Four Questions For President Obama and Congress about the Foreclosure Crisis Now that Elections are Over

By Sean Coffey, MPA, Program Manager, ForeclosureHelpSCC

Earlier this week, President Obama was re-elected President of the United States.  For people in the housing world, especially those of us who work with homeowners facing foreclosure, we want to know what, (if any) actions the President and Congress will take to address the ongoing foreclosure crisis, with over 5 1/2 million homeowners (nationally) “not current” as of September 2012.

A few specific issues:

1. Will the President and/or Congress intervene in any way to extend the deadline for the Independent Foreclosure Review  beyond the December 31st Deadline?   The number of eligible people who have applied for the review is far below expectations, and there have also been a number of questions raised about how independent the process actually is. The foreclosure refund program of the Attorneys General settlement, a similar program, also has a deadline fast approaching.  Depending on how many eligible people have contacted their Attorney General, it may be worth also extending deadlines for this program.

2.  What will happen with the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act?   As we discussed in an earlier blog post, not extending this debt forgiveness could have dire consequences for individual homeowners as well as the success of programs like the Attorneys General Settlement.

3. What will happen with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s overseer?   The National Fair Housing Alliance has a survey monkey poll about whether or not President Obama is going to fire the current director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Ed DeMarco.   Some advocates feel that DeMarco’s leadership has limited the GSE’s responses to the mortgage meltdown, including not allowing principal reductions.

4. Will there be any tougher consequences implemented for banks and servicers when they fail to comply with program rules in the Making Home Affordable program, or if they continue robo-signing or dual-tracking?

Are you having trouble paying your mortgage and do you live here in San Jose or Sunnyvale California? If so, contact ForeclosureHelpSCC by telephone: (408) 293-6000, email: help@foreclosurehelpscc.org, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org.

ForeclosureHelpSCC is a program that is supported by the Cities of San Jose and Sunnyvale, and staffed by housing counselors from four local, HUD-approved counseling agencies.

Our housing counselors can speak to you about what your options are if you’re having trouble paying your mortgage, including programs like Making Home Affordable, Keep Your Home California, the Independent Foreclosure Review, and private, in-house modifications offered by banks and servicers as well. Your housing counselor can work with you to develop a plan of action to begin dealing with the problem instead of ignoring it.

Remember, the sooner you start working with a housing counselor, the more options you will have to address your mortgage situation and potentially remain in your home. Time is not on your side, so pick up the phone and give us a call.

Please note: All content included in the ForeclosureHelpSCC blog is provided for information only and should NOT be considered legal or tax advice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on our hotline: (408)-293-6000, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org

October 20th Foreclosure Prevention Resource Fair Agenda

The ForeclosureHelpSCC Consortium is sponsoring a FREE foreclosure prevention resource fair on October 20th at Overfelt High School.  Housing counselors from HUD-approved agencies will be on-site to meet with homeowners on a first-come, first served basis from 9:00am to 2:15pm.  For more information, call (408) 293-6000, or visit our event webpage.  In addition to housing counseling, homeowners can attend and hear practical advice on a variety of topics related to housing.  The event is free and open to the public.

Agenda for Foreclosure Fair

9:30AM  Facing Foreclosure? What Steps Should you Take and Keep Your Home California

10:15AM Legal Issues You Need to Know About

11:15AM Presentation about the ForeclosureHelpSCC Program

11:45AM Roundtable With Representatives from Bank of America, Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo

12:30PM Bankruptcy and Tax Issues You Need to Know About:

1:30PM Renters Rights and Renting after a Foreclosure or Short Sale

2:30PM Buying Again: What Do You Need to Know and Do Now to Become a Homeowner Again

Day Concludes

Five Questions for the Presidential Candidates About the Foreclosure Crisis

By Sean Coffey, MPA, Program Manager, ForeclosureHelpSCC

  1. What is your position on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and allowing principal reductions for homeowners?   If elected or re-elected, would you consider changing this policy so they could allow principal reductions?  (In addition to principal reductions for Fannie and Freddie Loans through Keep Your Home California).
  2. Would you push for extension of the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act which is set to expire in December 2012?
  3. Will you push to extend the Independent Foreclosure Review (and potentially the foreclosure refund under the Attorney General settlement) deadline so that more people can learn about it?
  4. Is there anything you would change with current system of modifications, short-sales, and foreclosures?
  5. Do you think we have put adequate policies in place to prevent another mortgage meltdown and foreclosure crisis?

