A story I wrote for Tuesday’s Business section, on the use of federal money for state and local governments to buy foreclosed properties, generated a few phone calls this morning on how people on the brink of foreclosure can get help.
The federal program I wrote about in my story isn’t intended for individuals, and I can understand the frustration of people who need help. To that end, I found this great tip sheet from my colleague Rob Carson, who wrote a story on foreclosures recently.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE IN TROUBLE WITH YOUR MORTGAGE
Helpful advice from Teresa Seeley, housing coordinator and counselor at the nonprofit agency Consumer Counseling Northwest in University Place (www.ccnw.org, 253-588-1858).
&bull Swallow your pride. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There’s help out there for people who look.
&bull Make sure you know what kind of loan you have. If you haven’t read your loan agreement, do it.
&bull Look for help as soon as you think you might have to miss a payment. Call your lender. Sooner is always better than later. Don’t wait until you miss a payment.
&bull Find a reputable housing counselor. Beware, though. Scammers sometimes pretend to be counselors. If they charge up front to do anything for you, it’s probably a scam.
&bull Check out foreclosure information on Web sites of the Washington attorney general at www.atg.wa.gov and the state Department of Financial Institutions at
&bull Look for free legal advice. Some attorneys offer free half-hour consultations. Call more than one and ask the same questions. Beware of unethical attorneys who suggest bankruptcy for one and all. Contact the state Bar Association to check for complaints.
&bull If you know before your first late payment that there’s no way you’re going to be able to keep your house, get out immediately and rent an apartment. As soon as you miss payments, your credit rating will drop and landlords won’t want you.
&bull Beware of scammers who want to “rescue” you, particularly those who want to buy your home and lease it back to you and those who want to charge to negotiate with your lender. Nonprofit counselors negotiate for free.
&bull If you get offers in the mail that you didn’t ask for, recycle them.
&bull If you think you’re being scammed, call the state Attorney General’s Office (1-877-211-9274) or the state Department of Financial Institutions (1-877-746-4334). Officials might not find out about the scams unless you tell them.