Jefferson County has been hit hard by mortgage crisis
by Dennis Sharkey
Home foreclosures and the mortgage industry meltdown have considerably helped contribute to the nation’s economic downturn and high unemployment. Jefferson County and the state have fared better than some areas of the country but the problem is still evident at home.
In 2009, 116 foreclosures were filed in the Jefferson County Circuit Court. In 2007 and 2008, 99 homes were foreclosed on each year. Although the numbers show the trend slowing, as of Sept. 30 there were still 67 homes that had foreclosures filed on them.
Local mortgage company owner and attorney Donna Huffman has a unique perspective when looking at the issue and told the Independent that those on the brink of foreclosure may want to seek legal help in light of the recent scandals that have been uncovered with some of the nations biggest banks.
“I don’t think the average person understands that they have rights,” she said. “I’m not saying people shouldn’t be foreclosed on, but when a home can be saved, I think there should be a defense.”
Many programs like loan modifications were put in place to help struggling homeowners, however, they are reaching very few people. Huffman said many times the qualifications are set at benchmarks most homeowners cannot reach or the banks put up hurdles while they claim they are trying to help.
“They’re not processing modifications because it’s not in their best interest,” she said. “If they wanted the process to work they would get it done. It leads me to believe they don’t want the process there.”
Huffman said she has seen cases where banks just string homeowners along for months at a time. In some cases the banks tell the homeowner they are working on a modification when in reality they are trying to push through a foreclosure.
“It’s unreasonable to believe that it takes 10 months to process (a modification),” she said. “It just amazes me how they can be run through a mill,” she said.
One solution to help fix the problem would be to take the incentive for banks to foreclose on a property away. In some cases it is not to the advantage of the bank to own a foreclosed property. However, Huffman said when there’s an opportunity to profit from a foreclosure a bank may not have the homeowner’s best interest at heart. Huffman said equity surplus in a home should be returned to the homeowner.
Huffman urged homeowners to contact an attorney if they have questions as soon as possible.
“What we don’t have is time,” she said.
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