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Chicago Foreclosure Activity: Shadow Inventory Hits New Low

ATTOM Data Solutions (the parent of RealtyTrac) released their April Foreclosure Market Report last week along with their Chicago foreclosure activity data. The nation hit the lowest level of activity since November 2005 and as the release points out:

A total of 34,085 U.S. properties started the foreclosure process in April, down 6 percent from the previous month and down 22 percent from a year ago and continuing well below the pre-recession average of more than 77,000 foreclosure starts per month between April 2005 and November 2007.

The release includes the graph below that plots foreclosure starts but you should note that “foreclosure activity” includes more than just foreclosure starts. What the graph also shows is that the rate of completions is now very close to the rate of starts which means that the banks are finally dealing with the problems almost as fast as new ones pop up. However, I don’t believe that a completion in their sense is the only way for a foreclosure to be dealt with – otherwise we would have seen a huge spike in shadow inventory over the last few years with the gap shown. I suspect that a fair number of homeowners are able to redeem the property and I don’t think that is counted as a completion below.

Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions, commented on the dramatic decline in foreclosure activity over the last few years:

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. 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.

The data for Chicago shows a similar low point in total foreclosure activity as shown in my graph below. However, as I pointed out last month, there has been a bit of a recent uptick in foreclosure starts lately, which is a little concerning. In addition, auctions hit the lowest level in the last 16 months while bank repossessions hit the lowest level in the last 4 months. Neither of these last two developments is really good because we want these foreclosures to be resolved and that’s a significant way for them to be resolved.

Speaking of resolving foreclosures…I do track how many are outstanding and the trend is once again looking good after stagnating for a considerable period of time. As the graph below shows we are once again working through the shadow inventory and will hopefully break below 10,000 in the next few months.

#Foreclosures #ChicagoForeclosures

Gary Lucido is the President of Lucid Realty, the Chicago area’s full service discount real estate brokerage. If you want to keep up to date on the Chicago real estate market, get an insider’s view of the seamy underbelly of the real estate industry, or you just think he’s the next Kurt Vonnegut you can Subscribe to Getting Real by Email using the form below. Please be sure to verify your email address when you receive the verification notice.


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US Foreclosure Activity In April 2017 Drops To Lowest Level Since November 2005

(MENAFN Editorial) — IRVINE, Calif., May 11, 2017 /PRNewswire/ –ATTOM Data Solutions, curator of the nation’s largest multi-sourced property database, today released its April 2017 U.S. Foreclosure Market data, which shows foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — were reported on 77,049 U.S. properties in April, down 7 percent from the previous month and down 23 percent from a year ago 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,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions. “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.”

Highest foreclosure rates in New Jersey, Maryland and Nevada
Nationwide one in every 1,723 housing units had a foreclosure filing in April 2017.

States with the highest foreclosure rates were New Jersey (one in every 562 housing units with a foreclosure filing); Delaware (one in every 706 housing units); Maryland (one in every 776 housing units); Connecticut (one in every 956 housing units); and Illinois (one in every 1,083 housing units).

Among 217 metropolitan statistical areas with a population of at least 200,000, those with the highest foreclosure rates in April were Atlantic City, New Jersey (one in every 237 housing units with a foreclosure filing); Fayetteville, North Carolina (one in every 615 housing units); Trenton, New Jersey (one in every 620 housing units); Rockford, Illinois (one in every 668 housing units); and Philadelphia (one in every 733 housing units).

Counter to the national trend, the District of Columbia and seven states posted year-over-year increases in foreclosure activity, including New Jersey (up 1 percent); Connecticut (up 29 percent); and Massachusetts (up 3 percent).

“The Seattle-area economy continues to outperform the rest of the country and the housing market is going gangbusters,” said Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate, covering the Seattle market, where April foreclosure activity decreased 38 percent from a year ago.. “As such, I’m not surprised that foreclosure activity continues to head towards pre-housing bubble averages. In fact, as banks continue to unwind their REO portfolios, I expect foreclosure levels in Seattle to drop even further in the coming months.”

Foreclosure starts continue to track below pre-recession levels
A total of 34,085 U.S. properties started the foreclosure rocess in April, down 6 percent from the previous month and down 22 percent from a year ago and continuing well below the pre-recession average of more than 77,000 foreclosure starts per month between April 2005 and November 2007.

