Banks Plan Face-to-Face Meetings with Distressed Homeowners

By Young Soo Yang

The housing market has yet to recover from the financial meltdown that occurred five years ago. Recent reports indicate the beginning of a slow recovery with housing prices continuing to inch upward and increased activity among home builders.

But despite the positive signs, millions of homeowners throughout the country are stuck in homes that are worth less than the mortgages owed on them. In New Jersey, foreclosure activity is on the rise after being all but frozen the past couple of years. Lenders were stalled from acting on delinquencies due to the state’s stringent foreclosure laws that make it tough to evict distressed homeowners. Activity has since picked up and filings have climbed 86 percent in the past year.

In the immediate aftermath of the housing crash, distressed homeowners complained that they found it nearly impossible to speak or meet with their lenders. Now, lenders are taking steps to work with delinquent mortgage holders so they can stave off foreclosure and remain in their homes. Bank of America (BOA) and Wells Fargo are holding events this month to give their customers an opportunity to have face-to face meetings with a bank officer.

Bank of America is holding two events this month in New Jersey, one at the Hilton Newark Penn Station (Aug. 2-4) and another at the Atlantic City Convention Center (Aug. 10-11). For New Jersey customers who live near or work in Brooklyn, there is one scheduled at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott (Aug. 8).

According to Tamika Eubanks, BOA’s Vice President of National Mortgage Outreach, about 354 people registered for the three-day event in Newark. While walk-ins are welcome, Eubanks strongly urges customers to register to improve their chances for a successful outcome.

“We have about a 40 percent on-site decision rate and that’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to register because when you register it asks you questions about your situation and it will give you a list of what you need to bring with you.”

Wells Fargo’s Marie Day also underscores the importance of registration and bringing the necessary documentation. Day is the bank’s Regional Servicing Director. One-hour appointments are scheduled for registered customers, but she says meetings can take longer.

“If they don’t register, it will take longer than an hour because we’ll have to make sure that we can fit them in and accommodate them.”

For its New Jersey customers, Wells Fargo is scheduling counseling sessions at the Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus (Aug. 8 & 9) and at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia (Aug. 15 & 16).

Day says that more than 600 Wells Fargo customers have already registered for next week’s two-day event at the Meadowlands. A team of specialists will be on hand to go over the various options available to homeowners experiencing hardship in meeting their mortgage obligations. Options include loan modification such as an interest rate reduction and extension of the term, refinancing, forbearance and liquidation options such as a short sale.

“Foreclosure is the last resort so we want to work with them to find an affordable payment and to keep them in their homes,” says Day.

Day says the chances of foreclosure can be dramatically cut down when homeowners work with their lenders to find an affordable solution. “Seven out of 10 customers who work with us will find an option that does not include foreclosure,” she says. “When they don’t work with us, we know it’s 1 out of 3 that will be helped.”

Bank of America:

Wells Fargo:

  • Registration — Home Preservation Workshop
  • Customers facing mortgage payment difficulties also can call 800-678-7986 for more information about potential options to avoid foreclosure.