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Home Center to help home buyers

The world of mortgage is ever changing, according to those in the industry.

That’s the inspiration behind the recently opened Home Center, which will help potential homeowners through the loan process.

The center has been open for two weeks and Wednesday, some of those involved in the starting it celebrated this afternoon.

The Human Resources Development Council (HRDC) and several banks.along with other businesses and agencies created a one-stop resource for people looking to buy or rent.

Financial counseling, credit repair, fiscal responsibility tips and budgeting are some of the services.

All this is aimed at helping people buy a home and avoid foreclosure.

“Loan documentation has become so voluminous anymore,” said Ryan Auer, real estate market manager for Stockman Bank. “And the way that people qualify to get home loans has become so different than it was even 10 years ago. The home center intake staff will absolutely counsel folks, look at their financial picture, tell them  how they can get from point A to point B to become a homeowner. And if there are things in the middle that need to be addressed, the home center will point those folks in the right direction.”

Auer led the capital campaign and estimates it will cost about $100,000 dollars a year to run the program.

The Home Center is located at 3124 1st Avenue South.

Article source: http://www.ktvq.com/story/29665795/home-center-to-help-home-buyers

Was budget balanced with wrong money?

The State of Delaware and the United States Department of Justice announced a year ago a record $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America for alleged mortgage fraud practices. Then-Attorney General Beau Biden announced the funds coming to Delaware would be put to work “helping thousands of Delaware families avoid foreclosure, strengthening communities hit hard by the fallout from the housing crisis, holding banks accountable and reimbursing government losses.”

Of course, the birth of such an agreement is not the result of serendipity or happenstance. For Delaware, this Settlement Agreement was the culmination of a multi-year effort by the men and women of the Office of Attorney General to identify the parties and practices responsible, in part, for the effects of the mortgage crisis in Delaware. The fashioned remedy, sculpted within the ambit of statutory authority, promised $45,000,000 as a make-whole remedy for those who suffered ravages to personal lives. To be sure, Delaware institutions themselves fell within the victim class.

The Settlement Agreement and contemporaneous press releases set out with specificity how these monies are to be used. Paragraph 9 of the Settlement Agreement unambiguously states that these funds shall be used, to the maximum extent possible, for purposes of providing restitution and remediating harms to the state and its communities allegedly resulting from the unlawful conduct. A contemporaneous press release issued by the Delaware Attorney General declares that the funds at issue here “must be used to remediate the harm Delaware communities suffered as a result of the housing crisis, …”

The Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, Inc. (DCRAC) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure equitable treatment and equal access to credit and capital for Delawareans. Since our founding in 1987, we have commented on the abusive and discriminatory mortgage lending practices that have visited misery upon low- and moderate income and minority communities.

For DCRAC, farmland preservation fails to conjure a contemplated use for this $45,000,000. Yet that is just one use to which Delaware politicians have dedicated these funds.

The threat of more mischief by these actors with regard to these funds is on the horizon.

This sleight of hand will not stand. The cavalier treatment of funds created as a remedy for a victim class have morphed into political tribute.

A shakedown as revenue generation becomes the message.

Various remedies are available to undo this tragic misappropriation of funds which were obtained through the noble efforts of so many dedicated civil servants. First resort lies with the United States Department of Justice which trumpeted this settlement as a discrete remedy to banking abuses during the financial crisis.

It will fall to Attorney General Loretta Lynch to determine if then Attorney Eric General Holder contemplated farmland preservation as falling within the panoply of uses for the $16.65 billion.

Under the Settlement Agreement a remedy may lie with the federal district court in New Jersey. Beyond the Settlement Agreement itself, DCRAC is exploring a request for injunctive relief in the Delaware state courts. As each of these approaches unfolds, Delaware will deservedly be exposed to the public’s disapproval for its exploitation of hard won gains for a victimized community.

Rashmi Rangan is executive director of the Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, Inc.

Article source: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2015/07/29/budget-balanced-wrong-money/30845641/

The zombie foreclosure apocalypse is here, and these towns are taking steps to …

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ZOMBIE HOMES: New Jersey families are abandoning homes before they enter foreclosure, leading to the zombie foreclosure problem.