Counter to the national trend, the District of Columbia and seven states posted year-over-year increases in foreclosure starts, including Connecticut (up 40 percent); Massachusetts (up 34 percent); Alabama (up 10 percent); Missouri (up 10 percent); Oregon (up 7 percent); and Illinois (up 6 percent).

Foreclosure completions down but still above pre-recession levels
Lenders completed foreclosure (REO) on 25,990 U.S. properties in April, down 9 percent from the previous month and down 22 percent from a year ago to the lowest level since February 2015 — a 26-month (more than 2 year) low and running just above the pre-recession average of 25,796 per month between April 2005 and November 2007.

Counter to the national trend, the District of Columbia and 15 states posted year-over-year increases in REOs in April, including New Jersey (up 45 percent); Arizona (up 25 percent); Louisiana (up 2 percent); Connecticut (up 4 percent); and Oklahoma (up 7 percent).

Repeat foreclosures highest in New York City among five markets analyzed
ATTOM also released a brand-new analysis of “repeat foreclosure starts” in five markets: the five boroughs of New York City; Essex County, Miami-Dade County; Los Angeles County; and Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona.

For purposes of this analysis, a repeat foreclosures start was defined as a foreclosure start (initial publicly recorded foreclosure notice starting the foreclosure process) 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.

View the full report and report methodology.

About ATTOM Data Solutions
ATTOM Data Solutions curator of the ATTOM Data Warehouse, a multi-sourced national property database that blends property tax, deed, mortgage, foreclosure, environmental risk, natural hazard, health hazards, neighborhood characteristics and other property characteristic data for more than 150 million U.S. residential and commercial properties.

#Media Contact
Jennifer von Pohlmann
949.502.8300, ext. 139

Data Licensing and Custom Report Orders

To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:

SOURCE ATTOM Data Solutions


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Consumer Confidential: Consumer Agency Chief, His Job on the …

Republican lawmakers are pushing a bill through Congress that would allow the president to sack the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at any time for any reason.

But what are the odds President Trump would fire the head of a government agency he has issues with?


The Republican legislation, coupled with last week’s ouster of FBI Director James B. Comey, should make CFPB Director Richard Cordray very nervous. But when I sat down with him Wednesday, he came across as cool, calm and unfazed by the increasingly ugly attacks on him and his watchdog agency.

I dove right in and asked if the FBI mess made him anxious.

Cordray fixed me with a poker player’s stare and said he had no comment. He noted, though, that he and Comey had been classmates at the University of Chicago Law School. Cordray probably meant nothing by it. Still, I took it as a veiled way of saying, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Trump said last month that he plans to give the law that created the CFPB “a very major haircut.”

Although we’ve spoken in the past by phone, this was my first face-to-face conversation with the embattled bureau director. He was in Los Angeles for a CFPB hearing on lending to small businesses.

Cordray seemed sincere when he said the bureau remains focused on its job of safeguarding consumers and that he and his staff go to work every day committed to fighting financial practices that are unfair, predatory or downright illegal.

“People are entitled to, and they deserve, someone to make sure these markets are fair and transparent,” he told me. “There’s a need for this agency. And there’s more work to do.”

The Republican-controlled House Financial Services Committee voted last week along party lines, 34 to 26, to approve the so-called Financial CHOICE Act and send it to the floor for a vote by the full chamber. (That’s “CHOICE” as in “Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs.”)

Among other things, the bill would allow the president to fire the director at will, rather than the current standard that the CFPB chief must be found guilty of “inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office.”

It would strip the CFPB of its authority to monitor the day-to-day activities of financial firms and prohibit it from cracking down on practices deemed unfair, deceptive or abusive. The bill also would shut down the bureau’s database of consumer complaints, which contains more than 700,000 searchable listings.

In its most cynical ploy, the Republican legislation would change the name of the bureau to the Consumer Law Enforcement Agency, although it would be anything but.

“I can’t do a good James Brown, but I feel good,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, the author of the bill and chairman of the Financial Services Committee, said as he and his Republican colleagues cast their votes in favor of the Financial CHOICE Act.

I asked Cordray if he cared to respond with his own in-your-face reference to the Godfather of Soul.

He smiled and said, “I’m more inclined toward easy listening, such as the Mamas and the Papas.”

