Unaffordable monthly mortgage payment? Maybe Keep Your Home California can help

Affordable mortgage payments are a big-time concern for many homeowners in California, especially for families whose income has declined in recent years.

Keep Your Home California – the free mortgage assistance program — recently changed its Principal Reduction Program in order to help more low- and moderate-income homeowners struggling with their mortgage payments. Homeowners who have an unaffordable first mortgage payment may qualify for up to $100,000 in assistance.

The state-run program’s goal is to help homeowners attain an affordable mortgage payment, before they fall behind on their payments.

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Keep Your Home California will assist homeowners who have suffered a financial hardship – such as a loss of income, divorce, death or extraordinary medical bills — and help solve their mortgage troubles.

The change allows homeowners with a hardship and unaffordable monthly mortgage payments — greater than 38% of the homeowner’s household gross income — to qualify for assistance to reduce their principal balance. The principal reductions will often lead to savings of hundreds of dollars each month on homeowners’ mortgage payments.

It’s a big change for the program, which previously required homeowners to owe more on their mortgage than the value of their home, often referred to as negative equity or an underwater mortgage. Now, homeowners with unaffordable payments can apply and be approved for as much as $100,000 in assistance from Keep Your Home California, even if they have positive equity in their home.

“Despite an improving economy and job market, there are still many homeowners who are struggling every month …” California Housing Finance Agency Executive Director Tia Boatman Patterson said in a recent news release about the changes to the Principal Reduction Program. “Our goal is to help California homeowners prevent avoidable foreclosures.”

CalHFA oversees Keep Your Home California, a federally funded program.

Homeowners approved for the Principal Reduction Program must be able to make their monthly mortgage payments going forward.

Homeowners must also meet program eligibility requirements, including having suffered a financial hardship and county-by-county income requirements (a complete income limit list is available at http://keepyourhomecalifornia.org/income-limits/). Severe negative equity – a loan-to-value ratio of 120% or more – is considered a financial hardship under the Principal Reduction Program.

If you would like more information or want to apply for Keep Your Home California, call 888-954-KEEP (5337) or visit www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org (Spanish speakers should visit http://conservatucasacalifornia.org/). The counseling center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Translators are available, so counseling sessions can be conducted in virtually any language.


Employment Development Department, Keep Your Home California team up to connect with more than 1 million out-of-work Californians about Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program

California’s economy continues to improve, with more than 1.53 million jobs created since the recovery started in early 2010 – and the lowest unemployment rate in more than six years.

Despite the solid job growth, many Californians are still struggling to find work. In fact, there are still 1.32 million Californians looking for work – the equivalent of everyone in San Diego.

And many of those folks are homeowners.

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So, the Employment Development Department and Keep Your Home California developed a joint effort to educate out-of-work homeowners about the free mortgage-assistance program. Keep Your Home California’s Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program offers as much as $3,000 per month for 18 months to homeowners eligible for unemployment benefits.

EDD delivered nearly 1.5 million flyers about Keep Your Home California to jobless residents in the state in 2014. The campaign has been a big help in educating and encouraging homeowners to apply for the state-managed program.

The Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program augments jobless benefits from the EDD. So, homeowners can collect an unemployment check and have their mortgage payments covered – up to $3,000 per month – for up to 18 months.

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The Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program allows out-of-work homeowners to concentrate on their job search, rather than worry about their monthly mortgage payment. The program has already helped more than 34,000 homeowners across the state.

To qualify, homeowners must meet county-by-county income requirements, and their mortgage servicer must participate in Keep Your Home California. All 200-plus mortgage servicers enrolled in Keep Your Home California participate in the Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase and several other large servicers. To check the complete list of mortgage servicers enrolled in Keep Your Home California, visit: http://keepyourhomecalifornia.org/participating-servicers/.

If you would like more information or want to apply for Keep Your Home California, call 888-954-KEEP (5337) or visit www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org (Spanish speakers should visit http://conservatucasacalifornia.org/). The counseling center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Translators are available, so counseling sessions can be conducted in virtually any language.


Keep Your Home California establishes new program to help seniors with reverse mortgages

Hard-hit seniors behind on their reverse mortgage-related payments, including property taxes and homeowner’s insurance, could get a much-needed helping hand from Keep Your Home California.

The free mortgage-assistance program has announced a new pilot program to help low- and moderate-income senior homeowners 62 years and older who are at risk of losing their home to foreclosure after getting behind on their reverse mortgage-related payments.

The Reverse Mortgage Assistance Pilot Program, announced in mid-February, will help homeowners with Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured reverse mortgages to qualify for as much as $25,000 in assistance. Homeowners must have an FHA Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) in order to be eligible for the program.

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Along with the financial assistance, homeowners will receive budget counseling and may receive up to 12 months of additional assistance for future property expenses to ensure homeowners get back on their feet.

Senior homeowners must meet the program’s county-by-county income limits and have endured a financial hardship – a cut in pay, a job loss, a divorce, death in the family, or extraordinary medical bills – in order to qualify for help.

Homeowners must also live in the home with the reverse mortgage and be able to make the property expenses going forward.

Thousands of senior homeowners have used the FHA HECM product, and many have experienced a change in their financial situation beyond their control. Many of these senior homeowners with reverse mortgages are in the Central Valley, the Chico/Redding region of Northern California and the High Desert of Southern California.

Homeowners seeking assistance should contact their reverse mortgage servicer to begin the application process for the Reverse Mortgage Assistance Pilot Program. Currently, six servicers are participating in the pilot program – Champion, Financial Freedom, James B. Nutter, Reverse Mortgage Solutions (RMS), SunWest and Wells Fargo.

These six companies handle a large majority of the FHA HECM reverse mortgages in California.

Keep Your Home California has set aside $25 million for the Reverse Mortgage Assistance Pilot Program, enough funds to help about 1,400 homeowners.

If you would like more information about the program, please call Keep Your Home California at 888-954-KEEP (5337) or visit www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org (those more comfortable speaking Spanish should visit http://conservatucasacalifornia.org/ ). The counseling center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Translators are available, so counseling sessions can be conducted in virtually any language.

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


Keep Your Home California website answers some tax-related questions, but encourages homeowners to seek tax professionals before filing their returns

It happens this time every year.

The commercials begin, the documents and statements arrive in the mail, and the clock seems to tick just a little faster.

Welcome to tax season.

tax timeIt’s also when we get quite a few calls and emails from homeowners who have been helped by Keep Your Home California. Now, we know a lot about our free mortgage-assistance program and many other mortgage-related topics, but when it comes to personal income taxes …

Well, we must let the professionals handle tax questions.

However, the Keep Your Home California website’s Frequently Asked Questions page addresses several of the most-asked questions from homeowners:

  • I didn’t receive or I lost my 1098-MA statement from Keep Your Home California, can I get another one?
  • I prepare my own taxes each year. Where can I obtain information on the 1098-MA statement?
  • Does the 1098-MA replace the 1098 tax document that I get from my mortgage servicer?

And, of course, the most frequent question that raises concern among homeowners: Do I have to pay taxes on the benefits assistance received from Keep Your Home California?

We’re sorry, but our program cannot provide tax advice and strongly urges homeowners to consult a tax professional regarding this and any other tax-related questions. Additional information is also available from the Internal Revenue Service.

Now, if you would like more information or want to apply for Keep Your Home California, call 888-954-KEEP (5337) or visit www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org (those more comfortable speaking Spanish should visit http://conservatucasacalifornia.org/ ). The counseling center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Translators are available, so counseling sessions can be conducted in virtually any language.

Image courtesy of hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 


Keep Your Home California’s record-setting year is the latest evidence detailing the continued need for the free mortgage-assistance program

Facts and figures are the foundation for Keep Your Home California, from funding issued to the number of mortgage servicers participating in the program.

And the free mortgage-assistance program had another record year in 2014, with a record $340.3 million approved to help homeowners, about $33 million more than in 2013. In fact, about 38% of the dollars issued overall for the program were in 2014.

Three of the four programs had a boost in funding issued to homeowners last year, led by $160.4 million for the Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program.

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Under the program, out-of-work homeowners eligible for jobless benefits from the state Employment Development Department can receive as much as $3,000 per month for up to 18 months. The Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program, which issued $152 million in 2013, was recently expanded from 12 months to 18 months.

The Principal Reduction Program accounted for $136 million in funding provided to homeowners last year, a healthy gain from the $125.6 million in 2013. The program offers a maximum of $100,000 to homeowners with underwater mortgages.

Together, the Principal Reduction and Unemployment Mortgage Assistance programs combined for 87% of the funding issued by Keep Your Home California in 2014.

Both programs address big challenges still facing homeowners in the state – a difficult job market for the 1.34 million Californians looking for work, and the 1 in 10 homeowners with mortgages who owe more than the value of their home.

They also provide the most assistance available for homeowners — $100,000 with the Principal Reduction Program and $54,000 under the Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program.

The Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance Program – the third-largest program in terms of assistance available to homeowners — experienced the greatest increase of funding provided on a percentage basis at almost 52%; from $28.3 million in 2013 to $42.9 million last year.

The Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance Program offers as much as $25,000 to help homeowners “catch-up” on their past-due mortgage payments. Of course, homeowners approved for the program must be able to make their mortgage payments going forward.

Finally, the Transition Assistance Program had a slight decline in the number of homeowners approved and funding issued last year compared to 2013. The program helped 321 homeowners with a total of $1.02 million last year, about 45 fewer homeowners than 2013. The Transition Assistance Program offers as much as $5,000 to help homeowners who have an approved deed-in-lieu of foreclosure or short sale in order to relocate to a new housing situation.

In order to qualify for any of the Keep Your Home California programs, homeowners must meet eligibility requirements, including having suffered a financial hardship – such as a job loss, cut in pay, a divorce, death or extraordinary medical benefits. It should be noted that homeowners with a loan-to-value ratio of 120% or greater could meet the qualified hardship requirement under the Principal Reduction Program.

Also, homeowners must meet county-by-county income requirements, and their mortgage servicer must participate in Keep Your Home California. Currently, more than 200 servicers are enrolled in the program, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase and several other large servicers.

Keep Your Home California added 46 mortgage servicers in 2014, a dramatic increase from the nine enrolled when the federally fund program started in February 2011. To check the complete current list of mortgage servicers enrolled in the program, visit http://keepyourhomecalifornia.org/participating-servicers/.

If you would like more information or want to apply for Keep Your Home California, call 888-954-KEEP (5337) or visit www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org (those more comfortable speaking Spanish should visit http://conservatucasacalifornia.org/). The counseling center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Translators are available, so counseling sessions can be conducted in virtually any language.


Got questions about Keep Your Home California? We’ve got the answers

You have questions, we have answers.

Lots of answers.

Do Keep Your Home California benefits change my adjustable-rate mortgage to a fixed-rate mortgage? How long does it take for my home to go into foreclosure? Does applying with Keep Your Home California affect my credit score?

FAQThese are just a couple of the dozens of questions answered about the free mortgage-assistance program on the Keep Your Home California website. We recently added more questions – and answers, of course – and updated some previous responses.

Keep Your Home California wants to make sure homeowners have as much information as possible before calling the counseling center and making the decision to apply for the program. The FAQs page (listed as Frequent Questions on the homepage) has 85 questions and corresponding answers, covering everything from eligibility to the approval process, and even information about taxes.

It’s all about being helpful, open and transparent with homeowners, who often have many concerns and questions about the program. Please note, the FAQs are also available in Spanish on the ConservaTuCasaCalifornia.org website

Of course, the most often asked questions center on eligibility, from who is able to apply, the approval process and requirements. The questions are answered in the FAQs, and many are addressed in a six-minute video on the website.

In short, homeowners must meet program eligibility requirements, including having suffered a financial hardship – such as a job loss, cut in pay, a divorce, death or extraordinary medical benefits. Homeowners with a loan-to-value ratio of 120% or greater could meet the qualified hardship requirement under the Principal Reduction Program.

Homeowners must also meet county-by-county income requirements, and their mortgage servicer must participate in Keep Your Home California.

Currently, more than 200 servicers are enrolled in the program, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase and several other large servicers. You can check a complete list of mortgage servicers enrolled in the program at http://keepyourhomecalifornia.org/participating-servicers/.

If you would like more information or want to apply for Keep Your Home California, call 888-954-KEEP (5337) or visit www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org (those more comfortable speaking Spanish should visit http://conservatucasacalifornia.org/). The counseling center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Translators are available, so counseling sessions can be conducted in virtually any language.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


Keep Your Home California expands Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program to 18 months

California’s economy continues to improve, with a declining jobless rate thanks to some fast-paced hiring in several industries, especially by high-tech firms in the Bay Area.

But for many Californians, finding a job remains a long, difficult struggle.

In an effort to help homeowners who are unemployed long-term, Keep Your Home California has expanded its Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program from 12 months to 18 months.

Under the change, out-of work homeowners eligible for jobless benefits from the Employment Development Department can receive as much as $3,000 per month for a maximum of 18 months – or a total of $54,000. Previously, the limit was $36,000.

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The Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program – easily the most utilized Keep Your Home California program – is designed to help financially strapped homeowners with their mortgage payments while they look for work.

Homeowners currently enrolled in the Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program can have their eligibility extended to 18 months, while those who were previously part of the program may also be eligible for additional benefits if they still meet requirements. Homeowners are encouraged to contact Keep Your Home California for more information at 888-954-5337.

Keep Your Home California officials carefully considered the decision to expand the free mortgage-assistance program and after reviewing numerous data, there was clear evidence to prompt the move.

For example, there were 1.35 million people in the state unemployed in October, the equivalent of everyone in San Diego, according to the EDD. And more than one of every three of those unemployed people has been without work for at least 27 weeks, considered long-term unemployment.

Eight of the state’s 58 counties – and their residents – are still enduring double-digit jobless rates, including almost 24 percent in Imperial County. And 33 counties have an unemployment rate above the statewide average of 7.3 percent.

Certainly, California’s economy has made some serious gains following the Great Recession, but clearly more job-growth is necessary, especially in the hardest-hit areas of the state such as the Inland Empire and the San Joaquin Valley.

The expansion of the Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program will help homeowners and the communities where they live.

The Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program is one of four programs through Keep Your Home California:

  • Principal Reduction Program: Homeowners who owe more than their home is worth can cut their mortgage principal as much as $100,000 while saving hundreds of dollars every month. Homeowners approved for the program enjoyed an average savings of almost 20 percent on their monthly payments, from $1,523 to $1,229 during the third quarter.
  • Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance Program: Homeowners who are behind two months or more on their payments could receive as much as $25,000 to help them “catch up” on their past-due mortgage payments. Homeowners must have recovered from their financial hardship and be able to make their mortgage payments going forward in order to be eligible for the program.
  • Transition Assistance Program: Homeowners who have reached an agreement for a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure or short sale with their mortgage servicer could receive up to $5,000 in relocation assistance.

In order to qualify for Keep Your Home California, homeowners must meet program eligibility requirements, including having suffered a financial hardship – such as a job loss, cut in pay, a divorce, death or extraordinary medical benefits. Homeowners with a loan-to-value ratio of 120% or greater could meet the qualified hardship requirement under the Principal Reduction Program.

Also, homeowners must meet county-by-county income requirements, and their mortgage servicer must participate in Keep Your Home California. Currently, more than 200 servicers are enrolled in the program, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase and several other large servicers. To check the complete list of mortgage servicers enrolled in the program, visit http://keepyourhomecalifornia.org/participating-servicers/.

If you would like more information or want to apply for Keep Your Home California, call 888-954-KEEP (5337) or visit www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org (those more comfortable speaking Spanish should visit http://conservatucasacalifornia.org/). The counseling center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Translators are available, so counseling sessions can be conducted in virtually any language.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


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