Community Development Program provides mortgage foreclosure counseling

Morris Autry
June 22, 2009

In the last six months, the ECSU Community Development Program at Elizabeth City State University has provided a variety of counseling services to area residents. Demand for the primary service, first-time homebuyer''s counseling services, has decreased. The troubled economy led to an increase in the number of residents who need counseling for defaulted mortgages. Other residents turn to the Community Development Program to learn how to prevent foreclosure.

According to Morris Autry, director of the ECSU Community Development Program, the most common causes for foreclosure are job losses, illnesses, and increased mortgage payments. Unfortunately, those increases resulted from rising adjustable interest rates, late fees and other penalties. Autry said residents of the Albemarle have experienced many of the same misfortunes as homeowners across the nation.

Too many people, Autry said, go into foreclosure without ever talking to their lender or a housing counselor. Borrowers who can''t make the mortgage payments should call their lenders or a counselor as soon as possible. The sooner you seek help, the more options you will have available to address your situation.

Linda Barrett, certified housing counselor with the ECSU Community Development Program, says most lenders are willing to work with customers who have delinquent mortgages. She encourages her clients to be honest with her and the lender about their financial situation.

"It becomes very difficult for me to advocate on behalf of my client when I find out they have not told me the whole story or have provided me with misleading information," Barrett said.

The ECSU Community Development Program is a Department of Housing and Urban Development approved housing counseling agency that provides free services. If someone requests an advance fee to assist with alleviating your defaulted mortgage, you might be dealing with a scam. The Community Development Program staff offers the following advice:

  • Don''t call phone numbers posted on utility poles that suggest, " Get Help Now" or "Fast Cash"
  • Don''t respond to TV ads that are broadcast at 3 or 4 o''clock in the morning that promise a quick solution
  • Beware of anyone who says they can save your home if you sign or transfer the deed to your home
  • Never submit your mortgage payments to anyone other than your mortgage company without their approval

Since January, the ECSU Community Development Program has provided foreclosure prevention counseling for approximately 40 households, with the majority of resolutions focusing upon mortgage refinancing and loan modifications. Mr. Autry and Ms. Barrett admit they can''t guarantee the same outcome for every client because situations vary.

"If you do nothing to resolve the problem, the worst will likely happen," Barrett said.

The ECSU Community Development is located in the K. E. White Graduate and Continuing Education Center. To contact a housing counselor, call 335-3702.