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New Jersey county leads nation in foreclosure activity

Sitting in the middle of the block, its knee-high grass and overall downtrodden look tell a sad story. It is one of almost 4,000 properties in Atlantic County in some stage of foreclosure, a symbol of how problems in the casino industry, poor employment prospects and low median wages have pushed the county to lead the nation in foreclosure activity and vacant, abandoned properties.

“It was a beautiful home at one point,” next-door neighbor Wendy Wardell said of the three-bedroom, two-bath extended ranch house. “There’s a pool in the backyard. They had the inside redone.”

But when the couple who lived there ran into personal difficulties about three years ago, the property started going downhill, she said. First the man moved out, then the woman left about a year ago, Wardell said.

Wardell said she worries about more than appearances.

A series of young people come and go. At first, one of the former residents’ sons was there, but now it’s been people she doesn’t know.

“It’s random people in and out,” Wardell told The Press of Atlantic City ( ). She worries about her kids and others on the street, with strangers around so much. And she worries about animals such as snakes and rats that might be attracted to the overgrown grass.

Neighbor Chris Corson said she walks her dogs by it every day, and it’s unnerving not knowing who lives there.

The property is now set for sheriff’s sale July 9, and the neighbors hope a family with kids will move in and bring it back to its former glory.

Many homes in the foreclosure pipeline have loans on them far above the value of the home, but not this one. With an estimated value at $172,850, according to RealtyTrac, and loans on it of about the same amount, it would seem like a property the bank would want to sell quickly.

Of the county’s 127,000 housing units, 3,985 are in some stage of foreclosure. That’s one in every 32 homes.

For months, Atlantic County has led the nation in foreclosure activity for metropolitan areas with more than 200,000 residents. One in every 230 homes in the county had some foreclosure activity in May 2015, the most recent data available, according to the real estate data company RealtyTrac.

That’s far higher than Lakeland, Florida, in second place for foreclosure activity, at one in every 331 properties.

Many more in Atlantic County are in foreclosure, but no new filings were made on them.

The county also has the U.S.’s highest rate of zombie foreclosures— properties that have been abandoned by their owners and are vacant, according to RealtyTrac.

One in 130 of the housing units in Atlantic County— which works out to 978 homes —meets the “zombie” definition, said RealtyTrac in a recent report.

Each has its own story of job loss, divorce, accident, illness or death, said Atlantic County Sheriff Frank Balles. Some result from gambling debts or other addictions, he said.

Sometimes it’s surprising whose homes end up in the foreclosure process.

Theresa Canfield lived next to the same woman in Somers Point for more than 50 years, she said.

Last year the neighbor, in her 80s, got sick and went to the hospital, she said. She died in a nursing home.

“The house is just like it was the day she left it,” Canfield said. “Half of the time I forget she’s gone.”

But now, according to RealtyTrac, the home is in pre-foreclosure, in which the lending company begins the process to eventually foreclose. The house is worth about $171,741 and has a loan amount on it of $262,501, taken out in 2012, the company’s documents show.

There are stickers on the windows announcing that it is vacant and a property management company is responsible for maintenance. Canfield’s daughter has contacted the city for help in getting the maintenance company to clean up the backyard, but until recently the company hadn’t touched it, she said.

Canfield worries that water sitting constantly on the cover of the in-ground pool is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. She, too, has a backyard pool and doesn’t want the critters making her grandson and his friends sick.

Balles estimated the recent wave of foreclosures doesn’t yet include people who lost jobs in the late 2014 mass layoffs in the casino industry.

“The banks may be seeing some of it, but I don’t think we are seeing any of it yet,” Balles said. “It takes a year or more for us to get it.”

Every community has its share of foreclosed homes, Balles said.

In Linwood, considered a well-off community with outstanding schools, a house on Poplar Avenue has sat vacant for so long, shrubs now cover the front windows and block the front porch. A tree that seeded itself stretches up to cover a second-story window.

It is still in pre-foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac.

According to its listing, it has an estimated value of $249,543, but the loan amount on it is $345,400. It was last purchased in 2000 for $146,000 by a man now living in Flushing, New York.

