Experts give advice on foreclosure help

March 19, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

Have you lost your job and are facing foreclosure on your home mortgage?

Confused about how you will pay all of your bills?

A panel of experts Wednesday night at the Washington County Free Library encouraged people not to delay in getting help.

And there is free assistance, said panel members, who agreed to appear at the library to offer the public help in dealing with foreclosure.

People facing foreclosure should find out who holds their loan, which could be different from the company that services the loan, panel speakers said.

If the entity holding the loan is Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac - federal mortgage programs - the homeowner is entitled to help including reduced loan payments or stretching out the length of the loan, said Barb Spielman, a housing adviser with the Hagerstown Home Store.


The Hagerstown Home Store is a HUD-certified entity that provides housing counseling to the public.

Spielman said people who have Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loans are entitled to financial assistance because of President Obama's Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, which seeks to help up to 9 million families restructure or refinance their mortgages to avoid foreclosure. About $75 million was invested in the plan.

People also have more time to deal with foreclosure, said attorney Russ Robinson, another panel speaker.

Lenders used to be able to start foreclosure proceedings immediately when someone defaulted on their mortgage, Robinson said. But because of a law passed recently in the Maryland General Assembly, lenders must wait 90 days before starting foreclosure after a default, Robinson and Spielman said.

Panelists also warned the public about being taken advantage of in the tough times.

There are people offering to work out deals between people and their lenders, sometimes charging the homeowner about $1,900 to work out an agreement to help someone facing an economic crunch, Spielman said.

There are organizations, such as the Hagerstown Home Store, that can offer housing counseling to people free, Spielman said.

"It's important that we all do our homework," said Maryland Cooperative Extension Service agent Lynn Little, another panelist.

Need help?

Facing foreclosure? There are groups that offer free financial counseling, including:

  • Hagerstown Home Store, 21 E. Franklin St., Hagerstown, 301-797-0900.
  • Community Action Council, Inc., 101 Summit Ave., Hagerstown, 301-797-4161.

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