Avoiding foreclosure may be possible with these steps

The Madison County Record Aug. 15, 2010, 3:24am

Rather than tapering off, the number of foreclosures is on the rise. In Cook County alone, which encompasses Chicago, foreclosures during the first half of 2010 were up almost 25 percent from the previous year. Nationwide, foreclosures are expected to top 4 million by the end of 2010.

But statistics aren't very comforting if you're one of the thousands of Illinois residents who face losing your home. There's a tendency to deny or ignore the situation, but taking immediate action may quite literally help save your home or at least delay the foreclosure process.

The first step should be to call the lender and try to work out the problem. Many lenders are willing to work out a plan that can help you and your family stay put, at least short-term.

If that fails, contact an attorney to help you develop a plan. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may be able to get help from your local bar association or legal assistance organization. Other advice:

- Make sure you respond to any mail from your lender.

- Consider tapping into one of the government-backed programs such as HOPE for Homeowners or one of the deed-to-rent programs where the lender reclaims the home but lets you stay in it with an affordable lease.

- Beware of so-called mortgage rescue companies, which will charge you fees unnecessarily.

- Think about selling your home, which can be a good alternative if you have equity. Defending a foreclosure is very difficult. Only a small number are actually successful, so realistically assess your chances.

- Cut all your expenses except for housing and healthcare; to free up cash, consider selling assets such as a second car or valuable jewelry.

- Assuming things get worked out with the lender, make sure you obtain a written foreclosure deed on the property to ensure you're truly off the hook.

All homeowners should become familiar with their mortgage rights by learning about state foreclosure laws. A list of foreclosure prevention options can be found by visiting www.hud.gov. HUD also can connect homeowners with one of its approved housing counselors.
For further information about this and other law-related issues, contact an Illinois State Bar Association member-lawyer in your area or visit www.isbalawyers.com.

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