Help for People Facing Foreclosure

Category: Prevent Foreclosure
Published: Sunday, 27 September 2015
Written by Super User

WHILE TRYING TO CHANGE his home from foreclosure, what was most difficult to handle for cattle rancher Jeffrey Medeiros was not knowing the person on the other end of the phone line.

"Every time I called the bank, I spoke to a different person," he says. "They didn't know me or my situation. They said they sent stuff, but I never got it, and I sent stuff they claimed they never got. It was all really stressful."

With the help of a mediator, Medeiros was able to avoid foreclosure and lower his monthly mortgage payment by $400. He is among 172 homeowners who have been able to retain their homes since the Hawaii Supreme Court established the Foreclosure Mediation Pilot Project in Hawaii County in 2009. Since 2011, it has been run through a partnership between the Kuikahi Mediation Center and West Hawaii Mediation Center, and, since 2012, it has been funded through the state Department of the Attorney General.

"Mediation allows (homeowners) to participate in the justice system even if they don't have the money to hire a lawyer."
-- Ronald Ibarra, Chief judge of the Third Circuit

"The mediator was someone I could go in and meet with one on one, who knew who I was, and had my file in front of them. We were always on the same page," says Medeiros.

Foreclosure mediation, according to Kuikahi executive director Julie Mitchell, is a process in which a neutral third party helps both sides reach a mutually satisfactory agreement to prevent foreclosure. To achieve this, borrowers and lenders agree to only communicate through the mediator, so there is one point of contact to ensure a smooth flow of paperwork and a more level playing field for homeowners, who may feel intimidated by bank representatives or their lawyers. 

"We're trying to encourage people to talk to one another, listen, explore possibilities and figure out a solution. It's very different than the judicial process because mediators are not decision makers. The parties are. It's about party self-determination, being in charge of their own lives and destinies, and finding an outcome that's going to work for everyone," says Mitchell.

To qualify for the program, which is currently only available in Hawaii County, a lawyer for the lender must provide notice of foreclosure action and a mediation request form. If the homeowner can certify that he is the borrower or co-borrower, and that the house is his principal residence, the court will review the request for mediation.

Ronald Ibarra, chief judge of the Third Circuit, which includes Hawaii Island, spearheaded this pilot program to ensure better access for all to the justice system. "Prior to the program, more than 90 percent of debtors who were unable to afford a lawyer would not file any legal documents, resulting in defaults being entered against these homeowners. Mediation allows them to participate in the justice system even if they don't have the money to hire a lawyer," Ibarra says.

"Before mediation, our mortgage was at $2,452, and now it's dropped to $1,742. And the interest rate went from 6.75 percent to 2.3 percent."
-- Anne, Beneficiary of the Mediation program

While mediation can help borrowers, lenders also benefit by not having to deal with the costs of protecting, fixing, marketing and selling a foreclosed home. "Any time there's a result other than a foreclosure judgment, it's better for all sides," says Aaron Masser, an attorney at RCO Hawaii LLLC, who regularly represents lenders in foreclosure cases. "The lender would rather have a loan modification or a quicker resolution through a short sale if that's possible. Maybe they are not getting as much as they would have gotten, but they are minimizing their loss. Anything that can help reach those goals is good for the lender."

Mediation is available to anyone at any stage as an alternative to court. "There are people who know they are missing payments and don't know what to do. Pre-foreclosure, they can call our center and we can try to mediate between the homeowner and the bank before it ends up in court," says Mitchell.

Anne, who asked that her last name not be used because foreclosures carry a stigma in some people's minds, says she wishes more people in her community were aware that mediation is an option. She and her husband felt embarrassed and scared when they first got their foreclosure notice, and did not know what to do. Mediation made her aware of her options.

"Before mediation, our mortgage was at $2,452, and now it's dropped to $1,742. And the interest rate went from 6.75 percent to 2.3 percent. All we could say was, 'Why didn't we do this sooner?' "

Melony Tavares, foreclosure program specialist at the West Hawaii Mediation Center, says that, while not all homeowners keep their homes, mediation does help people understand why things are happening, and that itself can be a benefit. "Sometimes it just takes someone to sit down and say, 'These are the numbers, this is what you're facing.' They may want a loan modification, but once they realize their income isn't enough, they may look into other options, like a short sale or cash for keys."

For now, there are no specific plans to extend the pilot program beyond Hawaii Island. "The hope is that the program will stay and continue to receive funding from the attorney general's office. No matter what happens, we'd like to support this program in any way we can and see it continue," says Katie Woods, executive director of the West Hawaii Mediation Center.