Yeah, OK. But maybe next time he encounters Hensarling, he might want to borrow a lick from Brown’s The Payback and whisper, “Payback is a thing you got to see, hell, never do any damn thing to me.”

The conservative congressman has been a vocal critic of the CFPB since it opened for business in 2011. The bureau’s creation was part of reforms put in place after financial firms recklessly steered the world to the brink of economic collapse.

I reminded Cordray of Hensarling’s blatantly insulting tone when the CFPB director was summoned to testify last month before the Financial Services Committee.

Hensarling mockingly said at the time that he thought Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, would miss the hearing because he’d be in his home state running for governor, which he isn’t.

“Perhaps the rumors of your political aspirations are greatly exaggerated,” Hensarling sneered.

Cordray told me he doesn’t dwell on the congressman’s comments.

“I didn’t make much of that, to be honest,” he said. “I don’t take any of it personally.”

Conservatives insist that the CFPB is a rogue agency with too much power, thumbing its nose at oversight by coolheaded and responsible members of Congress.

The reality is that the bureau is a pebble in the shoe of Republicans and their business buddies by exposing practices that any reasonable person would acknowledge to be anti-consumer.

The CFPB fined Wells Fargo $100 million for the bank having opened unauthorized accounts on behalf of millions of customers. It fined Citigroup $28.8 million for failing to inform homeowners about ways to avoid foreclosure. It fined the credit agency Experian $3 million for deceiving people about the value of its credit scores.

In total, the CFPB estimates that it has returned about $12 billion to consumers over the last six years.

Which makes Hensarling trying to get on the good foot with his consumer-unfriendly bill all the more remarkable.

Cordray said he’s not surprised by the pushback from business interests and their Republican allies.

“We’ve had challenges over the course of our existence,” he said. “We have consistently and steadfastly emphasized doing our work on behalf of consumers.”

I also spoke with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra at the small-business event. He was in a decidedly sports-minded mood.

Becerra likened Cordray to the quarterback of the consumer-protection team. He said Republican lawmakers would be fumbling the ball if they prevailed with their Financial CHOICE Act and weakened the CFPB. “We’re ready to pick up the ball if they fumble,” Becerra said of California’s willingness to ride point on consumer affairs.

That’s encouraging. But the best thing for consumers would be for the CFPB to keep doing what it’s done since the beginning — providing national leadership in making sure financial firms aren’t rigging the deck.

“We’re a straightforward, common-sense agency,” Cordray said.

Consumers have 12 billion reasons to believe him.

David Lazarus, can be reached at

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Here are some things you need to know about a down payment

The down payment required on a home mortgage is the single most important hurdle that prospective home purchasers must surmount. This article explains what a down payment is exactly, looks at some possible sources of down payment funds, explains why the down payment is critical to lenders, and describes the requirements today.

What Is the down payment exactly?

The down payment on a home mortgage is the lower of sale price and appraised value less the loan amount. It is not the same as the borrower’s cash outlay if some of that outlay is for settlement costs, which is usually the case. Land can be part or all of the down payment.

A minimum down payment, expressed as a ratio to the lower of sale price and appraised value, means exactly the same thing as a maximum loan-to-value or LTV. For example, if the property value is $100,000 and the down payment $25,000, the down payment ratio is 25 percent and the LTV is 75 percent. Legal and regulatory requirements, are usually specified in terms of a maximum LTV rather than a minimum down payment because the LTV is less vulnerable to misunderstandings.

Down payment sources

Last week I looked at borrowing from one’s 401K account as a source of down payment funds. Here are some other possible sources:

Excess of appraised value over sale price: In general, this is not allowed. As noted above, the down payment is defined as the lower of sale price and appraised value less the loan amount. Hence, an appraisal higher than the price is disregarded.

But there is an important exception, called a gift of equity, where the home seller — usually a family member — is willing to sell below market value. In such cases, the lender will calculate the down payment using the appraised value, probably based on two appraisals, rather than the lower sale price. If the transaction has some risky features, the lender may not accept the equity gift as the full down payment and will expect the borrower to make a contribution – perhaps 5 percent.

Home seller contributions: These are not allowed, because of a presumption that such contributions will be associated with a higher sales price. However, subject to limits, home sellers are allowed to pay purchasers’ settlement costs. This reduces the cash drain on purchasers, allowing more of it to be used as down payment.

