Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Remember, You Are Not Alone—Seeking Help from a Certified Housing Counselor


Most people remember the subprime mortgage crisis that happened from December 2007 through July 2009. Many people lost their homes or ended up with high mortgage payments and did not qualify for refinancing under the stricter loan guidelines. Some may have lost their homes needlessly. There are nonprofit organizations who have certified housing counselors who will work to negotiate a solution with your mortgage holder. This article has two components: introducing you to a certified housing counselor and resources to help you find a counselor.

First, I want to introduce Certified Housing Counselor and Director of the Birmingham Urban League Housing Department, Deborah Spencer. Deborah has 20+ years of experience working as a housing counselor.

Deborah, when should a home owner come to see you?
When they are 30 to 45 days in default of their mortgage.

What are some of the things you can do to help homeowners who are in default on their mortgage or who have had a job loss or layoff?
We try to negotiate with the mortgage company because there are plans for people who have been laid off. We work with the homeowner in default and their mortgage holder to receive one of the following: loan modification, forbearance, foreclose sale, short sale, or a deed in lieu. People who have been laid off can contact Hardest Hit of Alabama to apply for help with their mortgage payments.

What kind of training does a certified housing counselor need to have and who certifies them?
Certified housing counselors are certified by NeighborWorks America which is an organization that receives funding from HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) to provide classes and certify housing counselors.

What organizations in Jefferson County provide free housing counseling with certified housing counselors for people facing foreclosure?
Birmingham Urban League, Jefferson County Housing Authority, and Neighborhood Housing Services of Birmingham and you can also call United Way at 211 to find foreclosure prevention counseling.

The following is a list of resources to help you understand your situation and the alternatives, please remember that if your house is in foreclosure, you should talk with a certified housing counselor for advice and help.

Books
The Complete Guide to Preventing Foreclosure on Your Home: Legal Secrets to Beat Foreclosure and Protect Your Home Now by Martha Maeda and Maurcia DeLean Houck
Fight foreclosure! : How to Cope with a Mortgage You Can't Pay, Negotiate with Your Bank, and Save Your Home by David Petrovich
Foreclosure Nation: Mortgaging the American Dream by Shari Olefson
How to Use a Short Sale to Stop Home Foreclosure and Protect Your Finances by Robert Irwin
The Mortgage Answer Book: Practical Answers to More Than 150 of Your Mortgage and Loan Questions by John J. Talamo
Save My Home! : 10 Steps to Avoiding Foreclosure by Tom Geller

Websites
The Birmingham Urban League offers foreclosure prevention counseling and new homeowners workshops.

Hardest Hit Alabama will provide mortgage payment help if you have been laid off or had a significant decrease in you income.

Neighborhood Housing Services of Birmingham offers monthly foreclosure prevention workshops and individual counseling.

NeighborWorks America manages the NeighborWorks Center for Homeownership Education and Counseling (NCHEC) and offers NCHEC certification for housing counselors and educators.

RealtyTrac lists the foreclosure rates for all states as of February 2016. This particular link is to the site for Alabama foreclosure rates and lists the top five counties with the highest foreclosure rates in the state. As you can see, Jefferson County is ranked #4 and Shelby County is ranked #3.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is a great website for information on housing.

Please share this information; it may be able to save someone from foreclosure.

Maya Jones
West End Branch Library

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