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Schneiderman sues Syracuse real-estate firm for alleged “deed theft and mortgage-rescue scam”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed a lawsuit against the Joseph Funding Company of Syracuse for an alleged “deed theft and mortgage-rescue scam.” (Eric Reinhardt / BJNN file photo)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A Syracuse real-estate firm is facing a lawsuit for an alleged “deceptive scheme to trick New Yorkers into turning over ownership of their homes” to the company.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed a lawsuit against Joseph Funding Company, Inc. and its owners Rebecca Ausby and Joseph Holman, Schneiderman’s office said in a news release.

The lawsuit alleges that Ausby and Holman “preyed” on homeowners who were struggling to pay their mortgage, at risk of foreclosure, or interested in getting rid of hard-to-sell properties without any profit or loss.

Schneiderman’s lawsuit alleges that Ausby and Holman “promised” consumers that they could manage properties prior to a sale by finding tenants, collecting the rent, and paying the consumer’s mortgage.

However, the attorney general’s office investigated and found that Ausby and Holman allegedly used these services as a guise and later “duped” consumers into transferring their property’s deed to Joseph Funding Company.

These deceptive practices allegedly resulted in at least five homeowners losing ownership of their homes, “while remaining fully responsible for the mortgage payments.”

“As we allege, Joseph Funding Company and its owners led consumers to believe they were acting in their best interests, but in actuality they stole properties from vulnerable homeowners, destroyed their credit, and then left them holding the bag on their mortgages,” Schneiderman said. “My office will not tolerate those who prey and capitalize on homeowners, and I encourage all New Yorkers to consider our tips to avoid scams.”

Joseph Funding Company did not respond to BJNN’s request for comment on the lawsuit.

About the lawsuit

Homeowners told the attorney general’s office that Holman and Ausby presented themselves as real-estate professionals, who had “extensive experience” managing properties and buying and selling homes, including homes in economically depressed neighborhoods. The company’s owners frequently posted signs on neighborhood telephone poles advertising that they buy and sell homes “fast.”

Homeowners who contacted the company were greeted with a recorded voicemail message stating that Joseph Funding Company could take over their mortgage payments right away.

Additionally, the company’s website identified dozens of properties that it was managing or had recently sold or rented. However, as the lawsuit alleges, Joseph Funding Company “has no connection” to most of the properties listed on its website, Schneiderman’s office said.

Furthermore, neither Holman nor Ausby are licensed by the New York State Department of State as real-estate professionals and are not authorized to manage or sell properties for others in New York state, according to the attorney general’s release.

Schneiderman’s investigation further revealed that Holman and Ausby allegedly deceived consumers by offering to manage the homeowners’ property prior to the sale by finding tenants, collecting the rent, and paying the consumer’s mortgage throughout the process, which they claimed usually takes a year to 18 months.

The complaint alleges that, during this time, Holman and Ausby would present paperwork for the consumers to sign that included a deed transferring ownership of the property to Joseph Funding Company.

After taking complete ownership of the property, Holman and Ausby did not take any responsibility for making the mortgage payments.

The business typically paid the homeowner’s mortgage for a few months to a year; “then they made payments erratically and, eventually, stopped,” per the release.

Holman and Ausby continued to own and rent the properties for monthly income, but did not pay the monthly mortgage, nor did they inform consumers that they stopped paying the mortgage.

In fact, several consumers did not know that they had defaulted on their mortgages until they had problems with their credit or were sued in a foreclosure action.

Additionally, Holman and Ausby allegedly promised consumers that they could stop foreclosure and come up with solutions to help people in default.

New York State Real Property Law regulates “distressed property consultants” and requires that such consultants have written consulting contracts that include specific disclosures. Online advertising is also regulated and must disclose to homeowners that government-approved housing counselors may provide the same services for free. Joseph Funding Company “did not have” the required contracts and disclosures.

One homeowner who was in default on his mortgage was allegedly led to believe that he had sold his home to Joseph Funding Company, and that Ausby and Holman would pay the bank directly for the property.

“Unbeknownst to him,” he gave away his property “for free,” Schneiderman’s office said. Holman and Ausby did not pay the bank at all, and the bank foreclosed on the property.

Contact Reinhardt at ereinhardt@cnybj.com

Article source: https://www.cnybj.com/schneiderman-sues-syracuse-real-estate-firm-for-alleged-deed-theft-and-mortgage-rescue-scam/

City helps curb homelessness through education

Staff members don’t offer emergency services or shelter for homeless people; they instead provide education, with the goal of never letting anyone become homeless in the first place.

“We offer a lot of resources and education to prevent someone from getting into that situation,” said Rhonda Kleyn, the city’s neighborhood development coordinator. “If it’s a homeowner, we have foreclosure prevention services. You can work with a housing counselor to help you figure out what is causing you to be in this situation.”

