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Two Bills that Affect Foreclosure Notices

The Maryland legislature has passed House Bill 26 (“HB26”) that amends the foreclosure notice provisions contained in Maryland Real Property Article 7-105.2. HB26, slated to take effect on October 1, 2017, provides that notice of a foreclosure sale must be sent to a condominium association (COA) or homeowner’s association (HOA) that has recorded a lien against the property at least 30 days before the date of the proposed sale. This change now explicitly requires notice of sale be sent to any COA or HOA that has a lien recorded against the property at least 30 days prior to the scheduled sale. Since the current law requires notice to all subordinate lien- or judgment-holders (whose liens are recorded and indexed at least thirty days prior to the sale), this change is not particularly significant.

Further, and more impactful, the bill provides that in the event of a cancellation of a foreclosure sale, the trustee must send notice of the cancellation to the record owner and to any COA or HOA to whom notice of the sale was sent, within 14 days of the cancellation. The statute does not mandate a particular form for the notice.

The legislature in Annapolis also passed House Bill 1048 (HB1048), which adds a new registration component to the Maryland foreclosure process. Once it becomes effective, the law will require the property to be registered with the states’ Department of Labor and Licensing Regulation within seven days of docketing the case. While none of the information to be collected for this registration is unusual, the eventual registration process (either through a form drafted by the Commissioner of Financial Regulation, or directly through electronic registration) includes the requirement to provide the contact information for the “person authorized to manage and maintain the Property before the foreclosure sale.” Thus, in order to comply, servicers will need to provide property preservation contact info to their law firms early in the process (if relying on firms to handle the registration). This Bill also further extends State preemption of current foreclosure registry requirements to include this new registration. Interestingly though, the statute defines this new notice as not a public record, but says the registration notice can be made available to the jurisdictions, a person who owns property on the same block, or the HOA or COA. Fortunately, the legislature explicitly moved back the effective date of this bill from the first draft until October 1, 2018.

In summary, while neither of these Bills make any fundamental changes to Maryland’s foreclosure rules, they are additional administrative and procedural steps that will need to be monitored to ensure compliance.

Article source: http://www.dsnews.com/daily-dose/05-29-2017/two-bills-affect-foreclosure-notices

Foreclosure drives MI woman from ‘Extreme Makeover’ home

HOLT, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan woman whose home was rebuilt on a reality TV show is being forced from her home by foreclosure.

Arlene Nickless of Holt must leave her home by Monday, eight months after it fell into foreclosure.

Nickless tells the Lansing State Journal that “I can’t believe this is happening.”

Designers with ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” razed her old home and built the new 3,300-square-foot, four-bedroom home in 2008 with the help of hundreds of volunteers following the death of Nickless’ husband, Tim.

The home features stone columns, dark wood floors, an indoor water wall, and a retractable flat-screen television.

Nickless says the home’s foreclosure resulted from an ongoing struggle to manage the property’s pre-makeover mortgage. The mortgage’s balance had ballooned to at least $113,000 by late 2016.

——

Information from:

Lansing State Journal 

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Article source: http://woodtv.com/2017/05/29/foreclosure-drives-mi-woman-from-extreme-makeover-home/

WTOC Investigates: Alderman Tony Thomas’ home foreclosure

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

We’ve got new details on yet another issue with 6th District Alderman, Tony Thomas, as he started his holiday weekend answering to Chatham County deputies. 

Late last week, folks living in the Windsor Forest neighborhood called Chatham County Animal Control after noticing Thomas’ home had not been lived in for weeks, yet several cats were appearing in the windows. 

We did some digging and discovered that, in fact, the alderman’s house had been foreclosed on and scheduled for auction at the county courthouse on Tuesday, June 6. Animal Services placed a notice on the front door and having not heard back from the owner or bank, sent deputies out to the home to remove the cats. That’s when Alderman Thomas showed up, taking several boxes from the house – but when WTOC Reporter, Georgiaree Godfrey approached him to ask for a comment on the situation, he confronted her using graphic profanity with sexist overtones. The conversation went as follows. 

Godfrey: “So, may I ask why you’re calling me a c***?”

Thomas: “What are you?”

Godfrey: “I’m a female. I’ve never disrespected you so why would you call me a c***?’

Alderman Thomas told deputies he was renovating the home and returned every day to care for the cats – but again – the home is listed as foreclosed on the county website and is represented by a Georgia law firm specializing in bankruptcy and foreclosure. 

The county is scheduled to auction off the home at 10 a.m. on June 6, with a starting bid of $55,000. 

In most cases, a foreclosed or bank-owned home is off limits to the previous owner, but because the alderman would not answer our questions about the property, we were unable to confirm through him the exact status of his home. 

We will, of course, follow up on this report and bring you any additional information as we get it. 

Copyright 2017 WTOC. All rights reserved.

Article source: http://www.wtoc.com/story/35540802/wtoc-investigates-alderman-tony-thomas-home-foreclosure

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Article source: http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/28/opinions/kushner-not-naive-opinion-obeidallah/

Michigan woman loses home featured on ‘Extreme Makeover’

HOLT, MICH. – Nearly nine years after her home was rebuilt on national television, Arlene Nickless is turning in her keys.

