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Irvington moves a step closer to using eminent domain to fight foreclosures – The Star

IRVINGTON — It may seem like a small step, but town leaders say it’s a significant one.

Irvington council members approved a resolution last week that brings the town a step closer to using eminent domain to seize underwater mortgages, a controversial tactic that’s garnered national media attention in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis.

Since last year, town attorneys have been conducting a study of the legal process, also known as “friendly condemnations,” that would allow the township to seize underwater mortgages and restructure them on behalf of homeowners to make payments more affordable.

The resolution approved in a 6-1 vote on Wednesday effectively brings the issue of the radical approach to eminent domain before the township Planning Board, which will now identify properties “in potential foreclosure that may be designated as areas in need of redevelopment,” the resolution states.

About 200 homes in Irvington may be eligible to be taken over, Mayor Wayne Smith said. He predicts that number could grow.

Using money from private investors, Irvington would pay the mortgage holders’ fair market value and then restructure mortgages into lower principal payments that are more favorable for homeowners.

Smith said the town already has at least one investment firm that’s expressed interest.

If Irvington uses its power of eminent domain to seize mortgages, not the homes themselves, it would be second municipality in the country, after Richmond, Calif., to use the tactic, according to NJ Communities United.

Despite voting to pass the resolution, Councilman Paul Inman reminded residents that employing eminent domain is not a silver bullet to the town’s foreclosure woes.

“This is just another tool,” he added.

About 25 people with NJ Communities United held a rally outside the council chambers calling for the town to help struggling homeowners. During the council meeting, several people held up signs urging a “yes” vote and all council members approved except Councilwoman Lebby Jones, who dissented.

The group presented the council with a petition including 2,000 signatures, according to field organizer Mary Szacik. More than 1,700 foreclosures have occured in Irvington since 2008 — after the housing bubble burst, the agency previously said.

“It is a cancer that threatens to spread,” Szacik said.

Harry Perryman lives on Nesbit Terrace, two doors from a shuttered home. He said he has seen the negative impact the neglected property has had, including devaluing the rest of his street.

“It is not too late to stop the bleeding in this township,” he told council members.

Smith is hosting a community forum at 6 p.m. Monday in the council chambers for homeowners facing foreclosures. Anyone with questions should contact town officials at (973) 399-6639.

RELATED COVERAGE

N.J. ACLU, others sue federal agency in brewing eminent domain controversy

Irvington’s eminent domain plan not the answer: Op-ed

Irvington aims to tackle Wall Street’s mess: Opinion

Article source: http://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2014/03/irvington_moves_a_step_closer_to_using_power_of_eminent_domain_to_stem_foreclosure_crisis.html

The government program that failed homeowners

Chris Cooley never missed a payment on his mortgage in Long Beach, California. Every month, Wells Fargo would debit him $3,100 for the four-unit building; one of the units was his, and the other three he rented out for income to cover the mortgage. In 2009, when the housing crisis hit, Cooley needed a way to reduce his
mortgage. He renegotiated his loan through the Home Affordable
Modification Program, known as Hamp. Initially, it was a success: his
mortgage payments fell in half, to $1,560.

So it was surprising when a ReMax agent, sent on behalf of Wells Fargo, knocked on the door in December 2009 and told Cooley the building no longer belonged to him. The bank planned to take the building he had lived in and rented out for a decade – and list the property for sale.

So much for government help.

But it turned out that Cooley was not
getting government help; without his knowledge, Wells Fargo had put him on what was only a trial Hamp payment program. He had been rejected for a permanent mortgage modification – only Wells Fargo never
informed him about the rejection, he says, nor did they give him a reason why.

What followed was what most homeowners would consider a nightmare. While Cooley tried to stave
off foreclosure to save his home and livelihood, Wells Fargo paid the
other renters living in the property $5,000 to move out behind his back, and then denied Cooley further aid – because his income, which he drew from the rentals, was too low.
“They took my income away from me, and then they couldn’t give me a
loan because I had no income,” Cooley said. “What a wonderful catch-22.”