The counselor will explore options that may be available before you end up on the street, including Step Forward Michigan Funds or working with the lender to see if you qualify for a mortgage modification or temporary forbearance.

“The sooner you come to us when you’re having difficulty with payments, the better,” Kleyn said. “We see people waiting until they get a Sheriff Sale notice on the door. Once there’s a Sheriff Sale, there’s nothing that can be done.”

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There are many companies advertising foreclosure prevention and debt consolidation, but beware, Kleyn says.

“There are a lot of scams out there,” she said. “There are a lot of companies that will charge you. Anybody that is going to charge you money might not be reputable.”

The city’s services are confidential and neutral, according to Kleyn.

“We’re not a bank that wants your money and we’re not an organization that’s going to make any money off you,” she said. “It’s all unbiased.”

Kleyn said the department was formed in 2007, when the economy started tanking and many families were forced into foreclosure.

“Around 2008, 2009, for several years all we did full-time was foreclosure prevention,” she said. “So many people were facing foreclosure that needed help. Now we can focus more on the educational side of things.”

The city’s Neighborhood Housing Services Department currently serves about 150 households per year.

Financial education and renter education classes are free to anyone who lives, works or plans to relocate to Ottawa County. There is a small fee for the homebuyer education class.

“We have our financial education classes,” Kleyn said. “You can come one-on-one or to group classes. Those can help you improve your credit score, develop a budget and reduce debt. Credit scores are, of course, linked to home buying, but they’re also linked to the rate you’re going to get on a credit card or a home loan.”

Kleyn said many people are unaware that credit scores are also linked to homeowner insurance rates. A poor credit score can as much as double your insurance premium.

“Improving your credit score can be really beneficial for anyone,” she said.

Kleyn said anyone having financial difficulties may call her.

“We can help early on,” she said. “Everyone knows when you’re facing financial hardship, it just snowballs. When you start to get overwhelmed, sometimes you can’t even think straight. Coming in and talking to a housing counselor to get things straight in your brain is really helpful. Don’t wait months and months until your situation is really desperate. The sooner you come in, we can help you before you reach the homeless stage.”

If it’s too late, don’t despair.

“We can certainly help, too, if you have become homeless and need to figure out how to get back on track,” Kleyn said. “You can come to us and we’ll help you figure those things out, too. We can’t offer emergency homeless services. We don’t have shelters. But the education we offer can certainly help you avoid that situation.”

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, visit www.grandhaven.org/housingservices, call 616-935-3275 or email rkleyn@grandhaven.org.

Article source: http://www.grandhaventribune.com/Local/2017/11/17/Grand-Haven-helps-curb-homelessness-through-education-classes.html?ci=stream&lp=1&p=1

Ocwen Works with Ohio Community Groups to Produce Results for Struggling Borrowers

Helped 1,200 struggling Ohio homeowners avoid foreclosure to date in 2017

Provided 26,500 loan modifications and forgiven $342 million in debt to Ohio borrowers since 2008

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Nov. 17, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Ocwen Financial Corporation (NYSE:OCN), a leading financial services holding company, announced loan modification borrower assistance results for struggling Ohio homeowners through the third quarter of 2017.

Central to Ocwen’s core mission of helping homeowners is the Company’s commitment to help customers become current on their mortgage payments through sustainable loan modifications that are permitted by relevant investor agreements.

Working closely with nonprofit agencies in the first nine months of 2017, Ocwen forgave approximately $14.6 million in mortgage debt and helped approximately 1,200 Ohio families avoid foreclosure and remain in their homes. The Company has provided more than 26,500 loan modifications to Ohio borrowers and forgiven nearly $342 million in debt since January 1, 2008.

Ocwen services approximately 44,000 loans in Ohio, a state that was severely impacted by the housing crisis and continues to rebuild many of its neighborhoods. In an effort to reach even more struggling borrowers, Ocwen will join with Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of Greater Cleveland on Thursday, December 14, from 3:00pm to 8:00pm Eastern Time to help families find mortgage solutions to avoid foreclosure. This event is exclusively for Ocwen homeowners and will take place at 5700 Broadway Avenue in Cleveland, OH. Borrowers who attend will meet one-on-one with Ocwen Home Retention Agents and housing counselors to discuss their unique situations and explore potential solutions to lower their mortgage payments.

Additionally, Ocwen is sponsoring the Working In Neighborhoods (WIN) Annual Hall of Fame event on Monday, November 20. Ocwen has collaborated with WIN for the past eight years and is pleased to continue supporting the important services the organization provides to the Greater Cincinnati area to help families achieve a strong financial foundation through homeownership.

