On a daily basis, we hear heart-wrenching stories from clients going through one of the most difficult periods of their lives—fearing the loss of their home.
Real estate and financial industry analyst RealtyTrac released data on USA foreclosure statistics for 2016 this month. There is definitely some good news in the report, as year-over-year foreclosure rates have been dropping for fifteen months now. But the news is far from all good, as the foreclosure rate continues to increase in across around one quarter of our country.
Let’s take a closer look:
Ethics -- a subject with little true black and white area but a vast gray middle ground. Runner-Up for our scholarship essay contest Brian Kennedy acknowledges the thin line between helping Americans gain the resources they need to buy a new home, and profiteering to a predatory level.
Finance may as well be a foreign language to many people; it’s one thing to responsibly balance your checkbook but it’s another to understand the differences between an “ARM” and a “Fixed Rate Mortgage.” Knowing inflation exists is one thing, but accepting how it can truly impact your investment can be complicated.
Further, the American Dream isn’t only about a home. It’s also about raising a family and holding a steady job - both issues that can be hindered when people can’t settle down in a secure spot.
The “nesting” factor of making a home is a sentimental motive that tops the list of reasons Americans want to own houses. Crafting a place that embodies your family’s interests and touts their heritage is a milestone for many individuals and it creates a tangible token that can be passed from one generation to another.
In order to capitalize on this deep-rooted desire, exploitative practices exist at every turn. An epicenter of fallout occurred in Las Vegas, Nevada, where tens of thousands of people declared bankruptcy and lost their homes.
Conservative practices such as building up good credit history and taking time considerations very practically are important steps for individuals before jumping in to a home purchase. It is important to protect yourself every way possible to truly have that safe and secure “nest.”
The author has asked that we post the essay anonymously. The full essay can be read below or you can download the PDF here.
Bookmark our scholarship site and be sure to check back for updates on our next opportunity.
Today we are touting Fresh Start Scholarship Runner-Up Emma Rodriguez for her well-written account describing how the hopeful immigrant came to American shores and instilled generation after generation with a hard work ethic in hopes of a better life.
However, outside of the realty market and obvious scams, many people have fallen victim to those they thought were helping them: banks. The systemic power of the finance industry and the many complexities that the finance novice may not fully comprehend have led to fees and bankruptcies that home owners never expected.
Sadly, these corporate banking entities have a business and bottom line of their own; in their responsibility to strengthen and grow their business, some bank officers pushed too hard, crossed too many lines and quickly turned into loan sharks who took advantage of the young, old, or uneducated.
We wrote last month about the many reasons that Steven Mnuchin is not the right person to become our new Treasury secretary. Well, it turns out I’m not alone in that opinion!
Last May, while still on the campaign trail, Donald Trump told Reuters that he would “dismantle” the Dodd-Frank legislation. This concerns us greatly. The full name of this huge piece of legislation, the “Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act,” reveals exactly why we need it: it regulates the big banks, and it protects consumers.
Patricia Jacques submit a scholarship essay application which stood out with creativity and design that we are happy to share with you today; more of her work can be found on her artist website.
Thinking outside the box, Patricia presented the concept that perhaps the American Dream concept has shifted, and it’s not for purely negative reasons that home ownership rates have decreased in recent years. While there are still plenty of situations where it is not a choice for many individuals, other individuals have chosen to be wiser with their money and realistic with their expectations.
The down payment and monthly mortgage payments are not the only financing to budget for; once you own the house, there are still constant (and often unexpected) improvements and maintenance that can be extremely costly.
There are some unique solutions presented, including new innovations in sustainable homes, “tiny homes” and co-housing communities, all which still fit in to the “American Dream” of home ownership but, perhaps, can fit even better into the newer concept shift.
Imagery surrounding the phrase “The American Dream” almost always includes a house- one that’s owned and can be shown off as a symbol of success and prosperity. What’s left out of that imagery, though, is the less than glamorous detail that it also almost always includes a mortgage.
That is what one of our essay contestants, Ashley Coffell, reminds us in a submission to our Fresh Start Scholarship this year. Ashley maps out the details of predatory lending, and just how vulnerable borrowers can, and have been, taken advantage of by lenders over time. Without knowing or understanding the fine print, terminology like “negative amortization” can quickly turn The American Dream into a nightmare.
The best solution is be patient, fully educate yourself, and prepare to be in the strongest financial position before jumping in, as enticing as a home purchase may be.
Well, here’s some good news for struggling homeowners who are worried about foreclosure, or possibly already delinquent on their mortgage payments. With HAMP (the Home Affordable Modification Program) about to expire, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have announced a new loan modification program called the Flex Modification.
2017 is not looking to be a great year for anyone who is dealing with high debt loads or who is having trouble paying their bills. A few days ago, I wrote about the upcoming expiration of the Home Affordable Modification Program, which helps distressed homeowners avoid foreclosure by renegotiating their mortgages - and why that program should be extended. Well, another government program that helps distressed borrowers, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, or MFDRA, is set to expire this month too. And that is a problem.
One of our highlighted scholarship runners-up, Gino [last name withheld] looked into the exploitations across racial barriers, and the inequity that was found in the numbers at the height of the 2008 housing crisis.
Black and Hispanic minority groups suffered disproportionate losses according to several studies. Reports flooded in to show that White borrowers were not denied loans as often as their
minority counterparts, and while there have since been drastic changes to mortgage practices, the damage has already been done in many instances.
The rate of homeownership is depressed and even those that do own homes continue to struggle if they find themselves in neighborhoods that haven’t seen value bounce back as quickly as those in upper classes. The vicious cycle will continue if business owners move their wealth away from their retail community and into their upper class neighborhood, preventing growth in the lower and middle class neighborhoods in which they operate.