Lender contributions granted in exchange for a higher interest rate: These are not allowed either. However, cash-short borrowers can select a relatively high-rate loan that carries a rebate or “negative points,” and the rebate can be used to pay settlement costs. This reduces the borrower’s required cash without affecting the down payment.

Cash gifts from home sellers, builders or other parties to the transaction: These are not allowed because of the presumption that the gift affects other parts of the transaction, especially the sale price.

Cash gifts from a relative or live-in partner who can document the source: These are acceptable as down payment funds. However, the lender must be convinced that the gift is not a disguised loan with a repayment obligation that might reduce the borrower’s ability to repay the mortgage.

Why is the downpayment so important to lenders?

One reason is that the down payment is a buffer against lender loss in the event of a foreclosure. For example, if foreclosure costs are 20 percent of value and property value does not change, a 20 percent down payment fully protects a foreclosing lender against loss, but a 10 percent down payment provides only partial protection.

Perhaps even more important, borrowers who get into payment difficulties but have equity in their properties usually will sell to avoid foreclosure. By selling, they realize the equity themselves whereas if they allow the property to go to foreclosure the equity will be partially or wholly depleted by foreclosure costs. Their selling avoids the foreclosure.

In addition, borrowers who have been able to save the funds for a down payment are less likely to get into payment troubles later on. Saving for a down payment requires budgetary discipline, repaying a mortgage also requires budgetary discipline, and the one carries over to the other. Of course, this assumes that the down payment is saved, not borrowed.

Down payment requirements 

In the 1920s, before the Federal Government became a player in the market, commercial banks and insurance companies generally required 50 percent down, while savings and loan associations, which were the mortgage specialists, were more liberal – they required only 40 percent down. Today, requirements range down to zero on VA-guaranteed loans, and to 3 percent on loans insured by FHA or approved for purchase by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

However, the low down payments required by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac apply only to what the agencies view as the lowest risk transaction, which is the purchase of a single-family home intended as the purchaser’s principal residence, with a fixed-rate mortgage. Other types of transactions are subject to higher requirements, as shown here:

On loans that are too large to be insured or purchased by a Federal Government agency but are otherwise viewed as low risk, the minimum down payment is 20 percent. This also scales up on transactions viewed as being more risky.

Jack Guttentag is professor emeritus of finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Comments and questions can be left at

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Tips on How to Avoid Foreclosure

A foreclosure is a legal proceeding which happens when a house owner is not capable of meeting up with the principle and/or the interest amounts on their loan. The banks foreclose on the house by seizing it and eventually selling it.

How to Avoid Foreclosure

Do not ignore the problem because it will not go away on its own: This is the type of difficulty that only worsens with time. The more debt that accumulates, the harder it is for you to reinstate your loan and become current on your payments.

Contact your lender as soon as you realize you have a problem You may think your lender does not care but newsflash, they do. They want to know why you are having difficulty making your payments and believe it or not, they do not want to take away your home. They have the resources available to educate you about how to avoid foreclosure. They are the professionals they are the ones you should be turning to. Forget the embarrassment and forget your ego. Make the call as soon as possible because the earlier you call the more choices you will have. Make the call, deal with the problem head on and with your lenders assist, you will be able to get a handle on the circumstances.
Do not avoid mail sent from your lender. Open it and respond to it quickly usually, the first letter you receive will deal with your late payment status. It will include information and advice on how to avoid foreclosure. Shortly thereafter, you will receive information regarding pending legal action. First off, do not ignore these letters. If you do not respond to them, they will initiate legal action. By shutting them out, you are only restricting yourself from any future resolutions. You will also be making it more complicated to become current on your loan. For your own welfare, do not ignore your lender!

Know the rights granted by the contract you signed The point of this is for you to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of your situation. Read the loan documents and read all of the information regarding what actions your lender may take if you miss payments. Also, familiarize yourself with foreclosure laws in your state. Inform yourself!

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Watertown soon will implement ‘zombie’ properties program


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WATERTOWN — City Councilman Cody J. Horbacz isn’t so sure that the city should accept a nearly $150,000 state grant to combat dozens of abandoned and vacant homes that dot the city.

During budget deliberations earlier this week, Councilman Horbacz urged his colleagues not to go forward with accepting the $149,492 state grant to address so-called “zombie properties” and other abandoned and vacant homes.

