Tuesday, October 14, 2008

States Step Up Foreclosure Relief

A new report about the ravages of foreclosures on the state level also documents the burgeoning state-level response to keep people in their homes. It's a must read for consumers seeking help.

by Broderick Perkins
© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com
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Deadline Newsroom - "Defaulting on the Dream: States Respond to America’s Foreclosure Crisis" is a must read for home owners struggling with their mortgage.

Produced by the Pew Charitable Trusts as the first detailed dissertation to chronicle the impact of the foreclosure crisis at the state level, the report is chock full of "where-to-go-for-help" advice.

"The stakes are incredibly high. Home ownership is the primary vehicle through which American families build financial security. It also is an essential building block of state and local economies," according to Pew managing directors Susan Urahn and Shelley Hearne.

Their timing is impeccable. One in 33 current U.S. homeowners may be headed toward foreclosure in the coming years because of subprime loans, and in some states the crisis is more acute. In Arizona, one in every 18 homeowners could lose their home. In Nevada, the ratio is one in 11, according to the report.

The report charts some assertive, even experimental state efforts to mitigate financial harm to homeowners, lenders, local communities and state budgets.

• To help borrowers avoid foreclosure and keep their homes, 20 states (including California, Colorado, New York and Nevada) have launched formal foreclosure intervention or prevention initiatives.

• Sixteen states (along with those above, including, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania) have enacted both high-cost lending and foreclosure intervention laws.

• Thirteen states (among them Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota) have created counseling hotlines to help the foreclosure-at-risk, and several states are encouraging (too often reluctant) lenders to work with borrowers to find alternatives to foreclosure.

• Nine states (including Delaware, Maryland, Michigan and Ohio) have established loan funds that can be used to refinance borrowers who have loans they cannot afford or to provide short-term loans to help borrowers overcome financial difficulties.

• To protect vulnerable borrowers from unscrupulous real estate investors, nine states have created laws regulating firms that claim to "rescue" borrowers from default. Since the downturn, rescue operations have preyed upon vulnerable home owners.

• And in an effort to prevent problematic loans from being made in the first place, 31 states (among them, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah ) have implemented laws that address predatory lending.

The report also explains the foreclosure process and lists home owners options when they default (become more than 30 days late on a payment) on their mortgage.

• Bring the account current by paying the past due balance on their loan, including late charges and other fees assessed by the lender.

• Renegotiate the terms of their loan with the lender.

• Pay off their loan by refinancing the loan with another lender.

• Sell the property to pay off the current loan, if the home is worth more than the mortgage. Or if the property is not worth the mortgage balance, engage a "short sale" where the lender forgives a portion of the debt provided a seller is available to buy the home.

• Voluntarily convey the property back to the lender through a deed–in-lieu of foreclosure.

The report also lists a host of relief efforts, some on the state level, some not, some well known, some not so well known, including:

Homeownership Preservation Foundation creates partnerships to help families overcome obstacles that could cause foreclosure.

National Consumer Law Center uses consumer law to promote marketplace justice for vulnerable home owners and families.

Pennsylvania's Homeowners' Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) is a loan fund that provides eligible state residents with foreclosure assistance.

Minnesota's Foreclosure Prevention Assistance Program provides eligible state home owners with counseling and financial assistance.

Ohio's Opportunity Loan Refinance Program helps borrowers refinance high-cost loans with a 30-year fixed-rate and a 20-year, fixed rate second.

Check with your state housing, consumer, social or community agencies to determine what home owner and mortgage programs and assistance is available to help see you through hard times.

© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

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Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist of 30 years, is publisher and executive editor of San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews Group -- DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service and Web site and the new Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's news back shop. In both cases, it's news that really hits home!

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