Homeowning 101: Lessons to Stay Afloat from NeighborWorks Waco

On behalf of all the housing counselors in the NeighborWorks® America network, it is my honor and great privilege to have been nominated and to have received the White House’s Champions of Change award.  Thousands of housing counselors across the nation commit numerous hours on a weekly basis to assist families facing foreclosure. I am truly humbled to be the one to represent the NeighborWorks® America network, my employer, NeighborWorks® Waco, and the Greater Waco area, as we strive to keep the American Dream alive by helping families avoid foreclosure.

As foreclosure numbers continue to rise, so do the number of homeowners being victimized by loan scam artists. It's a problem that continues to grow not only in Texas, but also nationwide. Therefore, it is extremely important for homeowners to contact their lender and a HUD approved counseling agency prior to becoming delinquent or immediately thereafter to avoid foreclosure or falling prey to a scam artist.

In November 2010, NeighborWorks® Waco launched an educational campaign in the Central Texas area to let homeowners know who the trusted sources were and what to watch out for when scam artists were trying to trick them, as well as uncovering the various options available to avoid foreclosure. It is important to note that most lenders will encourage you to contact a HUD approved counseling agency to receive credit counseling, but beware of foreclosure scams. Contacting the lender to prevent foreclosure can be very intimidating especially if the homeowner has never been delinquent or had the need for foreclosure intervention counseling. However, seeking the guidance of a housing counselor provides assurance that there is a trained professional and HUD certified counselor advocating on your behalf.

Several years ago, a disabled veteran, who had become delinquent on his mortgage, came into my office after hearing about NeighborWorks® Waco.  Initially, he had sought assistance with a loan modification from a company he had found on the internet. The loan modification firm advertised a 100 percent performance-based, money-back guarantee. In exchange for a fee of $2,250, the company promised to handle all the paperwork and presentation to the lender. Unfortunately, it was all a scam for this disabled veteran. Although NeighborWorks® Waco was unable to help recover the funds he had paid the shady loan-modification operation, our organization assisted him in getting approved for a loan modification with his lender. His advice to others was to do your research to make sure you're working with a legitimate HUD approved agency. In an interview he stated, “Without NeighborWorks® Waco helping us, there's no telling where we'd be, probably be living out under a tree in a tent somewhere, you know, I don't know."

Therefore, it is very important for you to keep in touch with your lender and a HUD approved counselor, especially if there are any changes in your finances or if you feel that you may become delinquent on your mortgage. Upon contacting a HUD approved counseling agency, the counselor will help you complete the modification packet and forward it to the lender. Completing the packet correctly is very important, especially the budget, because it will determine the type of modification you may receive if your packet is approved. Once a complete packet is confirmed by the lender, it is then reviewed. This process may take anywhere from 30 to 90 days and sometimes even longer before a final decision is made on the application. Always remember to call your lender to get an update and always ask them if there are any documents that they need updated. Communication and constant follow-up with your lender are essential in solidifying a loan modification.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to counsel with hundreds of families facing foreclosure and every situation and story has been different. I admit foreclosure counseling is not for everyone. You must have a heart-felt passion and commitment to helping families. I recall numerous counseling sessions filled with disappointment, tears, pain, and frustration as a family faced foreclosure. However, I’m grateful for the times those tears of sadness were turned into tears of joy after being approved for a loan modification.  Honestly, words can’t express the satisfaction I receive each day in serving as a housing counselor at NeighborWorks® Waco and helping families in my community.

Foreclosure is a difficult and unpleasant experience, but if you don’t ask for help, you may lose your home in a foreclosure sale. So if your mortgage is late, don’t wait, call your lender and a HUD approved counseling agency today.

Ruben Andrade Jr. currently serves as the bilingual Home Ownership Specialist at NeighborWorks® Waco. He is dedicated to providing superior pre-purchase counselling and education for future homeowners, as well as working extensively with existing homeowners facing foreclosure.

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