By Sarah Chavey | New Jersey Watchdog

Ten municipalities in Gloucester County are uniting to end the “zombie foreclosure” apocalypse in New Jersey.

Zombie foreclosures—abandoned houses in foreclosure—have plagued New Jersey for several years. Now, the 10 municipalities, in concert with the group Community Champions, have agreed to a plan which will help decrease the glaring number of abandoned homes. By pooling their resources to create a registry of the properties, the local governments believe they will be able to make a difference.

New Jersey counts itself among states with the highest number of both zombie foreclosures and regular foreclosures.

Second only to Florida, New Jersey foreclosures increased 24 percent in the first half of 2015 from last year, .92 percent of housing units filed foreclosure during the first six-month period. In contrast, the nationwide foreclosure number is down 4 percent from last year.

Furthermore, RealtyTrac discovered that one quarter—17,000 of the 70,000 homes in foreclosure in New Jersey in the second quarter of this year—were zombie foreclosures, making this state the highest in the country for zombie foreclosures.

The new proposed plan follows a history of struggles with New Jersey foreclosures. In 2012, National Park addressed banks for neglecting homes, and annoyed neighbors lodged complaints about the unkempt abandoned homes in their neighborhoods.

In 2013, Woodbury city council members discussed a resolution placing a $315 lien on abandoned houses to resolve maintenance costs, and Assemblyman Paul Moriarty of Washington Township authored a bill allowing towns to impose heavy fines against banks owning abandoned properties.

The new legislation seeks accountability for the abandoned houses; by locating and registering them, New Jersey is taking the first step.

Article source: http://watchdog.org/231510/zombie-foreclosure-apocalypse/

State offers foreclosure prevention in Southern Tier – Press & Sun

Southern Tier homeowners facing financial troubles can get a helping hand from the state Department of Financial Services this week.

Representatives will be available today through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to meet homeowners in the agency’s Mobile Command Center in these locations:

Today: Steele Memorial Library, 101 E. Church St., Elmira

Thursday: Broome County Library, 185 Court St., Binghamton

Friday: Vestal Town Hall, 320 Vestal Parkway East, Vestal

The DFS foreclosure prevention program was launched by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to assist homeowners in need, at no cost.

Representatives can help homeowners apply for mortgage modifications, or help those who have already applied.

DFS also takes complaints by homeowners who believe they were victimized by abuses in mortgage lending.

Homeowners need to be cautious about mortgage rescue scams, according to DFS. In most cases, officials said, New York law prohibits the collection of an upfront fee in exchange for getting a loan modification, saving a home from default or stopping a foreclosure or tax sale.

DFS also asks homeowners to be wary of anyone who claims they can save a home if the owner signs or transfers over the deed, in order to catch up on mortgage payments or refinance a loan.

Anyone unable to meet personally with DFS representatives is encouraged to call the department’s toll-free foreclosure hotline: 1-800-342-3736, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., on weekdays. Complaints can also be filed online at www.dfs.ny.gov.

Follow Anthony Borrelli on Twitter @PSBABorrelli

Article source: http://www.pressconnects.com/story/news/local/2015/07/29/state-offers-foreclosure-prevention-southern-tier/30825113/

$2.5M minimum bid for Park District foreclosure

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Article source: http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/2015/07/29/judge-clears-way-park-district-foreclosure-sale/30848075/

Westfield mayor’s business HQ headed for sheriff’s sale

The Illinois bank TBF has foreclosed on a trucking business owned by Westfield Mayor Andy Cook and his son Ben Cook.

Through a mutual agreement filed in Hamilton Superior Court III Tradewinds Holding Co.’s headquarters at 1318 E. 236th St. will be auctioned Aug. 20 at a sheriff’s sale. In addition to that 5-acre property, the auction also will include 75 acres of adjacent undeveloped land at 1110 E. 236th St.

TBF forced the foreclosure and sheriff’s sale after acquiring Tradewinds’ debt from Fifth Third Bank in January 2014. The bank, though, essentially forgave up to $1.4 million in debt from Tradewinds and the Cooks, through the agreement.