The Holt resident must leave her Eifert Road home by Monday after years of struggling to manage the mortgage.

Designers with ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” — with the help of hundreds of volunteers — built the home in 2008 following the death of Tim Nickless, her husband of 18 years.

The home was foreclosed on in September, and has been up for online auction for weeks.

On Sunday, cardboard boxes were stacked on the dark hardwood floors once showcased in nationwide broadcasts. The 2009 Ford Flex gifted with the home sat in the driveway hooked to a moving trailer. And the overwhelming feeling a tearful Arlene Nickless had all those years ago took on a different tenor.

“When I stepped out of the house the day Extreme Makeover came, you will see me say ‘I can’t believe this is happening,’” she said. “And, truthfully, that’s what I feel right now: I can’t believe this is happening.”

Nickless is quick to defend the ABC show, whose lavish rebuilds have, in some cases, led to foreclosure because of increased property taxes and pricey utilities. She’s less complimentary of her mortgage servicer that is now being targeted by state regulators.

She said her home’s foreclosure resulted from an ongoing struggle to manage the property’s pre-makeover mortgage — a balance that rested at about $30,000 after the 2008 makeover, but had ballooned to at least $113,000 by the end of 2016.

%INLINE%

A prayer answered

Crews from “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” arrived at the Nickless family’s doorstep in September 2008, about nine months after Tim Nickless died.

A nurse at Ingham Regional Medical Center, Tim Nickless was believed to have contracted hepatitis C after being pricked with a patient’s contaminated needle. He battled the disease for seven years before his death in January 2008.

More than 1,600 volunteers from the Holt area joined the show’s crew to rebuild the Nickless family’s home, an 1860s farmhouse that had fallen into disrepair during Tim’s illness.

The old home was demolished, and after a five-day building period, Arlene Nickless and her three sons received a new 3,300-square-foot, four-bedroom home with stone columns, dark wood floors, an indoor water wall, and a retractable flat-screen television.

The home included a LEGO-themed room, another bedroom with blueprints covering the walls, and an airplane bed for Arlene’s youngest son.

The construction brought the community together in the midst of the economic downturn, said Karen Schroeder, vice president for East Lansing-based Mayberry Homes, the general contractor for the home.

“It was really at a time when everything was so solemn, so gray,” Schroeder said. “It kind of put a spark back in the Lansing area.”

Schroeder said, after the home makeover, state and banking officials were able to whittle the Nickless family’s mortgage from about $140,000 to $30,000, and lower the interest rate considerably.

But the home’s annual taxes more than tripled from 2008 to 2009, according to county records, from about $2,000 in 2008 to about $7,500 in 2009.

Those increased taxes and insurance costs would be paid for over the next several years through an escrow account in the home’s mortgage, bloating the Nickless family’s monthly mortgage payments.

%INLINE%

Mortgage struggle

In 2010, Nickless was in a car crash that caused her to fall behind. By the end of 2010, the property went to a sheriff’s sale.

She filed paperwork to stop the foreclosure the morning of the sale and the sheriff deed was expunged, according to county records.

At that time, Nickless said, the mortgage lender offered to pay off the mortgage’s balance if she could come up with $15,000. Before she had a chance to gather the money, she said, her mortgage was acquired in 2011 by Ocwen Financial.

For the next several years, Nickless struggled with the loan.

She tried mortgage affordability programs but, in some cases, the home’s new equity disqualified her from those payment tracks. She tried to find answers from the mortgage company, but said she could rarely connect with someone who could speak English. She said she withheld mortgage payments because she didn’t know where she was sending her money.

“I was trying to find answers,” she said, and the information she found online about Ocwen wasn’t encouraging.

As recently as last month, the State of Michigan issued a cease and desist order prohibiting Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC from continued violations of state mortgage law. A press release from the state said Ocwen had a history of improper “servicing and handling of escrow accounts,” trouble keeping accurate records, and problems with properly crediting payments.

Ocwen called the claims “unfounded,” but added the company continues to work with state regulators.

Since 2008, the company has provided Michigan borrowers about 21,000 loan modifications, about 39% of which included principal forgiveness totaling about $317 million, Ocwen spokesman John Lovallo said in an email.

Since Ocwen began servicing Nickless’s loan in 2011, she has made no mortgage payments, Lovallo said, yet Ocwen has continued to pay all taxes and insurance on her home, which is valued today at more than $275,000.

The company offered Nickless a modification in 2014, but she said the payments of about $1,650 a month would have been too high and due too soon.

Lovallo spoke to the State Journal about the loan after obtaining permission from Nickless.

Lovallo said Ocwen empathizes with any homeowner facing foreclosure, and “is committed to working with distressed borrowers to find the right solution to allow them to keep their homes.”

Eric Schertzing, Ingham County treasurer, said state and non-profit mortgage manageability programs exist, but those programs can only do so much.

No program can help someone who doesn’t have the cash flow to pay their mortgage, Schertzing said, and “if a situation isn’t working, you have to be open to the mid-course corrections necessary,” such as selling the house.

