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on an average of 25 per cent. and in exceptional cases, 100 to 300 per cent. The decrease referred to is not so noticeable to the pub. lic until there is a desire to sell or a forced sale, when it is clearly shown. Trust companies from Philadelphia will loan no where else in the county except on Atlantic City real estate, for the reason, I suppose, because lands never depreciate there. Immediately after the enactment of the law of 1881, compelling the foreclosure of mortgages before proceedings could be had on the bond, lenders began to call in their money and many foreign ones left the State. Only to-day, I heard a large capitalist say, that he would not think of putting a dollar on mortgage in New Jersey; but I can get it out of him, and have often, on a judgment bond payable on demand, but allowed to lie some time as agreed upon. We find it hard to borrow money on mortgage, except from large trust companies, who do not want the principal but only interest semi-annually, at 6 per cent.; but that is confined to beach property. Other borrowers must seek for smaller amounts among local investors or building and loan associations."
Messrs. Potter & Nixon, of Bridgeton, Cumberland county, are of the impression that “farming lands have not increased or fallen in value appreciably. Wild lands in parts of this county have more than doubled in value, through the influx of Russian Jews, which began six to eight years ago.” On the other hand, L. Newcomb, Esq., of Vineland, in the same county, believes that there has been a depreciation in farm property since 1880, but that it has now reached the lowest ebb. “Many loaners will not take a mortgage on property which they think they may be obliged to buy in themselves.”
In Gloucester county, according to Robert S. Clymer, Esq., the recent decrease in foreclosure proceedings " has resulted, not from the more prompt payment of interest, but largely from two causes, namely, because a large proportion of the poorer mortgages have already been foreclosed, and from a disinclination of mortgagees to force a sale of depreciated real estate, with the almost certain prospect of being compelled to bid in the properties. This refers particularly to farm property. The number of foreclosures affecting urban property has been and is very insignificant, such a proceeding rarely taking place with us. There has been a decided fall in the
value of farm lands since 1880. At present, the market for land for agricultural purposes is very dull.”
Town property in Burlington county, according to Joseph H. Gaskill, of Mt. Holly, has not depreciated so much as farming land. This depreciation accounts for the decreased foreclosures; mortgages taken on a high valuation also have been closed out largely.
In Morris county, James H. Neighbour, Esq., of Dover, finds a fall in the value of farm lands. The decrease in foreclosures is here, as elsewhere, to be explained by this, also, by the prompter payment of interest, and because fewer mortgages were given from 1875 to 1881 than before or since.
The value of Hunterdon county farming property has largely declined since 1880, reports Henry A. Fluck, Esq., of Flemington. There would be more foreclosing if mortgagees were satisfied that they would not be forced to buy in the mortgaged property; hence they forebear, and interest remains unpaid.
In Somerset county, the conditions seem to be the same, although J. J. Bergen, Esq. thinks the collection of mortgage debts will be more frequent in the ensuing year than for some time past. The interest on town property mortgages is more promptly paid than that on farm mortgages. “The value of farm lands has depreciated nearly one-half since 1880, and in some instances it looks as if the farms would be abandoned, the occupants prefering to work by the day. The present outlook for farmers in this county is any. thing but cheerful: high taxes, large interest accounts, and the low price of products threaten to swamp many of them. .
From Sussex county comes the same story. Theodore Simonson, Esq., makes the following statement :
“In the case of farming lands, the very low price of farm products, the scarcity and high price of farm labor and the high price of everything the farmer has to buy, has made farming, as a general thing, a non-paying business—so much so, that lots of tenants in this county, who have been renting farms, or working them on shares, are leaving them and engaging in other business; and where the owners of farms are living on them and working them themselves, they have a hard struggle to make much more than a living. When the farm is mortgaged (as most of them are), and the owners have to pay the interest, a portion of the principal every year and live, the undertaking is, with few exceptions greater than they can get through with. Consequently, the mortgagee is contented to take what he can get, rather than foreclose and take the farm; for then he has the trouble and expense of running it, with the chances of getting less each year than he gets from the mortgagor.
“In the case of town and village property the case is somewhat different. In the larger towns, real estate commands a higher price comparatively than farming lands. Mortgages on town property are recognized as good investments: the interest is paid more promptly, the payments made regularly; and when the mortgagee has to take the property to secure his debt, he can always rent it for the interest or more.
“ Owners of town property pay their mortgages more rapidly than farmers, who, as a rule, allow their mortgages to remain, only paying the interest. They are compelled to do this on account of the small incomes from their farms. They very rarely make any payments of the principal, and have come to recognize the fact that it is necessary for a mortgage to remain on their lands. Where there is a mortgage on the farm, the equity for the owner is, with few exceptions, wiped out by the general depreciation.
