Monday, November 5, 2012

Top Women in Finance 2012: Center Board Member Vicki Shipley

The Minnesota Homeownership Center congratulates US Bank Vice President, and Vice President of the Center’s Board of Directors, Vicki Shipley for being selected as one of Minnesota’s “Top Women in Finance” by Finance & Commerce Magazine.

The Top Women in Finance award is given to principals, partners, executive vice presidents, CFOs, CEOs and managing directors at corporations in the finance industry as well as small and large business leaders throughout the state who have shown innovation, leadership, or some other notable qualities in the area of finance.

In her role as Regional Manager for Community Affairs, Vicki  has worked tirelessly to build strong connections between US Bank (and other financial institutions) and local community-based nonprofits.  As just one example of Vicki’s efforts, Finance & Commerce recognized Vicki’s innovative initiative that allows several community-based organizations to utilize unused US Bank office space.  The Minnesota Homeownership Center is just one beneficiary of this program.

Vicki is not the only connection the Center has with Finance & Commerce’s annual Top Women in Finance edition.  In 2010 (and 2007), another Board Member, Muffie Gabler, was a recipient and this year Commissioner Mary Tingerthal of Minnesota Housing, the state’s Housing Finance Agency that works closely with the Minnesota Homeownership Center on affordable housing issues, was also selected.

For a complete list of honorees, visit the Finance and Commerce article here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Housing Holding Pattern: Preforeclosure Notices

A Good News / Bad News situation

On Monday, October 29th, the Minnesota Homeownership Center released its data on the aggregate number of Preforeclosure Notices received by counselors in the Homeownership Advisors Network for the third quarter of 2012.  

10,016 households were notified by their lender/servicer between June and September that they may find themselves in foreclosure if they aren't able to bring their mortgage payments current.

This number sends a mixed message that can be cause for celebration or concern, depending on your disposition:
The Good News -  Year over year, the numbers continue to show improvement for the number of households that are struggling with foreclosure as the number reflects a decline of 31% from the number received in the same period in 2011.  (14,586 vs. 10,016)

The Not-So-Good News -  We saw no improvement when we compare the number received in the third quarter with the number received in the second quarter.  When comparing the two quarters, we actually see a very minor 0.21% increase.

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The Twin Cities Metro area experienced a slightly larger increase in the number of notices from Q2 – Q3 (a 2% increase) and while it shows a substantial decline from the same time period in 2011 (-27%) the decline doesn't match the overall statewide decline (-31%, mentioned above).

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Overall today’s numbers show that while the foreclosure crisis is slowly coming to an end…we are, by no means, out of the woods yet.

In addition, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the numbers show that more than THIRTY THOUSAND Minnesota families continue to struggle with mortgage payments. You can help these families by connecting them with information, resources and effective foreclosure prevention help.  

Join us in spreading the word by placing banners on your blog/website… or asking your employer, social service agency or local government to post links to the Minnesota Homeownership Center’s website:

For electronic copies of banners you can use, visit:

If you're struggling with mortgage payments... it's as you can see from this blog post.... you're not alone.  Thousands of others are also struggling.  More importantly, Minnesota has a statewide network of non-profit organizations that can help YOU put a plan in place to avoid foreclosure.  Last year, more than half of the people who sought out our services were able to avoid foreclosure.  Don't delay, contact us today.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Free Gift From the Minnesota Homeownership Center

The Minnesota Homeownership Center would like to share a free gift with you...

Personalized luggage tags!

Click To Enlarge

We'll send you TWO FREE laminated plastic luggage tags use YOUR business card for the front of tag... you just need to send us a couple of cards for us to use... and then you can choose the design on the back that you prefer:

It's our way of saying THANK YOU for supporting the work and mission of the Minnesota Homeownership Center.

There's a fillable PDF form you can use to print out and mail us your cards, here... or just print out the image below:

Click to Enlarge

If you don't have a business card... you can send us a design you'd like us to use (Microsoft Word, for example) that measures 2" x 3"... and we'll use that for your tags!

The Fine Print:  When you send us your 'order', you're agreeing to sign up for our electronic and traditional mailing lists.  This offer is only valid for Minnesota residents.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

NeighborhoodLIFT Program Offers DownPayment Assistance

If you spend any time with people who work in housing or real estate, you’ll hear certain ‘catch-phrases’ repeated over and over.  One of the most pervasive phrases heard over the last couple of years is “All Real Estate is Local.”  There’s a lot of truth in that statement… and it’s one of the reasons why the Minnesota Homeownership Center’s Homeownership Advisors Network is so successful at preparing homebuyers for successful homeownership.  