“There was a family that lived there. They put the top floor on, then they left,” said neighbor Carl Ekstrom, whose well-kept split level home is directly across the street from the problem property.

Ekstrom and his wife have lived there since 1969, he said. When they had young children, they knew all their neighbors. Everyone took turns hosting neighborhood parties. Now he knows few of the people who live around him, he said, and almost no one across the street.

A house next to the vacant property is also for sale, and a third had a for-sale sign up for a while, he said.

Looking out from his front porch at a vacant and overgrown property isn’t pleasant, but he’s used to it, he said.

“It’s been so long, I push it to the side,” he said, adding it’s been empty almost a decade. “I don’t think about it.”

But if he had to sell his home, he said it would probably be a problem. He plans to stay to be close to his grandchildren, who live in Egg Harbor Township, he said.

Faced with poor maintenance and the problem of vacant homes, neighbors may feel like celebrating when they hear a sheriff’s sale is set.

But the sales rarely result in a quick happy ending, said Balles.

First, the banks can postpone the sale as often as they want.

On a recent Thursday, “we had 50 homes to be auctioned,” Balles said. Only 25 to 30 actually went to auction.

Only a small number end up selling to anyone other than the bank that holds the mortgage.

“Two weeks ago we had 45 properties for sale, and we sold six to third-party buyers,” Balles said recently. “Last week we had 30, and only two sold to third parties.”

If a bank or mortgage company buys a property, it ends up vacant, or the mortgage holder asks the previous owners to stay to avoid the vacant look. It goes on the market for sale, and can stay on the market for years.

Even when properties sell to third parties, it’s usually to investors rather than families who will move in and immediately begin making improvements, he said.

But every once in a while there’s a happy outcome.

“A couple of weeks ago we sold a condo across from Lucy the Elephant,” Balles said. “It had more than $300,000 owed on it. The bank set an upset price at $145,000, and we had three people bidding on it— two investors and one single family.”

The family ended up getting it for $242,000, he said.

“It was well worth it,” said Balles.


Information from: The Press of Atlantic City (N.J.),

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Ask an Attorney: Can my HOA foreclose?

Sunday, June 28, 2015 | 2 a.m.

By Attorney Xenophon Peters, Partner, Peters and Associates, LLP

Question: Last week, I got a letter saying my HOA was foreclosing on my home because I owe them $2,000 that’s past due. Can they do that? I’m current on my mortgage and don’t think I owe them money!

Answer: Yes. In Nevada, a homeowners association has the right to foreclose on a home regardless of whether you’re current on your mortgage, even if you dispute the amount you owe. In fact, your letter probably reads, “Warning! If you fail to pay the amount specified in this notice, you could lose your home, even if the amount is in dispute.” (That’s required by law).

HOA foreclosure has been in the news a lot over the past few years, most recently when Gov. Brian Sandoval signed into law Senate Bill 306, which adds several new rules governing HOA foreclosure. Unfortunately for the reader who asked today’s question, the bill doesn’t take effect until Oct. 1.

HOA foreclosure is no joking matter. Once the process has started, HOAs tend to foreclose quickly, leaving many (former) homeowners upset and confused when they’re evicted by new owners. Adding to the misery, as of this writing, most HOA foreclosures are permanent, meaning there’s no right of redemption.*

Hope is not lost, though. It’s usually possible to negotiate with your HOA to stop the sale and work out a payment plan — sometimes for less than what you owe. The truth is, most HOAs don’t want to foreclose on residents, they just want to get paid. (They’re about as strapped for cash as the rest of us). If you communicate with your HOA board, you usually can work something out.

If your HOA board won’t work with you, there may be other options available to stop or delay an HOA foreclosure, including bankruptcy and filing a lawsuit. Before going down those paths, however, I encourage you to try to handle the situation outside of the court system.

*When Senate Bill 306 goes into effect in October, homeowners will have 60 days after the date of foreclosure to pay the auction-sales price plus other expenses as noted in NRS 116.31166 to get their home back.

If you have a question you’d like to see answered by an attorney in a future issue, please visit

Please note: The information in this column is intended for general purposes only and is not to be considered legal or professional advice of any kind. You should seek advice that is specific to your problem before taking or refraining from any action and should not rely on the information in this column.