The bank held his final trial payment in a trust and never applied it
to his loan (to this day, Cooley has never received that money back). For two years,
Cooley appealed to Wells Fargo for some alternative form of relief,
sending in paperwork time and again, talking to different customer
service representatives who knew nothing about his situation, and
generally running in place without success.

Tired of fighting, Cooley ended up leaving his home, and became just one of the seven million foreclosure victims in the US since the bursting of the housing bubble in 2007.

“Wells Fargo stole my home, plain and simple,” he said.

wells fargo in colorado
A Wells Fargo branch in Colorado. Photograph: Rick Wilking/Reuters

Hamp wasn’t just a disappointment to Cooley. The program, minted during the depths of the housing crisis in 2009, sought out to help an estimated eight million homeowners to negotiate more affordable payments to
avoid foreclosure. Five years later, it’s apparent that Hamp did little to mitigate this flood of economic
devastation and in fact may have prolonged it. The program gave permanent mortgage modifications to 1.3 million people, but 350,000 of them defaulted again on their mortgages and were evicted from their homes. Fewer than one million homeowners remain in the Hamp
program – just a quarter of its target – and $28bn of the funding remains unspent.

How Hamp hampers homeowners

Around 28% of all modified loans have slipped back into default, including nearly half of those loans modified back in 2009 at the height of the foreclosure crisis.

The
program had so many problems getting started in its first year, with constant
tweaks and revisions given to banks, that only a little over 30,000 Hamp modifications from 2009 remain active, according to Treasury Department data. That same year, there were over one million foreclosures, showing the scale of the problem that Hamp failed to fix.

There are likely to be more failures of those Hamp-modified mortgages. The original agreements only lowered the interest rate on the homeowner’s mortgage for five years – meaning the first mortgage modifications will expire around this year and next.

With the economy still rocky and unemployment high, homeowners may not be financially prepared for those rates to slowly creep back up, increasing monthly payments by hundreds of dollars a month. Even those who managed to qualify for Hamp, in other words, still find themselves at tremendous risk of eventually losing their home.

The problems with the mortgage industry are hard to fix

Hamp’s failure was likely due to its design. Instead of just giving struggling borrowers the cash they needed to better handle their mortgage payments, under Hamp, the Treasury Department offered incentive payments to mortgage servicers to encourage them to modify the loans.

Homes under construction in Portland, Oregon. Would-be buyers risk being crowded out by the run-up in home prices and mortgage rates over the past year.
Homes under construction in Portland, Oregon. Would-be buyers risk being crowded out by the run-up in home prices and mortgage rates over the past year. Photograph: STEVE DIPAOLA/REUTERS

This left the decision on whether to accept homeowners into the program at the mortgage servicers’ discretion. These middlemen represented the single biggest obstacle to stopping a wave of foreclosures, mainly because they profited from kicking people out of their homes.

Servicers don’t own your mortgage; they work for the banks who do. If Wall Street banks are the landlord who owns your mortgage, the servicer is the superintendent who maintains it.

Wall Street banks bought mortgage loans in massive quantities and chopped them up to package and sell them to private investors. The typical investors in mortgage-backed securities number in the
thousands, from an institutional bondholder in California to a pension
fund in Norway.

The banks were so busy with the chopping and selling that they called on the servicers to handle the day-to-day work of holding the mortgages: collecting payments and making decisions on loan modifications and foreclosures.

The servicers are middle men; they have no stake in the success of their borrowers. Their financial incentives all lead to a push for a homeowner’s default and foreclosure.

Bad incentives

The first bad incentive: they’re not paid enough to really pay attention to an individual mortgage. Their cut from the banks on a loan is simply too small to spend money on enough staff to handle hundreds of thousands of queries from struggling borrowers.

More important, servicers exist to collect structured fees – including late fees – which makes it profitable for them to keep a homeowner in default.

Lastly, a foreclosure on the homeowner doesn’t hurt the servicer; when a foreclosure sale happens, the servicers get paid even before the banks.

Unsurprisingly, stories abound about servicers undertaking any means necessary to foreclose. Whistleblowers at Bank of America alleged that the bank’s servicer, Urban Lending, rewarded employees with $50 gift cards for foreclosing on homeowners, deliberately losing paperwork and denying eligible customers for Hamp modifications.