“Ocwen’s focus on its customers and community organizations in Ohio produces positive results,” commented Jill Showell, Senior Vice President of Government and Community Relations at Ocwen. “We are proud to work closely with local nonprofits, such as NHS of Greater Cleveland, Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People (ESOP), and WIN to help homeowners in Ohio find solutions that allow them to remain in their homes. Ocwen is making a real difference in the lives of many struggling homeowners across the state of Ohio, and remains committed to helping families and communities.”

Michael Pires, Interim Executive Director of NHS of Greater Cleveland, added, “My team and I know first-hand the challenges facing families hoping to achieve, preserve, and sustain the American Dream of homeownership. I encourage borrowers to attend our upcoming event to learn more about local resources and ways to work with NHS and Ocwen to make their home more affordable.”

Ocwen customer testimonials and specific state-by-state data on our modification results can be found at OcwenCares.com.

Nationwide, Ocwen has completed approximately 755,000 loan modifications and provided billions of dollars in debt forgiveness.

About Ocwen Financial Corporation
Ocwen Financial Corporation is a financial services holding company which, through its subsidiaries, originates and services loans. We are headquartered in West Palm Beach, Florida, with offices throughout the United States and in the U.S. Virgin Islands and operations in India and the Philippines. We have been serving our customers since 1988. We may post information that is important to investors on our website (www.Ocwen.com).

For Further Information Contact
John Lovallo
T: (917) 612-8419
E: jlovallo@levick.com

Source: Ocwen Financial Corp.

Article source: http://www.nasdaq.com/press-release/ocwen-works-with-ohio-community-groups-to-produce-results-for-struggling-borrowers-20171117-00197

Land bank nears teardown deadline

Scioto County is closing in on one year of the Land Reutilization Program commonly referred to as the land bank. Chairman of the Scioto County Commissioners and the land bank Bryan Davis explained that the program is barely making deadline.

The land bank had a deadline to tear down 60 houses by Nov. 18.

“As far as I understand, right now we have 46 torn down with 19 scheduled to be torn down,” Davis commented. “The contractors will tear those down when they schedule to tear those down. We don’t control that.”

Davis explained that because the contracts have been awarded for demolition, the 19 properties scheduled for tear down will not count against the county. Scioto County works with the Ohio Fair Housing Authority (OFHA) on land bank funding. Davis stated that OFHA is aware of the 19 properties that have not been torn down and have found no issue with those properties not meeting the upcoming deadline. Davis added that the County is not currently in any danger of losing state funding.

“The big challenge to date has been that the houses are getting sold at sheriff sales and are not going to the land bank,” Davis explained.

When houses go to sheriff sales rather than land bank, Davis explained that those properties will go back on the tax roll; however, they may not get immediately rehabilitated or may not get rehabilitated at all.

Properties available for land bank must first go through the prosecutors office. They should be blighted properties that are in foreclosure. By first presenting the properties for sale through sheriff auction, members of the community have an option to buy the property before it falls into the land bank program.

“The public should have first dibs,” Davis stated. “Then and only then, if they don’t sale, then the properties go to the land bank. The other important thing to realize is that not every house that is in terrible condition is up for foreclosure.”

Thus, the land bank only has access to those houses up for foreclosure due to non-payment of taxes. Since the land bank started, more people have been paying their taxes or entered into a payment agreement in order to avoid foreclosure.

Davis stressed that the county focuses only on foreclosed properties that are blighted or torn down.

When the program started, the county acquired a line of credit to get the program running. Scioto County is required to keep insurance on all properties going through the lank bank. This insurance is not only to protect people working with the land bank but also people who may break into a blighted structure and be injured as a result.

“It is a very cyclical process,” Davis commented, explaining that once properties are torn down, the land bank gets reimbursement from the OFHA which is then used to cover costs to tear down another group of houses.

Nearly a year ago, when the program started, it began with an in-kind donation of $10,000 from the Treasurer’s Office and $10,000 from the Commissioners Office, Davis explained.

These donations, in addition to the $200,000 line of credit through the OFHA helped get the program running. Davis further explained that just the insurance on properties costs $14,000 a year. The funding from OFHA only covers demolition of 10 to 12 houses. The commissioners then agreed to do a revolving loan to help speed up the process.

According to Davis, the funding process has been part of the delay. Reimbursements from the State have taken longer than expected, which delayed progress. Davis explained that the State has been working with the County to prevent and limit those delays in the future to help hurry the tear down process along.

“Last month, we were out of money for two weeks, waiting on money to come in for reimbursements. The bids were already out,” Davis stated. “When you don’t have money, you can’t tear down houses.”

