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Wright Co. sixth in state for foreclosures; help is available

Sept. 22, 2008

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

Wright County ranked sixth in the state for the number of foreclosures in 2007, and the number is expected to nearly double this year.

The Minnesota Home Ownership Center wants residents to know that help is available.

The center does not provide direct assistance, but focusses on outreach and education, and works with a network of other agencies to help homeowners. In Wright County, the center works with Wright County Community Action.

There were 753 foreclosures in Wright County in 2007, and the center estimates that there will be 1,190 this year.

Executive Director Julie Gugin said she expects the mortgage crisis to continue at least through mid-2010, but while the picture is bleak, homeowners do have options.

“The most common concern among counselors is that people come in too late,” Gugin said.

She encourages people to seek help as soon as possible, even before they have missed a mortgage payment.

To help homeowners determine whether they should seek assistance, the center has produced a new checklist.

It includes questions such as:

• Are you worried about being stuck in your mortgage?

• At the end of the month, do you find yourself struggling to get ahead or even keep up?

• Are you questioning the future because you worry about how you will make ends meet today?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, the center recommends that homeowners contact them for free help in understanding their loan and protecting their home.

“The first thing homeowners need to understand is the type of mortgage they have,” Gugin said.

She explained that many homeowners don’t understand their mortgages and are surprised when rates change.

“The second thing to understand is that lenders don’t profit from foreclosures,” Gugin added. “And the third thing homeowners should remember is to be persistent.”

She said agents have access to hotlines that are not available to consumers, and can often get results when working with lenders, even if the homeowner has been unsuccessful.

In some cases, there is no alternative and properties go into foreclosure.

Even in these cases, there are things homeowners need to know.

Gugin said many people think they need to leave their homes as soon as they are notified of a sheriff’s sale.

She explained that in Minnesota, there is a six month redemption period after the sheriff’s sale, and she recommends that people stay in their homes during this period and work with counselors, who can help make it a smooth transition period.

Gugin also warns homeowners to use caution when faced with foreclosure.

“There are no quick fixes to the foreclosure crisis,” Gugin said.

She explained that during the foreclosure process, some details become public information, and there are people out there who use this information to scam those who are already in trouble.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it’s too good to be true,” she said.

Forum scheduled

In order to help homeowners get information about foreclosure and learn about resources that may help them stay in their homes, the Home Ownership Center will present a free telephone seminar Wednesday, Oct. 15 from 7 to 8 p.m.

Homeowners can participate by calling (888) 886-6603 at any time during that period.

Callers will be able to hear information about foreclosure and available resources. They will also have the option to ask questions through a moderator.

Gugin said the center offered a seminar last spring and attendance was limited. She said foreclosure is an emotional issue, and people may have avoided the earlier seminar because of privacy concerns.

The phone-in seminar will allow people to remain anonymous and listen to the information from the comfort of their own homes, she said.

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