Bank of America
Whistleblowers alleged a culture that rewarded hurting customers at a Bank of America servicer. Photograph: Mark Lennihan/AP

In a recent court case, attorney Linda Tirelli found a manual published by Wells Fargo, that allegedly detailed how to process mortgage documents when lawyers could not prove the bank owned the loan.

Wells Fargo spokesman Tom Goyda disputes how the manual has been widely characterized, saying it’s for outside attorneys only.

“The
manual does not reflect step-by-step instructions for our internal
review team,” Goyda says. “We have separate procedures to ensure those endorsements
are done legally.”

“The
main thing I would emphasize is that our foreclosure processes, back in
2012 and today, are appropriate and legal, and we will continue to
abide by all proper procedures to serve our customers,” Goyda adds.

Why homeowners get locked out of the foreclosure system

While servicers have been sanctioned repeatedly for misconduct in a cascade of government settlements, homeowners have barely benefited from the penalties. Cooley, who believes he was illegally kicked out of his home, received a check from the Independent Foreclosure Review for a grand total of $500.

Federal regulation of mortgage servicers, then, must recognize the flaws inherent in the fragmented system design. Without changing it, abuse will surely continue.

However, new legislation gaining momentum in Washington would actually lock in the current, faulty system of processing mortgages.

How to fix the US mortgage business?

The most common answer in Congress is simple: eliminate government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which currently own or guarantee nine out of every 10 new mortgages on behalf of the government. Instead, have private financial firms take responsibility for buying mortgages and packaging them into bundles to be bought and sold.

Senate Banking Committee leaders Tim Johnson, a Democrat, and Mike Crapo, a Republican, are leading the discussion on the future of Fannie and Freddie, the government-sponsored mortgage giants that required a bailout in 2008. Like other proposals in Congress, the Johnson-Crapo deal would eliminate Fannie and Freddie.

Several inches of fresh snow cover shrubbery at the U.S. Capitol in Washington March 17, 2014. A winter storm landed a final punch on the U.S. mid-Atlantic states on Monday just days before spring begins, dumping more than a foot of snow in some places, shutting schools and federal offices and cancelling flights. The winter storm shut down federal offices in the nation's capital, and dozens of schools in the area also remained closed.
Congressional oversight frequently clogs with studies and stalemates in negotiations. Photograph: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

Politicians call this “bringing private capital back into the market”. Under the status quo, they argue, Fannie and Freddie take on too much
risk, with virtually the entire residential mortgage market, the largest
market in the world, on their backs. Instead, private investors should shoulder
that burden, with the government providing catastrophic insurance if the
losses pile too high.

There’s only one problem: that’s precisely the system that brought the economy to its knees when the housing bubble imploded.

Eliminating Fannie and Freddie won’t help homeowners. It maintains and even expands all of the worst qualities of the foreclosure crisis – the distance between the owners of mortgages and the servicing companies; the fees that encourage servicers to foreclose; the inability to get far-flung investors to work together to fix mortgages.

By getting rid of Fannie and Freddie, the Johnson-Crapo bill would create a new agency called the Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation, or FMIC. This agency would provide insurance for mortgage-backed securities, which would kick in after private capital took 10% losses.

In addition to its broad responsibilities – ensuring that all types of borrowers have access to credit, building an insurance fund, supervising the companies who package the securities, building a new platform for these securitizations – the FMIC is supposed to monitor mortgage servicers.

Conduct a study, do nothing

But under the proposal, the FMIC need only examine servicers once every two years, and instead of overhauling the servicer compensation model, FMIC would only conduct a study on it. “Conduct a study” is the Washington term for doing nothing, essentially creating a report that will wind up gathering dust on a shelf.

Because the FMIC doesn’t hold the financial future of the servicers in their hands, they are bound to be less effective at policing the industry. Instead, dozens of private financial institutions will select the servicers, without the need to adhere to centralized standards.