ForeclosureHelpSCC is sponsoring a FREE foreclosure resource fair here in San Jose on October 20th at Overfelt High School from 9am to 3pm..  Come meet with a HUD-approved housing counselor, learn about your options, and make a plan.  Visit our website or blog post for more information, or you can call us to register: 408-293-6000.

If you are a homeowner living in San Jose or Sunnyvale and are struggling with your mortgage, please contact ForeclosureHelpSCC, a program funded by the City of San Jose and the City of Sunnyvale at (408)-293-6000 or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org.  Our HUD-approved counselors can help you evaluate your options, learn more about federal and state programs that may help you with your mortgage issues, and will help you create a plan forward.

Please note: All content included in the ForeclosureHelpSCC blog is provided for information only and should NOT be considered legal or tax advice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on our hotline: (408)-293-6000, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org or send us an email: help@foreclosurehelpscc.org.

Five Reasons Working With A Housing Counselor is Better Than “Going Alone”

By Aurora Olivares, Housing Counselor at Project Sentinel, one of the members of ForeclosureHelpSCC

Did you call your mortgage company because you are having problems with your mortgage payment? If you live in the state of California you were given the phone number for HUD (HUD stands for The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), a requirement under California law. (This requirement was included in Senate Bill 1137 which was passed in 2008 and is set to expire in January 2013).

If you called that number, you were likely referred to a local HUD approved agency where you can receive free housing counseling services. Many folks wonder about what the benefits may be to working with a housing counseling agency.

Here are my top 5 reasons to work with a housing counselor at a HUD-approved agency:

  1. Honest Advice: A housing counselor will help you by assessing your situation. We will talk to you about the good and the bad with an unbiased opinion, but we bring the background knowledge of the best practices and we uphold the national Industry Standards for Homeownership Education and Counseling. In addition, we have worked with many homeowners, banks, and servicers, and this experience means we know how to keep the process moving forward, and we know the programs that may help your situation.
  2. Explanation of bank letters: A certified housing counselor can help you dissect the terminology used in the correspondence issued by your lender and in the paperwork of the loan modification process. While a bank or servicer may say your loan is “going into foreclosure,” we can help you understand what the actual timeline is for foreclosure and how to look out for important things like a Notice of Default. Understanding letters from your bank or servicer can be especially beneficial for non-English speaking homeowners.
  3. Your Budget: A counselor will work with you to review your budget. Counselors can provide budget counseling and calculate your housing ratios so you understand your ability to afford your mortgage and explain how these same ratios could impact your eligibility for assistance. For example, a counselor can review your income vs. your housing expenses and explain to you how that will impact your eligibility for a program like Making Home Affordable.
  4. Communication with your Bank or Servicer: Have you submitted paperwork to your bank or servicer multiple times, or called your designated representative but were not able to speak to them? While these types of issues can’t be completely eliminated, a certified counselor may have a reliable contact with your lender or have an efficient method of submitting your documents which can help smooth out some of the bumps along the way during the lender’s review.
  5. Resources: We provide you with resources. Did your lender tell you if you were eligible for the Keep Your Home California program? (English Website for Keep Your Home California, Spanish Website for Conserva Tu Casa California) Were you advised if you are a good candidate for a reverse mortgage? Did your lender tell you about an up and coming program your county may be working on to aid homeowners in distress or where you could go to get the much needed repairs to your home? Odds are you were not told about some of the resources that are right in your own back yard. We are local, just like you and we know what programs are truly out there to help the community we live in.

Are you having trouble paying your mortgage and do you live here in San Jose or Sunnyvale California? If so, contact ForeclosureHelpSCC by telephone: (408) 293-6000, email: help@foreclosurehelpscc.org, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org.