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Foreclosure on water park site called ‘misunderstanding’



Photo courtesy LARC – Splashicana is the name of the water park attraction being built at I-45 and Highway 287 in Corsicana.

Posted: Friday, June 26, 2015 4:58 pm

Foreclosure on water park site called ‘misunderstanding’

By Bob Belcher, Daily Sun

A week after a foreclosure was filed with the county clerk, developers of the proposed “Splashicana” water park attraction say they remain on target to open in 2016.

Michael Jenkins of Leisure and Recreation Concepts said Friday a “misunderstanding” over some late tax payments was behind a foreclosure on property for the park by the seller, C.L. “Buster” Brown III.

A Notice of Trustees Sale for the proposed water park’s property was filed with the Navarro County Clerk’s office on June 16, stating because of default in performance of the obligations of Deed of Trust for the property filed Feb. 1, 2013, the land would be sold to the highest bidder on July 7, 2015. The note was for $1.28 million, between Brown and the Corsicana Water Adventure Park, LP.

John McClung, a Corsicana city councilman and an investor in the project, said in a city council workshop on June 23 there was a “problem” with the property, but did not elaborate other than to say he expected the matter to be cleared up by Thursday (June 25).

Jenkins said the tax payments were missed because an employee responsible for the tax payments went on vacation

“They were paid timely up to a point through May, and they were several days late,” Jenkins said. “The person holding the lien on the property was nervous about it…. We got it resolved.”

Jenkins said the matter was cleared up Friday morning. The Daily Sun could not confirm the arrangement with Brown.

What’s next for the project is more work to finalize financing, Jenkins said. A guarantor for the project, Shiraz Shalwani, pulled out of the project due to reasons involving family, Jenkins said. That left the park’s partners and investors seeking a replacement.

“We’ve been working to replace that status or put together a combination of outside investors to replace the guarantor,” said Maurice Simon, financial adviser for the project.

Approval of the financing was expected in March, but the loss of the guarantor sidetracked progress, Simon said.

“We’re working on several strategic plans to try to complete the financing so we can get in the ground this summer,” Jenkins said. “My main concern is the protection of all our investors in Corsicana”

Jenkins said the project is now expecting a Memorial Day 2016 opening, with parts of the water park’s slides expected to arrive on site in the next week or so.

“They’re in Los Angeles in the port being loaded on trucks, and will probably be in Corsicana in 10 days or so,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said there has been “a lot of mis-information” about the water park project, something he hopes completing the park will end.

“We’re still enthusiastic and going forward,” he said.

Jenkins declined to give a “start date” for construction — something he said would depend on financing — but added it would be sometime during the summer.

“Our commitment is to open this park next summer. We can’t let another summer pass,” Jenkins said.

Named “Splashicana,” the 23 acre water park attraction is proposed to be built at the U.S. Highway 287/Interstate 45 intersection, and has been forecast to attract over 100,000 visitors annually.

Mayor Chuck McClanahan said he is optimistic about the proposed new project.

“Since the beginning of the water park, I’ve followed the challenges other cities have had to bring a park to fruition,” McClanahan said. “I never realized the ‘hoops’ you had to jump through on this type of endeavor.”

McClanahan said he’ll be very excited to see the opening in 2016.

The city of Corsicana is a 5 percent stakeholder in the project, but the city’s financial commitment is only to help meet debt service in the first two years of the parks operation should help be needed, and is capped at $300,000, which would be paid back to the city should it be used.


Countdown to Splashicana

A timetable of the water park project

Feb. 7, 2013 — Project announced at Chamber of Commerce banquet. Projected opening Summer 2014.

March 30, 2013 — City qualifies for infrastructure grant of $750,000 for project.

July 12, 2013 — Groundbreaking held at construction site. Construction to start “within 30 days.”

March 20, 2014 — Michael Jenkins announces project pushed back to Spring 2015 opening due to difficulty getting contractors.

April 24, 2014 — Developers announce contest to name park will kick off during Derrick Days.

July 14, 2014 — City puts $300,000 in debt guarantee fund in exchange for 5 percent ownership; August 2014 construction start announced.

