While activity is not all the way back, a gradual buildup following the lifting of COVID-19 moratoriums found nationwide foreclosure starts at 86% of their August 2019 levels last month, according to the latest report from ATTOM Data Solutions.

Rick Sharga, ATTOM executive vice president of market intelligence, said the caveat to those numbers is that August 2019 was an uncharacteristically slow month within that year, but New Jersey is actually ahead of the national curve a bit.

Indeed, the Garden State logged one foreclosure filing for every 2,441 housing units last month, the fourth-highest rate in the United States after Illinois, Delaware, and South Carolina.

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Sharga suggested that new foreclosures aren't likely to flatten out for a while.

"We will see foreclosure start activity probably continue to trickle up a little bit," he said. "New Jersey actually is on par with foreclosure start activity from August of 2019."

Much of the reason behind that is because some "new" filings are actually restarts of ones from a few years ago.

So, if a state had a high foreclosure rate before the early 2020 shutdown, it's likely to still have one now.

"We've finally exited a two-year program of intervention from the government and exhaustive efforts from mortgage companies to try and prevent any foreclosures that might have possibly been related to the COVID pandemic," Sharga said. "In New Jersey's case, there was a fairly significant backlog of loans that were seriously delinquent or already in foreclosure before the government's moratorium was put in place."

Other actions may actually drive the rate down, according to Sharga.

Whether a homeowner can refinance, or manage to sell their property at a profit before having it taken over by the government, are the determining factors here.

"We expect foreclosure auctions to actually be reduced from prior cycles, and the number of properties being repossessed will probably be a little bit lower as well," Sharga said.

Those repossessions by lenders through completed foreclosures, known as REOs, increased 28% in August over July according to the ATTOM report.

As always, Sharga said those figures were elevated in New Jersey because of its wedge between New York and Philadelphia, and both of those metropolitan areas were in the top five in the U.S. in REOs in August.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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