While regulation from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the FMIC may help stop the worst practices, without that threat of losing business, mortgage servicers will have a freer hand to do as they please. And, servicers will get to play CFPB and FMIC regulation off one another, creating internal regulatory strife and, as we’ve seen with other competing regulators, ultimately weakening the rules.

While banks love the idea of grabbing a government mortgage guarantee for themselves, the Johnson-Crapo bill was not universally applauded. We’re probably years away from reconstructing the housing market in a way that everyone in Washington can live with. But among the talk of investors and insurance and securitization platforms, ordinary homeowners often get lost in the shuffle.

That means more heartache for people like Chris Cooley, who continues to fight his foreclosure through a legal action in California. He ended up moving across the country to Delaware in the wake of his eviction. “For two years, I felt like I was screaming at the top of my lungs and no one was listening,” Cooley said. That’s an all too common thought among homeowners who went looking to the government for help.

Article source: http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/mar/30/government-program-save-homes-mortgages-failure-banks

Scams on the rise as fraudsters target taxpayers, homeowners

Phone scams on the rise, with fraudsters targeting taxpayers and homeowners

Phone scams on the rise, with fraudsters targeting taxpayers and homeowners

Mu Jing Lau, owner of Mu Du Noodles, recently was targeted by two different scams informing her she would be arrested if she did not pay outstanding taxes. Jane Phillips/The New Mexican



Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014 7:00 pm
|


Updated: 10:05 pm, Sat Mar 29, 2014.

Scams on the rise as fraudsters target taxpayers, homeowners

By Anne Constable
The New Mexican

SantaFeNewMexican.com

|
0 comments

Mu Jing Lau, owner of the popular restaurant Mu Du Noodles on Cerrillos Road, considers herself a savvy consumer. But even she was a bit rattled recently when she was contacted by two different people who were trying to scam her.


In a heavy Indian accent, one of the fraudsters told Mu she was delinquent on her taxes and if she didn’t pay up, a warrant would be issued for her arrest.

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on

Saturday, March 29, 2014 7:00 pm.

Updated: 10:05 pm.

Article source: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/scams-on-the-rise-as-fraudsters-target-taxpayers-homeowners/article_da21dcfa-b254-5ac5-8c87-3434703f1dd2.html

Disbarred attorney accused of swindling Twin Cities homeowners



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    Steven Lundeen used to represent criminal defendants in court, but he was disbarred in 2012 for using drugs, improperly taking money from his clients and failing to show up in court. Authorities say that less than a year after he lost his law license, Lundeen entered a new business venture: taking money from Hispanic homeowners trying to avoid foreclosure.

    Lundeen, 54, is due in court next week to face two felony charges of theft by swindle. According to the criminal complaint, Lundeen allegedly posed as a Wells Fargo representative and tricked residents of a Minneapolis duplex into giving him $2,000 after he threatened eviction.

    A Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid attorney said that despite a decline in the number of foreclosure scams as the housing market improved, cases like this one demonstrate that homeowners in distress are still vulnerable to fraud. The legal aid attorney, Luke Grundman, said Lundeen’s scheme seemed especially “blatant.”

    Lundeen obtained his law license in 1997 and practiced as a criminal defense attorney in Minneapolis, court records show. The seven misconduct complaints against him included allegations he misappropriated client funds, ignored client phone calls and lied to the court about why he did not show up to trial.

    In one case in 2011, the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility found that Lundeen didn’t attend a client’s trial in Ramsey County District Court because he was sitting in jail after an arrest for cocaine possession. The Minnesota Supreme Court disbarred Lundeen in March 2012.

    Five months later, a Brooklyn Center man paid Lundeen $1,020 to represent him, not knowing Lundeen no longer had a license, according to a criminal complaint.

    Then in February 2013, Lundeen and an interpreter stopped by a south Minneapolis duplex, which was on the verge of repossession after a foreclosure sale, the complaint said.

    In one unit lived siblings Mario and Maria Manuel-Nanduca. Lundeen and the translator allegedly told the siblings that they had three options: buy the house back from Wells Fargo, pay rent or leave, the complaint said.

    A week later, Lundeen came to the house to collect $500 in rent from each unit in the duplex. A month later, he did the same thing.

