GREENWICH, Conn. — This wooded town of roughly 60,000 on Long Island Sound — home to dozens of hedge funds, many millionaires and more than a few billionaires — is one of the wealthiest enclaves in the country. But even Greenwich is not immune to the wave of home foreclosures sweeping the nation.
On Hettiefred Road, for example, the owner of a 2,720-square-foot, four-bedroom colonial featuring a luxury kitchen, swimming pool and tennis court, has been threatened with foreclosure for months. On Stanwich Road, another house worth $2.6 million is close to going on the block. Several dozen others have received foreclosure notices this year.
But there is a difference from most other communities. Auctioning off such homes is a far greater challenge here than elsewhere, as affluent but cash-squeezed owners often find ways to delay losing their home, sometimes by coming up with just enough to make last-minute payments, avoiding a final sale — for a while, anyway.
Just ask John Thygerson, who parked his Jeep sport utility vehicle in front of the empty house on Hettiefred Road on the flawless spring day last Saturday. As a foreclosure auctioneer, he was scheduled — for the third time since January — to sell the house. But the owner, a construction business owner who has fallen on hard times, made a last-minute mortgage payment and the foreclosure was postponed yet again.
So Mr. Thygerson was there to shoo prospective buyers off the property, nod at inquisitive neighbors and stake out a new spot for a fourth set of foreclosure signs after the first three had been mysteriously torn down....
....In Greenwich, foreclosure filings were made against 100 homes last year, according to RealtyTrac. That translates into less than half of 1 percent of Greenwich’s 24,511 households, compared with a rate over 1 percent nationwide.
Already one of the richest cities in the country in 2000, when the Census Bureau recorded a median household income of $99,086 — more than double the national average — the town has become far wealthier in recent years, with the exponential growth of many of the hedge funds that have set up business here. A new generation of wealthy Wall Street executives has moved in as well. By 2007, the Connecticut Economic Resources Center reported, the median household income had risen to $122,849, with many homeowners earning far more.
The tearing down of existing homes to make room for new ones has continued despite the mortgage crisis that began last summer. And while prices and sales volume are dropping, Greenwich is not suffering as badly as nearby towns.Through April 23 this year, 160 co-ops, condos and single-family homes sold, for $290,000 to $30 million. That compares with 240 sales,...
...Similarly, Eileen Pate, a Greenwich lawyer, recently helped one client avoid foreclosure by arranging a short sale with his bank, which agreed to accept payment over time for the difference between the outstanding mortgage and the price the house fetched.
As for the four-bedroom colonial that just avoided going on the block, Zbigniew Skwarek, the 41-year-old owner, came up with his own money to postpone the auction. Court records show he stopped paying on his $1,557,617.77 mortgage on Feb. 1, 2007. But three days before the scheduled auction, he said, he gave his lender, Countrywide Financial, a check for $50,000.
Mr. Skwarek may not live in one of Greenwich’s most coveted neighborhoods. But like many residents here, he owns other properties, including an apartment in Greenwich and a home in Florida, and he can tap into that equity.
“I don’t want to lose this house,” Mr. Skwarek said in a telephone interview.
Mr. Skwarek rented out the house after he divorced his wife, Renata, in 2004, because, he said, it felt too big to live in alone. But last year, he said, his renters, John and Arline Josephberg, stopped paying their monthly rent of $10,000.
While living there, Mr. Josephberg — who previously ran the financial firm Josephberg Grosz & Company — was put on trial, accused of not paying his taxes for 29 years. He was sentenced to 50 months in prison. By the time the couple moved out in January, they owed Mr. Skwarek $90,000. Calls made to Mrs. Josephberg and to the couple’s daughter were not returned.......A few of Mr. Skwarek’s neighbors can relate to his financial troubles. Two other homes on the same road have appeared in preforeclosure filings in the past year.
Vincent Scorese, who owns a house next door and also faces the risk of foreclosure, moved out and rented out his home after he went through a divorce. He said that as a builder he became overextended and found it difficult to make his mortgage payments on the five properties he owns in the area. So he has put them all up for sale.
“I feel bad for him,” Mr. Scorese said. “So many guys are in trouble, even guys you wouldn’t expect.”...===============================================
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