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Banks offer homeowners options in a tough economy

As the plummeting price of oil leads to job losses across Alberta, many homeowners find themselves in tenuous positions, worried they might lose the roof over their heads.

Donna Houston, a long-time resident of Fort McMurray and a local real estate agent, found herself asking serious questions about how to pay her bills after her husband lost his job.

“You don’t necessarily think it could happen to you,” she said. “And I feel a lot of people are feeling it, and it has happened to them. It’s not just fly-in, fly-out people that are being laid off, it’s actual locals, too, long-term families with roots here.”

At the time, she didn’t want to tell the bank what her family was struggling with.

But that’s exactly the wrong approach, she said.

“You can tell the bank what’s going on, and they aren’t going to take your keys immediately.”

She decided she would share her story to try and take the shame out of the situation for others.

“They don’t have to struggle alone,” she said. “There are a lot of people in the same boat, worried. I want people to know you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out to your lenders, call your bank, call your credit card company … find out what your options are.”

‘Don’t be afraid’

There are a number of options for homeowners concerned about how to make ends meet.

“The last thing we want to see is someone lose their home,” said Rob Bennett, executive vice-president of retail services for ATB Financial.

Forclosure Sales

Rob Bennett of ATB financial says that If the worst does happen people shouldn’t be afraid of their banks. (David J. Phillip/Associated Press)

He said the idea is to avoid surprises.

“Find out what the fees and penalties are on your mortgage today, no matter what, because if you do lose your job you don’t want to find out after the fact that you would have a large interest-rate differential penalty you weren’t expecting. Your bank should be able to explain to you what your situation would be ahead of time, so there’s no surprises.”

If the worst does happen, he said people shouldn’t be afraid of their banks.

“Talk to them about your options to defer any payments, if you have loan payments or car payment. Talk to your bank about the options they may have to defer the big spend — the mortgage payment.”

Bennett said most lenders can find a way to defer some payments for a couple of months.

He also suggested looking at what he called non-imperative costs.

“You know, look at some of the utilities that you’re signed up for and just make sure that everything that you’re paying for is absolutely imperative.”

The key is to keep the conversation open.

“No bank wants to be in the business in seizing assets and trying to sell those assets off,” he said. “Nobody wins in that situation. So that’s always an absolute worst-case scenario. So the key is, if we’ve got a customer who’s talking to us and who’s working with us, that’s normally a sure sign that we can make things work.”

State of the market

Alberta’s arrears rate is up slightly from 0.24 per cent in 2014 to 0.28 per cent as of December 2015. Arrears are defined as mortgage payments that are 90 or more days late. The rate is still below the national average of 0.35 per cent.

Lai Sing Louie, an analyst with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, said Alberta’s housing market will continue to remain soft as long as oil prices are depressed. As of January 2016, the average house price is down 2.7 per cent from a year ago, while sales are down 14 per cent.

“The banks do not want your homes, they want a solution.”
- Julio Florez 

Julio Florez is a broker with True North Realty in Fort McMurray, where business remains steady.

While he sees people who have to sell homes for less than expected these days, he said he hasn’t heard of anyone who’s had to walk away from everything.

Owners considering a move should first understand the implications, including the associated costs and penalties, he said.

“Don’t do it alone. The process for foreclosure is a long process and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s always good to exhaust all the possibilities that do exist there,” Florez said. 

“The banks do not want your homes – they want a solution. And it’s never an overnight process that the bank will take the keys and you’ll be without a home tomorrow.”

Houston and her family are doing well right now, after her husband found other work.

Her ultimate advice for others in the same position is to talk to the professionals.

“Don’t do it alone, don’t be afraid,” she said. “Dig in a little bit and find out if you have options, and what they are.”