    Then, Maribel Garcia, a Realtor and an authentic Wells Fargo representative, showed up at the home. The family asked whether they should start paying her instead of Lundeen.

    “I explained that nobody from Wells Fargo had come to collect rent,” Garcia said during an interview.

    Garcia told the siblings to call the police next time they saw Lundeen. The following month, Lundeen’s girlfriend, Sara Lyn Anderson, and the interpreter showed up, the complaint said. The family called the police and they were both arrested.

    The complaint said police discovered a portfolio in Anderson’s car that had 60 Hennepin County Sheriff foreclosure records for properties owned by people with Hispanic names. Lundeen later admitted that the portfolio belonged to him, the complaint said.

    If convicted, Lundeen and Anderson, 46, of Lauderdale, each face up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Neither returned calls from Whistleblower.

    Garcia said Wells Fargo paid the utility bills and allowed the families to stay in the home for free for three months after the scam. They have since moved away, she said.

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    County commission candidate faces foreclosure

    Posted: Friday, March 28, 2014 6:03 am

    County commission candidate faces foreclosure


    Michael Tucker, Editor | Belgrade News

    The Bozeman Daily Chronicle

    | Comments

    Gallatin County Commission candidate Barbara Blum has a history of mortgage troubles and is once again looking at a trustee sale of her home, but Blum said her situation is the product of the economy and mounting medical bills.


    Blum is in a Republican primary race with Don Seifert this June for Commissioner Pierre Martineau’s seat. Martineau was picked by the commission last year to replace retired Commissioner Bill Murdock and is not running for re-election.

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        Article source: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/county/article_42dbb95c-73b1-5014-ad55-6ac0805d2565.html

        Disbarred attorney accused of foreclosure swindle



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        Steven Lundeen used to represent criminal defendants in court, but he was disbarred in 2012 for using drugs, improperly taking money from his clients and failing to show up in court. Authorities say that less than a year after he lost his law license, Lundeen entered a new business venture: taking money from Hispanic homeowners trying to avoid foreclosure.

        Lundeen, 54, is due in court next week to face two felony charges of theft by swindle. According to the criminal complaint, Lundeen allegedly posed as a Wells Fargo representative and tricked residents of a Minneapolis duplex into giving him $2,000 after he threatened eviction.

        A Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid attorney said that despite a decline in the number of foreclosure scams as the housing market improved, cases like this one demonstrate that homeowners in distress are still vulnerable to fraud. The legal aid attorney, Luke Grundman, said Lundeen’s scheme seemed especially “blatant.”

        Lundeen obtained his law license in 1997 and practiced as a criminal defense attorney in Minneapolis, court records show. The seven misconduct complaints against him included allegations he misappropriated client funds, ignored client phone calls and lied to the court about why he did not show up to trial.

        In one case in 2011, the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility found that Lundeen didn’t attend a client’s trial in Ramsey County District Court because he was sitting in jail after an arrest for cocaine possession. The Minnesota Supreme Court disbarred Lundeen in March 2012.

        Five months later, a Brooklyn Center man paid Lundeen $1,020 to represent him, not knowing Lundeen no longer had a license, according to a criminal complaint.

        Then in February 2013, Lundeen and an interpreter stopped by a south Minneapolis duplex, which was on the verge of repossession after a foreclosure sale, the complaint said.

        In one unit lived siblings Mario and Maria Manuel-Nanduca. Lundeen and the translator allegedly told the siblings that they had three options: buy the house back from Wells Fargo, pay rent or leave, the complaint said.

        A week later, Lundeen came to the house to collect $500 in rent from each unit in the duplex. A month later, he did the same thing.

        Then, Maribel Garcia, a Realtor and an authentic Wells Fargo representative, showed up at the home. The family asked whether they should start paying her instead of Lundeen.

        “I explained that nobody from Wells Fargo had come to collect rent,” Garcia said during an interview.

        Garcia told the siblings to call the police next time they saw Lundeen. The following month, Lundeen’s girlfriend, Sara Lyn Anderson, and the interpreter showed up, the complaint said. The family called the police and they were both arrested.