Davis added that the County has been working with the Andy Gedeon, who is over the City of Portsmouth’s land bank program. Davis added that the City has been working with the County on demolishing houses because the City land bank is currently focusing on three gas stations.

Davis added that the legal process for acquiring properties is also a timely process as many of the properties have liens and other legal issues.

“We’re hoping to take down more in the future,” Davis stressed.

Davis added that the land bank is also working with the state on potential funding for commercial buildings, so the demolition of blighted commercial buildings may be coming in the future.

Though the program is still in it’s early stages, Davis explained that the County is starting to look at options for the sale and use of land bank properties.

“At the end of three years, we can sell property to anyone for $1, so we will probably have people willing to buy at that point,” Davis stated.

Currently, properties are first made available to neighbors looking to expand the adjacent properties. The properties can be bought for as a little as $200. However, if a neighbor is not interested, Davis said there are other options. The land bank has the funding to mow and maintain properties for three years. They can then decided to use the properties for a variety of community improvement options ranging from the development of a community garden to recreational uses such as the construction of a basketball court.

Davis stated that with less than a year of operation, the land bank is not ready to make those decisions as the current focus has been on acquiring properties and getting those demolished. However, when it comes time to focus on the sale or utilization of properties, Davis said the land bank will focus on using properties in a way that is conducive with what the community would like. Community input will be an important part of that decision-making process.

By Nikki Blankenship

nblankenship@aimmediamidwest.com

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Article source: http://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/news/21413/lank-bank-nears-teardown-deadline

Case of Modesto broker accused of fraud to avoid foreclosure goes …

FRESNO – One-time Modesto City Council candidate Robert Farrace, an attorney and real estate broker, was convicted Tuesday of three fraud counts after a five-day trial.

After deliberating about two hours, jurors agreed with federal prosecutors that Farrace illegally tricked lenders in order to keep two Modesto investment properties he otherwise would have lost to foreclosure.

Farrace held onto both homes by creating a company to buy them from himself, while concealing from lenders that he was on both ends of the deals in 2009 and 2010, according to evidence. In the process, Farrace traded one mortgage payment he could not afford with one much lower, and tried to with the second, which did not go through when investigators caught onto what he was doing, authorities said.

“Why did the defendant do this? For money,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Shelley Weger said to jurors. “He wanted to keep his properties, continue collecting rental income and reduce (his payments).”

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Farrace, 53, has been out of custody after posting bail upon his arrest in 2015. He will be sentenced in February.

Farrace is current president of the Stanislaus County Bar Association. The criminal conviction will trigger charges in State Bar Court, potentially leading to a request that the California Supreme Court disbar Farrace, a bar spokeswoman said.

Farrace had advised “dozens, if not hundreds” of clients at risk of losing their homes during the real estate meltdown in 2008 and 2009, he wrote in a column printed in The Modesto Bee’s editorial section in late 2009. He was a finalist in a 2007 race for City Council, losing in a runoff to Dave Lopez.

Farrace also was a Bee community columnist in early 2010. He advocated for strategic defaults, where owners choose to lose their homes in foreclosure, in the 2009 column.

At that time, Farrace’s “marriage was falling apart, his law firm was in financial trouble, and he could not afford the mortgage payments” for properties in the 1500 block of West Roseburg Avenue and in the 2300 block of Scenic Drive, his attorney wrote in a pretrial court document.

Farrace then recruited an auto mechanic, a friend’s father, to pose as the manager of Dignitas LLC, a company Farrace controlled from top to bottom and created only to buy the two properties. Those facts were acknowledged by both sides at trial.

Prosecutors said that’s illegal because Farrace’s prime reason was getting around lenders’ rules requiring “arms-length transactions.” Lenders sometimes approve short sales involving relatives, witnesses said, but the banks in Farrace’s case didn’t know they were negotiating to sell his houses back to him, prosecutors said.

“This whole thing is a set-up from the get-go,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Tierney. The mechanic used by Farrace when he registered Dignitas with the secretary of state’s office didn’t even recognize the name “Dignitas” when asked on the witness stand, Tierney and Weger said.

Farrace would have walked away from negotiations if banks had probed enough to learn he was behind Dignitas, defense attorney Mark Broughton contended. He blamed lenders for not asking the right questions.

After the Roseburg sale, a bank asked Farrace to sign an affidavit confirming there was no relationship between buyer and seller; he of course refused, because doing so would have been fraudulent, Broughton said.

The document should have been part of a contract well before close of escrow, the attorney said.

“You can’t hold him accountable for (banks’) mistakes,” Broughton told the jury of five women and seven men.

They rejected that argument Tuesday afternoon. That morning, Weger had asked them to consider why Farrace “didn’t think it was important to disclose the truth? Because he knew it would have killed the deal. He knew that any reasonable lender would not do the deal if they knew he was the buyer.”

