Help available for those affected by mortgage crisis

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Officials say Clovis isn’t feeling the mortgage crunch that’s squeezing other areas of the country.

However, for those with homes that are in jeopardy, help is available.

Hope Now is a free homeowner counseling service designed to help people look at their options, according to Housing and Urban Development spokeswoman Patricia Campbell.

Also, for the first time, Federal Housing Administration mortgages are being made available as a refinance option to troubled borrowers, she said.

“FHA lenders are required to work with borrowers in trouble. That’s not something that happens in the conventional market, so in many instances we’re able to save loans and borrowers are able to save their home. That’s an important safeguard because some lenders are not that eager to work with the borrower,” she said.

Campbell said borrowers must act quickly, because if they wait until they are going under, it may be too late.

“There are some people who will not be able to avoid (foreclosure), but there certainly is some help out there. (FHA refinance) is a new product that really is an opportunity for people who are behind or they know their (adjustable rate mortgage) is going to readjust this year,” Campbell said.

Judy Trimble, owner of Mortgage Home Investment, said she often sends people who are concerned about their mortgages to FHA lenders.

People call to find out their options because they are moving and can’t sell their home or they see the cost of living rising and want to know their choices if they are struggling to pay the mortgage, she said.

Trimble said she believes the mortgage crisis has missed Clovis because most local lenders did not engage in subprime lending or ARM mortgages in recent years.

Making sure people are qualified and can afford the homes they want to buy without having to rely on additional credit is important, she said.

“We don’t want to set somebody up to fail,” she said.

“I don’t want you stuck in your home and you can’t buy anything because you have to make your house payment.”

Financial Counselor Brenda O’Shea said in the last six months traffic has nearly doubled at the Clovis Consumer Credit Counseling Services branch she manages, but what worries her is that even more people are having trouble and are afraid to seek help because they are embarrassed or just not addressing problems.

Financial strain from rising fuel costs, increased food costs and homes that exceed budgets turn into growing credit card debts and delinquencies, she said.

“Everyone’s getting overextended on the credit cards and they’re getting to where they can’t afford the minimum payments anymore because everything is going up,” she said.

O’Shea said people who never thought their stability would be in question, find they are having problems.

“Even someone a year ago that thought they would never have been in a predicament like this are having problems,” she said.

“There are those who have said, ‘I should have come a year ago but I was embarrassed.’”

Court records show as of May 20 there were 151 home foreclosures in Curry County over the previous 12-month period.

On the Web:

Hope Now on the web: or phone: 1 (888) 995-HOPE