He contended that the city will be adding staff in the city’s Code Enforcement office to implement the program and then be forced to either pay their salaries after the grant runs out in two years or lay them off.

Councilman Stephen A. Jennings, an advocate for housing issues in the city, disagreed.

“I support the program 100 percent,” he said,

The city is moving forward with putting together the state program.

City Assessor Brian S. Phelps said the program should be implemented in the next few months. The city already received half of a $149,492 state grant.

In October, the city was awarded the funding through the state attorney general’s office while officials were trying to figure out how to deal with “zombie properties” — vacant houses that are abandoned by owners before the foreclosure process begins — and other housing issues.

Under the two-year program, the city will be able to identify and keep better track of abandoned homes, and help homeowners avoid foreclosure. Earlier this year, Mr. Phelps determined about 150 zombie properties existed in Watertown.

Using the grant, the codes office will add a building codes inspector and a secretary, but an administrative aide will be eliminated. The staffing changes will cost $38,105 in salaries for the first six months of the fiscal year.

The city is purchasing computer software upgrades that will be used to make it easier to track zombie properties and determine their condition, Mr. Phelps said.

The new computer equipment also will be used for a rental registration program the city will start on Jan. 1.

Community outreach will be another component of the program, Mr. Phelps said. A direct mail campaign will let property owners know how they can prevent their homes from going into foreclosure and provide information about state programs that can help them. He’s also forming a vacant/zombie property task force to work on the issue.

The city also will complete physical inspections to determine which properties are more vulnerable.

Councilman Jennings believes the zombie program is a good beginning, adding the city should expand its housing efforts.

“This investment is vitally needed,” he said.

Watertown was among six north country municipalities that received the state money through the AG’s Local Initiatives Support Corporation Zombie and Vacant Properties Remediation and Prevention Initiative Grant program.

The state program was established last year by the AG’s office with funds drawn from the $3.2 billion settlement agreement with Morgan Stanley that Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman arranged. The settlement generated $550 million in cash and consumer relief for New Yorkers.

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Warren Evans’ wife advances in gov’t job despite no gov’t experience

DETROIT (WXYZ) – A Wayne County employee for more than 30 years, Jeanette Plummer has been struggling for a long time.

“I’m holding on by a thread with my paycheck,” she said.

Like most Wayne County employees, she’s watched as the cost of her health insurance goes up, and promises like retiree healthcare go away.

The cuts have come while Jeanette’s salary—just over $30,000 a year— stays the same.  She hasn’t seen a raise in about a decade.

“That’s truly a smack in the face, especially since I’ve been there for 30 years,” she said. ” And it’s hard for us to even move up in the county.”

But not everyone in the county is struggling. Take Renata Seals: she was hired last year in the Wayne County Treasurer’s office at $60,000 a year, despite no prior government experience, or even a college degree.  A few months later, when a new treasurer took over, Seals got a promotion: going from a contract employee, to full-time with benefits and a $10,000 bump in pay.

Seals isn’t the only person in her family drawing a county paycheck: no, her husband gets one too.  He happens to run the county, and his name is Warren Evans.

No one else considered

Eric Sabree is the Wayne County Treasurer and the man who promoted Evans’ wife, who now goes by Renata Evans-Seals, after only eight months on the job, back when she and Evans were dating. 

“How many people did you consider for it?” asked Channel 7′s Ross Jones.

“I didn’t consider anyone else,” Sabree responded.

At the time, Sabree had been treasurer for only a few months and was running for a four-year term. 

“Did the County Executive endorse you?” Jones asked.

“Yes he did,” Sabree responded.

“And did that endorsement play any role at all in his girlfriend getting this job?” Jones asked.

“No,” Sabree said. “It did not.”

Despite a lack of government experience, Sabree said it was Evans-Seals’ years of work as a community liason that made her such an appealing candidate, first at a fashion business association and more recently for a real estate company.

Her job with Wayne County today requires her to go into neighborhoods and educate residents that are behind in their taxes on how they can avoid foreclosure. 

“Her job is to make sure people know how to pay what they owe?” asked Channel 7′s Jones.

“Exactly,” Sabree said.

“Has she always paid what she owes?” Jones asked.

“You know I don’t really know, I don’t know,” Sabree said. ” I didn’t do a police background investigation.”

