Not surprisingly, in the current economy the numbers of home buyers dealing with possible foreclosure proceedings are increasing and many are unaware of free counseling that might help. Jennifer Jenkins of the Utah State University Family Life Center is a certified housing and financial counselor and a mortgage default counselor. She is available to help them understand their options with difficult financial decisions. “People don’t know there is free help available,” she said, “and it’s important they know. The sooner they get started working with their servicer and their lender the better the outcome will be.” Jenkins said a family’s problems usually begin with the loss of income from cutback of hours on the job or growing medical expenses. “Many of the lenders in the area, when notifying home buyers their payment is late, let them know they have the option of contacting a HUD-approved counseling agency and that is how we get referrals. “Also, a lot of it is word of mouth. We just want to let people know there is help available.” She said her agency’s advice includes warnings about scams. “There are a lot of people out there taking advantage of those in this situation,” said Jenkins. “If anyone asks for money upfront or guarantees they will help you stay in your home, that is a red flag.” Jenkins said one of the goals is helping clients reach a loan modification. “The idea is to get an affordable housing payment for them. Often, with their hardship, they are able to lower their payment to help them through that time.” It must still be profitable or the lender to make changes in the terms of the loan, it still must be profitable for that lending institution. “Some of the programs want them down to 31 percent of their gross income. So, if it can still be a performing loan at that payment, it can work.” All HUD-approved counseling agencies, like the USU Family Life Center, require creation of a budget and an action plan. Jenkins said she doesn’t advise her clients to simply walk away from their home. “In Utah we have what is called a ‘deficiency judgment’ and if there is a balance left after the sale they can come after the homeowner for that remaining balance. So, they are still responsible for what they owe, even if they walked away.” Jenkins said the Family Life Center is at the bottom of Old Main Hill (494 North 700 East) in Logan. Appointments are available at 797-7224.
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