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Why the James Center is headed to foreclosure

The complex was hit hard by the loss of one of its largest tenants last year. (PHOTO: Evelyn Rupert)

The complex was hit hard by the loss of one of its largest tenants last year. (PHOTO: Evelyn Rupert)

The complex was hit hard by the loss of one of its largest tenants last year. (PHOTO: Evelyn Rupert)

The complex was hit hard by the loss of one of its largest tenants last year. (PHOTO: Evelyn Rupert)

RICHMOND, Va. — A chunk of downtown office space totaling nearly 1 million square feet has landed on the auction block. The James Center, consisting of three towers at 901, 1021 and 1051 E. Cary St., is scheduled for a March 8 foreclosure auction on the courthouse steps, according to a legal notice, after the buildings’ owner defaulted on two loans totaling $150 million.

The three buildings, known as One, Two and Three James Center, comprise 986,000-square-feet of office space and 50,000 square feet of retail space. About 360,000 square feet – more than a third of the total space – is vacant between the three buildings. That’s according to the website of New York-based JEMB Realty, which has owned James Center since 2005.

Foreclosure has been a looming option for the property since its largest tenant, law firm McGuireWoods, announced it was vacating its 489,000 square feet in One James Center in favor of Gateway Plaza in 2013. A special servicer took over the loans on the property – one at $100 million and the other at $50 million – shortly thereafter.

Click here to continue reading on RichmondBizSense.

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10 States With the Biggest Foreclosure Problems


Foreclosures Are Falling

Foreclosures on U.S. housing units continue to decline, falling to a nearly 10-year low in January, according to real estate data company RealtyTrac. Last month, there were 95,186 homes with a foreclosure filing — notice of default, scheduled auction or bank repossession — down 8% from December 2015 and down 11% from January 2015. Much of the foreclosure activity is concentrated at the end of the process (bank repossession), with completed foreclosures up 32% from the same time last year. Completed foreclosures (which RealtyTrac uses interchangeably with bank repossessions, or REOs), have increased year-over-year for 7 months in a row.

Meanwhile, foreclosure starts (notices of default) were down 18% from January 2015. Foreclosure starts have decreased year-over-year for 7 straight months, as well, and are at pre-recession levels, according to RealtyTrac.

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First foreclosure auctions in July – reports

The first foreclosed properties are to go under the hammer in July and will involve around 25 Bank of Cyprus cases of commercial real estate and land worth around 85 million euros, Phileleftheros reported on Sunday.

The BoC numbers are due to gradually rise to 100 cases, none of which are homes.

In all, Phileleftheros said, 3,000 property owners islandwide have received letters with the date, time and place of the auctions in each district. All of these cases involve final judgements issued by the courts prior to the crisis in 2013. None relate to primary residences.

The paper said the co-op intended to sell 70 mortgaged properties. It had sent out 500 letters last year but was giving most of the affected borrowers a last chance to comply. The 70 properties, worth 160 million euros concerned second homes and holiday homes.

Hellenic Bank has said previously it was focusing on viable loan restructurings, but noted that measures will also be taken against non-cooperative customers.
It was announced last month that suitable properties to host foreclosure proceedings had been found and commissioned. Auction sites for Nicosia will be a conference room in the GSP stadium and the capital’s main conference centre, while foreclosure auctions in Famagusta will be housed in a ground-floor store, and in Limassol the GSO cultural centre.

Foreclosure legislation enacted in 2014 stipulates that every district must have a designated location to hold foreclosure auctions, and an appropriate number of auctioneers appointed before the procedure can go live.

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West Dundee officials looking for tenant to fill Bootleggers site

OTTO Engineering President Tom Roeser wants to see the former Bootleggers Kitchen and Pub building up and running again soon as a restaurant site.

To that end, he has begun foreclosure proceedings against the investors who have a mortgage through him on the property, at 629 S. 8th St. in West Dundee.

“I told them if they were to pay the past due rent and pay the taxes that are due I would stop the foreclosure proceedings,” Roeser said Thursday. “My interest is simply to get the building occupied by a good business.”

Restaurateur George Arsoniadis opened the speakeasy-themed eatery in the spring of 2015, with the help of financial backing from Roeser, who loaned him the money to purchase the building, and a financial incentive from West Dundee of $50,000, which came in the form of a grant paid as a reimbursement upon completion of the improvements, according to city records.

West Dundee Mayor Chris Nelson said the village recovered $20,000 of the investment within the time Bootlegger’s was in operation.