In September 2016, Nickless’s home went to a foreclosure sale again and sold for about $113,000. The six-month redemption period passed with Nickless unable to pull together the needed funds.

Nickless’s house currently is listed on the auction website hubzu.com for $176,000, and the family has until Monday to leave the home.

An uncertain future

Nickless’s situation has similarities to other homeowners featured on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” between 2003 to 2012.

The spokesperson for the show’s producers, Endemol USA, declined comment Wednesday when contacted by the State Journal. However, the company acknowledged in a Wall Street Journal article in 2010 there were issues with the larger-than-life homes and accompanying expenses, and said they had “scaled back.”

Schroeder said, as the general contractor, Mayberry Homes worked on the Holt home’s design with show producers who pushed a “certain size, certain scope.”

“It had to be ‘extreme,’” said Schroeder, who owns Mayberry Homes with her husband Bob.

Behind the scenes, she and her husband did everything they could to make the house manageable for Nickless, she said.

“It’s unfortunate that it has gotten to this point,” Schroeder said. “But I still say, you know what, when Lansing was asked to step up they did so with flying colors and I’m so proud of our community.”

Nickless had big dreams to give back to the community through the home.

She dreamed of using the home as a camp for kids who’d lost a parent. She wanted to build a memorial garden for her husband and a blessing garden for all of the volunteers who helped to build her home.

But those dreams were swallowed by the ongoing threat of foreclosure.

“I feel bad because so many people came together to help us,” she said. “I know I shouldn’t feel like I let them down, but I do.”

Nickless doesn’t know where she’s going, she said, or where she’ll store a lifetime of memories. She wanted to share her story in the hopes that it would effect change for others struggling with house payments.

“It breaks my heart to know there are families going through this every day,” she said.

Watch the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” episode featuring the Nickless family here:

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved

Article source: http://www.firstcoastnews.com/features/michigan-woman-loses-home-featured-on-extreme-makeover/443696393

Foreclosure activity drops to lowest level since 2005

Foreclosure filings including default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, dropped in April to the lowest level since 2005, according to the April 2017 U.S. Foreclosure Market report from ATTOM Data Solutions, a multi-sourced property database.

A reported 77,049 filings were recorded in April, down 7% from March and down a full 23% from April 2016 to the lowest level since November 2005.

“Foreclosure activity continued to search for a new post-recession floor in April thanks in large part to the above-par performance of mortgages originated in the past seven years,” ATTOM senior vice president Daren Blomquist said. “Meanwhile we are seeing an elevated share of repeat foreclosures on homeowners who often fell into default several years ago but have not been able to avoid foreclosure despite the housing recovery.”

Nationwide, one out of every 1,723 housing units had a foreclosure filing in April. However, in some states, that rate was much higher.

New Jersey held the highest number of filings with one out of every 562 housing units, followed by Delaware with one in every 706, Maryland with one in every 776, Connecticut with one in every 956 and Illinois with one in every 1,083.

In fact in New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts foreclosure filings actually increased by 1%, 29% and 3% respectively.

However, a new analysis of repeat foreclosure starts, shows them increasing. A repeat foreclosure start is defined as a foreclosure start filed on a property address-owner last name combination in 2016 with a previous foreclosure start on the same property address-owner combination in the last 10 years.

ATTOM studied five markets with its new analysis, showing the highest share of repeat foreclosures occurred in New York City at 54%, followed by Los Angeles at 39%, Miami-Dade County at 32%, Maricopa County, Arizona at 26% and Essex County, New Jersey at 20%.

A total of 34,085 properties started the foreclosure process in April, down 6% from the previous month and down 22% from last year. This is well below the pre-recession average of 77,000 foreclosure starts from 2005 to 2007.

Completed foreclosures came in at 25,990 for the month, down 9% from March and down 22% from last year to the lowest level since February 2015. This is just above the pre-recession average of 25,796 per month.

Article source: https://www.housingwire.com/articles/40093-foreclosure-activity-drops-to-lowest-level-since-2005

Glenwood investor faces mass foreclosure near UNCG development


Some of the 35 properties owned by Bulent Bediz that are in foreclosure also have pending demolition orders. (photo by Jordan Green)

Dozens of properties in Glenwood — a Greensboro neighborhood renowned for affordability, ethnic diversity and proximity to UNCG — are under foreclosure because of tax delinquency. Bulent Bediz, the owner of the properties, has been a thorn in his neighbors’ side, but they fear that things could get worse.

In the mind of Bulent Bediz, he’s a humble visionary motivated by a love of Glenwood whose plan to revitalize the neighborhood was sabotaged by feckless city staffers and betrayed by UNCG administrators as the university undertook a dramatic expansion south of Gate City Boulevard.

But Bediz’s neighbors see a negligent property owner who has allowed his houses to fall into disrepair while dragging down the value of their homes, someone who suddenly halts repairs and buys up new properties, while facing mounting costs from city code violations and delinquent taxes. Maddened by the seeming inexplicability of his actions, many of the neighbors wish Bediz would just go away, but now that his entire remaining portfolio of 35 properties is under foreclosure they also worry about the uncertainty of what comes next. Meanwhile, Bediz is vowing that he will be vindicated through a complex, multi-part lawsuit against the city and says he’ll find a way to hang on to the properties.