The Homeownership Advisors Network is made up of almost 50 different community-based non-profit, governmental and tribal organizations throughout the state.  The members are fully engaged in housing issues in their local communities and work on finding innovative ways to promote successful homeownership.  Two members of our network, Community Neighborhood Housing Services in St. Paul and Neighborhood Housing Services of Minneapolis, who are also NeighborWorks America affiliates, have partnered with Wells Fargo to bring the NeighborhoodLIFT program to Minnesota.

The NeighborhoodLIFT program is a collaboration between Wells Fargo and NeighborWorks America designed to provide down payment assistance and homebuyer education programs to aid housing recovery in areas that have been heavily impacted by the foreclosure crisis. In Minnesota, this program includes a $9 million investment for down payment assistance grants and homebuyer education and counseling programs to help homebuyers achieve successful, sustainable homeownership in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. 

Minneapolis and St. Paul are two of about two dozen cities throughout the country that will benefit from a total investment of over $170 million that Wells Fargo has committed to the NeighborhoodLift program (also known as CityLIFT in other areas).

The new initiative was announced August 28 at a press conference at a home in North Minneapolis that has recently been remodeled by Neighborhood Housing Services of Minneapolis:

L-R Glennis Ter Wisscha (Neighborhood Housing Services of Minneapolis); Dave Kvamme (Wells Fargo); Jason Peterson (Community Neighborhood Housing Service)
Recently Remodeled Home in North Minneapolis (Press Conference)

The program will include a free event for potential homebuyers on Friday and Saturday, September 7th and 8th at the Minneapolis Convention Center, (Hall A) from 10am – 7pm.  At the event, buyers who are interested in purchasing a home in either of the cities can work with a member of the Homeownership Advisors Network and other housing counselors to see if they qualify for any of the down payment grants available through the NeighborhoodLIFT program – up to $15,000 – even if they haven’t yet chosen a home.  There will also be opportunities for buyers to preview featured homes for sale in Minneapolis and St. Paul neighborhoods.  Consumers who would like more information about the homebuyer workshop or to register, visit

Here’s some additional information about the NeighborhoodLIFT down payment assistance program:

  • Grant amount up to $15,000 for down payment assistance for the purchase of a primary, owner-occupied residence in either Minneapolis or St. Paul (surrounding cities are not eligible).
  • The grant has a 0% interest rate and is forgivable 20% each year for five years (after the fifth year of continued residence, the entire amount is forgiven).
  • Household income cannot exceed 120% Area Median Income
  • Purchaser does NOT have to be a first-time buyer
  • Homebuyer education is REQUIRED (Home Stretch certificate is accepted if the course was taken prior to 8/28/2012.  After 8/28/2012, the Home Stretch certificate must be issued by either Community NHS or Minneapolis NHS).
  • This down payment assistance can be used with OTHER down-payment programs (speak with a Homeownership Advisor at Community NHS or Minneapolis NHS for more details)
  • Most importantly: this down payment assistance can be granted REGARDLESS of who you choose to use as your primary lender (you do NOT have to have a first mortgage loan with Wells Fargo to qualify for the assistance).

Monday, August 13, 2012

Midyear Sheriffs Sales Report Released


The Center has released its most recent report on the number of homes sold at Sheriffs’ sales in Minnesota during the first half of 2012... and it sends a mixed message on the overall health of Minnesota’s housing market.   The report indicates that there were 9,565 foreclosures in the first half of 2012, a decline 15% from the same time period in 2011, but also shows that foreclosures have remained virtually unchanged for the last three quarters. 

The report, titled “2012 Semi-Annual Foreclosures in Minnesota:  A Report Based on County Sheriff’s Sale Data”, analyzes sheriff’s sale data, the only accurate means of identifying completed foreclosures, from each of Minnesota’s 87 Counties.  Minnesota is unique among other states in the availability of current, comprehensive foreclosure sale data. 

 “This report does not predict the future, but it sends a discouraging message,” said Julie Gugin, Executive Director of the Minnesota Homeownership Center.  “While the year-over-year declines are positive, we also know that thousands of Minnesota families continue to struggle with payments, and those numbers remain stubbornly high.”  

