Thursday, January 31, 2008

Borrowers still largely unaware of workout options

(Housing Wire) Freddie Mac said Thursday morning that 57 percent of the nation’s late-paying borrowers still don’t know their lenders may offer alternatives to help them avoid foreclosure. The results, reported in a joint survey from Roper Public Affairs and Media and Freddie Mac, show that despite a historic surge borrower defaults and a resulting crush of press attention, many borrowers aren’t sure how to resolve financial difficulties involving their mortgage.

A previous study in 2005 found that 61 percent of delinquent borrowers didn’t know their lender offered workout options, equating to an improvement in awareness of 4 percent give or take a margin of error in three years.

The news wasn’t all bad, however; the survey also found an increase in the percentages of delinquent borrowers who recall their lenders reaching out to them (86 percent) and who in turn reached out to their lender (75 percent) to discuss workout options. And borrowers are becoming more aware of third-party counseling, with awareness increasing from 36 percent in 2005 to 44 percent today.

“This new survey shows efforts to get borrowers to call counselors are starting to work, but that too many at-risk borrowers are still unaware their servicers routinely provide alternatives that can help them stay in their homes,” said Ingrid Beckles, Freddie Mac’s vice president of servicing and asset management.

“This fact underscores the importance of convincing borrowers to pick up the phone, call their servicer, and find out whether they can avoid foreclosure.”

So why is it that some borrowers still won’t contact their servicers?
Freddie Mac said that one in four deliquent borrowers chose not to accept an invitation to discuss workout options, for one thing. (Fraud, anyone?) Those that didn’t return a servicer’s call because they said they didn’t have enough money to make a payment rose from 7 percent to 16 percent, and the percentage who denied they were having trouble making their payment doubled from six to 12 percent.

HOPE hotline having a positive impact
The survey found that collective awareness of the HOPE hotline at 888-995-HOPE has increased dramatically, signaling that at least some borrower outreach programs are having an impact.

According to the survey, nearly one in four delinquent borrowers (23 percent) report seeing the ads and one in ten (9 percent) who are aware of the HOPE Hotline have made the call. HPF says the toll-free number now receives between 1500 and 3000 calls per day, up from 250 per day one year ago. More than 200,000 homeowners have called the hotline since June 25 of last year, according to HPF.

“The public service campaign is working,” said Ken Wade, CEO of NeighborWorks America.
“Every day, through our partnership with the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, we’re helping thousands of homeowners in financial stress take steps to prevent foreclosure with the 888-995-HOPE hotline. Moreover, those homeowners who call and need additional counseling are being referred to local NeighborWorks organizations for one-on-one, face-to-face foreclosure prevention counseling.”

Click here to read the full survey results.

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