“My name has been dragged out in the gutter,” said Bediz, a portrait artist-turned rental housing provider who started buying properties in Glenwood in the mid-1990s. “Everybody has been saying I’m a capitalist. Making money is far from my ideal. I started this thing with truly altruistic ideals. I saw what a jewel this neighborhood was. I saw how it was being downgraded and brought into ruin by the city’s neglect.”

Kristin Cooper, who moved to Glenwood in early 2016 with her husband, almost immediately butted heads with Bediz over driveway access. The house she and her husband bought on Haywood Street is next door to one of Bediz’s properties. She said she had to bring in an exterminator on a monthly basis because of wasps from Bediz’s vacant house next door. The house, on a property subject to numerous code violations by the city, was recently demolished.

“He’s singularly the biggest blight we have,” Cooper said. “He single-handedly has changed a single block into a wasteland.

“Why do we have to suffer — those of us who pay our taxes and get up every morning and bust our butts and go to work to pay our mortgages and maintain our properties?” she asked. “We in the neighborhood have to suffer. We’re at his mercy, which is enraging.”

A map of foreclosures initiated by the Guilford County Tax Department for delinquencies shows a solid mass of red dots representing active foreclosures at the north end of Glenwood. In contrast, the map shows only one tax delinquency foreclosure in the Piedmont Heights neighborhood to the west and none in Warnersville to the east. Virtually all of the Glenwood properties under foreclosure because of tax delinquency are owned by Bediz or Nellie J Jones LLC, a company he controls. An analysis by Triad City Beat found that Bediz owes $151,853 in back taxes on the 35 properties in his portfolio, which is cumulatively valued at $1.2 million. Of the $151,853 tax bill, $10,909 is due to attorney fees imposed by the county.

“We have turned everything over to an outside contract attorney,” Assistant Tax Collector Jim Roland said. “They are proceeding with a mortgage-style foreclosure. We sent several parcels to them in March. We sent the remainder in April.”

Considering the time required for the lawyer to conduct a title search to uncover any liens and judgments against the properties, serve papers on Bediz, advertise the sale in the newspaper and hold hearings, Roland said it’s likely to be at least six months before the properties are sold, and it could take years.

Bediz reacted with surprise when informed by TCB that 35 properties — his entire portfolio — were in active foreclosure.

“That many?” he said. “I wasn’t aware of that. I need to check into that.”

After digressing into his grievances against the city and UNCG, Bediz indicated that he expects to ride out the foreclosure challenge.

“I’m not denying that I owe the taxes,” he said. “I’ll find a way to reason with [the county]. They are not going to foreclosure right now. There’s a certain process that’s being followed.”

Bediz will have the opportunity, like anybody else, to bid on the properties, and Bediz has bought his own properties out of foreclosure before. If no one bids on the properties, the city of Greensboro will assume control through an inter-local agreement and have the opportunity to resell them at fair market value.

With the exception of a commercial building at the north end of Lexington Avenue, Bediz’s 35 properties are all single-family homes or vacant lots. Eighty percent of the properties are zoned RM-12, a multi-family classification that allows for 12 units per acre. Many of the properties, which are contiguous, flank the back side of the Spartan Village development that has sprung up along Gate City Boulevard over the past five years.

A map of the north end of Glenwood shows that many of the properties under foreclosure are close to UNCG’s area of expansion. (courtesy Google Maps)

Jeff Sovich, a senior planner with the city of Greensboro, said although single-family homes predominate in the area, the multi-family zoning classification has been in place since at least 1992 and reflects “the level of residential density that was in place at that time” with a significant number of the houses being subdivided into apartments. Sovich confirmed that a developer could potentially buy several of Bediz’s properties out of foreclosure, combine lots and build apartments.

Cooper indicated she was surprised to learn that the houses on Haywood Street, including her own, are already classified as multifamily, and could be converted into apartments without a rezoning.

“Over my dead body,” she said. “I will fight that with everything I have. If any developer thinks they can come in and build apartments, we’re going to fight them tooth and nail.”

Whatever happens to Bediz’s properties, his neighbors are bracing for a blow to their home values. They’ve already seen the prequel to this movie.

By 2007, Bediz had assembled 70 properties in Glenwood, while harboring a vision of creating a mixed-use development integrating retail, residential, office and institutional uses that would be connected to a walkable neighborhood of historic, single-family homes.

“As the parameters of the project grew, however, I had two major interrelated failings, on my part: inability to acknowledge the necessity to adjust to this change in scope and delegate responsibility to others, and the other was my inability to raise sufficient working capital,” Bediz wrote in a 2008 piece of writing.

By the middle of 2007, he wrote, the project was beginning to look like “a house of cards,” and in 2008 he was forced to declare bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, as the recession hit, UNCG took advantage of low interest rates and falling property values to leap across Lee Street (now Gate City Boulevard) and expand into the north side of Glenwood.