The Minnesota Homeownership Center, Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, Minnesota Housing and Family Housing Fund published the report, with research provided by HousingLink.

A full copy of the report is available at the MN Homeownership Center’s website: here.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

More Good News For Housing in Minnesota

Preforeclosure Notices Resume Their Drop 

On  Thursday, August 2nd, the Minnesota Homeownership Center released its data on the aggregate number of Preforeclosure Notices received by foreclosure counselors in the Homeownership Advisors Network for the second quarter of 2012.

Notices received dropped 17% from the first quarter of 2012, reaching their lowest point since the law was enacted in late 2008.

In the second quarter of 2012, members of the Homeownership Advisors Network received 9,995 preforeclosure notices, 17% fewer than the previous quarter, and 25% fewer than the during Q2, 211:

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Encouragingly, the metro area also experienced a similar 16% drop in the number of notices received:

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There are, however, a few areas of the state that we’ll need to continue to monitor as they have bucked the downward trend of the rest of the state: the City of Minneapolis and, to a lesser degree, Carver County:

While the overall numbers are certainly cause for celebration… we also have to remember that this brings the year-to-date total of Preforeclosure Notices received by Minnesota homeowners to 22,101

More than 22 THOUSAND Minnesota families continue to struggle with mortgage payments.  You can help them by sharing the message that help is available.  For free.

This online advertising campaign (more info here) is already helping hundreds of struggling homeowners by connecting them with information, resources and effective foreclosure prevention help.  Join us in spreading the word by placing them on your blog/website… or asking your employer, social service agency or local government to post them.   For electronic copies of these ads, visit:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New Online Ad Campaign for Foreclosure Prevention

Screenshot of ad.  Actual ad
rotates through 4 panels
The Minnesota Homeownership Center has launched a new online advertising campaign to reach struggling homeowners and get them connected to the Homeownership Advisors Network where they can get the foreclosure prevention services they need.

OUR STRATEGY:   This week, the Center  will begin an integrated digital (online) advertising program to reach struggling Minnesota homeowners through: 
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM) (Highlighted ads that appear on Google, Bing, Yahoo! and other search engines when consumers search for specific topics). 
  • Online banner advertising through the Yahoo! Advertising and the AdTaxi networks.  
Online banner and SEM advertising allows us to limit production expenses and get the ad seen by as many targeted households as possible.  When all is said and done, the ads will have been posted over 4 MILLION times.
OUR TARGET:   Online data and web usage tracking allow us to target struggling homeowners that meet specific demographic profiles.  We’ll be focusing on these homeowners in:   
  • the 7-County Metro area (Hennepin, Ramsey, Carver, Scott, Dakota, Washington Anoka)
  • Isanti, Pine, Sherburne, Chisago, Mille Lacs and Kanabec Counties;
  • The cities of St. Cloud, Duluth, Rochester, Mankato and their surrounding communities. 
By targeting these areas we are reaching the hardest-hit areas of the state as well as close to 75% of the statewide population.
OUR TIMELINE:   The banner and SEM ads will begin the week of July 9th and are scheduled to run through early 2013.   
WE'RE BEING PROACTIVE:  The Center feels strongly that we can't wait for homeowners in trouble to come to us.  We have to proactively reach out to them to let them know help is available.  That's what this campaign is all about.  It's a no-nonsense message -- we're an effective, free, non-profit way for any Minnesotan to access foreclosure prevention services.
WE'RE BEING EFFICIENT:  We chose an online campaign to reach people in the most efficient way possible, and to ensure we could have the conversation with homeowners at a time when they are just one click away from getting help.  
WE'RE FOCUSED ON OUTCOMES:  We didn't want a feel-good campaign.  We want MN homeowners to get help, and we'll be monitoring the campaign's web analytics in real time to see how we're doing.  If search terminology or ad placement isn’t working, we'll adjust.  We are hopeful this approach will prove to be both an efficient and effective way to connect homeowners to foreclosure prevention services, and we'll be carefully measuring against that outcome.
PREVIEW THE ADS.  Unless you fit the targeted demographic and geographic profile we’ve identified, you may not see our ads much, or even at all.  We have, however, uploaded preview versions of the ads to our website here:

We can send you these ads electronically so you can email them to others, put one on your website or ask that your municipality, local social service organization or other partners post it.  The more broadly the ad is seen, the more likely homeowners will get the help they need!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mortgage Payments and Duluth Flooding

The Minnesota Homeownership Center has received word that Wells Fargo Home Mortgage has established a process to help homeowners that are dealing with the after-effects of the devastating flooding from last week's rain in Duluth.