Aug. 21, 2014 — Park named “Splashicana” in contest; construction due to start “during the month of September.”

Sept. 19, 2014 — Developer posts $750,000 bond to allow city to start using state grant money for infrastructure; no park construction yet.

Sept. 30, 2014 — Michael Jenkins said bid changes being worked on; “very confident we’ll start in early October,” with Memorial Day 2015 opening date.

Nov. 5, 2014 — Michael Jenkins announces Lincoln Capitol Management as a “major funding partner” for project “in excess of $3 million.”

Feb. 25, 2015 — Michael Jenkins says park will open for “dry activities” in late 2015, with opening for first full season in April 2016; announced approval from Texas First Bank as a first lien lender.

June 16, 2015 — C.L. “Buster” Brown III files “Notice of Trustees Sale” with Navarro County Clerk’s office, stating default in performance of obligations by Corsicana Water Adventure Park in $1.28 million purchase.

June 23, 2015 — John McClung, city councilman and investor in project, tells council a “problem” with a property owner is being worked out.

June 26, 2015 — Michael Jenkins says foreclosure was result of “misunderstanding” after tax payments were missed due to an employee’s vacation says matter resolved; announces planned arrival of water slide parts to site, more work finalizing financing for project to open in 2016.


Bob Belcher may be reached by email at

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Friday, June 26, 2015 4:58 pm.

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Here’s why Atlantic County is the foreclosure capital of America

Posted: Saturday, June 27, 2015 6:00 am

Here’s why Atlantic County is the foreclosure capital of America

By Michelle Brunetti-Post, Staff reporter

The Press of Atlantic City

The houses, lawns and gardens on the Ashland Avenue cul-de-sac in Hamilton Township are well kept, some nearly park-like.  Families in the neighborhood have children who play together, and the parents know each other. And then there is the one.


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Foreclosure Lawyers That Stop Foreclosure Sales

Foreclosure lawyers at Consumer Action Law Group offers legal solutions to stop the foreclosure process. They have offered many methods to California homeowners on how to stop a foreclosure.

This press release was orginally distributed by ReleaseWire

Los Angeles, CA — (ReleaseWire) — 06/25/2015 — There are still many homeowners in the States of California that are facing foreclosure. Whether these homeowners are in the early stage of foreclosure or have already received a notice of default or notice of sale, there is hope for those who want to stop the foreclosure process and save the home. When receiving a notice of default or notice of trustee sale, homeowners have the best chance of saving their home when they contact foreclosure lawyers for assistance to stop the foreclosure process. In most cases, foreclosure attorneys can help homeowners to stop foreclosure and save their property.

An experienced foreclosure lawyer can offer many options to assist a home owner in distress. Foreclosure attorneys offer legal solutions to stop the foreclosure process. There are many methods available to California homeowners to stop foreclosure:

1. Filing a lawsuit: This is a very effective way to stop foreclosure. Many people avoid filing a lawsuit because they think that their lender help them. In fact, filing a lawsuit is a wise choice when the lender promises to help and simultaneously moves forward with the foreclosure process [a common practice called dual tracking – which is illegal]. A strong foreclosure lawyer can fight to negotiate for the borrower’s rights. If the homeowner files a lawsuit, they can usually remain in their property. If the lender violates the right of the borrower or commits fraud, a foreclosure attorney can defend the borrower in the court.

2. Getting a temporary restraining order: After filing a lawsuit, many homeowners are entitled to a temporary restraining order from the court. To obtain a temporary restraining order, homeowners have to convince the judge about the effect of “irreparable harm” if the foreclosure continues. The lenders will be ordered to stop the sale if the judge grants the temporary restraining order.

3. Filing a lis pendens: Lis a pendens means that a pending lawsuit can affect the title of the property in dispute. So, a new buyer of the property will also become aware of the lawsuit and the property dispute while the lawsuit is proceeding.

4. Filing for bankruptcy: This option is usually the last resort after all options are exhausted. Bankruptcy immediately stops the foreclosure and makes it possible for the homeowner to keep the property. There are additional benefits for filing bankruptcy such as discharge from debts and stopping all collections. When filing bankruptcy to stop a foreclosure, homeowners are strongly advised to get experienced legal counsel such as foreclosure attorneys to help decide whether they should file for chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy.