“I don’t know if people realize this, but every time Bulent loses 10 properties, all the property values in the area go down,” said Michael Driver, a realtor who represents sellers in Glenwood and owns three rental properties in the neighborhood. “All the houses are in disrepair, and they go for rock-bottom prices.”

Yet rather than cut his losses, Bediz instead seems intent on doubling down on his misfortunes.

“During the downturn, there were 15 or 20 of Bulent’s properties that went into foreclosure,” Driver said. “He managed to come out with about half of them. He was the master of coming up with money to come out of trouble. I don’t know where he gets his funds. He was buying them back for less than what he owed on them. He would buy a house and start renovations, and then stop and buy another house.”

Discussing Bediz’s business decisions with him can feel like stumbling blindfolded through a labyrinth of prevarications or misunderstandings.

When asked why he has continued to buy houses when he can’t afford to pay taxes and make repairs to what he already owned, Bediz said he didn’t purchase the houses, but rather obtained them through a swap with UNCG.

“The only way I could get any funding to fix up the houses was to invest in cars,” he said. “The banks would not let me use my houses as collateral.”

He acquired 55 junk cars with the intention of hiring a mechanic to fix them up for resale, but he said an arrangement to lease a garage free of charge from UNCG fell through. He ended parking the cars behind his rental houses, which led to complaints from neighbors and a drawn-out code enforcement battle with the city. To this day, he said, he hasn’t sold a single car.

Despite Bediz’s initial claim that he hasn’t purchased any additional property since his 2008 bankruptcy, tax records for 23 properties acquired since December 2009 indicate that at least seven were acquired through cash transactions with unrelated individuals, or in one case through a bank foreclosure. Nine transactions involved properties previously held by Bediz that he purchased out of foreclosure, two were acquired from his son, David, and one came from Capital Facilities Foundation, a company set up by UNCG.

When confronted with the evidence of his post-2008 property purchases, Bediz said, “I borrowed money. I have a lot of friends who see how I’ve been screwed. Without their help, I wouldn’t be on my feet.”

As justification for the expenditures, he said, “I was after properties that I could turn into income-producing properties…. If I can show in my asset column I have these properties, I will be able to go to the bank to get money.”

The city of Greensboro has attempted to play matchmaker between Bediz and a potential buyer.

“A number of those properties have orders to demolish,” said Cynthia Blue, the city’s manager of housing services. “They’re on a list of distressed properties that we send out to investors or investor groups. We have heard from a number of them that Mr. Bediz is not interested in selling.”

Bediz said he met a couple weeks ago with Dawn Chaney, an investor with substantial rental holdings in Greensboro. Even though he’s “in a really tight spot,” Bediz said he couldn’t agree to the price Chaney offered him.

“People see I have these houses under demolition orders,” he said. “They are offering me nothing. I cannot sell these houses and stand on my feet.”

The original version of this article misstated the total amount of back taxes owned by Bediz. The error has been corrected.

Related Posts

Article source: https://triad-city-beat.com/2017/05/glenwood-investor-faces-mass-foreclosure-near-uncg-development/

Foreclosure drives Michigan woman from her reality TV home

HOLT, Mich. (AP) – A Michigan woman whose home was rebuilt on a reality TV show is being forced from her home by foreclosure.

Arlene Nickless of Holt must leave her home by Monday, eight months after it fell into foreclosure.

Nickless tells the Lansing State Journal that “I can’t believe this is happening.”

Designers with ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” razed her old home and built the new 3,300-square-foot, four-bedroom home in 2008 with the help of hundreds of volunteers following the death of Nickless’ husband, Tim.

The home features stone columns, dark wood floors, an indoor water wall, and a retractable flat-screen television.

Nickless says the home’s foreclosure resulted from an ongoing struggle to manage the property’s pre-makeover mortgage. The mortgage’s balance had ballooned to at least $113,000 by late 2016.

Karen Schroeder, vice president for East Lansing-based Mayberry Homes, and the general contractor for the home said, after the home makeover, state and banking officials were able to whittle the Nickless family’s mortgage from about $140,000 to $30,000, and lower the interest rate considerably.

But the home’s annual taxes more than tripled from 2008 to 2009, according to county records, from about $2,000 in 2008 to about $7,500 in 2009.

Those increased taxes and insurance costs would be paid for over the next several years through an escrow account in the home’s mortgage, bloating the Nickless family’s monthly mortgage payments.

Nickless’s house currently is listed on the auction website hubzu.com for $176,000, and the family has until Monday to leave the home.

___

Information from: Lansing State Journal, lansingstatejournal.com

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Article source: http://www.uppermichiganssource.com/content/news/Foreclosure-drives-Michigan-woman-from-her-reality-TV-home-424998123.html

This family spent $6,000 to save their home and still wound up … – WKYC

When Lageshia Moore and her husband found their home in 2006, they thought it would be a perfect place to raise their family. The $549,000 Far Rockaway, N.Y., duplex even had future income potential if they could find a reliable tenant and rent out one half of the house.

