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Foreclosures: Nassau-Suffolk mixed picture

John Fitzgerald, of Realty Connect USA, works on

John Fitzgerald, of Realty Connect USA, works on files of homes in foreclosure in his office in Hauppauge. RealtyTrac reported new foreclosure filings in July rose 19 percent in Nassau County and fell 43 percent in Suffolk. (Aug. 8, 2012) Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

New foreclosure filings rose 19 percent in Nassau County even as they fell 43 percent in Suffolk in July, according to a report due to be released Thursday.

In Nassau County, lenders filed 469 foreclosure documents, from notices of default to bank repossessions, compared to 394 in July 2011, according to the report from RealtyTrac. The increase was due mainly to a 19.4 percent rise in notices that the foreclosure process is beginning, known as lis pendens.

That rise has been reflected in attendance at the Nassau County Bar Association's monthly foreclosure clinic, where 140 homeowners sought help from April through June, compared to 88 in the same period last year, said Gale Berg, the association's pro bono director.

Many had new foreclosure cases or only recently defaulted on their loans, she said.

The trend was reversed in Suffolk County, where 216 homeowners were the subject of foreclosure filings last month, down sharply from July 2011, when there were 379 such filings. In Suffolk, the change was due primarily to a nearly 55 percent drop in lis pendens.

The number of people seeking help at the Suffolk County Pro Bono Foreclosure Settlement Project has fallen by about 15 percent over the last few months, said Barry Smolowitz, founder of the clinic.

"I'm still seeing new filings, absolutely, but I'm not seeing as many," he said.

Suffolk has a "more decentralized" way of processing foreclosure court cases than Nassau, with a larger number of judges hearing such cases, said Michael Wigutow of Nassau/Suffolk Law Services Committee, which assists homeowners facing foreclosure.

"That may have an impact on how, administratively, the cases are processed," he said.

The foreclosure process is "much more onerous" for banks than it used to be, due to stricter federal and state oversight, said David Schwartzberg, foreclosure counsel at Huntington-based Advantage Title, which has a large foreclosure practice on Long Island. Early this year, the nation's five largest mortgage lenders reached a $25-billion accord with federal and state agencies, settling allegations that they foreclosed without proper documentation.

Still, Schwartzberg said, it is difficult to understand why there would be an increase in Nassau and a decrease in Suffolk.

Brokers who specialize in foreclosures said fewer foreclosed homes are being listed for sale across Long Island.

"I have not seen a distinction" between trends in the two counties, said John Fitzgerald, president of Realty Connect USA in Suffolk County.

In both counties "we've been seeing a lot less actually making it to market," said Steve Pagano of Pagano Properties in Huntington Station.

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