Wells is offering up to a 45-day moratorium on loan accounts - provided homeowners notify them that they have been impacted by the flooding.  According the Wells, the moratorium stops all payments, reporting to credit bureaus, late fees, collections and any foreclosure action.

What should Wells Fargo Home Mortgage clients do if they've been affected by the flooding?  There are two options:

  1. Homeowners can call a specialized customer service agent at 1-888-818-9147.  These agents can assist customers with a forbearance or workout plan if needed. They also assist with any insurance questions or claims. 
  2. Customers can visit the "Getting Disaster Assistance" page on the Wells Fargo Website.  This page highlights the disaster assistance hotline and other ways Wells can help customers with claims questions or payment options.

In addition, homeowners affected by the flooding should also contact a member of the Homeownership Advisors Network if they are find themselves struggling with payments due to the flooding... or need other assistance with finding reputable help to rebuild.  For Duluth, homeowners should contact 1 Roof Community Housing.

We'll update this post, and others, as we learn what other lenders, servicers and mortgage insurers are doing to help their clients recover from the flooding.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Foreclosure Review Deadline Extension and Details Released

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), one of the Federal regulators that took enforcement action against large residential mortgage servicers for unsafe and unsound practices related to residential mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure processing, announced today that they have extended the deadline for borrowers to request an Independent Foreclosure Review (IFR) until September 30th, 2012.

This announcement is so new that as of today, even the official IFR website still states that the deadline is July 31st.

More importantly, the OCC and the Fed have released a Financial Remediation Frameworkdocument which outlines the possible remedies borrowers can expect to receive - and the financial compensation they may be eligible for - as a result of the IFR process.

For months, consumers and their advocates have asked us - why bother??  And now the answer is clear... the financial 'remedy' consumers may receive if the independent review finds that their lender committed an error in their foreclosure process can be SUBSTANTIAL - - Up to $125,000 plus equity losses!

For additional information about IFR... view our past blog posts here and here.

If you were in the foreclosure process in 2009 or 2010... don't let this opportunity slip by.  Contact us today to learn more.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Preforeclosure Notices Continue Downward Trend

Special thanks to Aaron Dickinson for reminding us that we hadn’t released our first quarter pre-foreclosure data.  THANKS AARON!

On  Thursday, June 7th, the Minnesota Homeownership Center released its data on the aggregate number of Preforeclosure Notices received by foreclosure counselors in the Homeownership Advisors Network for the first quarter of 2012 (January through March).  The numbers, while increasing slightly from Q4 2011, show that the number of struggling households in Minnesota continues its downward trend. 

In the first quarter of 2012, members of the Homeownership Advisors Network received 12,106 preforeclosure notices, up very slightly (.75%) from Q4 2011, but 17% fewer than during the same time period in 2011:

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Encouragingly, the number of pre-foreclosure notices is down in every area of the state… except for two areas that seem to have bucked the downward trend.  We’ll continue to monitor these two areas to see if this is a trend… or just an anomaly:

  • Scott & Carver Counties reported an increase of 7% (From 558 to 599 notifications); and
  • Wilkin & Clay Counties reported a 40% increase – although small numeric changes in this area can show large variations in the percentage (40 households received a notice in Q1 2011, while 56 households received a notification in Q1 2012). 

While these numbers are encouraging, there were still over 12,000 households that received a preforeclosure notice in the first quarter of 2011:

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Here's the breakdown for the number of preforeclosure notices received by members of the Homeownership Advisors Network in the 7-county metro area:

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As background, Minnesota state law (MN Statute 580.021) requires that the foreclosing party provide information regarding foreclosure prevention counseling services to the mortgagor (homeowner) and provide the homeowner’s name, address, and most recent known telephone number to an approved foreclosure prevention counseling agency before filing the notice of pendency.

Once the Minnesota Homeownership Center's network of foreclosure counselors receives notification from the lender/servicer/homeowners association, they then contact the homeowner, and track the number of notifications received during the month in their monthly reporting to the Center.

