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 Vermont News: National Homeownership Month

Press ReleaseNeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center of Southeastern Vermont
Urges Homeowners to Call for Help during National Homeownership Month


Springfield, VT – NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center of Southeastern Vermont urges homeowners at risk of foreclosure to take the first step to avoid losing their biggest investment: Call for help.

“We must do all we can to ensure homeownership is not built on quick sand. The earlier financially distressed homeowners reach out for assistance, the more options they have to address their mortgage issues and potentially avoid foreclosure,” said Bruce Whitney, HomeOwnership Center Director.

Industry studies show the foreclosure rate on mortgage loans has increased by more than 50 percent since 2000. While property values steadily increased and interest rates held near historic lows the past few years, buyers rushed into homeownership, and many were tempted by inappropriate loan products that appeared to be low-cost. These loans actually had short-term benefits and while they initially got many buyers into their homes, their interest rates were variable; as they climbed, tens of thousands of homeowners have been shocked by monthly payment increases they now cannot afford. In addition to rising interest rates, many Vermont families face foreclosure as a result of certain trigger events, such as loss of a job, reduction in income, or a health emergency. While there is no one reason that can explain why homeowners are facing foreclosure at an increasing rate, the surest way out is to ask for help. ...



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Unfortunately more than half of homeowners facing foreclosure do not call for help when they begin to fall behind on their payments, according to industry studies. However, the early stages of delinquency are the most crucial – the same studies show that homeowners who are one or two payments behind are more likely to keep their homes than those who have fallen further behind on their payment schedule.

Vermont homeowners having trouble paying their mortgage are encouraged to call 1-888-995-HOPE to receive foreclosure counseling from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-certified counseling agencies, like NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center of Southeastern Vermont and other members of the national NeighborWorks® network.

Many borrowers may be hesitant to call their bank because of embarrassment, fear, or lack of trust. Working with a certified counselor at the HomeOwnership Center may help alleviate this anxiety because a counselor has the ability to serve as mediator between the borrower and lender.

With the help of a counselor, a homeowner can work with his or her lender to develop a reasonable action plan that will offer relief to the borrower. Lenders are often willing to work with a borrower to develop a plan of action designed to put the family back on the financial road to recovery.

Because the Center provides homeownership education and counseling, we can deploy a range of services to help homeowners at risk in the communities they serve, including face-to-face counseling, counseling on refinance options, and rehab loans for repairs and maintenance.

For more information about avoiding foreclosure, call NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center of Southeastern Vermont, 802-885-3220 ext 222.


About NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center of Southeastern Vermont

Rockingham Area Community Land Trust started the NeighborWorks® HomeOwnership Center of Southeastern Vermont in 1998. In 2004 RACLT partnered with Brattleboro Area Community Land Trust to expand homeownership center services throughout southeastern Vermont. The Center provides education, counseling and access to affordable mortgage products that assist first-time home-buyers buy a home. Each year we help 60-70 Vermonters buy their first home; 20-25 people get home repair loans; and help 20 - 25 people deal with mortgage delinquency and avoid foreclosure. Annually our workshops are attended by over 100 families.

The Center’s nationally certified staff provides unbiased information on home-buying, lending and resolving credit issues. Qualified buyers can then gain access to affordable mortgages. For lenders, real-estate agents, and insurers, the HomeOwnership Center offers mortgage-ready customers, standardized homebuyer education, time and cost savings, and access to special sales outlets including affordable single-family homes land-banked through the Land Trust’s shared equity program.

www.ForeclosureHelpandHope.org

---------------------------------


OPINION EDITORIAL
For Immediate Release
August 22, 2007
Contact: Bruce Whitney 802-885-3220 ext 222, [email protected]


As interest rates rise and home price appreciation slows in Vermont an increasing number of homeowners in our area are falling behind on their mortgage payments or find themselves on the brink of foreclosure.

According to NeighborWorks® America, the nation’s largest certifier of homeownership counselors, the foreclosure rate on mortgage loans has increased by more than 50 percent since 2000. How did this happen? Easier access to home loans, an increasingly fragile economy, and mortgages that suddenly are beyond the financial abilities of the borrower are causing a climb in foreclosure rates in Vermont and across the nation. Over the last few years, too often buyers rushed into or were tempted by loan products that appeared to be low-cost. These loans actually had short-term benefits and while they got many buyers into a home, when their rates climbed as scheduled, thousands of homeowners were shocked by payments they didn’t expect and can’t afford.

Fortunately, there are steps Vermont homeowners can take to avoid foreclosure and keep their home equity. Because fast action is so important in the early stages, homeowners at risk of entering foreclosure should immediately call for help.

According to recent industry studies, more than half of homeowners facing foreclosure do not call for help when they begin to fall behind on their payments. The early stages of foreclosure are the most crucial – studies show that homeowners who are one or two payments behind are more likely to keep their homes than those further behind on their payment schedule.

Counselors are often the first line of defense for homeowners facing foreclosure, triaging them to determine whether the family needs help to fill short-term or long-term income gaps, aid to repair property damage, or assistance in budgeting and money management. RACLT-NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center of Southeastern Vermont, a member of the national NeighborWorks network of organizations that provide homeownership education and counseling, can deploy a range of services to help southeast Vermont residents in danger: face-to-face consumer counseling, rehab loans for repairs and maintenance, and public education.

Homeowners facing foreclosure may also consider calling 1-888-995-HOPE to receive foreclosure prevention counseling from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-certified counseling agencies, including RACLT The nationwide toll-free hotline is facilitated by the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit dedicated to preserving homeownership and preventing foreclosures by reaching owners as early as possible to prevent them from reaching the point of foreclosure.

After contacting a counselor, borrowers should immediately contact their lender. Many borrowers may be hesitant to call their bank because of embarrassment, fear, or lack of trust. Working with a counselor may help alleviate this anxiety because a counselor has the ability to serve as mediator between the borrower and lender.

With the help of a counselor, a homeowner can work with his or her lender to develop a reasonable plan that will offer temporary relief to the borrower. More often than not, a lender is willing to work with his or her borrower to develop a plan of action designed to put the family back on the financial road to recovery.

Research and experience show it is much less expensive to counsel and restructure loans than to foreclose. The cost to the borrower includes a lost home, equity and ruined credit. The cost to the community includes $30,000-50,000 in law enforcement services and lost economic development, according to a recent PolicyLab Consulting Group study. And, contrary to some common misperceptions, banks and mortgage investors lose in foreclosure, too – at least $30,000 on each foreclosed home.

We must do all we can to ensure homeownership is not built on quick sand; the earlier we can reach homeowners and make them aware of what they’re facing, the more options they have in addressing their financial issues, preventing foreclosure, and keeping their home equity.

***********


Jeff Staudinger is executive director of Rockingham Area Community Land Trust

Rockingham Area Community Land Trust is a non-profit, community-based organization that maximizes affordable housing opportunities for people in southeastern Vermont. RACLT owns 300 apartments and mobile home lots which are affordable to low and moderate income families. This year, RACLT is developing affordable housing in Windsor, Cavendish, Springfield and Rockingham. RACLT ’s NeighborWorks® HomeOwnership Center of Southeastern Vermont assists over 50 Windsor and Windham county families to become first time homebuyers each year.






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