Tradewinds was upside down on $2.7 million it owed on the property when TBF acquired the loans. According to an independent appraisal provided to the court, the property was valued at $1.3 million to $1.6 million and would be difficult to market and sell in the rural area. The land is far north of economic development in Hamilton County.

The bank agreed not to seek more than the auction amount from Tradewinds, or from Andy Cook and Ben Cook, who had provided personal guarantees on the debt.

In return, Tradewinds will drop potential court actions to stop or delay the foreclosure.

“This is a really good deal for everyone,” said Eric Douthit, an attorney with the Noblesville-based Church, Church, Hittle Antrim law firm who represents Tradewinds.

The Cooks referred questions to Douthit. Ben Cook has managed day-to-day operations at the company since Andy Cook was elected mayor. Andy Cook’s other son, Brian Cook, handles the company’s finances.

Douthit said Tradewinds will either lease the headquarters from the future owner of the property or move to another location the company owns on 181st Street in Westfield, where the trucking operations are based.

Douthit said the company plans to have a long-term future after posting its best earnings year in 2014. Business is up so far this year, he said.

“Hoosier Tradewinds plans to continue to operate,” Douthit said.

There’s no question the trucking company has been troubled for years, though. Founded in 2006, Tradewinds filed for bankruptcy after struggling to maintain business during the recession.

Tradewinds emerged from bankruptcy in November 2009 and consolidated its debt into the two loans from Fifth Third Bank.

Fifth Third Bank, though, sold the loans to TBF in January 2014, according to court documents. A month later, TBF informed Tradewinds it was in default for failing to provide properly audited financial documents.

TBF demanded the full amount of the loans. When Tradewinds failed to pay the money, the bank filed for foreclosure in March 2014. Tradewinds owed $3.17 million, including the loans and other expenses, according to the court filing.

Douthit said the two sides began negotiating on a mutually beneficial agreement even as TBF pursued the foreclosure.

Mark Owens, an attorney with Barnes Thornburg who represented both Fifth Third Bank and TBF in dealings with Tradewinds, did not immediately respond to questions.

TBF could keep the property if it fails to sell at auction. If that happens, Douthit said Tradewinds would seek to lease the property.

The property has been managed by a receiver since July 2014, at TBF’s request.

Politically well-connected Hamilton County businessman Terry Anker owns the receivership, called The Anker Receivership Group.

He could not immediately be reached. His group has filed frequent reports stating that Tradewinds is making timely payments and providing the necessary upkeep for the property as it heads to auction.

Anker is a co-owner of a group of the Current community newspapers in Hamilton County. He also heads The Legacy Fund, which raises money for community projects, including the Westfield Youth Assistance program started by Cook.

Anker also headed a political action committee formed by Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard to elect like-minded City Council candidates in 2011.

Douthit said Tradewinds has made timely payments since emerging from bankruptcy. He said all known debts have been resolved, either through paying them off, through continuing to make payments, or through companies going out of business.

County records also indicate Tradewinds owes roughly $1 million in unpaid taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. However, Douthit provided documentation that all of those liens were resolved and would be removed.

The Cooks formed Tradewinds Holding Co. in December 2010 to manage the finances of and pay the taxes of sister business entities Tradewinds Logistics and Hoosier Tradewinds. The IRS, county records show, continued to tax the two sister businesses for several years, though.

The Sheriff’s sale will begin at 10 a.m. Aug. 20 at the Sheriff’s Office. Written bids will be taken until noon, at which time a verbal auction will begin.

Call Star reporter Chris Sikich at (317) 444-6036. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisSikich and at Facebook/chris.sikich.

Article source: http://www.indystar.com/story/news/local/hamilton-county/2015/07/28/westfield-mayors-business-headed-sheriffs-sale/30794025/

Auctions are not best options for abandoned property


Auctions are not best options for abandoned property

An abandoned property. Credit: Cindy Cornett Seigle

If officials in distressed cities want their communities to recover, abandoned commercial and residential properties would be available through a managed sales program rather than auctions, according to a new University of Michigan study.