“And with a new tenant, we’ll have recovered our $50,000 investment within two and a half years,” he said.

He added the village’s investment was not in Arsoniadis, but the physical property.

“Even with it going back into Mr. Roeser’s possession, our investment remains, making it far easier to market this site to new tenants because they don’t have to undertake a massive renovation to get a business rolling,” he said.

Nelson said the building had not been updated since 1991.

“That’s a long time for a property to go without an upgrade,” he said.

There are currently two restaurant operators who have expressed interest in the site, Nelson said.

“We’ll likely be having tours with those potential operators in March,” he said.

Erin Sauder is a freelance reporter.

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Home-purchase process seems backward

We love cruising around, checking out open houses and dreaming up all kinds of possibilities to create that perfect life.

So what happens when your window shopping turns into real shopping? What does that process look like?

If we could accurately describe the homebuying process, we would probably say it’s like jumping on a roller coaster (think the emotional type) for about 30 days. It’s a big decision and that is exciting and stressful just to think about, but purchasing a home is quite rewarding.

Purchasing a home usually takes place a little backward and tends to cause more stress than it should.

More often than not, you stop at an open house because it’s got this great curb appeal and it’s in the neighborhood you’ve been eyeing. You walk into that home and realize it’s the perfect home. We’re not even kidding here . . . cue the angels and the singing.

The Realtor says she would love to write an offer for you and asks you if you are pre-approved, but unfortunately you are not. You see, agents and sellers will not review or accept an offer if you don’t have a pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender. To top it off, she also indicates that she has three other offers coming in and will be presenting all of them Tuesday so you better get pre-approved and do it fast.

Cue the stress!

The Realtor provided you with a reputable local mortgage lender’s phone number and all you need to do is call and you can get that pre-approval letter, right? That’s not really how it works.

A good lender will need to see your financials and run your credit. We rely on artificial intelligence and underwriting guidelines and we want to ensure there isn’t something in your credit profile that would make you un-approvable. Remember the crash in the economy and all those people losing their homes to foreclosure? Banks no longer fund hundreds of thousands of dollars for stated income and assets or a handshake and a smile.

It’s pretty simple to get the pre-approval process going and doesn’t cost you any out-of-pocket expense. It’s not a totally painless process, either, as we will ask you to gather a lot of paperwork to get the progression to approval going (think pay stubs, W2 forms, taxes, bank and assets statements).

Once we have reviewed your financials and pulled credit, we run your loan through the automated systems and cross-reference your financials against different program guidelines. We make notes of items we see missing from your credit package as a housekeeping list for when you do go into contract. We address anything that could affect your loan approval and check with the lenders to confirm how they would interpret something so we can determine which lender to place your file with.

When all of this has been completed, we schedule a consultation with you to explain how interest rates work, what your payment will be and what your required cash to close is. We will have addressed that old IRS debt or previous foreclosure and while you felt the sting of rehashing that awful time in your life, we won’t judge you and will help you through it.

Now you are free to go shopping for a home and have the pre-approval letter in your hand when the agent asks if you want to write that offer.

First Priority Financial Inc. dba Solano Mortgage (Nationwide Multistate Licensing System No. 3257) is licensed by the California Department of Business Oversight under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act. Kashala Link (Nationwide Multistate Licensing System No. 251244), Dawn Palestini (Nationwide Multistate Licensing System No. 361616).

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Deal falling through on Handy land purchase

Handy Township could be stuck with a troublesome piece of land for a while.

Although Green Grid LLC planned to purchase a large amount of land from the township, the deal is falling through. The company missed a December deadline to fulfill a $3.2 million land contract on 200 acres at the southwest corner of Grand River Avenue and Nicholson Road, and forfeiture proceedings end May 1. The land was to be developed into a recycling facility.

“This particular case was the perfect storm. Anything that could go wrong went wrong,” County Treasurer Jennifer Nash said.

Township officials were counting on selling the land and paying off delinquent taxes.

Back taxes and interest on the parcels has reached $3.8 million.

