Thursday, September 29, 2011

Two Minnesota Housing Agencies Receive Expansion Grants

NeighborWorks America invests in expanding services in Minnesota.

On Friday, September 23, NeighborWorks America announced $3.65 million in grant funding specifically designed for nonprofits to increase their services for underserved communities by expanding the geographic reach of programs that have already been successfully established. 

NeighborWorks America hopes this grant funding will help agencies with a track record of successful programs bring their initiatives to even more communities in need. Among the 25 organizations receiving grant funds are two Minnesota-based agencies: Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership and Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services.

The Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership works to provide a sufficient supply of adequate, safe, sanitary and affordable dwellings for the people of southwestern Minnesota and is a member of the Center’s Homeownership Advisor’s Network. 

Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services provides owner-occupied rehab lending and construction management, homeownership education counseling, financial entry assistance, purchase-rehab-resale and new construction. Both of these organizations are making valuable contributions towards enabling successful homeownership for residents of Minnesota. 

Congratulations to both organizations on receiving a NeighborWorks America grant to continue and expand your good work!

For more information and a list of all 25 grant recipients, visit the NeighborWorks America news site.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Foreclosure Counseling - NFMC Report

Last week, NeighborWorks America released its 6th report to Congress on the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling program (NFMC).  The full report is available here.

Once again, the most recent report shows that while foreclosures continue to impact the nation's housing market, foreclosure intervention/prevention counseling WORKS.

Here are just a few of the highlights from the report:

  • Homeowners who receive foreclosure prevention counseling are 70% more likely to cure their foreclosure than similar homeowners that don't receive counseling.
  • Counseling clients that received loan modifications were able to reduce their monthly loan payments an additional $260 MORE than homeowners that don't work with a counselor.  The cumulative savings for struggling homeowners?  More than $560 Billion (with a "B") dollars PER YEAR.

One of the interesting shifts highlighted in the report is the fact that, for the first time, a majority of the clients nationwide that sought foreclosure counseling (53%) hold fixed-rate mortgages with interest rates below 8%.  In October of 2008... only 30% of homeowners were in the same situation.  The foreclosure crisis in the U.S. is definitively no longer just a sub-prime issue.  Over 60% of homeowners cite unemployment or underemployment as the primary reason they are struggling with their mortgage payment.

All of this information is very similar to the information we've seen in Minnesota.  The Center's 2010 report on the foreclosure prevention counseling is available here.

Given that foreclosures in Minnesota have once again begun to tick upwards... it is vitally important that homeowners seek the help of a certified non-profit Housing Counseling agency when they're struggling with their mortgage.  Do you know someone that's struggling to make their mortgage payment?  Let them know about free counseling in Minnesota by having them visit: for more information.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Finally - Major Changes in the Mortgage Industry

Major regulatory changes are shaking up the how servicers deal with delinquent homeowners.

The number one complaint the Center hears from struggling homeowners is how difficult it is to work with their bank or servicer.  Common complaints include getting lost in overly-complicated voice-mail systems, being routed from one department to another, never being able to speak with the same agent or representative twice, and constantly being told conflicting information when speaking with different agents.  However... a major change is on the horizon that should put an end to all this confusion:

The Making Home Affordable (MHA) program has updated their servicer guidance to require a “Single Point of Contact for Borrower Assistance”. In essence, the new guidance requires servicers to provide a single relationship manager to each struggling homeowner that is applying for help through the Making Home Affordable program or any other foreclosure-prevention option.  This includes HAMP, HAFA, UP and any in-house modification MHA servicers may provide.

The relationship manager will be responsible for communicating with the borrower, tracking their documents, responding to inquiries and coordinating the communication with any other bank/servicer employees. Homeowners should receive notice about being assigned to a contact as well as a toll-free number to use and information about the preferred method by which they should send documents to the servicer. The guidelines state that the relationship manager must be a full-time employee of the servicer, not a sub-contractor, who should be fully trained on the MHA program and the other in-house loss mitigation options available to clients.  Even if the client is not eligible for any loss mitigation options, and the loan is foreclosed, the relationship manager must still be available to the homeowner to answer questions about the status of the foreclosure.

It remains to be seen how well the servicers do implementing these changes, but this is good news for struggling homeowners AND their housing counselors.

Are you, or someone you know struggling with mortgage payments?  FREE, non-biased housing counselors are available to help!  Don't delay, visit to learn more about ways to avoid foreclosure in Minnesota.