Managed sales through land banks or city planning departments can lead to more owner-occupied homes, additions of side lots to homes and businesses, and less property flipping, said Margaret Dewar, U-M professor of urban and regional planning.

Population loss and employment decline in many cities nationwide have led to thousands of abandoned . As a result, owners stop paying , which sends the property into foreclosure. The governments then sell tax liens or sell the property at auction, depending on state law.

“The objectives of the sales are to recoup at least some of the lost municipal revenue quickly and to move property back into private ownership,” Dewar said.

But this system is not the best approach to assure that abandoned property returns to productive use that yields future tax revenues, she said.

Dewar studied the reuse of tax-foreclosed properties in Flint, Mich., and Detroit. The method of sale of these properties has ramifications for future use. A county government in Michigan has to offer tax-foreclosed property at auctions.

“This allows governments to receive immediate revenue if the property sells, but this strategy has promoted prolonged disinvestment,” she said. “Auctions have not allowed prospective bidders to inspect properties.”

Purchasers usually have had to deliver full payment within 24 hours. Dewar said those individuals with the financial means to accept these conditions have often flipped properties, extracted payment from people who had intended to use the properties, or rented houses without making improvements until the county again took the property for failure to pay taxes.

In contrast, managed sales aim to assure lasting reuse. Dewar saw how city department staffs scrutinized prospective owners and their plans for reuse. In addition, interested purchasers had an opportunity to inspect the property, remove any liens against the title and arrange financing.

Managed sales also were associated with much better property conditions than were auctions. A smaller share of properties sold through managed remained vacant lots, Dewar said. Fewer properties returned to tax foreclosure or experienced speculative flipping.

Officials can improve outcomes by alerting the public about properties to be auctioned, she said. This would also include holding open houses for prospective buyers to examine the properties.

“Auctions could allow more time for a purchaser to find funds to pay for property and clear title,” Dewar said.

In addition, public officials could reduce the share of foreclosed properties sold at by advocating for changes in state law, she said.

The findings appear in the current issue of the Journal of Planning Education and Research.


Explore further:
Foreclosure reduces a home’s sale price by 27 percent on average

More information:
“Reuse of Abandoned Property in Detroit and Flint: Impacts of Different Types of Sales.” Journal of Planning Education and Research 0739456X15589815, first published on July 16, 2015 DOI: 10.1177/0739456X15589815

Article source: http://phys.org/news/2015-07-auctions-options-abandoned-property.html

How ‘banking local’ can benefit you – and your community

It’s no secret that in an era of bank mergers, a growing number of us are being served by a few large banks with names we all recognize – staffed by people who may not recognize us when we walk into a branch. Fewer people have a relationship with a banker who knows them on a first-name basis. Gone are the days when a person’s banking relationship was with an institution based in their community where the bankers knew their name and cared about the growth of their local area.

Or are they?

Here’s why it’s easy to get the impression that community banks – typically defined as locally owned and/or operated with less than $1 billion in assets –  are a dying breed: Between 1984 and 2011 the share of U.S. banking assets held by community banks shrank by more than half, from 38 percent to 14 percent, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) (PDF). Community banks had only around a third of America’s banking offices at the end of 2010. Furthermore, these institutions were on the “front line” the Great Recession of 2007-2009, as then-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said, and hard-hit as a result.

So it may surprise you to know that despite all that, community banks still made up 95 percent of U.S. banking institutions in 2011. Given that they aren’t going away anytime soon, it’s worth considering whether, just as you might “shop local,”  “banking local” could be a good option for you — and your community.

According to Bankrate.com, advantages of patronizing a community bank can include more personalized service, lower fees, and more lending flexibility.  Disadvantages can be fewer services than offered by big banks, and a greater possibility that the institution is struggling, so you definitely want to do your homework. The FDIC has a BankFind tool you can use to look up your bank, make sure it is FDIC-insured (protecting your deposits up to $250,000) and get a financial report.