Most importantly, if you or someone you know is struggling with their mortgage payment, new programs, resources and assistance are becoming available all the time. Don’t give up… contact a foreclosure counselor that is a member of the Homeownership Advisors Network today to see if there’s help available for you to avoid foreclosure. Even if you’re not yet behind, now is the time to call. To find your local foreclosure counselor, click here.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

HAMP Changes Take Effect Friday June 1

Effective Friday, June 1, 2012 HAMP “Tier 2”  -  which many people have simply referred to as HAMP 2.0  -  will roll out for the Making Home Affordable (MHA) loan modification program.  Like many MHA updates, these changes apply to non-GSE mortgages. 

The goal of HAMP 'Tier 2' is to increase eligibility for homeowners, including:
  • those who did not meet the original HAMP guidelines,
  • those who may have failed on a HAMP modification, or 
  • those who own rental properties.

With HAMP 'Tier 2', many of the initial qualification criteria are still in place:
  • loan must have been originated before January 1, 2009, 
  • homeowner must be able to document a financial hardship;
  • Only loans on properties with one-four units can be modified;
  • there is a maximum outstanding loan amount (maximum unpaid principal balance.

But now, a borrower may also be considered for HAMP 'Tier 2' if any of the following also apply:
  • they did not successfully complete (defaulted on) a HAMP 'Tier 1' modification;
  • their monthly mortgage payment is below the minimum 31 percent front end Debt-To-Income ratio;
  • and, most controversially, up to three seperate mortgages may be modified if they secure rental properties
No mortgage loan may be modified more than once in either Tier 1 or Tier 2. 

People interested in learning more about the HAMP program and the new 'Tier 2' changes, can visit the Making Home Affordable website, here.

The Homeownership Advisors Network will continue to focus its attention on helping owner-occupants avoid foreclosure, but may be able to answer some basic questions for rental property owners as well.

HAMP, HAMP 2.0, DTI, VPN, HARP, MHA, GSE... the 'alphabet-soup' of programs, agencies and programs can be overwhelming for struggling homeowners.  In Minnesota, there is a FREE, effective resource available: The Homeownership Advisors Network.  Trained and certified foreclosure prevention experts can work with YOU to find a solution to YOUR mortgage issues.  Don't delay, contact an advisor by visiting the Center's website today.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

New Partnership Simplifies Finding Down Payment Help in Minnesota

The Minnesota Homeownership Center is proud to announce a new partnership with Down Payment Resource, the first web-based down payment assistance search tool to help both home buyers and Real Estate professionals seeking down payment and entry-cost assistance programs in Minnesota!

Beginning today,  the Center will offer direct access to Down Payment Resource through our website, and use our local expertise and existing partnerships to ensure the ongoing integrity of Minnesota-specific program information within the service.

REALTORS and other real estate professionals: imagine being able to print out a list of all possible down-payment and entry cost assistance programs to use as a handout at your open houses... or in your Buyers' Packets.  You can!  Visit the Center's website for a link to the new tool as well as other tools the Center has that can help YOU as you assist clients on their road to successful and sustainable homeownership.

Here are links to a couple of testimonials of the service... one from the perspective of a homebuyer, and one from the perspective of a REALTOR that uses the system to promote her listings and help her clients.

This is not Down Payment Resource's (DPR) first partnership in Minnesota... nearly two years ago, DPR began working with the NorthstarMLS which became the first MLS in the country to offer links to the DPR service. DPR aggregates down payment assistance information into its online platform and integrates that information into the NorthstarMLS (and other MLS systems throughout the country).  The tool helps connect eligible homebuyers and eligible properties with assistance, bridging the down payment gap for homebuyers, as well as moving real estate transactions forward in a difficult lending environment.

Many first-time buyers are unaware that they may qualify for down payment or other assistance programs in Minnesota.  It can be especially challenging to understand the requirements, benefits and application process for multiple programs.  This new partnership combines the Center's focus on sustainable homeownership through education and outreach with the content-rich and easy-to-use online platform from DPR.  Consumers that are looking for additional information about homeownership or any of the assistance programs, are connected to the FREE non-profit counseling services available through the Homeownership Advisors Network directly from the system.

Here's what DPR has to say about the partnership (from our press release): 
“We are thrilled to work alongside partners that share our goal of empowering consumers with information on down payment and closing cost assistance," said Rob Chrane, president of Workforce Resource. "The Minnesota Homeownership Center's leadership in housing, statewide expertise and relationships across Minnesota with affordable housing stakeholders will help increase program awareness across the state."

We're excited to be working with Workforce Resource / DPR too!