For the best solutions and experienced legal assistance, the foreclosure lawyer at Consumer Action Law Group help homeowners to stop foreclosure through the courts.

For detailed information about their service, visit or Call 818-254-8413.

About Consumer Action Law Group
Consumer Action Law Group is a law firm dedicated to help consumers in consumer-related matters or consumers that experienced fraud and scam. Attorneys in the team are knowledgeable and experienced in the areas of eliminating debt, mortgages fraud, auto fraud, and foreclosures. They have direct experience in consumer fraud matters and helping consumers who are facing financial crisis, foreclosure, issues with employers, and problems with auto dealers.

For Media Contact:
Contact Person: Lauren Rode, Esq.
Telephone: 818-254-8413

For more information on this press release visit:

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Regulator lifts foreclosure action against Bank of America, restricts Wells Fargo

Local State

Ruling is ‘huge gift’ for the country, longtime Macon resident says

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Ask a Real Estate Pro: Tenant can’t finish lease after foreclosure

Board-certified real estate lawyer Gary M. Singer writes about the housing market at each Friday. To ask him a question, go to

lRelated Ask a Real Estate Pro: Public adjuster can aid in insurance dispute
Real Estate NewsAsk a Real Estate Pro: Public adjuster can aid in insurance disputeSee all related

Q: We are renting an apartment, and the unit is in foreclosure. We keep getting notices in the mail about an upcoming foreclosure sale. We still have seven months left on our lease. Will we have to move out sooner? — Geri

A: Barring a friendly arrangement with the new owner, you won’t be able to finish the entire lease, but you’ll still get at least 30 days before you have to leave. This is a major change from what the law allowed previously.

Tenants in foreclosure used to be able to finish out their leases or get at least 90 days’ notice to move, but that federal law expired at the end of last year and was not renewed. Since then, most states have passed similar statutes to protect tenants from a surprise knock on the door.

Florida recently passed a law that makes the new owner of the property provide a 30-day notice letter. During this time, you’ll still need to pay rent to the new owner or be evicted earlier.

Before signing a lease, check out the landlord and the status of the property. Follow up on any unusual notices that come in the mail after you move in. If it does appear that the property may be sold at a foreclosure auction, take steps to secure any advance rent or security deposit that your landlord is holding. Just because the property is foreclosed does not mean you shouldn’t get your deposit back. After the property is sold, you may want to discuss a new lease or possibly even buying the home from the new owner.

Copyright © 2015, Sun Sentinel

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Home repossessions are rising as banks start to clear out foreclosure backlog

A discarded leftover from the real estate bust has been on full display in a southwest Las Vegas cul-de-sac.

On a visit this week to 5572 Airview Court, the garage door was missing, replaced by now-warped plywood; a thicket of weeds had overtaken the yard; the front door was padlocked; and a tree out front was dying, its overgrown branches sagging into the driveway and front walkway.

The yard of a foreclosed home at 5572 Airview Court is filled with weeds Wednesday, June 24. By the next day, the weeds had been cleared.

Last month, lenders finally seized the abandoned two-story house through foreclosure.

“Just a month ago?” next-door neighbor Adora Realica said with disbelief. “It’s been empty since we moved here three years ago!”

Lenders are ramping up foreclosures in Southern Nevada, seizing homes that in many cases likely have been in default — and possibly empty and in disrepair — for a lengthy amount of time.

Creditors repossessed 677 homes in the Las Vegas area in May, the third consecutive month-to-month increase and the highest monthly tally in more than 2 1/2 years, according to RealtyTrac.

At first glance, the rise in repossessions seems like a return to the darkest days of the downturn, when thousands of people a month were losing their homes in the epicenter of America’s real estate bust.

But industry pros say that banks — perhaps pushed by a Nevada Supreme Court ruling last fall that upheld homeowners associations’ repo powers — are starting to clear the pipeline that filled during the recession, when new laws drastically slowed the foreclosure process on delinquent borrowers by requiring more paperwork from banks.

