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How to Lose Your Home: The Cost of Poor Advice When Facing a Foreclosure
NJFRB Website: Free Foreclosure Help New Jersey
In February 2006, Jennifer and Roger Roberson found themselves unable to make their mortgage payments after Roger, a 37 year old father of two, lost his job as a technician for a major high-tech firm in New Jersey.
They received notice from their lender that the foreclosure process was being initiated on their home. Desperate for help, they conducted a brief internet search on how to stop foreclosure. After spotting an advertisement, they hired a “foreclosure specialist” to renegotiate a new payment plan with their lender. Assured that their case would be handled, they quickly handed over all the documents that were requested of them, and took a small sigh of relief.
“He told me everything would be just fine, that I would have no problems getting a new payment plan, especially since we knew Roger was already hired for another position,” said Jennifer.
A few months later, they received notice that their house had been sold at a sheriff’s sale.
The Promise of Peace of Mind
Unfortunately these unsavory bottom feeding real estate operations can be quickly established, and just as quickly disappear. Many of these businesses will use tactics such as:
Promise “no risk” solutions – more of a salesman than a specialist, these people will sell you more on stress relief than an actual solution. Real specialists will walk your through your situation step-by-step, and provide you with what options really do exist, including accepting foreclosure.
Bait and switch – they will advertise a low-cost fee then inflate the fees, or they may charge a flat-fee, only to proceed with foreclosure with or without the customer’s knowledge.
Charge you to buy your home – a “foreclosure specialist” in Virginia charged a homeowner ,500 to purchase their house and rent it back to them.
“Flip” your home – a Colorado attorney was recently cited for reselling his clients foreclosed properties, making as much as ,000 a transaction.
“It’s really a shame,” says J.M., a foreclosure attorney in New Jersey (who wished to remain anonymous). “These people are facing the worst of times, and these predators are sharks looking for nothing more than a quick buck at the expense of their fellow man.”
The “Do it Yourself” Solution
Yes, you can speak to your lender directly to renegotiate a plan. In fact, it’s advised that you keep an open line of communication with them if you do receive a notice of foreclosure. Compiling your personal finances, providing proof of hardship, and stating your intentions on how you will get your finances in order are all important steps.
But “the problem isn’t you,” says J.M., “the problem is who you get on the other end of the phone. Most people who are picking up at the lending company aren’t trained or given the incentive to take you by the hand.”
Finding the person who can say “yes” to you can be extremely difficult. This is where hiring a specialist makes sense.
How to Find a Real Specialist
The answer is not so simple. But like anything else, if it’s too good to be true, chances are it probably is. Things to look for in a specialist are:
References – ask them how many foreclosures they have negotiated, and if they have any references to validate this.
Trade associations – there are legal and lending organizations that provide approved foreclosure specialists
Word of mouth – ask around, nothing beats a trusted reference from a close friend or family.
Take Action & Be Aware
The most important thing for you to do is be aware of your options, and know what to expect from a foreclosure specialist. Grand promises, abnormally low prices, and lack of references are all red flags when searching for an advisor.
About the Author: The New Jersey Foreclosure Resource Base (NJFRB) provides free advice to New Jersey homeowners who are facing foreclosure. They can be found at http://njfrb.njlegalprep.com/.