Farrace’s actions were uncovered by Glenn Gulley, investigator with the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s office, and the case was a joint effort with the FBI and other federal agencies.

Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390

Article source: http://www.modbee.com/news/article184627943.html

Lank bank nears teardown deadline

Scioto County is closing in on one year of the Land Reutilization Program commonly referred to as the land bank. Chairman of the Scioto County Commissioners and the land bank Bryan Davis explained that the program is barely making deadline.

The land bank had a deadline to tear down 60 houses by Nov. 18.

“As far as I understand, right now we have 46 torn down with 19 scheduled to be torn down,” Davis commented. “The contractors will tear those down when they schedule to tear those down. We don’t control that.”

Davis explained that because the contracts have been awarded for demolition, the 19 properties scheduled for tear down will not count against the county. Scioto County works with the Ohio Fair Housing Authority (OFHA) on land bank funding. Davis stated that OFHA is aware of the 19 properties that have not been torn down and have found no issue with those properties not meeting the upcoming deadline. Davis added that the County is not currently in any danger of losing state funding.

“The big challenge to date has been that the houses are getting sold at sheriff sales and are not going to the land bank,” Davis explained.

When houses go to sheriff sales rather than land bank, Davis explained that those properties will go back on the tax roll; however, they may not get immediately rehabilitated or may not get rehabilitated at all.

Properties available for land bank must first go through the prosecutors office. They should be blighted properties that are in foreclosure. By first presenting the properties for sale through sheriff auction, members of the community have an option to buy the property before it falls into the land bank program.

“The public should have first dibs,” Davis stated. “Then and only then, if they don’t sale, then the properties go to the land bank. The other important thing to realize is that not every house that is in terrible condition is up for foreclosure.”

Thus, the land bank only has access to those houses up for foreclosure due to non-payment of taxes. Since the land bank started, more people have been paying their taxes or entered into a payment agreement in order to avoid foreclosure.

Davis stressed that the county focuses only on foreclosed properties that are blighted or torn down.

When the program started, the county acquired a line of credit to get the program running. Scioto County is required to keep insurance on all properties going through the lank bank. This insurance is not only to protect people working with the land bank but also people who may break into a blighted structure and be injured as a result.

“It is a very cyclical process,” Davis commented, explaining that once properties are torn down, the land bank gets reimbursement from the OFHA which is then used to cover costs to tear down another group of houses.

Nearly a year ago, when the program started, it began with an in-kind donation of $10,000 from the Treasurer’s Office and $10,000 from the Commissioners Office, Davis explained.

These donations, in addition to the $200,000 line of credit through the OFHA helped get the program running. Davis further explained that just the insurance on properties costs $14,000 a year. The funding from OFHA only covers demolition of 10 to 12 houses. The commissioners then agreed to do a revolving loan to help speed up the process.

According to Davis, the funding process has been part of the delay. Reimbursements from the State have taken longer than expected, which delayed progress. Davis explained that the State has been working with the County to prevent and limit those delays in the future to help hurry the tear down process along.

“Last month, we were out of money for two weeks, waiting on money to come in for reimbursements. The bids were already out,” Davis stated. “When you don’t have money, you can’t tear down houses.”

Davis added that the County has been working with the Andy Gedeon, who is over the City of Portsmouth’s land bank program. Davis added that the City has been working with the County on demolishing houses because the City land bank is currently focusing on three gas stations.

Davis added that the legal process for acquiring properties is also a timely process as many of the properties have liens and other legal issues.

“We’re hoping to take down more in the future,” Davis stressed.

Davis added that the land bank is also working with the state on potential funding for commercial buildings, so the demolition of blighted commercial buildings may be coming in the future.

Though the program is still in it’s early stages, Davis explained that the County is starting to look at options for the sale and use of land bank properties.

“At the end of three years, we can sell property to anyone for $1, so we will probably have people willing to buy at that point,” Davis stated.

Currently, properties are first made available to neighbors looking to expand the adjacent properties. The properties can be bought for as a little as $200. However, if a neighbor is not interested, Davis said there are other options. The land bank has the funding to mow and maintain properties for three years. They can then decided to use the properties for a variety of community improvement options ranging from the development of a community garden to recreational uses such as the construction of a basketball court.

Davis stated that with less than a year of operation, the land bank is not ready to make those decisions as the current focus has been on acquiring properties and getting those demolished. However, when it comes time to focus on the sale or utilization of properties, Davis said the land bank will focus on using properties in a way that is conducive with what the community would like. Community input will be an important part of that decision-making process.

