As you probably know by now, mortgage troubles have been a topic of conversation and concern for many people lately. According to RealtyTrac, there were more than two million home foreclosures nationwide in 2007 alone. In fact, Indiana and Michigan are among the top ten states with the highest foreclosure rates.
While experts say subprime loans are a symptom of the mortgage crisis, others say it's the buyers who are to blame. Some say homeowners over-extended themselves, buying homes they couldn't afford.
And even for people who aren't in financial trouble, the value of most homes has gone down overall, making it a tough market if you're trying to sell a home.
"It's definitely hurting everybody," says Century 21 Realtor, Rory Paquette. With mortgage woes in the local and national headlines, local Realtors, like Paquette, say they've been getting a lot of questions from people looking to buy or sell. Lately, many are curious to know how this mortgage crisis may affect them.
"Buyers are very concerned, how do I know how much a house is worth before I start putting an offer in on it?"
Paquette says the mortgage meltdown has affected homeowners in every income and education bracket. "The people that have the $300,000 house are having the exact same problem in the mortgage industry than what has happened with the economy as the folks in the $30,000 house. It's a different scale, but the same problem," says Paquette.
And foreclosures in the Midwest are up. According to RealtyTrac, in June 2008, Michigan was the 5th highest state for home foreclosures. Ohio came in next at 6th highest. Indiana was ranked 10th, and Illinois 13th. Nevada and California topped the state list.
Compare the first half of 2007 to 2008: Indiana had a 26% in home foreclosures so far this year. Comparing Michigan's numbers during the same time, you'll see the state had a 151% increase in home foreclosures in 2008!
By phone, we spoke with several Michiana residents who are going through foreclosure.
They declined to go on camera, but all tell us they got into mortgage trouble for different reasons. One man says his mortgage nearly doubled after his property taxes doubled. Another family admits they over-extended themselves. Paquette says the lure of "no-money down" has led to a fair share of foreclosures. "The zero dollars out of somebody's pocket, that's huge. I think that's been a huge contributor to where we are right now," explains Paquette.
Meantime, another woman told us she went into foreclosure because her current financial situation disqualified her from re-financing, sending her adjustable rate way up. "They were blindly optimistic that 'my situation today which enables me to get this mortgage -- meaning credit, job, money in the bank, everyone's healthy -- that's going to be me three years from now,'" says Paquette. "But to the dismay of many, financial pictures aren't the same as they were three years ago. And so you have the same person with that adjustable rate mortgage, three years later, who doesn't qualify to refinance."
To protect yourself from mortgage problems, Paquette recommends a few things. He says, first, make sure you're dealing with reputable professionals (i.e. check people out with your local Realtors Association or Mortgage Brokers Association).
Also, check with the state or Better Business Bureau to make sure the person doesn't have any complaints against them.
Paquette also recommends putting, at the very least, 3% down when buying a home, and consider getting a fixed rate mortgage over an adjustable rate.
And while many are slowly riding out the mortgage mess, there's a bright side for some. Foreclosure properties can be an affordable investment for those who are looking to buy. "It's already coming back because it's being addressed. You know the old adage, 'admitting you have the problem is the first step towards solving it,'" adds Paquette.
Now there's talk about the government stepping in to help alleviate some of the pain in this mortgage crisis. While some say government reform will bring homeowners relief, others argue it could create a false market.
If you're interested in buying a foreclosed home, you can contact your county's civil division. Each month, counties post listings for foreclosed properties. Legally, counties must publish the foreclosures for thirty days prior to a sale. St. Joseph County's next Sheriff's Sale for foreclosed homes is set for July 24th. Keep in mind that all homes have to be paid for in full by 3:00 p.m. the day of the sale.
For anyone who's in a foreclosure situation, there are many free resources and counseling opportunities that are out there.
Please see the numbers and links below:
South Bend Heritage Foundation: 574-289-1066
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): 1-877-GET-HOPE
Department of Justice:
Information on St. Joseph County Sheriff's Sale
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