ForeclosureHelpSCC is a program that is supported by the Cities of San Jose and Sunnyvale, and staffed by housing counselors from four local, HUD-approved counseling agencies. Our housing counselors can speak to you about what your options are if you’re having trouble paying your mortgage, including programs like Making Home Affordable, Keep Your Home California, the Independent Foreclosure Review, and private, in-house modifications offered by banks and servicers as well. Your housing counselor can work with you to develop a plan of action to begin dealing with the problem instead of ignoring it.

Remember, the sooner you start working with a housing counselor, the more options you will have to address your mortgage situation and potentially remain in your home.Time is not on your side, so pick up the phone and give us a call.

Please note: All content included in the ForeclosureHelpSCC blog is provided for information only and should NOT be considered legal or tax advice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on our hotline: (408)-293-6000, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org

Refinance vs. Modification: What are the differences?

By Yvonne Castillo, Housing Counselor at SurePath Financial Solutions, one of the members of ForeclosureHelpSCC

With the housing crisis all around us in San Jose, Sunnyvale, and other cities in Santa Clara County, we hear some buzz words over and over, words such as foreclosure, modification, refinance and short sale. As a HUD-approved housing counseling agency, we often hear questions about the differences between modification and refinance, and which one is the best one to choose. The information below explains some of the main differences between these two options.

REFINANCE
What is a refinance?  A refinance is a new loan that you take out to pay off your old loan. A traditional refinance will require you to have equity on the property (up to 20%) to request a new loan.

Reasons why people refinance:  There are many reasons you may want to refinance your existing mortgage. For example, you may do it to lower your payments or interest rate. Or, to consolidate your 1st and 2nd mortgages, to extend or shorten the length of your mortgage, to change lenders, or to add or remove someone from your existing mortgage.

What happens when you refinance?  It is similar to the process of when you received your original mortgage. Because this is a new loan, you will receive a new loan number and your new loan may have different terms than your old loan.

Before you contact a lender to consider refinancing you should order your credit reports from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion (consider using Annual Credit Report to get an idea of the information included in your credit report). Generally speaking, the higher the credit rating you have, the better an interest rate you can qualify for, and the more money you will save. You will also need to show sufficient income to afford the new payments as well as your household expenses.

Unemployment and temporary disability benefits are considered temporary forms of income. Therefore, they are not acceptable forms of income when refinancing. You should also be current on your mortgage, car and credit card payments for approximately the past twelve months when considering refinancing as an option to remain in your home.

What costs are involved in a refinance? When refinancing there can be origination, processing and closing costs. Some lenders may waive some of these fees by including them into the loan balance. Check with your lender about any up-front or financed cost involved.

What if I do not have equity in my property? If your property is worth less than what you owe and your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you may want to learn more about the Home Affordable Refinance Program, also known as HARP. This is one of the federal programs to assist homeowners to refinance their loans even if they don’t meet the equity criteria. You can learn more about the program on the Making Home Affordable website.

MODIFICATION
What is a loan modification? It is a temporary or permanent change of the terms of the current mortgage agreement that is usually requested to make the mortgage payments more affordable.

What is the main reason why people request a loan modification? The main reason to consider a loan modification is to have more affordable mortgage payments and remain in your home, especially if you do not qualify to refinance your mortgage. You have to be experiencing a financial hardship which has made it difficult to make your current mortgage payments or missed one or more of your mortgage payments. It’s important to note that banks and servicers do not consider it a financial hardship if your only reason to modify your loan is because you owe more on your mortgage balance than the home is currently worth (also known as being “upside down”).

What terms can be changed in a modification? When receiving a loan modification you will keep your current loan number but some of the terms on your mortgage will be modified. This could include lowering your interest rate, or modifying an adjustable rate mortgage (where the interest rate varies) to a fixed rate mortgage where your mortgage payments and rate will remain fixed for the life of the loan. In some modifications, the interest rate is lowered for a few years (for example, a modification under HAMP can go as low as two percent), and then gradually increases over the course of a few years.