The township acquired the property, along with delinquent taxes from unpaid sewer assessments, after settling in 2014 a lawsuit with Mitch Harris Building Inc., a home-building company that once planned to build a 279-home subdivision on three large parcels.

“Financially, it is the big, white elephant in the room,” Township Supervisor Ed Alverson said.

In light of the unfulfilled purchase agreement, a new plan was for the parcels to go into foreclosure and be put up for tax sale.

“We were intending to foreclose April 1,” County Treasurer Jennifer Nash said.

However, she said the state of Michigan’s title company made an error, which would delay the foreclosure process for a year.

“Within the last week, we discovered that statutory requirements for noticing all of the interested parties had not taken place,” Nash said.

That means the three parcels cannot be foreclosed upon until April 1, 2017, a year later than planned, she said.

A tax sale would not happen until that August. Parties with a recorded historical interest in the properties — the township, Green Grid and Mitch Harris Building — would have a chance pay off the back taxes and avoid foreclosure.

Story continues below clickable map

A deal between the county and township was contingent on the land selling.

Last March, the county Board of Commissioners approved paying off $1.2 million of the back taxes.

The township got a 90-day extension on the deal, which will run out near the end of March.

“Basically, that gave them three months to come up with an alternative plan if that Green Grid land contract fell through,” Nash said.

Another issue Alverson identified was the interest on the delinquent taxes the township is charged, which the county is statutorily obligated to collect. He said it is about $30,000 a month.

“Our general fund budget is about $750,000, so that is overwhelming,” he said. “We want to get off the ticker.”

Alverson indicated the township is in quite a pickle.

“It depends on how you look at it, in my opinion. This gives the township another year to continue to actively market those properties and find a potential buyer,” Nash said.

“The debt is so large, it’s probably unrealistic to think the township will be able to pay the taxes to keep it from foreclosure without a buyer in place,” she said.

“How do you market property with so much debt on it?” Alverson asked.

The land has been a thorn in the side for a number of years.

When Mitch Harris Building was developing the land, “it needed sewers, and so there was a deal with the township to provide sewers. … The township couldn’t bond it, so the Livingston County Board of Commissioners agreed to fund the bonds,” Alverson said.

However, the construction of sewer infrastructure was held up by major delays and only partially completed.

Mitch Harris Building sued and never built any homes.

The township settled for $300,000 in that lawsuit, Alverson said.

“There are some portions of the project that were not completed,” county Department of Public Works coordinator Robert Spaulding said.

“It was from a contractor who was unable to complete the project, and it resulted in litigation,” Spaulding said.

Livingston County received a $140,000 settlement.

“Livingston was the fastest-growing county in the state of Michigan when the economy all blew up. … (A) lot of these undeveloped properties … had the sewer infrastructure put in, and in many cases, the special assessment assigned. Then, suddenly, development ceased, and the parcels were no longer worth the amount of taxes and special assessments on them,” Nash said.

Whatever happens with the property, the township remains obligated to make bond payments for the original sewer construction cost.

“It’s another year the township wouldn’t collect tax assessments, and it would limit our ability to pay down bond debt,” Alverson said.

Officials are considering whether to stop extending the sewer system.

County commissioners are mulling over a proposed resolution not to complete an extension of the sewer lines along Grand River Avenue.

Spaulding addressed the county’s finance committee Wednesday morning.

The township and Department of Public Works are seeking “to close out this uncompleted project,” Spaulding said.

The township would get approximately $58,000, which is the remaining balance in the sewer system construction fund.

It would need final approval from the county Board of Commissioners and the village of Fowlerville.

Contact Livingston Daily county and townships reporter Jennifer Eberbach at 517-548-7148 or at Follow her on Twitter @JenTheWriter.

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Tucson business accused of scamming homeowners facing foreclosure

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has filed a Consumer Fraud Lawsuit against Sonia Hodgin and Hodgin Co, LLC.

According to the lawsuit, Hodgin and her business are accused of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act by charging homeowners thousands of dollars for foreclosure assistance services and failing to provide those services.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants (Sonia Hodgin and Hodgin Co, LLC) misrepresented the nature of fees charged for their services.