        The complaint said police discovered a portfolio in Anderson’s car that had 60 Hennepin County Sheriff foreclosure records for properties owned by people with Hispanic names. Lundeen later admitted that the portfolio belonged to him, the complaint said.

        If convicted, Lundeen and Anderson, 46, of Lauderdale, each face up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Neither returned calls from Whistleblower.

        Garcia said Wells Fargo paid the utility bills and allowed the families to stay in the home for free for three months after the scam. They have since moved away, she said.

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        Legal action delays foreclosure, gives payments to homeowners | Office of the … – Bonney Lake and Sumner Courier

        Legal action taken by the Washington State Attorney General (AGO) against foreclosure trustee Quality Loan Service Corp. of Washington (QLS) has stopped unfair and deceptive business practices. QLS is one of the largest foreclosure trustees in Washington state.

        It is estimated more than 450 homeowners will receive approximately $500 each.

        In addition, a moratorium was placed on all QLS foreclosures on February 27 and will extend through April 3, 2014. The AGO estimates hundreds of homeowners will benefit from this moratorium.

        Foreclosure trustees are legally required to act in good faith as neutral parties between borrowers and lenders while conducting foreclosure proceedings.

        “Foreclosure trustees have a duty to treat borrowers fairly under the law,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “I will make sure that all parties involved in the foreclosure process, including trustees like QLS, play by the rules.”

        Overview of AGO allegations

        The Deed of Trust Act requires a trustee to maintain a street address with a physical presence and active telephone service in Washington state. This law ensures homeowners have a place they can go to ask questions, make last-minute payments, request a foreclosure be postponed or serve a lawsuit to halt the foreclosure.

        An AGO investigation found that QLS closed its former office in Poulsbo in January 2014 and moved to an office in Seattle. It did not inform borrowers who were in the foreclosure process of the move. Additionally, some borrowers were unable to gain entry to reach QLS’s Seattle office, which was in a locked, poorly marked office building.

        The AGO alleged QLS’s failure to notify borrowers of the office move and the inaccessibility of the new office were unfair and deceptive business practices and therefore violated the Consumer Protection Act.

        On February 26, 2014, the AGO filed a motion in King County Superior Court to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order against QLS to halt impending foreclosures.

        QLS entered into an interim Agreed Order that led to the Consent Decree announced today.

        Overview of QLS obligations under Agreed Order

        As a result of AGO legal action, QLS must:

        • Pay $250,000 to foreclosed homeowners who were foreclosed upon by QLS from January 1 to February 27, 2014;
        • Place a moratorium on all QLS foreclosures that is effective for six weeks, from February 27 until April 3, 2014 — AGO estimates hundreds of homeowners will benefit from this moratorium. Foreclosure sales can begin again on April 4, 2014;
        • Cancel and restart the foreclosure process for approximately two dozen homeowners, resulting in a four-month delay in the foreclosure process for these homeowners;
        • Maintain a physical presence in Washington; and
        • Pay $25,000 to cover the AGO’s costs and attorney’s fees.

        In addition, QLS already took action following the AGO’s initial court action to ensure homeowners can now gain access to its office in Seattle. QLS also sent a notice informing homeowners of its change of address.

        The AGO will contact eligible foreclosed homeowners — those whose properties were foreclosed upon after QLS moved from Poulsbo to Seattle, but before the AGO’s legal action — to distribute payments.

        Homeowners whose properties are scheduled for foreclosure are encouraged to contact a housing counselor or attorney to pursue foreclosure alternatives and protect their rights.

        All homeowners who are facing foreclosure should call a certified home counselor for free at 1.877.894.HOME (4663).

        Assistant Attorneys General Todd Bowers and Ben Roesch are leads on this case.

        The Consent Decree can be found online.

        Article source: http://www.blscourierherald.com/news/253045021.html

        After a Foreclosure, How Long Do I Have To Wait To Buy Another Property?

        Keith Gumbinger

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        Q: How long do I have to wait after a foreclosure to buy a property?

        A: There is no wait to “buy a property” per se, as you can always pay with cash. However, if you need financing, the answer is “it depends.” If you walked away from your last home it could take as long as seven years for you to again be eligible for a new mortgage from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, but recent changes after the housing market meltdown may shorten that time considerably.

        Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac guidelines
        If your foreclosure was the result of “Extenuating Circumstances,” this waiting period could be as short as only three years for a Fannie or Freddie-backed loan, according to guidelines outlined in Fannie Mae Announcement SEL-2010-08 (“Underwriting Borrowers with a Prior Foreclosure”), but you’ll need to come up with a 10 percent down payment, and your credit of course will need to be solid.

        FHA guidelines
        If the foreclosure was through no fault of your own — you had a drop in income, job loss, etc. — the FHA has instituted a “Back to Work” program where there may be a relatively short waiting period of perhaps a year.

        To be eligible for this program, you’ll have to been beset upon by an “economic event” which resulted in a loss of income of 20 percent or more for at least six months… and you’ll have to have reestablished credit for a minimum of 12 months (foreclosure has cleared, and no other derogatory incidents over that time span).

        You’ll also have to take a HUD-approved housing counseling course.

        The original article: After foreclosure, how long do I have to wait to buy another property? appeared on HSH.com

        Additional mortgage articles can be found on HSH.com

        How much of your monthly mortgage payment will go toward principal and interest?

        Here are today’s current mortgage rates

        Homebuyer timeline: Here’s exactly what you need to do to get ready to purchase a home

        Article source: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/03/29/after-a-foreclosure-how-long-do-i-have-to-wait-to.aspx

        Two strategies unveiled to address blight

        The house on Chapel Avenue in Cheektowaga has a broken fence, and advertising circulars are piled high on the front porch. No one has lived there for about four years.

        It is one of 270 “zombie foreclosures” sucking the life out of neighborhoods around the town after owners walked away from the mortgage, and the banks started but did not complete the foreclosure process.

        Similar properties are found in Amherst, Buffalo, Lackawanna and many other local communities, where banks pay the property taxes, preventing municipalities from foreclosing and selling the property at auction.

        “To do nothing hurts the entire community,” said Cheektowaga Councilman Charlie Markel, who has taken the lead in trying to get a handle on the town’s 500 vacant properties.

        That’s why representatives from federal, state, county and local governments came together Friday to announce two initiatives to stop zombie foreclosures from bringing down communities and to put other vacant properties back on the tax rolls. They discussed solutions that include state legislation to hold banks accountable for maintaining houses in foreclosure and the hiring of an executive director for a local land bank aimed at dealing with other types of problem properties.

        “Deteriorating houses are like cancer,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, who recalled that vacant houses were a major issue when he was on the Common Council in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Now the problem has spread to the suburbs as well.

        Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is developing legislation that will create a statewide registry of zombie foreclosures – there are an estimated 15,000 of these properties statewide – so municipalities can track abandoned homes and enforce property codes. The bill also makes banks responsible for the upkeep of the houses. It would close a loophole, changing state law to make lenders responsible for delinquent properties soon after they are abandoned, not at the end of the foreclosure process, which can take years.

        “It puts the burden on the bank to maintain the property,” Schneiderman said. “I think it will help us speed up the foreclosure process as well.”

        But getting legislation that affects banks passed in Albany is not simple.

        Assemblyman Michael P. Kearns, D-Buffalo, sponsored legislation in 2012 that would require banks to post their contact information on abandoned houses when the foreclosure process has started, so neighbors know whom they can call when the grass gets too high, but it only passed in the Assembly. The banking lobby was against the bill, and it did not pass in the Senate, Kearns said.

        He’s hoping that as more lawmakers are aware of the problem with zombie foreclosures in their own communities, they will support his bill before the Legislature’s session ends.

        “The banks have a moral responsibility to the community to be a good neighbor,” he said.

        Locally, the land bank that was established in 2012 has funding and is getting off the ground.

        Jocelyn Gordon, who holds masters’ degrees in urban planning and business administration and has worked in community development and public engagement, is the newly appointed executive director of the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corp., a public authority.

        In October, the land bank was awarded $2.1 million by Schneiderman’s office to demolish eyesores or rehabilitate houses that still have value but are unattractive to private investors because they have too many back taxes or otherwise would not be feasible investments.

