Free help for owners facing foreclosure

Authorized counseling agencies offer bilingual assistance

Free help for owners facing foreclosure

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Marta Lemus of San Ysidro is on the verge of losing her house of six years to her bank.

Or maybe not.

The 58-year-old and her husband had difficulty paying their monthly mortgage after she lost her job at a frozen food factory in 2009. On top of that their monthly payments began to rise because they had an adjustable rate mortgage.

Their bank turned down their application for a loan modification, which would have lowered their monthly payments, but the couple is not giving up. Not as long as they are receiving free housing counseling from a trusted source.

The couple is receiving help from Springboard, one of the several federally approved housing counseling agencies in the San Diego area. There is no guarantee that they will be able to hold on to their house but the counseling agency is helping them weigh their options and their counselors speak Spanish.

Millions of Americans have been hit by the foreclosure crisis. A Wall Street Journal investigation two years ago showed there was evidence that Latinos had been hard hit by foreclosures. Areas with high percentage of Latino residents in the county had higher foreclosure rates than others, according to the report.

Latinos may have been disproportionately affected because many were first-time homeowners who got involved with risky loans.

Housing counselors advise homeowners to avoid foreclosure however possible.

Not only do homeowners lose their homes, their lender may also seek judgment against them for money they owe or to cover the cost of the foreclosure.

In addition, their credit history is damaged for a long time and can reduce their score by 200 points.

Distressed homeowners are also vulnerable to scams where they are promised assistance to avoid foreclosure for a fee. That is why government officials encourage people facing foreclosure to seek help from federal Housing and Urban Development-approved housing counselors, which is free.

Counselors review finances, explain options, develop action plans and even communicate directly with mortgage companies.

The Housing Opportunities Collaborative is hosting a free housing counseling clinic, called “Options to Save your Home,” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 16, at the San Marcos Community Room, 3 Civic Center Drive, San Marcos; and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at the Alpine Community Center, 1830 Alpine Blvd., Alpine

The City of Chula Vista and Fannie Mae is hosting an appointment-only free workshop for distressed homeowners from10 a.m. to 7 p.m. this Friday, April 15, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 16, at Montevalle Park Community Center, 840 Duncan Road, Chula Vista. To schedule an appointment send an e-mail to: borrower_Outreach@fanniemae.com or call (855) 349-2293.

Leonel.sanchez@sandiegored.com

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