In order to purchase the property and avoid primary mortgage insurance, the couple took out two mortgages to cover the costs.

Like millions of Americans who purchased homes at the peak of the housing bubble, their timing could not have been worse. Moore, a teacher, left her job in 2007. It soon became impossible to meet their $4,000 total monthly mortgage payments. By the summer of 2008, they were deep in default, and the recession sent their home value plummeting.

They were officially underwater on their house, and the family was living solely on Moore’s husband’s income as a driver. Eventually, they were notified that their lender had begun the foreclosure process.

“Some people might say, ‘OK, just get a new house.’ But it wasn’t that simple,” Moore said. “This was the house where we were raising our family. My husband is very proud and homeownership means a lot to him — so we weren’t going to just let it go.”

Instead, Moore and her husband did what many families facing foreclosure do: They began looking desperately for “foreclosure relief” companies, law firms, and groups who promised help. A nonprofit connected them to a court-appointed attorney, but it didn’t stop the foreclosure process. So they turned to companies that advertised foreclosure relief on radio stations and online.

Over the course of six years, the family handed over thousands to a handful of relief groups they thought could stop the foreclosure. “We were desperate, and we thought, ‘OK, we’ll hand over this money to someone and they’ll just fix it,’” Moore said.

One of those foreclosure relief companies was Florida-based Homeowners Helpline, LLC. In 2015 the family gave the company a total of $6,000: an initial $2,000 down payment, and then $1,000 in four monthly installments. By that time Moore had found a new job, but the family hadn’t paid the full mortgage amount in years.

Moore shared the contract with MagnifyMoney, in which Homeowners Helpline says it will “perform a mortgage loan review and audit,” including actions like sending a cease-and-desist letter and a “Qualified Written Request” for information about the account to the family’s lenders.

Here’s what Moore says happened: Homeowners Helpline connected her family with a New York City lawyer who “kept asking for endless paperwork, month after month after month,” and who eventually stopped answering their calls, she claims. They finally got in touch with him just before the house was set to go up for auction, she said, and he told them the efforts to stop the auction had failed.

“We were horrified,” Moore said.

Homeowners Helpline told MagnifyMoney a different story. Sharon Valentine, a processor at Homeowners Helpline who worked on Moore’s husband’s case, said the family was slow to hand over needed paperwork and “unrealistic about their expectations.”

Crucially, Valentine said, the family didn’t tell Homeowners Helpline the house was actively in foreclosure until they mentioned the auction. “And then it was like, ‘Wait, what?’” Valentine said. The company would have taken different actions had they known about the foreclosure proceedings, she added.

“We can’t help you effectively if you don’t give us all of the information and the paperwork,” Valentine said. “In general, some clients come in and they hear their friend was able to get a 2% [mortgage] rate or cut their payments in half, and it’s like, ‘Well, that’s a very different situation.’ We try to help educate, but sometimes you can’t change that expectation.”

A free resource

But there is a free resource to educate panicked homeowners about expectations and provide foreclosure assistance — as well as help them avoid scam companies that will steal their money. NeighborWorks America runs LoanScamAlert.org, which aims to be a one-stop shop for people with questions about or problems with their mortgages.

The Loan Modification Scam Alert Campaign launched in 2009, when Congress asked NeighborWorks America to educate and help homeowners. LoanScamAlert.org offers resources including information about how to spot and report scams, and lists of trusted authorities who can help. Its main goal: Drive people to call the Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline, at 888-995-HOPE (4673), which is staffed 24 hours a day by counselors who work at agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“We provide them with a single, trusted resource,” said Barbara Floyd Jones, senior manager of national homeownership programs at NeighborWorks America. “It gets confusing when you see companies with all of these similar names advertising on the radio or TV, and then you have to research them. We want to let people know they don’t have to pay a penny for assistance.”

Anyone — regardless of income or other factors — can contact the counselor network to receive free advice and help. Homeowners aren’t always aware of the myriad government-affiliated groups that can provide assistance, or of the federal and state programs created to speed loan refinances and modifications, Floyd Jones said.

“We can never promise that everyone will be able to save their home; there are a variety of circumstances,” Floyd Jones said. “But we can promise a trusted counselor will listen, take a look at your paperwork if you want, and tell you all of your options.”

In fact, if a homeowner grants permission, the counselor can contact the mortgage lender directly to discuss options to stop the foreclosure, modify the terms of the loan, or otherwise make a deal. If need be, homeowners will also be connected with vetted legal assistance — although Floyd Jones noted not every situation requires a lawyer.

True to LoanScamAlert.org’s name, the hotline counselors also take complaints about mortgage-related scams: third-party companies that take the money and run, or slip in paperwork that unwittingly gets homeowners to sign over the deed to the house.

The Federal Trade Commission received nearly 7,700 complaints about “Mortgage Foreclosure Relief and Debt Management” services in 2016 — down from almost 13,000 in 2014, but still a significant figure.

“Stopping phony mortgage relief operations continues to be a priority” for the FTC, said spokesman Frank Dorman.

Both the FTC and LoanScamAlert.org offer tips to avoid scams — and to make sure you’re taking advantage of all federal and state programs that could help.

