Legal Aid Offers Free Foreclosure Prevention Workshops
By Dianne Anderson
No one has a crystal ball on whether it’s nearing the time for the real estate bubble to burst, but state and national data show that foreclosures are edging up again.
It’s cause for concern at the Legal Aid of San Bernardino. They want homeowners to know they don’t have to sit frozen in fear of foreclosure if or when that Notice of Default comes.
There is a place to get help.
“I want to get them in the door, and get a fire under them because we are working off a timeline,” said SeAnna Quesada, a real estate broker leading the workshops with Legal Aid of San Bernardino.
A Notice of Default is filed at 90 days of nonpayment on the mortgage, which is well beyond the time to act, but it’s still not too late.
Even if a homeowner is at that critical point three or four months behind, they can short sale as a last resort. She said at least they can walk away with some money, and their credit situation can still be repaired to help them buy another home in just three years.
On average, she has gotten $10,000 back for homeowners on potential foreclosures.
“We list the house and dangle the carrot in front of the bank,” she said. “The bank, although they can run the foreclosure in tandem, from my experience, they’re more than willing to shortsale the house.”
A lot of grunt work and calling around is required, but she said it is worth the effort.
Foreclosure workshops are held the second Saturday of every other month at 11:00 a.m. to noon at Legal Aid of San Bernardino, located at 588 W 6th St, San Bernardino. The next workshop is July 13.
Anyone behind on payments and at risk of losing their home, or with a NOD in hand is encouraged to attend. The first thing she checks is the equity, or if a refinance is possible.
“What can we do, can we refi or sell it? If someone behind on the payments and it doesn’t look like they can get out from under, [then] $10,000 to relocate is a good amount of money,” she said.
Most people aren’t aware that legal aid can help, but it’s important to not wait. Moving forward in the right way can either save the home, or can help the family relocate.
“This is going to give you back some control in your life so people aren’t calling you 13 times a day,” she said.
From a neighborhood perspective, the other benefit is that the seller must keep the house in good condition to go back to the bank, or the owner doesn’t get their money.
With a short sale, they can get another owner of the property, or investor to rehab and sell it. It helps prevent vandalism in the foreclosure process that tears down the community.
Many homeowners don’t understand the real estate process, she said, but not knowing their options can cost them a lot of cash. One of the worst cases she has seen is someone that walked away from 100,000 in equity.
“They had no idea they could have refinanced or if they’re old enough, they could get a reverse mortgage,” she said.
Foreclosure is still heavy in California, and she said unscrupulous businesses try to lure homeowners into shady deals. Or, owners wait too long for the sheriff to put the sign up to vacate the property.
“They say I’m fine with moving, I’ll bite the bullet,” she said. “They have no clue that they could have short-saled the home and got cash for keep.”
Most of the time, she feels it’s not that people don’t want to pay their mortgage, but rather it’s usually tied to a life crisis.
“Someone gets sick, someone loses their job, someone dies, someone abandons the family,” she said.
She is also concerned about increased fraud.
After her mother died over a year ago, she said someone showed up in her mother’s driveway and said the property was in foreclosure. It put her in a panic until she realized the solicitors were lying.
It can happen to anyone. She rushed to confirm that everything was okay with the property.
“If it unnerved me a 20-year real estate agent, what is it doing to the single mother, who can’t pay the mortgage and people show up with these promises?” she said.
Because property records are public, scammers will often promise reduced mortgage payments, or that they stay in the house as a renter and keep making payments if they sign the property over to the new entity.
“People are desperate, people sign away. Before you know it someone else owns their home,” she said.
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