        Half of the funding will go to demolitions in Buffalo, and $100,000 will go toward demolitions in Lackawanna, for a total of 55 demolitions. The remaining funding will go toward rehabilitating eight to 10 properties around Erie County so they can be returned to private ownership and productive use, and the rehabilitation of 10 vacant lots, which can be sold to neighboring property owners.

        The City of Buffalo will choose which properties will be demolished within its borders, and will select the crews to do the work, Gordon said.

        The goal is to demolish 50 houses in Buffalo, half of them by June. These are all owned by the city and are on the city’s demolition list. The demolitions still must be reviewed by the city Preservation Board.

        The city has identified 15,000 “problem properties” that need to be addressed, and there are between 7,000 and 8,000 problem properties in the rest of the county.

        While the city has more problem properties than in the rest of the county, the problem properties outside the city are actually worth more than those in the city, making them likely candidates for rehabilitation, said County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz.

        “What we have to do throughout the county is not necessarily the same,” he said.

        email: jterreri@buffnews.com

        Article source: http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/to-address-zombie-house-blight-two-strategies-20140328

        Not paying self-storage fees can be costly

        You can stuff all kinds of things into a 10-by-10-foot storage unit, but that doesn’t mean you
        should.

        Larry Crawford realizes that now.

        The contents of his rented storage unit might soon be auctioned off, in which case an unwitting
        bidder could wind up purchasing a box containing small plastic bags of the cremated ashes of
        Crawford’s uncle, sister, aunt and father.

        Not to mention, Crawford says, a bunch of family birth certificates, deeds to cemetery plots,
        cherished photos and medical records.

        “I put everything in storage,” the West Side resident said yesterday. “It’s been there for
        years.”

        Crawford is now months behind on his payments. The most recent statement from Rome Hilliard Self
        Storage says he owes, including taxes and late fees, $1,266.92. He knows he might not have any way
        to stop the lien and sale.

        “Maybe I can save somebody else the heartache or the mistake,” Crawford said. “This is
        rough.”

        The property manager at Rome Hilliard said she cannot discuss client accounts. She said her
        company is more generous than state law requires when it comes to foreclosure.

        “Once somebody is 30 days past due, we have a right to cut the lock,” said Kim, who would not
        give her last name. “State statute is 30 days, but for us, we wait 90.”

        Auctions can take place 60 days after an account is past due, according to Ohio law. Kim said
        the company holds two or three auctions a year, and dozens of people show up. Observers think the
        AE reality-TV show
        Storage Wars, which features bidders jostling over the contents of delinquent units, has
        boosted the popularity of such auctions.

        According to the Washington-based Self Storage Association, business is booming. There are about
        48,500 primary self-storage businesses nationwide and 1,435 in Ohio, the industry’s fourth-largest
        state. About 9 percent of Americans rent the units to park excess belongings or to hold items when
        they move, travel or downsize.

        Tim Dietz of the storage association said less than 1 percent of units nationwide wind up at
        auction. “We are not in the business of selling people’s stuff,” he said. “Owners just want the
        unit back to rent to someone who is going to pay.”

        Dietz said the association’s attorney has found that many, but not all, self-storage rental
        agreements do not permit tenants to store “property to which the tenant has an emotional or
        sentimental attachment.” Cremains would seem to fit that category.

        Crawford, 58, now lives in a small apartment and says he never worried about keeping important
        things in the storage unit. “I can’t even remember all the stuff I have in there, it’s been so
        long,” he said.

        He said he stopped making his monthly payment of about $94 in July after financial setbacks,
        including helpingto pay for relatives’ funeral arrangements. He said he lives on a small Social
        Security check and is awaiting a workers’ compensation settlement from a construction accident.

        Crawford sent the storage company $49 in November, but that barely made a dent.

        If the contents of his unit are sold, Crawford hopes the bidder gives him the chance to retrieve
        personal papers and, of course, the box with the ashes. “I don’t know what anyone else would want
        with it.”

        Article source: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/03/29/not-paying-self-storage-fees-can-be-costly.html