Have you used the system (either through the current arrangement with the NorthstarMLS or the new tool)? Let us know in the comments!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Postcard: Independent Foreclosure Review

Did you receive a postcard about the Independent Foreclosure Review?

The Minnesota Homeownership Center and members of the Homeownership Advisors Network have participated in a mailing to thousands of Minnesota families that may have been involved in a foreclosure or tried to work on a loan modification in 2009 or 2010, to let them know that they may be eligible for financial compensation or another remedy.

Here's a copy of the postcards that have been mailed:

Front of Postcard - Click to Enlarge
Back of Postcard - Click to Enlarge

While the Center doesn't have exact numbers... we do know that homeowners, or former homeowners, requesting a formal review of their bank's foreclosure procedures have been far less than the regulators anticipated.  In a nutshell: families that may be eligible for some sort of payment may be leaving money on the table.

Federal banking regulators (the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, simply known as the OCC, the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System have created a process by which homeowners may request an independent review of their foreclosure process if they meet two major criteria:

  1. They were part of a foreclosure action on their primary residence any time from January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2010;
  2. Their loan was serviced by one of the 14 participating mortgage servicers.  (See list below).
If the review finds that financial injury occurred because of the servicer’s errors, misrepresentations or other deficiencies in the foreclosure process, the customer may receive compensation or other remedy.

NOTE:  "Foreclosure Action" can mean anything from receiving a notice of intent to foreclose (even if your payments were brought up to date) all the way through having lost the home at a foreclosure or Sheriff's sale.  Even homeowners whose loan entered any point of the foreclosure process in 2009 or 2010... and are still delinquent, but the Sheriff's sale has not yet taken place, are eligible.

NO.  However it is important to remember that NO ONE should charge you a fee to help 'facilitate' or 'improve your odds' of receiving compensation.  NEVER PAY FOR HELP.

No.  Your bank or servicer may have their own internal review process.  However, if your mortgage loan meets the initial eligibility criteria, you should submit a Request for Review Form to ensure your foreclosure action is included in the Independent Foreclosure Review process.

Your mortgage must have been serviced by one of the 14 participating mortgage lenders/servicers or their affiliates:
  • America’s Servicing Co.
  • Aurora Loan Services
  • BAC Home Loans Servicing
  • Bank of America
  • Beneficial
  • Chase
  • Citibank
  • CitiFinancial
  • CitiMortgage
  • Countrywide
  • EMC
  • EverBank/EverHome
  • Mortgage Company
  • Financial Freedom
  • GMAC Mortgage
  • HFC
  • HSBC
  • IndyMac Mortgage Services
  • MetLife Bank
  • National City Mortgage
  • PNC Mortgage
  • Sovereign Bank
  • SunTrust Mortgage
  • U.S. Bank
  • Wachovia Mortgage
  • Washington Mutual (WaMu)
  • Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
  • Wilshire Credit Corporation


Step One:  Call the Minnesota Homeownership Center: 651-659-9336
or Toll Free: 866-462-6466 with any questions.

Step Two:  Visit the Independent Foreclosure Review website:

As always... if you're struggling with your mortgage - or know someone who is - the Minnesota Homeownership Center serves as a FREE resource to Minnesota homeowners.  Call us today with questions about the Independent Foreclosure Review... or other programs, resources and assistance available to prevent foreclosure, TODAY

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Manufactured Housing in Minnesota

New Fact Sheet Available!

Used Under Creative Commons License
Foto by Archerland2005
Manufactured homes (often called mobile homes) are built entirely in a factory and have a permanent structure that allows for them to be transported. The homes are usually placed on land owned by the homeowner or leased at a mobile home park.  Mobile home design and aesthetics have changed dramatically in the past few years and most no longer resemble the ‘trailer’ look of years past.  They can be an affordable housing option for Minnesotans, but there are some VERY important considerations to make before you decide to purchase a manufactured home.

For that reason, the Minnesota Homeownership Center has created a new Fact Sheet that covers:

  •  Advantages and Disadvantages to purchasing a manufactured home
  •  Living in a resident-owned or cooperative mobile home park
  •  Financing the purchase of a manufactured home
  •  Steps to take when purchasing

To view the complete fact sheet… and others that can help you in your goal of homeownership, visit the Center’s website, here.

