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.
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.
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.