By Nikki Blankenship

nblankenship@aimmediamidwest.com

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Article source: http://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/news/21413/lank-bank-nears-teardown-deadline

Good news for homeowners: Foreclosure threat in Manatee-Sarasota continues to ease

As housing prices continue to climb and the unemployment rate continues to fall, the number of homeowners in the Manatee-Sarasota region in danger of falling into foreclosure remains on the decline.

According to the latest Loan Performance Insights report from data provider CoreLogic, which was released Tuesday, 0.8 percent of homes in the two-county area were in foreclosure in August, the sixth consecutive month that figure came in at less than 1 percent.

That was below the statewide rate of 1.1 percent and a healthy drop from the region’s rate in August 2016 of 1.2 percent. The nationwide foreclosure rate was 0.6 percent in August, its lowest level since July 2007, a year-over-year decline from 0.9 percent and well off the peak of 3.6 percent in December 2010.

0.8The percentage of homes in the Manatee-Sarasota region in foreclosure in August, according to real estate researcher CoreLogic.

“Serious delinquency and foreclosure rates are at their lowest levels in more than a decade, signaling the final stages of recovery in the U.S. housing market,” CoreLogic president at CEO Frank Martell said in Tuesday’s report.

“As the construction and mortgage industries move forward, there needs to be not only a ramp up in homebuilding, but also a focus on maintaining prudent underwriting practices to avoid repeating past mistakes.”

2-Area foreclosure

Meanwhile, the number of delinquent mortgages in Manatee-Sarasota is lower than the statewide and nationwide rates. Locally, 3.4 percent of mortgages were at least 30 days late in August, compared with 5.3 percent across Florida and 4.6 percent throughout the U.S.

Not to be overlooked: The two-county numbers again declined month-over-month (3.5 percent in July) and year-over-year (4.1 percent in August 2016).

The serious delinquency rate – loans that are 90 days or more late – was 1.7 percent in August in Manatee-Sarasota, the same as a month earlier but down from 2.4 percent at the same time last year.

Serious delinquency and foreclosure rates are at their lowest levels in more than a decade, signaling the final stages of recovery in the U.S. housing market.

CoreLogic president at CEO Frank Martell

Even though delinquency and foreclosure rates are lower in most markets compared to a year ago, there are worrying trends across the country, CoreLogic chief economist Frank Nothaft said. Specifically, Nothaft said, in oil-centric regions, including Alaska and Texas.

“The effect of the drop in crude oil prices since 2014 has taken a toll on mortgage loan performance in some markets,” Nothaft said. “Crude oil prices this August were less than half their level three years ago and led to oil-related layoffs and an increase in loan delinquency rates.”

Article source: http://www.bradenton.com/news/business/article184499933.html

New Housing Recovery Center To Help Harvey Victims

Community partners have officially opened the new Avenue Housing Recovery Center on Fulton Street on Houston’s northside. The 4,000 square foot center will offer education and counseling for people rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey.

The effort is funded in part by the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. Corporate partners are also contributing. Officials said the goal of the center is to get people back into their homes as fast as possible and to streamline the application process for assistance.

Speaking at the center’s official opening was Houston City Council Member Amanda Edwards, who said the rebuilding process is especially difficult for people in low-income neighborhoods.

“Living on the edge of financial stability and you’re now faced with the arduous task of rebuilding one’s life, that is no easy feat,” adds Edwards.

Housing Recovery Center’s Berenice Yu said they want to educate homeowners on how to make repairs and hire contractors, and how to avoid foreclosure if they’ve fallen behind in their mortgage payments. Yu said they’re also providing one-on-one counseling for people who need financial assistance.

“Where we will dive deeply into your finances and your housing need, where you are in your phase of recovery, and determine an action plan that we’ll develop together to figure out what you next steps can be,” explains Yu.

The center is located at 2804 Fulton Street.

Article source: https://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/articles/news/2017/11/14/250484/new-housing-recovery-center-to-help-harvey-victims/

Former Modesto City Council candidate convicted on fraud charges

FRESNO – One-time Modesto City Council candidate Robert Farrace, an attorney and real estate broker, was convicted Tuesday of three fraud counts after a five-day trial.

After deliberating about two hours, jurors agreed with federal prosecutors that Farrace illegally tricked lenders in order to keep two Modesto investment properties he otherwise would have lost to foreclosure.

Farrace held onto both homes by creating a company to buy them from himself, while concealing from lenders that he was on both ends of the deals in 2009 and 2010, according to evidence. In the process, Farrace traded one mortgage payment he could not afford with one much lower, and tried to with the second, which did not go through when investigators caught onto what he was doing, authorities said.

“Why did the defendant do this? For money,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Shelley Weger said to jurors. “He wanted to keep his properties, continue collecting rental income and reduce (his payments).”