There’s also a certain type of community bank that is focused on developing the community around it: one that also has the designation of community development financial institution, or CDFI. Such institutions receive funds from the federal government to help in their mission to reach underserved people, promote local economic development and create jobs, promote homeownership and increase financial literacy in their communities. A list of certified CDFIs as of June 30, 2015 is here in the form of a downloadable Excel file.

One example of such a community bank with a purpose is Urban Partnership Bank in Chicago. With a stated commitment to “build vibrant urban neighborhoods and promote economic and environmental sustainability for future generations in Chicago, Detroit and beyond,” UPB has focused on funding local business development, keeping homeowners in their homes and serving the approximately 25 percent of people in their service area that are unbanked (those without a bank savings or checking account) and underbanked (those who may have a bank account but rely on certain non-bank services as well, like payday loans).

The bank also said that in 2014 it “kept 210 homeowners in their homes by restructuring their loans, and we helped another 14 homeowners avoid foreclosure through the Illinois Housing Development Authority Home Preservation Program.”

Furthermore, the bank reported that “Financing from Urban Partnership Bank is helping build a modern new campus in Chicago’s West Side North Lawndale neighborhood for UCAN, a 145-year-old social services organization that provides a wide range of important services to young people who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. “

Such activities are the hallmark of a “mission-oriented bank,” and as a result “distressed communities across the U.S. with above-average poverty and unemployment levels are seeing more loans, job creation, and access to banking services,” reported the National Community Investment Fund, which surveyed 24 “mission-oriented banks” in 2013, including UPB. Among those banks surveyed, which collectively reported $1.5 billion in loans, 70,000 jobs had been created since 1998.

“Based on 2013 data, approximately 45 percent of jobs created went to women and 65 percent to minorities,” according to NCIF. Meanwhile, 81 percent of reporting banks’ clients are minorities and 43 percent are women; 86 percent of the banks’ employees are minorities and 68 percent are women.

A list of the “mission-oriented banks” surveyed by the NCIF is here.

Urban Partnership Bank wants to take a special reader to New York City. Let’s see how much you know Chicago for your chance to win.

So what do you think? Are you ready to “bank local” with a purpose, and support the growth of your community?

Article source: http://chicagodefender.com/2015/07/27/protected-how-banking-local-can-benefit-you-and-your-community/

Mortgage company halves Passaic woman’s balance

Loretta Hill of Passaic, a state health care worker, was facing foreclosure last year after she temporarily lost disability benefits and fell behind on her mortgage payments.

Her house was financially “underwater,” worth not much more than half of the $403,000 she owed.

But in what may seem an unlikely turn of events, her Atlanta-based mortgage servicer, Ocwen Financial, came to her rescue by slashing the amount she owed almost in half and by cutting her interest rate from 8.8 percent to less than 3.4 percent.

Under a loan modification agreement, the principal is being reduced by $184,840 over three years. The new balance will be $218,500, and the monthly payment, which was more than $3,300, including interest, taxes and insurance, is now about $1,724, all included. The only catch is that under the Shared Appreciation Program, when she eventually sells the house, the mortgage company gets 25 percent of the appreciation in value and Hill gets 75 percent.

It’s a fair deal, said Hill, 62, in an interview last week at her home on Hughes Street. “I am very grateful to Ocwen,” said Hill, who injured her shoulder and knee on the job in 2010. “I was scared,” she said. “I thought we were going to be homeless.” Over the past 10 years, Hill has raised five nieces and nephews in her Passaic home, four of whom still reside there, while one is away at college in Florida.

Throughout the foreclosure debacle, which continues to hinder New Jersey’s real estate market recovery, mortgage servicers, including Ocwen, have been lightning rods for criticism and have been hit with billions of dollars in fines.

But in recent years — sometimes because of requirements in agreements to settle allegations of wrongdoing — lenders have also been reducing the principal amounts of customers’ loans. Through these reductions, they agree to share some of the losses caused by a sharp drop in real estate values between 2007 and 2012, and they allow certain borrowers facing foreclosure to stay in their homes.

In response to The Record’s questions, Ocwen, one of the top loan servicers in the state, said in an email that it has modified 2,733 loans in New Jersey through its SAM program since 2011. It has completed more than 17,400 loan modifications in New Jersey since 2009, including those that do not involve principal reductions.