Will my payments be lower with a loan modification? For many households the loan modification has allowed them to reduce their mortgage payments and bring their loan current. However, it is important to note that if your current loan is an interest only loan, then changing it to a fully amortizing loan (where you are paying interest and principal) could result in an increase of your mortgage payment. However, banks and servicers can address this issue by lowering the interest rate, or lengthening the life of the loan (for example from 30 to 40 years).

In some limited cases, a loan modification may reduce or defer the balance owed. The homeowner may have a wish list of how they want their bank or servicer to modify their loan, but ultimately it is up to the bank or servicer (and sometimes the investor(s) who own the mortgage) whether or not they will modify the loan, and if so, how the terms will be adjusted.

Are there costs involved with a loan modification? Generally, there is no origination, processing and closing costs included when doing a loan modification. However some lenders will charge a small loan modification fee that is added to the balance of your loan and disclosed in the loan modification documents.

What information will be reviewed in a loan modification? Your bank or servicer will require a complete financial disclosure to evaluate the possibility of granting a loan modification. Information regarding your household income and expenses, amount of debt, proof of income, reason of the financial hardship, debt to income ratio etc, will be required to evaluate your modification request. If you have stopped making your mortgage payments, your bank or servicer will review if the non-payment is a result of the financial hardship. The bank will also want to see that there is a sustainable action plan going forward that will allow you to have sufficient income to continue paying your modified mortgage.

If you are a homeowner living in San Jose or Sunnyvale and want to know if either of these options will be applicable to your case please contact ForeclosureHelpSCC, a program funded by the City of San Jose and the City of Sunnyvale at (408)-293-6000 or visit our website www.foreclosurehelpscc.org. HUD approved counselors are available to provide free counseling sessions that will help you review your finances and evaluate the options for you.

Please note: All content included in the ForeclosureHelpSCC blog is provided for information only and should NOT be considered legal or tax advice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on our hotline: (408)-293-6000, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org

Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program, Part of Keep Your Home California: How Does It Work?

By Aurora Olivares, Housing Counselor at Project Sentinel, one of the members of ForeclosureHelpSCC

Have you heard of the Keep Your Home California program? (KYHC) Are you unsure how the program works to help struggling homeowners avoid preventable foreclosures? A few homeowners I’ve worked with here in the Bay Area are good examples of how Keep Your Home California works.

Are you like Michelle?

I recently was contacted by a woman who was laid off two months ago. She received a flyer from her local EDD office about the Keep Your Home California program. Michelle had used up her savings and was concerned about her ability to pay her mortgage while unemployed. I met with her the following day to go over the Unemployment Mortgage Assistance (UMA) program. Michelle met all the requirements in order to apply for the Unemployment Mortgage Assistance program and her application was submitted the same day.

Michelle kept in contact with the Keep Your Home California team and provided all documents needed for the eligibility review. Michelle’s review went smoothly and she was approved for the UMA program. Michelle was approved to have KYHC make her payments for up to up to 9 months while she looked to secure new employment and had KYHC administer her first mortgage installment before her payment was due, helping her preserve her credit.

Here are some quick facts about the Keep Your Home California program:

Your lender/servicer must participate in the program in order to qualify for the Keep Your Home California funds. Each lender/servicer can participate in as little as one or in all four of the Keep Your Home California programs.

Is my bank or servicer participating in Keep Your Home California?
Check this list: Servicers Participating in Your Home California

There are 4 award programs:

  • UMA-Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program: Is designed to assist unemployed homeowners who are receiving EDD benefits.
  • MRAP-Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance Program: This program can help by reinstating past due payments.
  • PRP-Principal Reduction Program: Homeowners who owe more than their property is worth, may be eligible for a principle reduction.
  • TAP-Transitional Assistance Program: Provides a payment of up to $5,000 to help homeowners, who cannot retain their home transition into new housing.

The Keep Your Home California program applies to primary mortgages in first position only. Second mortgages or home equity lines of credit are not eligible for Keep Your Home California programs. The property must be owner occupied and located in the state of California. The loan balance on the first mortgage is below $729,750. The homeowner(s) cannot be in bankruptcy while applying for Keep Your Home California Program.