Farrace, 53, has been out of custody after posting bail upon his arrest in 2015. He will be sentenced in February.

Farrace is current president of the Stanislaus County Bar Association. The criminal conviction will trigger charges in State Bar Court, potentially leading to a request that the California Supreme Court disbar Farrace, a bar spokeswoman said.

Farrace had advised “dozens, if not hundreds” of clients at risk of losing their homes during the real estate meltdown in 2008 and 2009, he wrote in a column printed in The Modesto Bee’s editorial section in late 2009. He was a finalist in a 2007 race for City Council, losing in a runoff to Dave Lopez.

Farrace also was a Bee community columnist in early 2010. He advocated for strategic defaults, where owners choose to lose their homes in foreclosure, in the 2009 column.

At that time, Farrace’s “marriage was falling apart, his law firm was in financial trouble, and he could not afford the mortgage payments” for properties in the 1500 block of West Roseburg Avenue and in the 2300 block of Scenic Drive, his attorney wrote in a pretrial court document.

Farrace then recruited an auto mechanic, a friend’s father, to pose as the manager of Dignitas LLC, a company Farrace controlled from top to bottom and created only to buy the two properties. Those facts were acknowledged by both sides at trial.

Prosecutors said that’s illegal because Farrace’s prime reason was getting around lenders’ rules requiring “arms-length transactions.” Lenders sometimes approve short sales involving relatives, witnesses said, but the banks in Farrace’s case didn’t know they were negotiating to sell his houses back to him, prosecutors said.

“This whole thing is a set-up from the get-go,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Tierney. The mechanic used by Farrace when he registered Dignitas with the secretary of state’s office didn’t even recognize the name “Dignitas” when asked on the witness stand, Tierney and Weger said.

Farrace would have walked away from negotiations if banks had probed enough to learn he was behind Dignitas, defense attorney Mark Broughton contended. He blamed lenders for not asking the right questions.

After the Roseburg sale, a bank asked Farrace to sign an affidavit confirming there was no relationship between buyer and seller; he of course refused, because doing so would have been fraudulent, Broughton said.

The document should have been part of a contract well before close of escrow, the attorney said.

“You can’t hold him accountable for (banks’) mistakes,” Broughton told the jury of five women and seven men.

They rejected that argument Tuesday afternoon. That morning, Weger had asked them to consider why Farrace “didn’t think it was important to disclose the truth? Because he knew it would have killed the deal. He knew that any reasonable lender would not do the deal if they knew he was the buyer.”

Farrace’s actions were uncovered by Glenn Gulley, investigator with the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s office, and the case was a joint effort with the FBI and other federal agencies.

Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390

Article source: http://www.modbee.com/news/article184627943.html

Anatomy of a foreclosure: For Sale – A house full of memories (Part 1)

 This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 24, 2008 – The collapse of some of the nation’s oldest financial institutions started on Main Street America with hundreds and thousands of homeowners such as 56-year-old Maureen McKenzie of Kirkwood who in May lost to foreclosure the small ranch house that hadbeen in her family since it was built after World War II. How could this happen? The answer is … complicated. Over the next three days, the Beacon will unravel the story of how Maureen McKenzie of Kirkwood, Mo., lost her 900 square feet of the American Dream. Part 1

Two months after she lost her 900-square-foot, three-bedroom ranch to foreclosure, Maureen McKenzie of Kirkwood swallowed her nerves and stood before a live studio audience at KETC-Channel 9 to address a panel of housing counselors:

“I’m Maureen. And I’m from Kirkwood. And I recently lost my house to foreclosure. And my house is still sitting empty, and I am wondering if there’s any help available to try and get my house back.”

McKenzie, 56, was on a self-imposed mission as she spoke those words during the July 15 segment of “Facing The Mortgage Crisis,” which was broadcast live throughout the St. Louis area.

“I told myself, ‘I have to do this. I have to speak up,’ ” she explained afterward. “There are people who are going to see this and hear this and they will judge me. But I’ve got to say something to somebody.”

When the dust finally settles from the still-collapsing sub-prime loan market, an estimated 3 million American homeowners may have lost their homes to foreclosure. They were on the ground floor of the financial house of cards that bad loans built, and for most of them, the word “bailout” did not apply.

In May alone, 273,001 U.S. properties were in some stage of foreclosure, according to Realtytrak.com — and one of them was the modest white frame ranch on a quiet cul-de-sac in Kirkwood that had been in McKenzie’s family since it was built in 1953. The house at 1043 Barry Court has a For Sale sign in the front yard now and a list price of $149,900 – which is nearly $30,000 less than the amount of the foreclosure, as recorded at the St. Louis County Courthouse on May 8.

