While foreclosure numbers have started to decline nationwide, Delaware homeowners are witnessing firsthand that the mortgage crisis remains in full effect. Each of Delaware’s three county sheriffs are reporting an increase in sheriff sales for 2011, with a majority of those properties being mortgage sales.


The issue While foreclosure numbers have started to decline nationwide, Delaware homeowners are witnessing firsthand that the mortgage crisis remains in full effect. Each of Delaware’s three county sheriffs are reporting an increase in sheriff sales for 2011, with a majority of those properties being mortgage sales.

Both New Castle and Sussex counties saw an increase of more than 400 sales in 2011 compared to the previous year, and Kent County’s sales has nearly quadrupled since 2010.

New Castle County Sheriff Trinidad Navarro said it is often hard to predict how many sheriff sales the county will process year to year.

“We make projections based on historic numbers, but the numbers now are unprecedented,” he said. “The reality is there’s still no end in sight.”

 

What’s happened? Delaware lawmakers passed a package of legislation in July that now requires for an automatic mediation program when a complaint for foreclosure is filed. Lenders are now required to give borrowers notice of foreclosure and provide opportunities for assistance and loss mitigation. The bills were requested by the Attorney General’s Office, which in the past year has conducted its own investigation into the banks’ foreclosure processes.

Attorney General Beau Biden said it is imperative that discussions take place face-to-face between the lender and the borrower before the property is foreclosed upon.

“This isn’t about someone getting away with not paying their mortgage,” he said. “It brings the two parties together to discuss and set terms in which everyone is satisfied. It’s tragic that discussion is not happening nationally.”

Biden said the new law is modeled by similar programs in other states, such as Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Of those homeowners who participated in the Philadelphia Foreclosure Diversion program and reached an agreement with their lenders, 85 percent were still in their homes 18 months later.

Biden said while the total number of foreclosures in Delaware has actually decreased in 2011 due to banks halting foreclosures for a short period of time, the temporary shortfall does not indicate any improvements in the mortgage industry.

 

What’s next With the state’s new foreclosure laws taking effect in mid-January, the sheriffs in each county hope to see their monthly sales slow down for the first part of the year.

Average monthly sheriff sales range from county to county with Kent County scheduling an average of 95 homes for sale each month, Sussex scheduling up to 160 and New Castle scheduling approximately 350 per month.

“I’m hoping for the people who live in Kent County, that number drops significantly,” said Kent County Sheriff Norman Wood. “I hope these programs have a resolution and that it keeps people in their homes.”

Both Wood and Sussex County Sheriff Jeff Christopher canceled their December sheriff sales in part to help their staffs play catch up for the new year and also to provide some assistance to homeowners during the holidays.

“I didn’t want to have to sell someone’s home before the holidays,” Wood said.

Navarro said New Castle County continued on with its December sale, as was advised by a resident judge, but the county would not be ordering any evictions in December.