Struggling homeowners attend foreclosure prevention workshop
Housing counselors provide one-on-one help
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV): It's a sign of the economic times: Dozens of people attended a foreclosure prevention workshop organized by Pima County Saturday morning in an effort to save their homes. Housing counselors had one message for struggling homeowners, especially the ones hesitant to ask for assistance: Help us, help you.
Arlan Hewitt is a homeowner whose mortgage is underwater, like many across the country in this foreclosure epidemic, and said he felt compelled to attend to the workshop to explore his options. He said the presentation was not only informative, but also convinced him to further take advantage of the available services and resources provided by the county.
But experts say not every struggling homeowner is as proactive, because they are often paralyzed by denial or fear.
"Sometimes, people feel some kind of shame in trying to get help. And some say, 'Gee I should be able to do this myself,'" said housing counselor Lydia Gonzales, who added that it is a bad idea to try to navigate the complicated process of loan modification without help, especially given the wealth of resources available. Gonzales also emphasized that people should be wary of those people or companies charging for services.
"A lot of people claim to do it and guarantee it. They do not have the upper hand. We're all on the same playing field and our services are free," Gonzales said.
Those services range from breaking down loan options and looking at different government program to even exploring the possiblity of renting your home for a year if there is no way you can keep it; however, those options only abound if homeowners get help as soon as they know they're in trouble.
"Unfortunately, we do get people who come in without sufficient time and our hands are tied," said Evelia Martinez, the special projects manager for Pima County's Don't Borrow Trouble program.
Local officials mentioned that they have seen a uptick in the number of people asking for help, as well as seniors facing foreclosure. But they said they there are also positive stories of people who's homes they've been able to help save -- and encourage more struggling homeowners to come forward.
Overall, signs for Tucson's housing market point to a grim reality: average list prices and home sales are doown, and experts say foreclosures won't level off until 2012, at the earliest.