History of financial troubles

Neither did we, but it only took about five minutes to find liens and judgments filed against Renata Seals, all across the state, from a $2,308 judgment by Midland Credit Management—a debt collection agency in California, to a $6,124 judgment entered against her and her ex-husband by Outdoor Adventures, a vacation camp site in Michigan, as well as three judgments from Dorchester Arms Apartments in Detroit totaling more than $5,000.

The judgments were news to the county treasurer, who said they gave Seals a special perspective when dealing with taxpayers behind in their payments.

“She probably knows it firsthand, based on what you just told me,” Sabree said. 

“So you think the fact that she’s had this many defaults is a good thing?” Jones asked.

“No, I didn’t say that,” he said. “I think probably she understands it firsthand.”

In an e-mail, Seals-Evans says she knew nothing about judgments filed against her by Dorchester Arms Apartments, adding that she’s never lived there and was never notified.

“It sure stinks of nepotism and it sure stinks of favortism,” said Brendan Dunleavy, who for years was Wayne County’s auditor general who dug into waste, fraud and abuse at all levels of county government.

“There might have been a much better candidate had they known about the job,” Dunleavy said. “The fact it wasn’t posted, the fact it wasn’t advertised?  It’s a real problem.”

More family ties

But this story doesn’t end there.  Today, while putting the finishing touches on our report, we learned that only three months after the Treasurer promoted the County Executive’s now-wife, the County Executive’s legal division hired Treasurer Eric Sabree’s son. 

Adam Sabree was made an assistant corporation counsel in November, earning $58,000 a year. Both offices insist it’s just a coincidence.

Unlike Seals-Evans, Adam Sabree was one of at least five candidates interviewed for his position. Two were offered the job but declined because of pay concerns.  A Wayne County spokesman said he was hired, in part, because of his past experience as an intern in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office.

As for Renata Seals-Evans, after only eight months in her current position, she’s already in discussions with her boss about a raise. We’re told the exact number hasn’t been figured out yet.

In the meantime, employees like Jeanette Plummer are hoping that one day, after ten years of waiting, they might get one too. 

“It’s a slap in the face, being with the county for so many years and not having a raise,” Plummer said, “but seeing other people come in and they’re getting these raises?  It hurts.

In an e-mail, Renata Seals said her past financial troubles were a struggle for her and her family, but that it’s helped fuel her passion to aide others struggling to pay what they owe.

Her husband, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, declined to be interviewed for this story.

The qualifications for Seals-Evans current job, which were written last Spring after she was hired-on as a contract employee, didn’t require a college degree–only 100 hours of college credit. We haven’t been able to independently confirm how many credits Seals-Evans has earned.

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at or at (248) 827-9466.

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This family spent $6000 to save their home and still wound up facing foreclosure

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, 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. 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’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 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.


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Report Reveals NYC Has Most Repeat Foreclosures in the Nation

In New York City, there is a higher rate of repeat foreclosures occurring than in any other major housing market in the country. 

According to a new report from real estate research firm ATTOM Data solutions, foreclosures are at their lowest levels across the United States since 2005. However, the report showed that out of the five major housing markets examined, New York City had the highest rate of repeat foreclosures. 

The rate for repeat foreclosures in the city for 2016 was 54 percent, which was far more than Los Angeles at 39 percent and Miami-Dade County at 32 percent. The other markets included in the report were Arizona Maricopa County at 26 percent and Essex County in New Jersey that rated 20 percent.

The Real Deal reports, “Repeat foreclosures take place when a home avoids an initial foreclosure process by a payment program, but then goes back into foreclosure. Last year, according to the report, Brooklyn had the highest rate of repeat foreclosures, at 62 percent. It was followed by Staten Island (55 percent), the Bronx (53 percent), Manhattan (48 percent) and Queens (45 percent).”

ATTOM’s Daren Bomquist told Politico, “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. Meanwhile, we are seeing an elevated share of repeat foreclosures on homeowners who fell into default several years ago but have not been able to avoid foreclosure despite the housing recovery.”

Thousands of inactive foreclosure cases are in the process of being thrown out of the Kings County Supreme Court in Brooklyn. Defense lawyers say that this move will negatively impact homeowners, because all the motions any of them filed against lenders would then be lost.

By Mark Snyder

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