Red flags:

●     They ask you to pay before any services are rendered.

o     Pressure to pay a fee before action is taken, sign confusing paperwork, or hire a lawyer off the bat. As with any scam, fraudulent mortgage relief services rely on high pressure to push vulnerable homeowners into taking action. Companies shouldn’t ask for “processing fees” or “service fees” early in the process, Floyd Jones said, as early foreclosure-stoppage efforts don’t cost anything. Be wary of signing any document, as you could unwittingly surrender the home’s title or deed to a scammer.

●     They make promises they can’t keep.

o     Promises or guarantees they’ll save your home from foreclosure — or even claims like “97% success rate!” No one can guarantee results.

●     They say they’re affiliated with the U.S. government.

o     Companies that claim to have an affiliation with a government agency. Some scammers may claim to be associated with the government, charging fees to get you “qualified” for government mortgage modification programs like Hardest Hit Fund. You don’t have to pay for these government programs — and lenders, particularly big banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America, may be able to offer you their own modification options directly.

●     They want you to send your mortgage payments to them.

o     Companies that ask you to pay them through unconventional methods: Western Union/wire transfers, prepaid Visa cards, etc., instead of a check. They’re trying to get your money in a way that’s hard to trace.

o     Companies that tell you to start paying your mortgage directly to them, rather than your lender. They may promise to pass the money along, but they could pocket it and disappear.

As for Lageshia Moore and her husband, the family ultimately filed for bankruptcy — a move that can stop the foreclosure process, but only temporarily — and are now working with a law firm on a loan modification she hopes will reduce their payments to a manageable monthly sum. In giving advice to others, she reiterates the simplest but most important tip: “Just do your research.”

“You’re panicked, but you have to do your due diligence,” she added. “Really sit down and weigh the pros and cons: foreclosure, short sale, etc. What does this process or contract really mean? It’s an emotional time, but you have to try to keep the emotion out of it. That’s what I would tell myself.”

What to do if you’re facing foreclosure:

●     Call a HUD-certified counselor at 1-888-995-HOPE. You’ll get advice and help for free, and while counselors can’t ever promise to save a home, they’ll be happy to take a look at any paperwork or information about your case, contact your lender about options if you grant permission, and connect you with vetted legal assistance if need be.

●     If you’re not facing foreclosure yet, but you’re worried that you’re about to run into trouble, contact your mortgage lender’s loss litigation department. They may be willing to work with you. Your lender can also tell you whether you’ll qualify for government programs.

●     Overall, don’t let desperation stop you from taking the time to research any potential actions, including signing on with a relief company. Explore the company’s background and track record. Check online for reviews from other homeowners — and be sure to look up phone numbers too. Many scam companies simply shut down, reopen under a new name, and retain the same phone number.

MagnifyMoney is a price comparison and financial education website, founded by former bankers who use their knowledge of how the system works to help you save money.

MagnifyMoney

Article source: http://www.wkyc.com/money/magnify-money/this-family-spent-6000-to-save-their-home-and-still-wound-up-facing-foreclosure/440524133

Michigan woman loses home featured on ‘Extreme Makeover’ – WKYC

HOLT, MICH. – Nearly nine years after her home was rebuilt on national television, Arlene Nickless is turning in her keys.

The Holt resident must leave her Eifert Road home by Monday after years of struggling to manage the mortgage.

Designers with ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” — with the help of hundreds of volunteers — built the home in 2008 following the death of Tim Nickless, her husband of 18 years.

The home was foreclosed on in September, and has been up for online auction for weeks.

On Sunday, cardboard boxes were stacked on the dark hardwood floors once showcased in nationwide broadcasts. The 2009 Ford Flex gifted with the home sat in the driveway hooked to a moving trailer. And the overwhelming feeling a tearful Arlene Nickless had all those years ago took on a different tenor.

“When I stepped out of the house the day Extreme Makeover came, you will see me say ‘I can’t believe this is happening,’” she said. “And, truthfully, that’s what I feel right now: I can’t believe this is happening.”

Nickless is quick to defend the ABC show, whose lavish rebuilds have, in some cases, led to foreclosure because of increased property taxes and pricey utilities. She’s less complimentary of her mortgage servicer that is now being targeted by state regulators.

She said her home’s foreclosure resulted from an ongoing struggle to manage the property’s pre-makeover mortgage — a balance that rested at about $30,000 after the 2008 makeover, but had ballooned to at least $113,000 by the end of 2016.

A prayer answered

Crews from “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” arrived at the Nickless family’s doorstep in September 2008, about nine months after Tim Nickless died.

A nurse at Ingham Regional Medical Center, Tim Nickless was believed to have contracted hepatitis C after being pricked with a patient’s contaminated needle. He battled the disease for seven years before his death in January 2008.

More than 1,600 volunteers from the Holt area joined the show’s crew to rebuild the Nickless family’s home, an 1860s farmhouse that had fallen into disrepair during Tim’s illness.

The old home was demolished, and after a five-day building period, Arlene Nickless and her three sons received a new 3,300-square-foot, four-bedroom home with stone columns, dark wood floors, an indoor water wall, and a retractable flat-screen television.

