Finding Your Way Out of a Scam: Dawn Walters Describes Her Experience

June 24, 2009

Facing foreclosure last year, Dawn sought help and found a company that was “very willing” to “help”.  As months went by, Dawn realized that the company was taking advantage of her. She paid the company large up-front and monthly fees without results.

Dawn searched for help again and found Beyond Housing.  Their free support and counseling allowed her to keep her home.  Watch Dawn talk about the free help she found at Beyond Housing in the video below.

Legitimate housing counseling agencies won’t contact you or send advertisements. You should be wary of any company that charges for housing counseling and/or seeks you out.

If you or someone you know is facing foreclosure, contact a HUD-certified housing counseling agency to seek help.  To find one, call United Way’s 2-1-1 referral service at (800) 427-4626

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Making Home Affordable

March 19, 2009

The Treasury Department and HUD have partnered to launch a new website www.makinghomeaffordable.gov for individuals to find out if they are eligible for the President’s new foreclosure mitigation plan. To find out more about the plan visit the website and watch the video below of Chris Krehmeyer of Beyond Housing who is one of our community partners in this work.

To read the press release of the launch of this new site see below.

Read the rest of this entry »


Resources that can help…

January 28, 2009

If you or someone you know is having trouble making their mortgage payment or needs some type of financial counseling assistance please call the United Way’s 2-1-1 referral service at 1-800-427-4626 or visit their website at www.211missouri.org.

For Financial Counseling assistance you can click on the link here Clearpoint Financial Solutions or call them at 1-877-422-9040.

For Housing Counseling assistance please click on this link here and call the agency closest to you. Or call the United Way’s 2-1-1 referral service at 1-800-427-4626

For Fraud Assistance please contact the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office at 314-612-1412 or e-mail them at rechtiend@stlouiscao.org.

For mental health support go to www.providentstl.org or call their crisis hotline at 314-647-HELP (4357) or their toll-free number at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

For other a variety of services contact the Salvation Army, Midland Division visit their website or call them at 314-646-3000.

For support that includes food and utility services contact the Human Development Corporation of St. Louis by clicking here or calling them at 314-613-2200.


60 Minutes Feature: The Mortgage Meltdown

December 16, 2008

This 60 Minutes feature is a testament to the fact that the mortgage crisis is not over. When these Alt-A and ARM products readjust thousands of people will find themselves in foreclosure. As we’ve seen over the last six months foreclosures impact individuals, communities, and the entire economy.  Therefore, it is of critical importance that we make sure that these individuals are able to get connected to resources so that they can either save their homes or experience – what Linda Ingram describes as – “a soft landing.”

So, if you did get an ARM or an Alt-A loan, or you know that tough times are ahead, do not wait to get help. Call a local HUD-Approved Housing Counseling Agency. If you’re in the St. Louis region call the United Way’s 2-1-1 referral service to get a list of housing counseling agencies in your are 1-800-427-4626.

Below is the 60 Minutes segment from the weekend.


Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: Why Should I Care?

September 18, 2008
September 18, 2008

 

It’s natural to want to ignore shrill Wall Street news about vaguely familiar-sounding mega firms – that’s the kind of thing that only big investors and stock market junkies care about, right? Well, almost. You can tune out as long as you don’t pay taxes, have a 401(k) or pension, hope to ever get a loan… You get the idea. It turns out that the government takeover affects just about everyone.

 

Who Are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

 

Fannie Mae, or the Federal National Mortgage Association, was created by the New Deal in order to encourage home ownership. Freddie Mac was created in 1970 to provide competition. They both are government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), which means that private shareholders own and run them for profit, but the federal government backs their debt. (more about their history and creation at http://hnn.us/articles/1849.html

 

Why are they important?

 

Together, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provide financing for about two-thirds of all U.S. mortgages. They buy mortgages from lending institutions and then either resell them as mortgage-backed securities or keep them as part of an investment portfolio. While Fannie and Freddie have long played an important role in the housing market, the recent mortgage crisis has made them even more critical; as investors lost confidence in large investment banks they turned to Fannie and Freddie, whose government backing made them seem like a safer bet.

 

What went wrong?

 

Well, a lot of things. The This American Life segment, “Giant Pool of Money,” ( http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=355 )does a great job of explaining it. The gist is that starting somewhere around the early 2000s, lending practices began to shift toward less accountability, until finally many people taking out a mortgage no longer had to show any proof that they had the assets or salary to be able to pay their mortgages. Fannie and Freddie were the biggest buyers of these bundles of questionable mortgages. As long as the housing market continued to improve, Fannie and Freddie were OK – people were finding ways to pay their mortgages, through low initial rates in creative loan packages, or by taking out equity loans backed up by their homes’ rising value. When the housing bubble burst, the whole edifice began to crumble. The change was felt first by the individual homeowners whose monthly payment adjusted beyond their ability to pay, or whose equity evaporated as their home lost value. Soon Fannie, Freddie, and the investment banks that also bought these mortgages began to see the missed payments in their bottom line. As it became clear that many mortgages would never be paid in full and that the securities they backed had lost much of their value, investors panicked. This is where the government stepped in.

 

How does a government takeover work?

 

The purpose of the takeover was to ensure the continued availability of credit for mortgages and to quell investors’ fears that the companies lacked the capital to handle continued defaults on debt. The takeover involved ousting both companies’ CEOs and boards of directors, a massive infusion of cash, and a stipulation that the Treasury Department (read: taxpayers) will be the first to recoup its investment when the companies recover. It is unclear exactly how much money this will cost, but estimates run as high as $100 billion.

 

How does all this affect you and I?

 

One of the most direct effects people will feel is that many of us, whether we know it or not, are invested in Fannie and Freddie. Many mutual funds hold some form of mortgage-backed security, affecting investment portfolios, 401(k)s and pensions.

 

At some point, taxpayers are likely to feel the burden of paying for the rescue, though it is unclear how much that will cost. So far, the government has left this expenditure off the books.

 

In the time since the Fannie and Freddie takeover, it has become clear that the mortgage crisis is turning into a broader credit crisis. This means that the period relatively free access to credit that the world has enjoyed in the past decade or so may be coming to a close as investors who got burned in the mortgage crisis look for only very safe bets to invest in.

 

The upside is that mortgage rates have dropped since the takeover, as the housing market has weakened. Economist Mark Zandi with Moody’s predicts that 30-year mortgage rates could go as low as 5.5%. It is a buyer’s market, especially a first time buyer. But if this crisis has taught us anything, it is that buying a home is a major investment. It is essential to educate yourself on the potential pitfalls of buying a house. Pre-purchase counseling is available free of charge, and Facing the Mortgage Crisis can help connect you to the people who provide it.

 

Want to learn more about Fannie and Freddie? Links to two helpful stories from NPR:

 

Fannie, Freddie, and Why You Should Care

The Fannie and Freddie Bailout in 10 Easy Links

 

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92521685

 

 

Below is a short video with advice for first-time homebuyers