In New Jersey, Ocwen’s principal reductions — in which the owners of the loans, including investors in mortgage-backed securities, agree to take “a haircut” on their returns on investment to avoid costly litigation — have averaged more than $100,000 each, said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action. The organization has helped Ocwen in its efforts to make distressed homeowners aware of the program and has provided counseling assistance to help participants through the process.

The program is only available to those whose mortgages are serviced by Ocwen, to those who are behind on their payments and owe more than their homes are worth.

Jim Hines, assistant vice president of consumer lending communications at Wells Fargo’s Chicago office, who had national loan modification statistics but no state-level data, said in an email that Wells Fargo has helped more than 224,000 U.S. customers with $8.6 billion in principal adjustments.

The San Francisco-based lender and servicer has modified more than 1 million mortgages since 2009.

“We participate in the federal government’s Home Affordable Modification Program and numerous other modification options made available to customers with loans controlled by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA and other investors,” he said.

Principal reduction would be even more common if the country’s two biggest owners of mortgage loans, government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, would grant the so-called haircuts.

Housing activists and consumer groups have been lobbying to get Fannie’s and Freddie’s overseer, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, to reverse its prohibition on principal reduction.

“Many times taking the haircut is better than going through the foreclosure process with the litigation costs, the upkeep costs, and the decreases in neighboring property values,” said Mitria Wilson, vice president of government affairs at the Center for Responsible Lending. “The value of these homes is declining on multiple levels.”

“It’s really going to be up to Fannie and Freddie as market leaders, whether they are going to take a haircut and if their investors are willing to take a haircut,” said Mike Affuso, director of government relations for the New Jersey Bankers Association.

Email: newman@northjersey.com

Article source: http://www.northjersey.com/news/business/homeowners-get-mortgage-relief-1.1381793

Freddie Mac’s ‘Take Root’ Programs Have Been Successful in Hardest Hit Areas

house-in-lifesaverFreddie Mac‘s Take Root program in Milwaukee, one of the areas hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis, has resulted in more than 16,400 low- to moderate-income residents being able to buy or fix a home, strengthen finances, or avoid foreclosure, according to an announcement on Freddie Mac’s blog on Tuesday.

The Take Root Milwaukee program is one of three such programs Freddie Mac launched in the wake of the housing crisis. The other two are in Chicago and South Florida, which were two areas also hit hard by foreclosures.

Freddie Mac launched Take Root Milwaukee five years ago, at the height of the foreclosure wave, with the idea that government agencies, financial institutions, and the real estate industry could unite to protect residential neighborhoods by forming a single network that residents can contact with one click or phone number.

The program’s hotline, which can be reached at (414) 921-4149, and website connect, on average per month, more than 1,400 residents to professionals and resources provided by 32 member organizations, according to Freddie Mac.

“Take Root Milwaukee’s success gives communities everywhere a road map for giving consumers a one-stop resource for buying, financing, and owning a home,” said Danny Gardner, single-family VP of affordable lending and access to credit at Freddie Mac. “Freddie Mac is proud to be a part of Take Root and to move housing forward in Milwaukee.”

In five years since Take Root Milwaukee was launched, the program has provided homebuyer and foreclosure prevention resources, information, and assistance to 15,984 individuals; provided more than 12,700 individuals and families with homebuyer education and counseling; and helped more than 2,600 first-time buyers purchase a home, according to Freddie Mac. About 31 percent of those first-time buyers purchased a foreclosed home that helped stabilize Milwaukee neighborhoods.

Also in the last five years, lending in minority neighborhoods has increased by 78 percent and increased in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods by 37 percent.

“Take Root is a success on many levels. It has united government, the real estate industry, and financial institutions in the collaborative effort to limit the damage of residential foreclosures on Milwaukee,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said. “And its ongoing work positively affects individuals, neighborhoods, and our entire city.”

Article source: http://dsnews.com/news/07-28-2015/freddie-macs-take-root-programs-have-been-successful-in-hardest-hit-areas