As always the Center highly recommends that if you’re thinking of purchasing your first home in Minnesota, whether manufactured housing or traditional site-built housing, that you first make an appointment with a Homeownership Advisor (Housing Counselor) who will be able to work with you to create a plan to reach your goal of homeownership.  They’ll also help you understand your rights and responsibilities as a homeowner and make sure that you know about any down payment or entry-cost assistance programs you might be able to access.

The Minnesota Homeownership Center exists to promote and advance successful homeownership in Minnesota… speak with a Homeownership Advisor today so that YOU can be successful in the purchase of your first home.  Counseling services are FREE and confidential.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mortgage Settlement Announced - What it Means for Minnesota

On February 9th, 2012, the Minnesota Attorney General’s office and the Department of Commerce announced that the State of Minnesota would be participating in the Federal Foreclosure settlement with five major lenders/servicers.  These five servicers have agreed to a $26 Billion dollar settlement, through which Minnesota borrowers may be eligible for up to $280 million.

The five lenders are: Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo.  (Nine other servicers may sign on to the settlement later, we’ll update that information as it becomes available.)    It is important to note that loans owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not part of the settlement.  However, there are other programs and assistance available to some of these borrowers.  Click here for more information.

Additional information for homeowners interested in learning more about the settlement is available here:  

REMEMBER:  DO NOT PAY FOR HELP.  No ‘agent’, ‘specialist’ or ANYONE should be charging you to ‘get access’ to the settlement.

Direct Payments to Borrowers.  Minnesota borrowers may qualify for financial compensation:

  • Certain borrowers who lost their home to Sheriff’s Sale between the beginning of 2008 and the end of 2011, may be eligible for financial compensation of approximately $2,000* if they lost their home due to financial hardship AND 
  • They were in the process of seeking a loan modification and the bank proceeded with the foreclosure anyway OR
  • There were documented errors committed by the lender in the foreclosure process.

*The exact amount paid to homeowners will depend on the number of eligible borrowers who file a claim.

Refinancing Benefits. This part of the settlement allows underwater borrowers of mortgages owned by the five banks (as long as they are not backed by Fannie/Freddie) to refinance to a lower interest rate if they are current on their mortgage and have not had any late payments in the last 12 months.  The loan must have been originated prior to January 1, 2009, and have an interest rate of 5.25 percent or more. 

Principal Reductions and Other Relief. This part of the settlement will allow certain borrowers of loans owned, or in some cases serviced, by the five banks to qualify for:
  • a principal reduction of their underwater mortgage and either 30 days late on the mortgage or who face ‘imminent default’;
  • a forbearance  (set period of time with no mortgage payments) for unemployed borrowers, 
  • short-sale assistance, 
  • transitional housing assistance, 
  • and other relief (details to be determined)
Beyond the financial relief and compensation outlined in the settlement, the five banks have also agreed to make substantial changes to their mortgaging and servicing standards including:
  • Processing loan modification requests in less than 30 days
  • Stopping the foreclosure process for homeowners who have a loan modification application pending (as long as the application is processed more than 15 days before the Sheriffs sale)
  • Stopping the  foreclosure process completely for homeowners who are complying with a trial modification (either HAMP or the lenders’ in-house modification)
  • Lenders must process requests for short sales (permission to sell the home for less than the outstanding mortgage loan amount) in less than 30 days.
  • Lenders must assign a single point of contact to homeowners, or their foreclosure prevention counselor, who will be responsible for keeping the homeowner up to date with information about the loan, the modification process and any documentation needed.

  • Over the next 30 to 60 days, settlement negotiators will be selecting an administrator to handle the logistics of the settlement and monitor compliance. 
  • Over the next six to nine months, the settlement administrator, attorneys general and the mortgage servicers will work to identify homeowners eligible for the immediate cash payments, principal reductions and refinancing. Those eligible will receive letters directly from their lender/servicer.
  • This settlement will be executed over the next three years

The exact details of how homeowners access the settlement are still being worked out.  There are steps you can be taking to make sure that you keep up to date with the settlement:
  1. Contact a non-profit member of the Homeownership Advisors Network.  Foreclosure Counselors will know, as the details become available, the exact steps to take AS WELL AS know if you might qualify for any additional assistance or be able to access other programs to help prevent the foreclosure of your home.
  2. Contact your lender.  If your mortgage is with one of the five current participants in the settlement, visit the National Mortgage Settlement website for links to the banks’ websites and contact telephone numbers.  

