Take Action Early to Avoid Foreclosure

Written by Posted On Sunday, 26 February 2006 16:00

Foreclosure -- it's a word that conjures up awful feelings in homeowners and is getting plenty of national attention.

In the last five years, 2.9 million U.S. households have experienced foreclosure. Obviously, it is a devastating event for the homeowners; but communities suffer as well -- cities lose up to $33,000 per foreclosed home, according to the Homeownership Preservation Foundation. In San Diego, California 0.3 percent of households were in foreclosure in 2005. Cleveland, Ohio had the most foreclosures with 9.83 percent and Flagstaff, Arizona -- the fewest with 0.10 percent.

The nonprofit foundation was founded in 2004 to educate homeowners and prevent foreclosures. "Oftentimes people call us when they're already six months behind and options are more limited," says Dean Caldwell-Tautges, director of education and counseling for the organization.

The goal of the foundation's national public service campaign is to reach people earlier in the process. Through TV and radio announcements homeowners are encouraged to call a toll-free number to receive free, confidential advice from HUD-certified counseling agencies. Over the next month, more than 600 U.S. TV stations and 1,500 radio stations will receive the public service announcement. There will also be a PSA in Spanish and one specifically developed for Hurricane Katrina victims.

"The homeowner who contacts 888-995-HOPE isn't comfortable contacting his or her mortgage company for help," says Walt Fricke, president and executive director of the Homeownership Preservation Foundation. "Unfortunately, there's a great need for our hotline. Based on industry research, slightly more than 50 percent of homeowners will avoid contacting their mortgage company," adds Fricke.

Foreclosures hurt families, communities and businesses; an average foreclosure can cost a mortgage company $50,000 or more.

The foundation's hotline can handle up to 10,000 calls per month. The number to call is: 888-995-HOPE. Callers are connected with counselors who work for HUD-certified counseling agencies. The financial counselors help homeowners, free of charge, to address their financial situation and understand their options. They also work to establish a dialogue between the homeowner's mortgage company and the homeowner.

The foundation recommends the following six steps to prevent foreclosure:

  1. Take action immediately. If you are going to be late with a mortgage payment, contact your mortgage company right away.

  2. Call the Homeownership Preservation Foundation to speak, free of charge, to a counselor about your financial situation.

  3. Organize and prioritize your bills and debt. Alert agencies such as your credit cards and utilities -- make them aware of your financial crisis. Do not write checks hoping that you'll be able to cover them. Late fees and bounced check fees can be extremely high.

  4. Make every attempt to protect your credit score.

  5. Watch out for predatory lenders and scams. Before signing any document concerning your home, check with an attorney or your mortgage company.

  6. Make sure you take action. Doing nothing will only make a bad situation worse. Seek help early and you may be able to save your home.
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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.


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