The home included a LEGO-themed room, another bedroom with blueprints covering the walls, and an airplane bed for Arlene’s youngest son.

The construction brought the community together in the midst of the economic downturn, said Karen Schroeder, vice president for East Lansing-based Mayberry Homes, the general contractor for the home.

“It was really at a time when everything was so solemn, so gray,” Schroeder said. “It kind of put a spark back in the Lansing area.”

Schroeder said, after the home makeover, state and banking officials were able to whittle the Nickless family’s mortgage from about $140,000 to $30,000, and lower the interest rate considerably.

But the home’s annual taxes more than tripled from 2008 to 2009, according to county records, from about $2,000 in 2008 to about $7,500 in 2009.

Those increased taxes and insurance costs would be paid for over the next several years through an escrow account in the home’s mortgage, bloating the Nickless family’s monthly mortgage payments.

Mortgage struggle

In 2010, Nickless was in a car crash that caused her to fall behind. By the end of 2010, the property went to a sheriff’s sale.

She filed paperwork to stop the foreclosure the morning of the sale and the sheriff deed was expunged, according to county records.

At that time, Nickless said, the mortgage lender offered to pay off the mortgage’s balance if she could come up with $15,000. Before she had a chance to gather the money, she said, her mortgage was acquired in 2011 by Ocwen Financial.

For the next several years, Nickless struggled with the loan.

She tried mortgage affordability programs but, in some cases, the home’s new equity disqualified her from those payment tracks. She tried to find answers from the mortgage company, but said she could rarely connect with someone who could speak English. She said she withheld mortgage payments because she didn’t know where she was sending her money.

“I was trying to find answers,” she said, and the information she found online about Ocwen wasn’t encouraging.

As recently as last month, the State of Michigan issued a cease and desist order prohibiting Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC from continued violations of state mortgage law. A press release from the state said Ocwen had a history of improper “servicing and handling of escrow accounts,” trouble keeping accurate records, and problems with properly crediting payments.

Ocwen called the claims “unfounded,” but added the company continues to work with state regulators.

Since 2008, the company has provided Michigan borrowers about 21,000 loan modifications, about 39% of which included principal forgiveness totaling about $317 million, Ocwen spokesman John Lovallo said in an email.

Since Ocwen began servicing Nickless’s loan in 2011, she has made no mortgage payments, Lovallo said, yet Ocwen has continued to pay all taxes and insurance on her home, which is valued today at more than $275,000.

The company offered Nickless a modification in 2014, but she said the payments of about $1,650 a month would have been too high and due too soon.

Lovallo spoke to the State Journal about the loan after obtaining permission from Nickless.

Lovallo said Ocwen empathizes with any homeowner facing foreclosure, and “is committed to working with distressed borrowers to find the right solution to allow them to keep their homes.”

Eric Schertzing, Ingham County treasurer, said state and non-profit mortgage manageability programs exist, but those programs can only do so much.

No program can help someone who doesn’t have the cash flow to pay their mortgage, Schertzing said, and “if a situation isn’t working, you have to be open to the mid-course corrections necessary,” such as selling the house.

In September 2016, Nickless’s home went to a foreclosure sale again and sold for about $113,000. The six-month redemption period passed with Nickless unable to pull together the needed funds.

Nickless’s house currently is listed on the auction website hubzu.com for $176,000, and the family has until Monday to leave the home.

An uncertain future

Nickless’s situation has similarities to other homeowners featured on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” between 2003 to 2012.

The spokesperson for the show’s producers, Endemol USA, declined comment Wednesday when contacted by the State Journal. However, the company acknowledged in a Wall Street Journal article in 2010 there were issues with the larger-than-life homes and accompanying expenses, and said they had “scaled back.”

Schroeder said, as the general contractor, Mayberry Homes worked on the Holt home’s design with show producers who pushed a “certain size, certain scope.”

“It had to be ‘extreme,’” said Schroeder, who owns Mayberry Homes with her husband Bob.

Behind the scenes, she and her husband did everything they could to make the house manageable for Nickless, she said.

“It’s unfortunate that it has gotten to this point,” Schroeder said. “But I still say, you know what, when Lansing was asked to step up they did so with flying colors and I’m so proud of our community.”

Nickless had big dreams to give back to the community through the home.

She dreamed of using the home as a camp for kids who’d lost a parent. She wanted to build a memorial garden for her husband and a blessing garden for all of the volunteers who helped to build her home.

But those dreams were swallowed by the ongoing threat of foreclosure.

“I feel bad because so many people came together to help us,” she said. “I know I shouldn’t feel like I let them down, but I do.”

Nickless doesn’t know where she’s going, she said, or where she’ll store a lifetime of memories. She wanted to share her story in the hopes that it would effect change for others struggling with house payments.

“It breaks my heart to know there are families going through this every day,” she said.

Watch the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” episode featuring the Nickless family here:

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Article source: http://www.wkyc.com/features/michigan-woman-loses-home-featured-on-extreme-makeover/443609008