Archive for the ‘HUD’ Category

Could Elimination of Housing Counseling Programs Hurt YOU?

Monday, April 18th, 2011

In what I personally think is a big mistake, Congress announced that it is eliminating $88 million in funds for housing counseling programs. These are the programs that allow struggling homeowners and others with questions to call in and get counseling advice. It is often the first step in pre-foreclosure, or even in avoiding foreclosure altogether.

One of my favorite counseling hotlines, HopeNow, stated that it is not being shut down, but will be effected by the cuts. I have referred people to HopeNow for years. It is approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the people who work the phone lines actually know what they are talking about. The biggest complaint I have heard is that sometimes one has to hold for help for some time, but the advice is real and they really do go over specific situations and crunch numbers with callers.

Why would the government want to cut these programs? Well, I think that the government is busy trying to come up with ways to prevent foreclosures and help the housing mess by implementing new programs (of course, we have not seen these as of yet, but the most promising seem to be on the way, stemming from the robo-signing lender punishment saga). At the same time they are trying to trim our exorbitant budget, so these goals may conflict.

Many states are creating their own programs to cover the slack the federal programs have left behind after being canceled, but there are only a handful that have such programs in operation already.

So what is a troubled homeowner to do now? Some federal programs have been eliminated, not all states have yet implemented programs to help, and the mandated lender reforms (currently in the works as punishment for the robo-signing scandal) are not yet finalized. People need to know their options.

Basically there are three options, and some of them have multiple sub-options:

1. Stay in your home. To do so you may need to look into a loan modification, change of job, or a complete reevaluation of your finances so that you can eliminate or lower other expenses. You may need to get creative, consider getting a second job, renting a room or putting your young children to work (just a hint of black humor/sarcasm–of course I don’t recommend this).

2. Sell your home. If you cannot make number one work and you need to sell it will either be a traditional sale or a short sale. Either way, make sure to work with a Realtor who is experienced in your area, and if you are doing a short sale make sure that person is experienced in this regard. You also should look into the HAFA program if you are considering a short sale–at least you can get money to help with moving expenses (up to $3000–see previous posts. To find them go to the categories list to the right of my blog and click on short sales).

3. Foreclosure. This is the last resort, or course. But many times there may be no other option if you are in over your head financially, have a job loss, illness, changed circumstances, divorce, etc. Just make sure you speak with your financial planner, attorney or accountant (or all 3, in my opinion) before doing so. You need to understand all options so you can make the right choice.

As we continue to see cuts to vital programs options may dwindle, at least for a while. I have discussed multiple times how I feel states will start to jump in to help residents with their own programs, much like California has done with Keep Your Home California. If you do not yet have a program in your state I would still advise contacting HopeNow or La Raza. Your lender may have counselors available to help you as well. But do not wait until it is too late. If you are not yet delinquent on your payments you need to start researching now. Best of luck.

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New HUD Website for Housing/Economic Data

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

There is a new HUD website for regional and state-specific information on housing and the economy. The “Regional Economic and Market Analysis Site” contains information compiled from HUD, the Census Bureau, Labor Department, state and local governments and other sources. It can be accessed at http://www.huduser.org/portal/regional.html.

The site allows users to click on a region of the country. From there one is able to click on a state or get regional information, or you can select different parts of the state, then individual counties within, to get more specific reports for the desired area. The county reports are very thorough and contain lots of information and statistics on the housing market and local economy.

I visited the site and clicked on Region 9, then California, then San Diego. While I did not spend time reading through the entire report (the market analysis report for the San Diego region was 18 pages long), the report appears to contain a great deal of information. The only issue I noticed was that the report appears to be old (it has a report date “as of July 1, 2005). Maybe HUD is planning to update all the local information soon so that it is current.

Regardless, it is a nifty site for those wanting more information and statistics on housing and the economy. Here are some things you can expect to find there:

  1. Market at a Glance reports: Economic and housing market data trends for county and metro areas, with monthly employment data.
  2. Regional housing market profiles: Employment, population and construction data.
  3. Regional narratives: Economic and housing market trends within 10 U.S. regions.
  4. Comprehensive housing market analysis: Metro-specific housing market reports prepared by HUD field economists.
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Government May Help Pay for Your Home Improvements

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced that it has initiated a program that could help you pay for home energy improvements. This program will grant loans, called FHA PowerSaver Loans, to credit-worthy borrowers up to $25,000 to make energy efficient improvements of their choice.

PowerSaver loans will be backed by the FHA, and up to 90% of the loan amount will be insured by FHA mortgage insurance. Lenders will be chosen to participate in the program based on commitment and ability to provide energy saving loans. Interest rates will be low and borrowers must have at least some equity in their homes, but it is not yet clear exactly how much and whether it will be a case-by-case basis.

Examples of energy efficient improvements include duct sealing, new doors and windows, water heaters, HVAC systems, solar panels, insulation and georthermal systems. It is not clear whether energy efficient appliances–such as washers and dishwashers–are included but most states have programs that provide rebates for these appliances.

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