Foreclosures Rise -- Expert Help Is Available!

Written by Posted On Sunday, 10 June 2007 17:00

In the first three months of this year, mortgage lenders sent out 46,760 default notices to California homeowners. According to Data Quick Information Systems, that is the highest number in a decade. The forecast doesn’t appear much better for some current homeowners -- many are or will soon face the possibility of foreclosure.

Now, aiming to clean up the aftermath mess, lenders are demanding better documentation before financing loans such as the "piggyback" mortgage. These are loans that were taken out in addition to the first mortgage by home buyers who otherwise couldn’t afford the property. Some lenders are no longer offering "piggyback" loans at all.

The consequence of consumers not completely understanding and yet still wanting to get in on the American dream of homeownership at any cost is creating painful learning experiences.

"Misunderstanding, unscrupulous brokers, predatory lending -- there are all kinds of factors as to why we have and project more foreclosures now and in the future," says Rick Harper, Director of Housing for the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of San Francisco.

The San Francisco CCCS is part of the Homeownership Preservation Foundation. Beginning at the end of June, the Foundation through the national Ad Council is launching a 25-million-dollar campaign aimed at making homeowners who are facing foreclosure aware that there is help available by calling (888) 995-HOPE.

"That particular program is funded by the stakeholders, the lenders, the insurers, and private foundations that are trying to get the public in touch with housing counseling agencies such as ours so that we can help them sort out whatever remedies might be available for them," says Harper.

Harper says the agencies can help identify where the trouble began and how to fix it. He says sometimes the pending foreclosure is a result of not budgeting very well or sometimes homeowners are paying the wrong debt. "In other words, they’re putting the home at risk by how they’re allocating their money to their other creditors," says Harper. "One of the overriding messages we try to get across is that there are many, many things that can be done if the homeowner steps up to the plate and says ‘I need help.’ Whether they call their servicer, their lender, the HOPE line, or whether they call their local Consumer Credit Counseling service agency for help -- there is help available free of charge," explains Harper.

While asking for help doesn’t ensure the prevention of a foreclosure, Harper says, there are many cases where the help provided is enough to help homeowners get back on track and save their home.

"We have many instances of being able to help them put the pieces together. The lenders will offer a variety of remedies: a repayment plan, loan forbearance where [a homeowner] might actually be able to skip a payment or make a half-payment for a certain period of time," says Harper. He adds that in certain circumstances such as a permanent change of an ability to pay, such as with job downsizing that involves a reduction in salary, lenders can modify the mortgage "and even extend the term back to 30 years to get your payment down to something that you can now afford with your new income."

Another important step is to make sure that you are working with experts in this area. Licensed real estate agents who are experienced in handling foreclosure-related transactions can provide great assistance in getting your home sold before it’s foreclosed upon. Ultimately, this can not only help the defaulting homeowner but also help preserve the community and values of other properties in the area. Properties in foreclosure often sit in an abandoned condition and provide opportunity for crime and vandalism. One study revealed that for every foreclosure, the value of houses within one block dropped one percent in one year.

It’s imperative to watch out for people who are preying upon vulnerable homeowners. A pending foreclosure can attract some people who are hoping to capitalize on the homeowner’s financial difficulties. Visit the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website for a look at some typical scams as well as what can be done to avoid foreclosure.

The process of foreclosures varies from state-to-state. Check with your local real estate agents, non-profit housing agencies and credit counseling services for more information.

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Phoebe Chongchua

Phoebe Chongchua is an award-winning journalist, an author, customer service trainer/speaker, and founder of Setting the Service Standard, a customer service training and consulting program offered by Live Fit Enterprises (LFE) based in San Diego, California. She is the publisher of Live Fit Magazine, an online publication that features information on real estate/finance, physical fitness, travel, and philanthropy. Her company, LFE, specializes in media services including marketing, PR, writing, commercials, corporate videos, customer service training, and keynotes & seminars. Visit her magazine website: www.LiveFitMagazine.com.

Phoebe's articles, feature stories, and columns appear in various publications including The Coast News, Del Mar Village Voice, Rancho Santa Fe Review, and Today's Local News in San Diego, as well as numerous Internet sites. She holds a California real estate license. Phoebe worked for KGTV/10News in San Diego as a Newscaster, Reporter and Community Affairs Specialist for more than a decade. Phoebe's writing is also featured in Donald Trump's book: The Best Real Estate Advice I Ever Received and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buying Foreclosures. She is the author of If the Trash Stinks, TAKE IT OUT! 14 Worriless Principles for Your Success.

Contact Phoebe at (858) 259-3646 or phoebe@livefitmagazine.com. Visit PhoebeChongchua.com for more information.

www.phoebechongchua.com/

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