August 15, 2008
I took a lot away from this morning’s appointment with Linda Ingram at Beyond Housing. They too are a nonprofit in St. Louis that offers free housing counseling and a variety of other resources for homeowners.
The more I meet with people, the more I’m learning what I should be asking that I may not have known to touch on before, and it’s a real resource to go from place to place because I feel like I’m having one continuous conversation about the mortgage crisis. This was especially beneficial today.
One thing that didn’t sit well with me was hearing from a housing counselor that lenders don’t always want to work out a plan with the homeowner. Maybe it was naive on my part to believe it could be that easy to just call and work it out. In any case, I’ve tried in these profiles to stress the importance of seeking help, and it worried me to the point of losing sleep last night that maybe it’s not as effective as it seems. The good news is I was wrong.
Linda Ingram told me that, like Catholic Charities, they too have ways of working with stubborn lenders. She and her housing staff find it effective to go beyond communicating with lenders and servicers. When the lender won’t work something out, they contact the lender’s attorney.
For borrowers with a foreclosure sale date, it can be as simple as calling the attorney and saying “I want to save my house. Can you help?” Ingram also emphasizes that, if a homeowner tries to fight the foreclosure on their own, communicate with the loss mitigation department, not collections.
Ingram also urges everyone to get involved in their homeowner education program. The three week program includes classes in financial literacy, Q&A’s with area lenders, how to perform basic home repairs, and other “must know” details about home buying and ownership. “It’s well worth the time and can keep you out of a lot of future trouble,” she says.
For those attending housing counseling sessions, they can expect to put together a “workout packet”. Pay stubs, tax returns and expenses are put together with a letter explaining why the homeowner has fallen behind and what they are doing (or plan to do) to fix it. This is submitted to the mortgage company with the intention of postponing the foreclosure sale.
After the first counseling session, Beyond Housing sends the homeowner a summary of what they discussed and an action plan for the homeowner to follow. The goal is to work out a 5 year plan in which the client comes out with better credit and a managable lifestyle. “Any client here is a client for life,” says Ingram. “Once a person receives counseling, they can call or come by with any concern they might have.”
Ingram’s last word of caution is to be wary of scam artists trying to profit off your housing troubles. “Everyone in the world will send you letters or call about some refinancing offer or way to stop foreclosure,” she says. Some of her clients have been tricked into paying $1400+ to “work out a foreclosure solution” only to be told they needed to pay even more to find out what that solution was. The safest route someone can take is to see a nonprofit agency whose highly trained counselors offer their expertise for free.
To set up an appointment with Linda or one of Beyond Housing’s counselors, call (314) 533-0600. You can learn even more about what Beyond Housing offers by visiting their Web site: www.beyondhousing.org
Short video of Linda Ingram describing what homeowners should bring with them to a counseling session: