Keep Your Home California expands Reverse Mortgage Assistance Pilot Program

Change can be good, especially when it involves coming to the aid of a struggling homeowner.

Keep Your Home California has expanded its Reverse Mortgage Assistance Pilot Program, allowing more senior homeowners at risk of foreclosure because of past-due property expenses to qualify for as much as $25,000 in assistance.

The pilot program is now available to low and moderate income senior homeowners who have proprietary reverse mortgages. Previously, only homeowners with a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) were eligible for program consideration. .

Keep Your Home California also recently streamlined the counseling process, allowing homeowners to receive the mortgage assistance much faster.

The pilot program, which started in early 2015, was established to help homeowners 62 years or older who are at risk of losing their home to foreclosure after getting behind on their reverse mortgage property-related expenses.

“The taxes are so high, and they go up every year. I just didn’t have enough income.” Verna H.

Although homeowners receive income from reverse mortgages, they are still responsible for property-related expenses, including property taxes and homeowners insurance. And fast-rising home prices have a financial effect on senior homeowners with reverse mortgages, especially those who live on fixed incomes.

“The taxes are so high, and they go up every year,” says Verna H., who bought her home in Southern California in 2005 and received a reverse mortgage on the property two years later. “I just didn’t have enough income.”

It’s an all-too common concern for senior homeowners. But Keep Your Home California’s reverse mortgage assistance program definitely helps.

“It saved our lives,” says Joanne H., a homeowner with a reverse mortgage in Central California who has benefited from Keep Your Home California.  “The weight it took off … you just don’t know. We were going to lose our home.”

Keep Your Home California’s Reverse Mortgage Assistance Pilot Program has helped Verna, Joanne and many other seniors avoid foreclosure and get back on solid financial ground.

“It was a real lifesaver to me,” says Jeanette M., who moved into her Southern California home in 1999 and received a reverse mortgage several years ago. After her husband passed away, her already tight budget became even more difficult. “It was not a pretty picture. We were way in the hole.”

The details about the program

Special counseling from a HUD approved nonprofit agency allows seniors to assess their financial situation and helps them manage their delinquent property-related expenses. In addition to reinstating qualifying homeowners’ past-due expenses, the Reverse Mortgage Assistance Pilot Program can also provide up to 12 months of additional assistance for future expenses, in order to help get homeowners back on their feet. Senior homeowners must meet county-by-county income limits and be able to document an eligible financial hardship such as — loss of income, a divorce, a death in the family or extraordinary medical expenses – in order to qualify for the free mortgage-assistance program.

Homeowners must also live in the home with the reverse mortgage and demonstrate their ability to make the property expenses going forward.

“People are scared because they don’t think the program can help, but it’s not that way,” says program recipient Jennie M., who lives in Central California. “It’s a positive step that can help you.”

Homeowners seeking assistance should contact their reverse mortgage servicer to begin the application process for the reverse mortgage program. Fifteen mortgage servicers participate in the program: American Advisors Group; Celink; Champion; Financial Freedom; James B. Nutter; Liberty Home Equity Solutions in Michigan and Texas; Live Well Financial Inc.; Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC; Plaza Home Mortgage Inc.; Reverse Mortgage Funding (RMF); Reverse Mortgage Solutions (RMS); SunWest; Urban Financial of America and Wells Fargo.

Keep Your Home California has set aside about $10 million for the program, enough to help about 830 seniors. The average senior homeowner will receive about $13,000. As of December 31, 2016, 537 homeowners received $6.7 million in assistance through the program.

If you would like more information about the Reverse Mortgage Assistance Pilot Program, please visit www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org. Homeowners more comfortable with Spanish should visit www.ConservaTuCasaCalifornia.org.

 

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Foreclosure crisis profiteers (Part 2): Seeing through the camouflage

In our previous post, we discussed the rise of the “Foreclosure Rescue Scam” in California. We fittingly described the scammers as predators and, like most predators, the scammer looks for the most vulnerable and helpless of prey.

In this case, they are seeking homeowners who, facing the frightening possibility of foreclosure, are desperately grasping for any possibility of regaining their financial footing and saving their home. The scammer hopes that fatigue and fear will cause the homeowner to drop their guard, to cling to false promises, and to surrender both their hope and what little money they may be able to scrape together.

fraud

The challenge is that the scammer is camouflaged and really hard to spot. He looks legitimate, sounds confident and says all of the right things. But, upon closer examination, the scammer can be identified for what he really is — a fraud.

Look for these warning signs of a scam:

  • Promises of guaranteed results. The scammer will say that he has done this hundreds of times, that he has relationships with loan servicers and that he knows exactly how to work the system in order to stop every foreclosure and save every home. No legitimate foreclosure prevention program will make these types of unconditional claims.

 

  • Instructions that isolate the homeowner. The scammer doesn’t want a homeowner talking to their loan servicer, to a certified housing counselor, to an attorney or to a real program such as Keep Your Home California. Their scam depends upon their ability to make a homeowner believe that their only hope begins and ends with the Scammer.

 

  • Advice that includes not making, or diverting, mortgage payments. The scammer wants money. It is to his advantage to convince a homeowner that they should not send money to their loan servicer. While not a common practice, the scammer will sometimes convince a homeowner that, in addition to fees, they should also send their mortgage payments to the scammer to be held in trust until their modification is complete.

 

  • Asking for upfront fees or a payment plan. The scammer will insist that the homeowner immediately begin paying his fees and he will try to get as much as possible in the first payment. Fees can range from several hundred to, more often, several thousands of dollars. The “sweet spot” in California seems to be fees of about $3,000, but we’ve seen people taken for well over $10,000. The scammer is an opportunist and he will take as much as he can get and he is willing to set-up a payment plan if that means draining even more of the homeowner’s scarce resources.

 

  • Any scheme that involves transferring title to a home. Some of the more elaborate scams involve transferring all, or part, of a homeowner’s interest in their property. It seems illogical to think that someone would transfer title to their home in order to save it, but it happens often. The scammer will describe a complicated scheme that may involve the homeowner leasing their own home and earning their title back over time. Once title has transferred, these scams are very difficult, and expensive, to undo and likely will require the help of an attorney.

If you believe that you have been the victim of a foreclosure rescue scam, the following Government agencies offer the opportunity to file a complaint:

If you suspect fraud or misrepresentation related to Keep Your Home California, please contact our Compliance Unit at complianceunit@kyhca.org.

In our next installment, we will discuss some simple steps you can take to verify the legitimacy of anyone who approaches you offering help with foreclosure prevention.

 


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.

KYHC-EDD flyers

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.

EDD-Logo-2[1]

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.


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.

KYHC Home Loan photo

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.


Some helpful tips to make the Keep Your Home California application process much easier

Keep Your Home California receives about 1,500 calls daily from financially struggling homeowners.

Each homeowner, from the empty-nesters in Eureka to the newlywed couple in Norco, has a financial hardship and a one-of-a-kind story. Sure, some of the details may be similar – such as a job loss, cut in pay, divorce or extraordinary medical bills – but none are the same.

As a result, applying for the mortgage-assistance program is far from a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all effort and requires communication, details, some documents – and, yes, even patience.

KYHC homepage

We want to share a few helpful tips that will make the application faster and improve the overall experience.

Before calling the counseling center, homeowners should check the list of mortgage servicers – the company that collects the monthly payment – participating in Keep Your Home California. More than 200 mortgage servicers, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase, are enrolled in the program. If your mortgage servicer is not on the list, then unfortunately you are not eligible for the program.

Homeowners should also visit the Keep Your Home California homepage and complete the short online questionnaire, which can help determine their eligibility – and the program that best fits their situation. Keep Your Home California is made up of four programs each designed to address different situations that face homeowners who may be at risk of foreclosure:

  • Principal Reduction Program: Homeowners with negative equity could qualify for a maximum of $100,000 in principal reduction, which will also often cut their monthly mortgage payments. A mortgage with a loan-to-value ratio of 120% or greater is considered an eligible financial hardship for the program. Homeowners must also be able to make their mortgage payments going forward in order to be eligible for the program.
  • Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program: Out-of-work homeowners collecting jobless benefits from the state Employment Development Department can receive as much as $3,000 per month in mortgage assistance for up to 18 months.
  • 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. To be eligible for the program, homeowners must have recovered from their financial hardship and be able to make their mortgage payments going forward.
  • Transition Assistance Program: Homeowners who have reached an agreement with their mortgage servicer for a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure or a short sale could receive up to $5,000 in relocation assistance.

If your mortgage servicer is enrolled in the program and you’ve completed the online eligibility form with positive results, call the counseling center as soon as possible and learn more about Keep Your Home California.

Call the counseling center at 888-954-KEEP (5337) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Counselors are available in English and Spanish, and translators are available for free in virtually any language.

When you call, please be aware that applicants must complete a private counseling session, which takes about 45 minutes. All folks listed on the mortgage – such as a husband and wife – must be on the phone at the same time.

We strongly suggest you have a pad of paper and pen available during this counseling session, along with your mortgage loan number and most recent mortgage statement. Also, have your most recent wage or income information ready.

You should also be prepared to discuss your financial hardship – as mentioned above, a job loss, cut in pay, divorce, death in the family, extraordinary medical bills – a requirement for Keep Your Home California.

If you appear to be a good candidate for the program at the conclusion of the counseling session, you will be asked to fax or mail some documents to the center for review by Keep Your Home California and your mortgage servicer. Be prepared to send in proof of income – a W-2 or 1099 statement – bank statements, the mortgage payment statement and possibly additional documents.

Homeowners should send the documents as soon as possible to expedite the review process. Also, homeowners should return calls immediately when contacted by Keep Your Home California.

The review process can take 30 to 45 days and often longer for the Principal Reduction Program. The faster a homeowner can send in the documents and respond to questions, the quicker the review process – and the sooner for approval for the program.

Of course, not everyone who applies is approved for the program. But by following the advice above, you will improve your chances – and reduce the wait.


Keep Your Home California can help homeowners who received HAMP modifications lower their monthly mortgage payments

More than 300,000 homeowners in California have benefited from a federal program that lowers their interest rates – and their monthly mortgage payments.

The federal government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) has been a much-appreciated and greatly needed program for homeowners struggling with their mortgage payments. Almost 325,000 homeowners in California have been approved for permanent loan modifications under HAMP, saving an average of $720 per month – and allowing many of them to remain in their homes.

HAMP logo

However, after five years at a rate as low as 2%, most homeowners in HAMP Tier 1 modifications will experience an interest rate increase, up to 1% per year until their rate adjusts to the market rate at the time of their modification.

For California homeowners, the median interest rate after adjustment will be 4.5% – well below their interest rate before modification. The final rate step-up will result in homeowners paying a median of $317 more per month.

For some homeowners, even a slight payment increase could make it difficult to meet their monthly mortgage obligation. If homeowners find themselves in this situation, Keep Your Home California may be able to help.

Keep Your Home California’s Principal Reduction Program offers as much as $100,000 to reduce the outstanding principal balance, which can save homeowners hundreds of dollars every month on their mortgages. Homeowners must be able to demonstrate a financial hardship in order to qualify for assistance through the program. An increase in a homeowner’s monthly mortgage payment that causes the payment to be unaffordable is a qualifying hardship.

The average homeowner approved for the Principal Reduction Program had their mortgage payment reduced by $269 per month during the second-quarter of 2014. And their average loan-to-value ratio fell from 146% to 112% during the second quarter.

So, homeowners approved for the state-managed program can benefit with lower monthly payments – and be much closer to right-side-up on their mortgage.

To qualify, 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.