TRENTON, N.J. - Are you having trouble keeping up with your mortgage payments? Have you received a notice from your lender asking you to contact them? The number of homeowners affected by the housing crisis continues to rise nationwide, with filings up nearly 50 percent, according to foreclosure listing company RealtyTrac, and many families in Mercer County could be at risk too.
Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes has arranged free information sessions to help Mercer County families assess whether they are at risk, and guide them toward possible solutions.
This month, RealtyTrac research firm assessed that one out of 467 New Jersey properties was in some stage of foreclosure as of May 2008. "Families struggling to avoid foreclosure must take the first step and reach out for help," Hughes said. "And Mercer County is making that help available. I strongly urge anyone at risk, especially people who have adjustable rate mortgages, known as ARMs, -- and even those who are unsure whether they are at risk -- to attend one of our workshops."
The workshops, to be held Thursday, June 26 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Hamilton Library, and Monday, July 21, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Lawrence Headquarters Branch of Mercer County Library, will offer free of charge services and advice from professionals from certified housing counseling organizations with proven track records of helping homeowners secure loan modifications and other foreclosure alternatives; lenders who can discuss alternatives to foreclosure; and others.
"Believe me, we have your very best interest in mind," Hughes said. "There is absolutely no shame in needing help during these difficult economic times, and there is no shame in not being fully aware of the parameters of your mortgage. Indeed, we've seen many mortgages granted under clever schemes that even the savviest homeowner would have difficulty interpreting."
Many unscrupulous "counselors" take advantage of homeowners who are under stress and homeowners have reported that the supposed remedies they've been offered have actually made matters worse. The first step for a homeowner who fears foreclosure, said Hughes, is to walk through the workshop door and ask for assistance.
What people may not realize is that their economic condition in many cases is no fault of their own. The combination of weak housing sales, falling home values, tighter mortgage lending criteria and a slowing U.S. economy has left financially strapped homeowners with few options to avoid foreclosure. Many can't find buyers or owe more than their home is worth and can't get refinanced into an affordable loan. "Foreclosure can happen to anyone," Hughes said.
At the workshop, homeowners can learn about ways they might achieve affordable loan modifications and refinances so that foreclosure might possibly be avoided. Attendees will hear about budgeting, funds available to help homeowners "catch up," and agencies that might help them resolve delinquent accounts with their mortgage lenders. "This will be a face-to-face meeting with people you can trust," said Hughes, "and I encourage you to attend. Please, don't ignore this problem."
Mercer County also invites members of the faith-based community to attend to hear ways that they may encourage their congregants to reach out for help if they need it and leaders of non-profit and other agencies who may have clients that are in need of assistance.
Hamilton Free Public Library is located at Municipal Drive at Whitehorse-Mercerville Road, Hamilton, and the Lawrence Headquarters Branch is at Brunswick Pike at Darrah Lane, Lawrence. Reservations are not necessary. For information, please call the Mercer County Office of Housing and Community Development at (609) 989-6858.