Foreclosures have been rising nationally, as well. Creditors seized about 44,900 homes in May, down slightly from April but more than double January’s tally, RealtyTrac found.

“This is not triggered by a fundamental problem in the housing market or economy; this is dealing with that backlog,” RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist said.

It’s unclear what, if any, effect the rise will have on Las Vegas’ housing market.

Real estate agents say banks don’t want to flood the market with listings. That could push down prices valleywide, limiting lenders’ ability to recoup their losses from soured mortgages. Today, even though there are more repossessions, lenders might not list the homes right away for that same reason.

In many cases, banks and hedge funds are seizing homes and giving residents an opportunity to lease their house or buy it back, Platinum Real Estate Professionals agent Steve Hawks said.

“They don’t put it on the market, a lot of them,” he said.

Still, the current increase was bound to happen, as foreclosures began dropping a few years ago because of government intervention, not because the economy or the housing market suddenly recovered.

“We knew people were delinquent,” said Las Vegas real estate agent Linda Rheinberger, regional vice president at the National Association of Realtors.

Las Vegas’ housing market has improved a lot since the depths of the recession, thanks largely to an investor-fueled rise in home values. But it remains awash in problems.

In a sign of just how bloated the valley became during the bubble, 25 percent of local homeowners with mortgages remain underwater, meaning their mortgage debt outweighs their home value. That’s far below Las Vegas’ peak of 71 percent in the first quarter of 2012 but still highest among large U.S. metro areas, according to Zillow.

Nevada, with the bulk of its population in Clark County, has the fifth-highest foreclosure rate in the nation, according to RealtyTrac. One in every 590 homes statewide was slapped with a foreclosure-related filing last month, compared with one in every 1,041 nationally, the company says.

Home Foreclosures on the Rise

Launch slideshow »

Also, locals increasingly are abandoning debt-laden homes, even as property-ditching declines nationally. About 34 percent of valley homes in the foreclosure process but not yet bank-owned have been vacated by their owners. That amounts to 1,942 “zombie” foreclosures, up 16 percent from a year ago, according to RealtyTrac.

Nationally, 24 percent of homes headed to foreclosure have been vacated by their owners. That’s roughly 127,000 zombie homes, down 10 percent from a year ago.

After the bubble burst last decade, banks went on a repo binge in Las Vegas and elsewhere, seizing homes en masse. But lawmakers clamped down.

In 2011, Gov. Brian Sandoval approved the “robosigning” law. It required banks to provide more paperwork, including a signed affidavit saying they have personal knowledge of a property’s document history, before seizing a house. Foreclosures plunged as the length of time it took to repossess properties soared.

It now takes an average of 447 days to foreclose on a house in Nevada after a notice of default is filed. That’s up from 386 days a year ago and 137 days in early 2007, according to RealtyTrac.

Perhaps as a result, Las Vegas has a large but unknown number of people who haven’t made a mortgage payment in years, apparently unafraid of losing their homes amid the processing delays.

Hawks said he knows a woman who owns a roughly 4,000-square-foot house in the upscale Henderson foothills community of MacDonald Highlands who hasn’t made a mortgage payment in more than 4 1/2 years. She is, however, renting out the house for nearly $4,000 per month, he said.

Hawks said he recently met a man in his office who hadn’t made a mortgage payment in seven years.

“That’s common,” he said.

Besides the robosigning law, Nevada lawmakers also passed bills in 2013 that were designed to affect foreclosures, but it’s unclear whether they’re making an impact.

Sandoval signed Senate Bill 321, dubbed the “Homeowner’s Bill of Rights,” which sought to make it easier for struggling borrowers to keep their homes. But he also signed Assembly Bill 300, which relaxed the robosigning law, making it easier for lenders to seize homes.

Banks also face continued competition from homeowners associations to repossess properties. Last September, the state Supreme Court upheld a law that lets HOAs seize homes through foreclosure when property owners are behind on their HOA dues.

Under the law, HOAs can foreclose on homes ahead of mortgage lenders, even if the associations are owed a fraction of what’s owed to banks.

Bankers are seizing more homes now in part because they “don’t want to put HOAs in control of their destiny,” Rheinberger said.

