Florida's Mortgage Mess: There Is Hope

Jan 7, 2013

Credit Robert Lyle /WLRN

With hundreds of thousands of homes already foreclosed in Florida--and eight percent of current mortgage holders delinquent--you’d think that thousands of people would be flocking to get help.

Yet when Wells Fargo Bank invited an average of 14,000 of its troubled mortgage holders to four Home Preservations Workshops it held across the state, fewer than 300 showed up each time. 

“People are scared, ” says Barry Zigas, housing policy director for the Consumers Federation of America.

“Put yourself in their shoes," says Zigas. "Your home is in jeopardy, you’re getting pestering letters from your lender, you’re asked to wade through and file a lot of paperwork – sometimes multiple times because the services loose them or can’t figure out where they are. …..And the banks, unfortunately, have not always presented themselves in the most helpful or supportive way and people have become wary of their approaches.”   

Wells Fargo says it was able to get positive results immediately for seven out of every 10 troubled mortgage holders who came to the workshops.

According to the bank’s national outreach manager Robert Silva, some policyholders reject the offer, like the man who turned down a 30 percent payment reduction:

“He made the decision that he’s hoping for a better type of an offer that at this time we’re not able to approve for him,” says Silva.  

All the experts agree. If you need help with your mortgage, talk first to your lender. But also use the non-profit counselors here:

  1. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers a series of online tips and resources to avoid foreclosure.
  2.  The Florida Housing Finance Corporation maintains a calendar of foreclosure counseling events and a list of approved foreclosure avoidance counselors.
  3. There is also a toll free number for HUD. It's 888-995-4673
  4. It is important to only use non-profit counseling services recommended by the HUD or by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.