Even if your bank is not participating in the settlement, or they are, but your loan is backed by one of the Government Sponsored Entities, it is important that you take steps right away if you are struggling with your mortgage.  Contact a foreclosure counselor TODAY to learn about the WIDE ARRAY of programs, helps and assistance that are available to Minnesota homeowners.  Counseling is FREE and non-biased.  The sooner you call, the more options you have available, and remember, NEVER PAY FOR HELP!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Another New Refi Program? Get the Facts!

During the 2012 State of the Union Address, President Obama announced another expansion of the federal mortgage refinance program :
That's why I'm sending this Congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low interest rates. No more red tape. No more runaround from the banks. A small fee on the largest financial institutions will ensure that it won't add to the deficit, and will give banks that were rescued by taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit of trust. (From the State of the Union Address)

The current versions of the refinance program (HARP and HARP II) allow homeowners whose loans are owned by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or the Federal Housing Finance Agency, to refinance to current historically-low interest rates, EVEN IF the loan value exceeds the value of the home (allows "underwater" homeowners the opportunity to refinance).

On Wednesday, February 1st, the president released additional information about the proposed expansion of the refinance programs:

The proposed program (HARP 3?) would allow ALL homeowners who are current on their mortgage — even those who do not have loans backed by Fannie, Freddie or FHFA and even if they're  underwater on their mortgage — to also refinance their loans.

The proposal put forward by the administration includes some details about the who would qualify:

  • only owner-occupied, single-family homes are eligible.
  • Homeowners must be current on their mortgage and not had a lat payment for at least the past six months; 
  • Homeowners must have a minimum FICO credit score of 580; 
  • The loan amount cannot exceed the current federal conforming loan limit. 

For those who meet the criteria, the program would allow for a streamlined application process in which lenders would only need to confirm that a homeowner is employed and the home would not have to be appraised.

NOW... What does this REALLY mean for the average Minnesota Homeowner who might want to refinance?

  • Even though HARP II was announced in October of 2011, as of early February 2012, very few lenders and servicers have processes and procedures in place for homeowners to take advantage of the refinance program.  Any formal expansion to the program announced today would take MONTHS before a homeowner would likely be able to work out a refinance with their lender.  (See our blog post on the HARP 2.0 announcement in October, here)
  • Most Importantly, this expanded program will require CONGRESSIONAL APPROVAL. Given the fact that we are in a rather contentious election year... approval by congress is far from certain.

We'll continue to monitor this program, and if the program expansion does become a reality, we'll notify Minnesota Homeowners via this blog and our website, here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Preforeclosure Notices Continue to Decline in Minnesota

On  Thursday, January 19th, the Minnesota Homeownership Center released its year-end data on the aggregate number of Preforeclosure Notices received by foreclosure counselors in the Homeownership Advisors Network.  The numbers continue to indicate that Minnesota is slowly emerging from the foreclosure crisis.  

In the fourth quarter of 2011, members of the Homeownership Advisors Network received 12,016 preforeclosure notices, 30% fewer than during the same time period in 2010, reaching the lowest level reported since the state legislature required the notices in late 2008:

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On a yearly basis, Minnesota households received 24% fewer preforeclosure notices in 2011 than they did in 2010.  

Most encouraging is that the fact that the numbers of preforeclosure notices received is down in every county in the Metro area.  In addition, every agency in the Homeownership Advisors Network reported receiving fewer notices in the fourth quarter of 2011 than in the third, AND reported receiving fewer notices in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010.

While these numbers are encouraging, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that they still show that more 54,500 households continued to struggle with delinquent mortgages in 2011:

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Here's the breakdown for the number of preforeclosure notices received by members of the Homeownership Advisors Network in the 7-county metro area:

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As background, Minnesota state law (MN Statute 580.021) requires that the foreclosing party provide information regarding foreclosure prevention counseling services to the mortgagor (homeowner) and provide the homeowner’s name, address, and most recent known telephone number to an approved foreclosure prevention counseling agency before filing the notice of pendency.

Once the Minnesota Homeownership Center's network of foreclosure counselors receives notification from the lender/servicer/homeowners association, they then contact the homeowner, and track the number of notifications received during the month in their monthly reporting to the Center.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mortgage payment, new programs, resources and assistance are becoming available all the time. Don’t give up… contact a foreclosure counselor that is a member of the Homeownership Advisors Network today to see if there’s help available for you to avoid foreclosure. Even if you’re not yet behind, now is the time to call. To find your local foreclosure counselor, click here.