Will you be the next success story?
To find out more about these four programs, or to set up an appointment with a housing counselor who can discuss these programs with you, contact ForeclosureHelpSCC by calling us at (408) 293-6000. You can also email us at help@foreclosurehelpscc.org or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org.

Please note: All content included in the ForeclosureHelpSCC blog is provided for information only and should NOT be considered legal or tax advice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on our hotline: (408)-293-6000, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org

Nancy’s Nine Rules for an Effective Relationship With Your Housing Counselor

By Nancy Rueda, Housing Counselor at Asian Inc., one of the members of ForeclosureHelpSCC

Trying to find assistance during a difficult time with your mortgage may be overwhelming, but there are trained housing counselors who can help you learn about your options so that you can make an informed decision. Today I’m sharing a few tips that will help you get the most out of your time with your housing counselor.

1) Take notes – At a housing counseling appointment you will learn a lot of new information about mortgage assistance programs, and what your options are if you are having trouble paying your mortgage. As part of your appointment, we will also give you a handout that explains the foreclosure timeline and process in California. It can be really helpful to take notes so that you have something to refer back to after your appointment.

2) Bring questions to the appointment: Before meeting with your housing counselor, write your questions and bring them to your appointment. That way you won’t forget any important questions or concerns you have about your mortgage.

3) Arrive on time: Housing counselors are assisting a number of homeowners at any given time. By being on time, you can ensure that you get the full time allotted for your appointment with your housing counselor.

4) Share all important information with your housing counselor. There are two really important reasons for you to make sure you’re sharing all relevant information with your housing counselor. First, similar to a doctor making a diagnosis, a housing counselor needs all information about your mortgage, financial, and income situation so that they can do a thorough analysis and make sure you’re informed about all options available to help you. If you only provide them with half the information, then you may miss out on learning about all of your mortgage options. Second, if your housing counselor is advocating on your behalf with your bank or servicer, they need to be operating with the same information that the bank or servicer has in order to be an effective advocate for you.

5) Awareness: While friends and family members may have received a loan modification, each mortgage situation is different. The banks and servicers (and in some cases, an investor who may or may not approve of a modification) all have different programs and policies. This could mean that the same bank provides two very different modifications for two houses on the same street. Or, because of investors, the bank may be allowed to modify one mortgage, but not the other.

6) Documents, documents, documents: If you are submitting a request for a loan modification, you will be asked to provide a lot of documents to your housing counselor. Housing counselors can’t submit incomplete packages to the bank or servicer. By providing all of the documents at one time, you can make your case go smoother and it will be easier for your housing counselor to submit a package to the bank. If a housing counselor has to wait on documents, it can slow them down in submitting a package to your bank or servicer. In addition, during the time your housing counselor is waiting for “late” documents, the documents you already submitted may become out of date, and you will have to submit new ones.

7) Follow up with your servicer – After your housing counselor informs you that your workout packet has been submitted to your servicer, follow up with your servicer. Do not wait for your housing counselor to remind you. It’s suggested that you follow up with them every week and make sure to write down what was discussed, the date, time, the name of the person you spoke with and their ID number on your note book. If you are giving information to the bank or servicer, it should match the information that your housing counselor submitted in the package. If circumstances change (i.e. you get an increase or decrease in pay), let your housing counselor know.

8) Keep your housing counselor updated – There will be times when your bank or servicer will contact you directly and may request additional information from you. Don’t forget to contact your housing counselor and inform them of what was discussed or what was requested from you. If you had to fax documents to your servicer, send them to your housing counselor as well, that way they are aware of what was provided to your servicer.

9) Be patient, polite and proactive – As overwhelming as this process is, housing counselors are here to assist you in learning about your options, which may include a short sale, modification, or in some cases, letting go of the home and planning a successful “exit strategy.” Regardless of which path you decide to take, it’s a “team approach” and your active participation is important. Being patient, polite, and proactive will also be helpful in communicating with your bank or servicer, since you may have to be the messenger between different departments at your bank or servicer.

Have you worked with a housing counselor before? Do you have any comments or tips you would like to share?

Please note: All content included in the ForeclosureHelpSCC blog is provided for information only and should NOT be considered legal or tax advice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on our hotline: (408)-293-6000, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org.