“Why couldn’t they give me that price?” McKenzie now asks. “Why wouldn’t the bank renegotiate my loan? I could have afforded to buy my house at that price.”

In September 2005 McKenzie signed on the bottom line of an adjustable rate mortgage in which “everything was working against her,” said housing counselor Patrick Quigley of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, who represented McKenzie in a futile attempt to renegotiate her loan terms with Chevy Chase Bank.

McKenzie said she didn’t totally understand the loan’s jumble of terms, but the mortgage broker who arranged the loan assured her it would buy her time to get back on her feet from a financial setback brought on by illness.

“He told me, ‘I can help you. I can cut your payments,’ ” McKenzie said.

She said she believed she would have at least three years to refinance and was shocked when her minimum monthly payment readjusted from $757.95 to nearly $1,600 two years after signing. During her frantic scramble to avoid foreclosure, McKenzie tried every avenue she could find, including an attempt at a short sale with a business that apparently doesn’t exist. Looking back, McKenzie says, she encountered some people who put her interests first — and others who didn’t.

Hers is a complicated tale — and it represents just one of the millions of stories of foreclosure that will never be unraveled. This is the story of how “Maureen of Kirkwood” lost her stake in the American dream.

Telling the neighbors

On July 16, the day after she participated in the Channel 9 mortgage crisis program, McKenzie returned to Barry Court for an afternoon tea with longtime neighbors, Miriam Burge, 88, and Annabelle Renick, 85. The homes on Barry Court were all built and completed within months of one another in the early 1950s. Burge and Renick both reared their families in houses a few doors down from one another. The women said they were heartbroken when McKenzie told them she had to move.

“She was standing there in tears, and I absolutely couldn’t believe that our Maureen was leaving,” Renick said.

This wasn’t just any house, McKenzie explained. It was her family home, where she grew up. Her parents, William and Josephine Burns, bought the just-built house in March 1953 when she was a toddler. She and her four siblings grew up in this little house, in the “Leave It to Beaver” era of post-World War II America.

“This was my neighborhood,” McKenzie said, as she sat on a sofa between Burge and Renick. “At one point we had 27 kids who lived on this block. There were no fences between the yards, and we ran and played, and we had the run of the neighborhood. I am very blessed that this is where I grew up here, and I am very attached to that house across the street.”

Neighbors on Barry Court say they saw no evidence of upkeep at the home until about two months after she moved out, when workers arrived to mow the lawn and do some interior work on the empty property.

She describes the house in loving terms — it has what she calls “a sweet energy about it.” And it is where she feels a special connection to her mother, who died in late 2003.

After college, McKenzie left the St. Louis area, but returned about eight years ago to be closer to her aging parents. After she divorced, McKenzie moved in with her parents, who later moved to a retirement community. McKenzie stayed in the home and, with a younger brother, she remodeled the house to get it ready for sale. After updating the floors, windows and kitchen, McKenzie, who was working for the Kirkwood Chamber of Commerce at the time, decided to buy the house from her father. She paid $170,000 in March 2004, financed by a conventional loan with monthly payments of just over $900.

“It was a stretch — I wasn’t saving money or taking vacations,” McKenzie said. “But I knew the house would appreciate in value. This was the first home I ever owned. I was divorced and buying a house and doing this all on my own.”

Eighteen months later, McKenzie refinanced into the adjustable rate mortgage, a decision that would eventually lead to foreclosure.

After tea, McKenzie looked across the street to “her” home and surveyed the lawn that neighbors said hadn’t been mowed since she moved. The grass was tall and tree branches were scattered about the roof, left from a previous storm. The front door had a new lock, and a note:

No Trespassing

Acts of trespass, vandalism, and/or theft will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. In case of emergency, or to report a trespass or vandalism, call Mid America Property Partners.

McKenzie went next door to say hello to her neighbors.

“I didn’t know that,” said a surprised Matt Stowe, as McKenzie explained why she had moved. “I’m so sorry to hear that happened.”

McKenzie’s foreclosure also came as a surprise to neighbor David Modray. “I thought she just moved out,” he said.

They talked for more than an hour, neighbors sitting together on the front steps of Stowe’s home. They listened as McKenzie told her story and expressed concern over the now bank-owned property next door.

“I was afraid to tell everyone about the foreclosure,” McKenzie told them, near tears. “I thought, ‘They’re going to think I’m a deadbeat.’ “

On July 21, the week after McKenzie’s visit, neighbors say workers arrived at 1043 Barry Court to mow the lawn, spruce up the interior and post a For Sale sign in the front yard. The McKenzie family home is now one of 3.9 million unsold single-family homes in the U.S. — nearly a year’s worth of inventory, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Article source: http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/anatomy-foreclosure-sale-house-full-memories-part-1