"There has been a reduction in the price of farm lands in the past ten years. The percentage is wonderful. It is surprising to see how low some of the farms in this county are selling. There are two ranges of mountains crossing it, and along the face of those mountains are farms that have been tilled and cultivated for years, but are not now recognized as desirable as those in the valleys, although twenty to twenty-five years ago they commanded a high price and a ready market, and were sought after by farmers with small means. To day, those farms will sell for scarcely any price, and it is a difficult matter to get any one to work them, other than the owners. The better farms in the county have depreciated in value as well. There are several of our best farms that have been offered for sale to close estates, and withdrawn from the market and held by the heirs on account of the small offers for them. There is no sale for farming land. No one wants it."
In Warren county, in the opinion of Henry S. Harris, Esq, of Belvidere, “there has been a fall in the value of farming land since
1880, but not great, as it was low then. Falling value of real estate both increases and decreases foreclosures according to circumstances, chiefly the relation of the mortgage amount to the value of the encumbered property. It ought to be noted that more frequently than formerly owners, when the situation admits, give deeds to mortgagees without waiting for foreclosure proceedings. This, however, is hardly appreciably as affecting the decrease in foreclosures. There is a disinclination to disturb good investments.”
Wm. H. Morrow, Esq., also of Belvidere, estimates the fall in the value of farm lands, since 1880, at 25 per cent. “Holders of mortgages delay as long as possible to foreclose from disinclination to add costs and thus swell the amount due. Mortgage debtors are not now making any money beyond paying their interest. I think interest is paid more promptly on urban than on rural properties. Farm mortgages are paid only when there is a transfer of the premises and the purchaser has the money to pay, or on the settlement of estates when it is necessary for money to pass. I do not think that twenty per cent. of farmers, who have their farms mortgaged to the amount of forty per cent. of their value, are making a living now.”
The decrease in foreclosures is attributed by Oscar Jeffery, Esq., of Washington, Warren county, to the fact, that the majority of good farms are cleared of mortgage. Very few of the owners are in debt, and those that are pay their debts and interest promptly. So far as I can judge in my own locality, there is not much difference between town, village and farm property. There has been a decided fall in farm values, so far as I can learn from the farmers, and this continues, owing to low price of grain. In my experience with farmers, I have never known them so depressed and disheartened.”
From what has been said, there is strong evidence that the real estate mortgage indebtedness, supplemented, probably, by other like burdens, bears heavily on our farmers at least, owing largely, to the depressed condition of the agricultural industry. For reasons already stated, no attempt was made to determine the amount of this indebtedness, either for the whole State or that resting on the farming community, by the collation of the total sums of the face value of outstanding mortgages, transcribed from the official county
records. It has however been possible from data obtained, supplemented by the opinions of those informed as to the average life of mortgages and the extent of the practice of paying them by installments, to approximate the volume of this total indebtedness.
In regard to the system of partial payments, the consensus of opinion is that this is done to some extent on urban and more rarely on rural mortgages. The general counsel for New Jersey of the New York Mutual Life Insurance Company, already quoted, writes, that “my experience teaches me that there are many mortgagors of urban property, particularly those to a small amount, who pay by installment every year." On the other hand, Mr. F. K. Howell, of the Mutual Benefit, thinks that while “there is no doubt that partial payments are most frequent, and considerable in amount, in cases of mortgages on suburban real estate, which is being improved and developed ; if this class is left out of account, it would be found that mortgagors are not to any appreciable extent paying off their mortgages in install. ments.”
Messrs. Collins & Corbin, of Jersey City, report that, “installment mortgages have become very common. The building and loan associations hold them entirely. Trust companies take them ; and mortgagors frequently desire to have clauses inserted giving them an option to so pay. During the past three or four years there has been much pressure by mortgagors to induce mortgagees to accept the principal before it is due, indicating prosperity on the part of the former. We should presume that, including the building and loan mortgages, one-third of all were installment. The building and loan mortgages are payable by periodical dues; those given to trust companies, by equal monthly installments, which discharge the whole principal in ten years, with privilege to mortgagor to pay at a more rapid rate. As to other mortgages, we frequently find a clause in them permitting part payment of principal, on interest day, in sums not less than $500 or $1000, or the like.”
Counsellor James C. McDonald, of Newark, writes that "a sober thrify German, Frenchman or Irishmen pays off his mortgage, as a rule, by installments, say, in sums of $100 or $200 each year, according as health or wages permit. Out of some fifty mortgages held by me since 1876 as executor, hardly any have not been reduced