Meanwhile, the house on Airview Court is like countless others in Las Vegas: The owner got a hefty mortgage during the bubble, defaulted during the bust and ultimately lost the house to lenders.

He got a $289,000 loan from Countrywide Financial Corp. in October 2006 and had defaulted by August 2012, Clark County records show. But the lenders held off for a few years; the foreclosure sale was held May 4.

A real estate sign out front indicates the home is listed with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. Realica, the neighbor, said the sign was installed about a month ago — around the same time lenders repossessed the house.

Realica’s husband, Larry, said someone tried to break in through the garage about a year ago.

Still, they live in a nice, quiet neighborhood, he said, and it doesn’t bother him being next door to an abandoned house.

“Besides that, people here are very friendly,” he said.

Not every vacant, foreclosed home falls into stark disrepair.

The two-story townhouse at 2823 Cool Water Drive in Henderson, off Wigwam Parkway near Eastern Avenue, has been empty for at least a few years. But its condition is “not terrible,” and it hasn’t been vandalized, next-door neighbor Gina Hughes said.

The last owner sank under her mortgage. She got a $215,000 loan from New Century Mortgage Corp. in December 2005 and had defaulted by April 2013, county records show.

Lenders, however, seized the home May 22, more than two years after the default notice was filed.

Hughes, herself a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker, said living next to an abandoned house — one that’s attached to her home, no less — has pros and cons. She doesn’t have to deal with an annoying neighbor, and she can park her car a bit in the next driveway without getting any complaints.

Still, the front yard needs work, and the house still gets daily newspaper delivery. The papers pile up, although Hughes goes over once in a while to clear them out.

Prospective buyers have stopped by to look at the house but rarely come anymore, she said.

On a recent visit, foreclosure and abandoned-property notices were taped to the front door and to a window facing the street.

“There is a lot of ghost inventory out there,” Hughes said.

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Lehigh Valley foreclosure rate hits 5-year low

Local foreclosure rates hit a five-year low in April, but activity still remains higher than the national average at least partially because of a judicial process in Pennsylvania that can keep properties in limbo for nearly two years.

The Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton region’s rate, which measures the percentage of loans in some stage of the foreclosure process in Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon counties along with Warren County, N.J., fell to 2.66 percent in April, down from 3.13 percent one year earlier, according to data released Thursday by CoreLogic, a financial and real estate analytics firm.

Meet the Man Who Is Lending to the Recently Foreclosed On and Bankrupt


As more small lenders begin giving mortgages to people with troubled credit histories , one lender in particular stands out for his controversial background.

Jon Maddux, president of Encinitas, Calif.-based Drop Mortgage, a mortgage lender that launched last year and mostly works with such borrowers, has a long history in the mortgage market, including helping borrowers to walk away from their homes during the housing crisis. Mr. Maddux co-founded in 2008, which offered advice to homeowners who were having a difficult time keeping up with their mortgage payments or whose mortgage amounts exceeded the value of their home. The firm became popular during the downturn for its role in assisting homeowners who defaulted on their mortgages and were considering leaving their houses.

As the housing crisis eased, Mr. Maddux shifted gears and in 2012 co-founded, which focuses on helping former homeowners who went through a foreclosure to get back into the housing market. The website asks them a series of questions to figure out if they are eligible for a mortgage and it sells leads to lenders who contact former homeowners informing them of their mortgage options. They include mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration, which has low credit score requirements and can have relatively short waiting periods following foreclosure. Another option offered are loans that these lenders are holding on their books or selling to private investors.

That’s the space Mr. Maddux entered last summer when he co-founded Drop Mortgage. One way it finds potential borrowers is by searching the databases from YouWalkAway and AfterForeclosure, Mr. Maddux says, which collectively have more than 58,000 names. Drop Mortgage informs these borrowers that they could qualify for mortgages sooner than many of them think, effectively offering them a second chance at becoming homeowners again.

Mr. Maddux stands by his track record. He says YouWalkAway gave advice to homeowners who decided to stop making payments and that it never advised them to default. “Our main focus was to educate homeowner[s] of their rights,” he says. “The experience I got from running YouWalkAway…really helped me get ahead of any competition.”

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