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Nearly one in three Americans, or 31%, say they know someone who has already lost their home to foreclosure, according to a survey by legal information site FindLaw.com. In addition, the survey found that one in four Americans, or 27%, say they know someone who is currently going through the foreclosure process.
According to RealtyTrac, foreclosure filings rose 24% in the 2009 first quarter to 803,489 properties from the same period in 2008. One in every 159 U.S. housing units received a foreclosure filing during the quarter.
“Foreclosure is a complex process and can be devastating to affected homeowners,” said Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney and editor at FindLaw.com. “In some cases it is unavoidable due to the homeowner’s financial situation. However, many homeowners can avoid foreclosures or at least mitigate some of its consequences.”
If you believe you’re in danger of facing foreclosure, Findlaw offers these tips:
Talk to your lender. If you are receiving letters from your lender regarding missed mortgage payments, do not ignore the letters. If you are having problems making your payments, call or write to your lender’s loss mitigation department as soon as possible and explain your situation. Be prepared to provide them with financial information, such as your monthly income and expenses.
Explore alternatives to foreclosure. You may qualify for a number of alternatives to the foreclosure process, including special forbearance, in which your lender may be able to arrange a repayment plan based on your financial situation, and may even provide for a temporary reductionÂ or suspension of your payments.
Get professional help. Never sign legal documents without reading and understanding all the terms and getting professional advice from an attorney or a trusted real estate professional. Avoid companies that claim they can stop the foreclosure immediately or negotiate with your lender in exchange for a hefty upfront fee.
Seek housing counseling. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can direct you to HUD-approved housing counseling services offered by government agencies, as well as private and community organizations. These services are usually free of charge. Visit HUD.gov or call (800) 569-4287.
Find free information online. Free Internet resources, such as the FindLaw Foreclosure and Alternatives site, can provide useful information for homeowners worried about foreclosure.