before the lien on a house closed," he said.

He also said our procedures were put in abeyance for awhile because of indiscretions that were committed by mortgage servicers. In that process, we saw the number of mortgages in New Jersey that were in distress, and this occurred all over the country. However, when the courts stepped in and put a moratorium in place until the rules could be more properly applied, the number of mortgages that were in the foreclosure process or approaching it spiked.

New Jersey has also struggled since the recession, O'Keefe said.

"As a state, we have had a slower recovery from the sharp downturn earlier in the decade. That slower recovery has affected our housing industry overall," he said.

According to O'Keefe, the faster that we can get the foreclosure inventory down, the more rapidly our housing sector will grow, and that will contribute to faster growth statewide, something that we have all been hoping for for a long time.

It takes about three years to complete a foreclosure in the state.

"From a broader perspective, while the news is not as good as we would like, the trend with respect to foreclosures in New Jersey is finally moving in the right direction, and the data suggest that it is moving faster, quarter by quarter," O'Keefe said.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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