By now, you know the numbers we’ve been reporting all too well.
Across the country, and here in our area, a staggering amount of people are facing foreclosure.
That’s why we’re beginning a three part series on that topic, and what kind of help is out there as people go through the process.
Experts say people’s options are actually widening as these problems become more common. For one, the President’s “Making Home Affordable” plan aims to help those on the edge of foreclosure. We’ll talk about that later in the series.
Meanwhile, local housing counselors say banks are becoming more cooperative. Those HUD counselors will do loss mitigation with your bank for you for free.
They say you should never pay anyone to work with your bank on these issues, whether you find them online or over the phone, especially if they promise you they can save your home; because that's not always possible.
A little more than a year ago, when the recession was just starting, Raymond Steadman lost his job in the RV industry; and it appeared his home was next.
“(The bank said), ‘Go borrow money from somebody else.’ I said I can’t borrow money from somebody else, you know, so you’re kind of in a trap you can’t get out of,” Steadman said.
For he and his wife Sharon, making their mortgage payment was already a struggle, and the job loss made it a true battle.
“It’s easy to get in but it’s hard to get out. You're overwhelmed with this great joy that I'm moving into this house, you know, and you have all these dreams for this house and you really don't intend to leave that house once you move into it,” Sharon said.
After finding their lender uncooperative, they sought help from housing counselors but found out it was a lost cause. They simply couldn't afford their home without some sort of new agreement with the bank.
“It was the right decision for us to walk away but it doesn't make it easy. I think God that my kids were older, they understood more,” Sharon said.
They aren't by any means the only ones in this situation.
Sheriff's sales are busy locales these days, as investors pour through the lists of family dreams gone awry.
Experts say sometimes, there's no avoiding that bitter end to the foreclosure process.
“If somebody really can't afford to keep their home, if there’s no income, if the payment is just way more than they’re able to afford at this point, not every situation is solvable,” said Laura McPhee, a HUD certified counselor at Greenpath in Elkhart.
Greenpath is one of numerous local agencies that have HUD certified counselors on staff, who help people through the foreclosure process at no cost.
They say it is important for people to understand that sometimes the loss of a home is unavoidable. But there are ways to minimize the impact of that loss, and in some cases, they can save people's homes.
The Steadmans went to a similar counselor, but keep in mind, their foreclosure happened almost a year ago.
The counselors say a lot has changed in the way banks work with borrowers since then, and things continue to change.
“I think we're seeing some (banks) that are very proactive in terms of helping our customers than others that are still not offering as many options. That certainly can be frustrating for the borrower, seeing their neighbor get some help, and they haven't been able to. But it is changing almost on a monthly basis as new options become available,” McPhee said.
But they also say there's no time to waste.
“The sooner you can get to someone and talk about your situation, and get a budget together, and have an action plan, the better you're going to be,” McPhee said.
HUD counselors can take you through your options in a simple meeting or even over the phone. They say the first thing they do is get a gauge for whether or not you will be able to afford your home. What options you might have are always based on your situation, and on your lender.
Again, they say if there's one thing to be sure of, you should never pay for any type of housing counseling, especially through online sources. There is a list of HUD counselors who all work for free, if you follow the link below.
In part two on Wednesday, we'll show you the other side; a family that went through a job loss but came through it without going into foreclosure, because they went out and got some help.
In part three Thursday, we’ll get more specific on what options you may have depending on your situation, and as always on Take Charge Thursday, we’ll have a phone bank of experts on hand to take your calls while we’re on the air.