Home foreclosures are a bad deal – and not just for the borrowers.

Foreclosed-on properties often sit empty for long periods, dragging down property values for their neighbors.

And when they do eventually  sell it can be for less than they are worth, hurting the lender’s balance sheet and further impacting neighbors’  values. Adding all that to the impact to the  borrower, who walks away from his home with  a damaged credit rating,  it appears to be in the interest of many participants to find a way to renegotiate and avoid foreclosure.

But two Maine lawyers who are helping borrowers in some of the  6,000 foreclosures filed here each year have uncovered that it’s not quite in everyone’s interest to talk. The companies that process foreclosures may be motivated by a speedy process, and some skip steps along the way that could help people avoid foreclosures. Thomas Cox of  South Portland and Geoffrey Lewis of Fryeburg discovered in their work that one official signed off on 10,000 foreclosures in a single month, averaging 90 seconds per case file.

This practice, called “robosigning,” is a violation of the law, and also makes it virtually impossible for a borower to make a case to keep his home. After the revelation about its employees, GMAC Mortgage Co. announced it would suspend foreclosures in 23 states, including Maine. That’s a good start, but it may be that the practices exposed here are widespread in the industry.

Many interests are served if borrower and lender can come together. Not every foreclosure can be avoided, but all the ones that can be should be explored for a lot longer than 90 seconds.