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If this estimate is accurate, it means that in the nine years last past, there were 1,396 farmers sold out under foreclosure executions, and a total of 128,476 acres of land,t or not less than four per cent. of our total farms and acreage, improved and unimproved. The same rate extended over a generation would mean the bankruptcy of more than one-seventh of the farmers. These fişures are anything but a favorable indication of the prosperity of the agricultural community, which constitutes a large portion of our population, and whose success is of the profoundest interest to all; and especially does its welfare affect directly and indirectly every part of the wage-earning class.
Personal inquiries made by this office of the leading lawyers, who have a large foreclosure practice in New Jersey, amply confirm these conclusions as to the generally depressed condition of the agricultural industry. There is a consensus of opinion as to the undesirableness of farm mortgages as investments, ard that the decrease of farm foreclosures is due, principally, to the disinclination of mortgagees to force a sale of depreciated rural estate. F. G. Burnham, Esq, general counsel, for New Jersey, of the New York Mutual Life Insurance Co., does not think there were one-quarter as many foreclosure proceedings pending in either one of the past three years as in the years from 1876 to 1885. “The reason for this is because after the terrible financial crisis of 1873, resulting in such a complete letting down of values of real estate, the value of the equity in many pieces of property was completely blotted out, and the holders of mortgages were compelled to foreclose in order to save themselves to some extent. Resulting from the same financial crash, the payment of interest was more in frequent than before, debtors being unable to pay their debts, or even the interest on their debts. The times have been getting steadily better for several years past, and mortgagors of urban property, whose values have been steadily increasing, are able to pay their interest. The values of farms have not been increasing, but this is, I think, because of the great rivalry of the west, and it is therefore difficult for farmers to secure loans on their farms. I am not aware of a single large corporation that is now willing to loan to any considerable extent on farming property in this State, while several are loaning very freely on city and town property."
*Both years inclusive. These estimates can hardly be considered too radical. In the tables at the close of this chapter, where all acre executions have been classed under acres'' which were not manifestly urban or speculative tracts, the totals for these nine years are 1, 800 executions, on 230, 952 acres, amounting to $5, 787, 499.
#According to the census of 1880, there were 34, 307 farms in New Jersey, containing 2, 929, 773 acres of improved and unimproved land. Over one-sixth of the total. (397, 000). engaged in gainful occupations in New Jersey in 1880, were employed in agriculture. There has been a constant increase in the migration of the rural population of the cities; and the effect of agricultural depression accelerates this drift and adds to the competition among the wage-earners engaged in manufactures
See p. 67.
The counsel of the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Co., F. K. Howell, Esq, of Newark, referring especially to urban real estate, reports that there is a "marked decrease in foreclosures of mortgages at the present time as compared with former years. I find upon examination, that the total number of foreclosures coming to my hand for the five years 1880-84 inclusive, was about double the number for the five years 1885-89 inclusive. The proportion of cases settled pending suit was, in the last five years, also double that of the preceding five years. In my opinion, this result was due to the more prompt payment of interest and principal, and not to any disinclination of mortgagees to force sales. Upon the whole, I think, there has been, recently, an appreciation of real estate, which, coupled with an easy money market has favored borrowers, enabling them to place their loans at lower rates of interest. Another reason for recent decrease in foreclosures is, that mortgages, made during the prevalence of inflated values from 1865 to 1875, were for the most part foreclosed or otherwise terminated prior to 1885. Now mortgages are made on much more conservative valuations, and are consequently less liable to default. But my impression is that mortgages on rural property in this State are less satisfactory in point of promptness of payment than on city property. I think the values of land adapted for agricultural purposes only. have declined since 1880, due largely to the lower prices realized for farm products, and the increased cost of production, making the net profit less. Of course, land so situated as to be available for other uses, as for villa sites, etc., has in many cases advanced in price in anticipation of such use. I think there is some evidence that the increased population of cur cities and towns is, in part, at the expense of the rural districts.”
James C. McDonald, of Newark, who refers only to city property, as he rarely if ever gets an opportunity to handle farming lands, writes, that "foreclosure of mortgages for non-payment of interest is at present a rare thing compared with the years 1880 to 1885. due to the prompt payment of interest, which the good times and the good wages very easily permits.”
The firm of Collins & Corbin, of Jersey City, speaking only of city property, also report a falling off in foreclosures.
This we think, is because the effects of the panic of 1873, and consequent depression of land values, have worn 'away, and owners of land are again prosperous. Moreover, the rate of interest has decreased, rents are better, population has much increased, tenants are more numerous and owners of real estate are better able to pay interest than formerly."
Judge Gilhooly, of the firm of Gilhooly & Marsh, Elizabeth, states that the reason why there are not half as many foreclosures in Union county now as in 1880, is "because of prompter payments of mortgage debts and because in this city and county there has been no inflation of land values since 1880; also owing to the existence of the numerous building and loan associations which have started since then. There has been a falling in farm values of at least 25 per cent."
Speaking for Atlantic County, J. E. P. Abbott, Esq., of May's Landing, writes : “I have been in practice in this county for twentyfour years, and have had a very extensive experience in the matter of loaning money on mortgage, and in foreclosure. There has been a decided drop in the values of farm and unimproved lands and in villages, since 1880, but not so in beach property, which has increased
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 public 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