There's a long wait for housing help

Category: Prevent Foreclosure
Published: Sunday, 27 September 2015
Written by Super User
Veterans may wait about a week for housing. Those who qualify for family unification or the Fair Share program have less than a year to wait for help. There are currently 900 people on the waiting list for housing choice vouchers.
Grey was one of the presenters during the Cecil County Board of Healths Overview of Homelessness presentation held on Tuesday, September 8. There are also housing department programs to prevent foreclosure and education classes promoting home ownership. People (facing foreclosure) wait until the very last minute to ask for help, said Grey.
Cecil County Health Officer Stephanie Garrity led the discussion and explained the federal definition of homelessness. She also said that its a collaborative effort, and no one agency in Cecil County works on behalf of the homeless. The county does receive some federal funds for homelessness. The Department of Social Services spent $293,000 in grant funds on homelessness in a year.
Diana Klusak, who works for Cecils Department of Social Services said there is an attempt to capture data regarding homelessness. What is not clear is actual numbers because no one is required to report information if they are homeless.
Social Services reported 191 homeless families in one year. Councilwoman Joyce Bowlsbey said these numbers seem low.
Gaps in services were identified. These include lack of affordable housing, lack of mental health service providers, lack of substance abuse assistance, and limited availability of funds.
Theres never enough money, said Klusak. Klusak said that one of the issues with housing is that Cecil is linked to Philadelphia and Camden, NJ where housing is more expensive. The monthly rent for an efficiency here is $799.
There should be some way to move people from the cycle of poverty, said Councilman Alan McCarthy.
Mike Brandon talked about the role of the Paris Foundation in serving the homeless. That Christian - non-profit facility is open every day and is manned by volunteers.
They serve seven dinners and one lunch to homeless weekly.
Every meal is a platform for service, said Brandon. We are not a typical handout organization. We want to help people move from their current circumstances.

Fannie Mae Utilizes Technology to Achieve Housing Goals

Category: Prevent Foreclosure
Published: Friday, 25 September 2015
Written by Super User

Fannie Mae has built a strong and flexible technology organization in order to help the Enterprise more efficiently achieve its goals, which are to help provide people with access to affordable mortgage credit and to reduce risk to the taxpayer, according to a commentary from Bruce Lee, SVP and Chief Information Officer at Fannie Mae.

When we announced in December 2014 that Fannie Mae would again purchase loans with as little as 3 percent down payments, our technology organization worked to update our systems quickly so that lenders could begin delivering these loans to us within days, Lee said. Thousands of families have benefited from this loan option.

Today, various Fannie Mae technology tools that run on an interconnected technical infrastructure are used by lenders and servicers to help at-risk borrowers prevent foreclosure, to underwrite mortgage loans, and to subsequently check the quality of those loans.

Those tools include:

  • Desktop Underwriter (DU), which has been used for more than 20 years, and has been continually enhanced during that time. DU is a comprehensive underwriting system that helps lenders evaluate loans and determine if those loans meet the credit risk standards and eligibility criteria set forth by Fannie Mae. It has helped lenders provide mortgages to millions of Americans at an increased speed and lower cost.
  • Collateral Underwriter (CU), which builds on the success of DU. It helps reduce risk for Fannie Mae and lenders by helping lenders evaluate appraisals for loans and ensuring values are appropriate and property information is accurate. Lee said that CU "is a key part of building a stronger housing system for the future. We recently integrated CU with DU to further support our lenders' risk management and underwriting capabilities."
  • EarlyCheck helps lenders identify potential problems earlier in the process, which provides greater certainty that the loan will meet Fannie Maes eligibility requirements. Lenders who use EarlyCheck have the opportunity to fix potential issues prior to selling the loan to Fannie Mae, which reduces the risk of repurchase.
  • Servicing Management Default Underwriter (SMDU) helps those who service Fannie Mae loans determine what loss mitigation options are available to borrowers who are struggling to make mortgage payments. With SMDU, servicers can make real-time decisions to help those borrowers prevent foreclosure through any number of loss mitigation options (loan modifications, short sales, repayment plans).

Technology is also playing a key role in reducing Fannie Maes risk profile, Lee said.

"In order to build our Connecticut Avenue Securities (CAS) offering, which allows investors to take some of the credit risk that Fannie Mae traditionally held on loans in its book of business, we had to build a new set of tools, platforms, and reporting capabilities," he said. "In addition, technologies such as Desktop Underwriter and Collateral Underwriter help to reduce risk on the loans that Fannie Mae acquires. These tools have been instrumental in transferring a portion of the credit risk on nearly $400 billion of mortgages since 2013."

Animal rescue struggles after major benefactor dies

Category: Prevent Foreclosure
Published: Wednesday, 26 August 2015
Written by Super User

Hearts Hands Animal Rescue in Ramona is in danger of losing its property that houses endangered zebras and other rescues, following the loss of its major contributor.

"We just lost our largest single donor, James Whipple, a true gentleman, and a wonderful director of Hearts Hands," said Nancy Nunke, owner of the nonprofit organization.

Whipple, 91, had recently moved to Ramona from Lakeside to be near the rescue and was about to pay a $50,000 single payment due on the mortgage, but died unexpectedly, said Nunke.

Whipple became a founding member of Hearts Hands to continue his conservation efforts, along with others who realized that the Hartmann's Mountain zebra and the Grevy's zebra are soon to be extinct, said Nunke on the rescue's Facebook page.

Hearts and Hands has some of the zebras as well as endangered Przewalski's horses and rescued dogs, cats, goats, alpacas, tortoises, mules and donkeys. The organization also offers education and wellness programs.

Hearts Hands was established 15 years ago and is a 501(c)(3) organization.

The nonprofit is seeking donations to prevent foreclosure and to continue caring for the animals. More information is at or see Hearts Hands Animal Rescue Inc. on Facebook. Nunke said on Friday, they had raised about $10,000.

If they lose the property, Nunke said the rescue will not disappear, but will have to find a new location.

"This place is too important," she said.