In at least one instance, the defendants claimed they could help a homeowner avoid foreclosure and entered into a contract in which
the defendants agreed to assume the homeowner’s mortgage loan obligation. 

The lawsuit states the defendants failed to remove the homeowner from the mortgage loan obligation and failed to assume the mortgage loan obligation as agreed. 

The defendants then allegedly failed to pay the mortgage loan servicer or homeowner, resulting in the servicer foreclosing on the property.

“Arizona homeowners who lost their homes to fake foreclosure schemes should immediately file a complaint with our office,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich, in a news release. “This office will continue to fight for vulnerable homeowners who fall victim to fraudulent foreclosure schemes.” 

Tucson Association of Realtors President Eric Gibbs said when dealing with foreclosure, homeowners should work with the banks, not necessarily realtors.

“With foreclosures you have to go to the source. Either it is your lender or bank who holds your foreclosure [and] is the only one who can foreclose on you, so if someone is offering their services to help with the foreclose, really the best source is go to a lender or bank and talk to them,” he said.

According to the Arizona Department of Real Estate website, Hodgin surrendered her real estate license in October 2014.

To find out if the realtor you are working with is legitimate you can visit  

If you believe you have been a victim of consumer fraud, please contact the Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix at (602) 542-5763, in Tucson at (520) 628-6504, or outside the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas at 1(800) 352-8431.  

Consumers can also file complaints online by visiting the Attorney General’s website at:

To read a copy of the complaint, click here:

Copyright 2016 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved. 

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AG’s Office files suit against Tucson foreclosure assistance company

A new report from the University of Arizona reveals that Tucson is failing to make the mark as it falls well below the national and regional benchmarks…

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Foreclosure of athletic club in limbo

LACONIA — Friday’s scheduled foreclosure auction of the Laconia Athletic and Swim Club failed to take place.

Despite published legal notices announcing the scheduled sale, neither a representative of the mortgage holder ReadyCap Lending, LLC., nor an auctioneer showed up at the property.

Mortgagee Tom Oakley and about a dozen people gathered at the 827 North Main Street property and waited until about 15 minutes after the scheduled 11 a.m. auction before determining that the status of the club will continue to remain in limbo.

Oakley said he was grateful to Laconia Attorney Jeff Philpot who has agreed to represent him pro bono “because he cares,” and thanked several people who showed up to support him.

A call to the Farmington Conn., law firm of Bendette McHugh listed in the published legal notice for the foreclosure auction was met with a recorded message stating that they were debt collectors on behalf of their clients.

Efforts to reach Attorney Amy Azza who is named in the legal notice as the law firm’s contact were unsuccessful. Her voice mail says she is on maternity leave from Jan. 25-April 24, and that callers should not leave her a message.

Oakley said the mortgage holder has recently hired a caretaker who has winterized the club, made arrangements for snow removal and shifted some of the utility accounts in the bank’s name. More than half of the water in the club’s pool has been drained as part of the winterizing efforts.

After deciding the auction was not taking place, Oakley busied himself transferring paper files stored at the club into banker’s boxes and loading them into his Jeep.

Philpot said he felt Oakley has been “led down the primrose path,” by well-meaning people who urged him to make energy efficiency improvements. Oakley ended up borrowing $500,000 from the New Hampshire Community Finance Authority to cover the cost of making the pool area more energy efficient.

“The federal government giveth and taketh away,” Philpot said, of the loss of tax credits for energy use reduction projects.

Non-judicial foreclosure in New Hampshire under RSA 479:25 requires strict compliance with the timing and substantive requirements for notifying interested parties and advertising the auction sale. Failure to follow the statutory requirements can render the sale ineffective as to junior lien holders who didn’t receive the required notice. Unlike certain other states, there is no redemption period in New Hampshire that would allow the Oakleys to redeem or buy back the property, following a foreclosure sale.

Under N.H. law, were the property to sell as foreclosure for less than the amount owned on the mortgage, a deficiency judgment may be obtained that would make the Oakley’s liable for the unpaid balance.

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