Blogger Offers Foreclosure Help - 19 Homeowners Save Homes
Corona, CA (PRWEB) Feb. 13, 2008 -- By Leslie Berkman -- Blogging at his laptop computer in Corona, Moe Bedard offers free foreclosure help online and coaches a team of 1,000 homeowners racing an obstacle course to save their homes from foreclosure.
They have joined Bedard's Internet site, www.LoanSafe.org, founded in August as a grass-roots forum for homeowners who face the prospect of losing their homes to skyrocketing adjustable mortgages.
"I think people can help each other through the foreclosure process. There doesn't have to be so many foreclosures," Bedard said.
Bedard, who previously sold web site marketing for mortgage lenders, said he learned that lenders were being inundated by requests from homeowners who needed to refinance out of burdensome mortgages but couldn't qualify for new loans, often because they didn't have enough equity.
A viable alternative that isn't well-known, Bedard said, is for the homeowner to negotiate with the lender to modify the existing mortgage to make the monthly payment affordable. That can be done by lowering or freezing the interest rate or by extending the length of the mortgage. The term that is used in the industry is, loan modification.
To date, Loan Safe takes credit for helping members save 19 homes from foreclosure. Their stories are chronicled on the site, and Bedard said they are meant to inspire others.
"It's like being an online coach," Bedard said of his role, which includes monitoring the Web site to keep out unauthorized for-profit solicitors, answering questions and giving encouragement and free foreclosure help from 5 AM, when clients on the Eastern Seaboard begin to log in, until 10 PM.
He said the site has received about 500,000 hits, and they keep coming at a rate of about 5,000 a day.
Modifying a Loan
The web site is where people who use such sign-on names as luvmyhouse and madashell can anonymously vent their anger and worries during the foreclosure process, share their experiences and cheer one another on.
Bob Sweigart, of San Diego, said he was one of the first to use the web site as a tool to obtain a loan modification after the interest rate on his 5.99% adjustable-rate mortgage had jumped to 9.75& and was set to increase again.
Sweigart said someone at Countrywide Home Loans had interviewed him by phone and determined he was "prequalified" for a loan modification, but then he heard nothing more for six months. He made 40 calls to Countrywide but got no response.
He said he learned on the LoanSafe Web site that lenders are legally obligated to answer a letter, and another web site member offered vital e-mail addresses, including one for Countrywide's president, Angelo Mozilo.
Within 24 hours of sending a barrage of e-mails to Countrywide, Sweigart had an agreement from the lender to push the interest rate on his mortgage back to the low introductory rate for five years, he said.
"I am one of the lucky ones," Sweigart said. "There are so many people out there who don't have a clue. They don't know what loan modification means. I am on the web site all the time helping people by telling them these are the steps that I took. Do what I did."
Government and mortgage industry officials have repeatedly advised homeowners to call their lenders as soon as they realize they will be forced to default on their mortgages when their introductory interest rates are raised.
However, Bedard said homeowners wanting to modify their mortgages routinely encounter resistance from lenders and loan servicing companies. He said homeowners are often frustrated by the need to make repeated calls and to overcome repeated rejections and delays before reaching help. The process is particularly stressful for borrowers who have to act quickly to avoid a loan default or a foreclosure sale.
Bedard said he understands that lenders are deluged with more requests than they can efficiently handle. They are also reluctant to grant concessions to borrowers who may be able to make a higher mortgage payment.
A visit to the LoanSafe web site can show the phone numbers of government-approved counseling services and the phone numbers and e-mail addresses for lending organizations.
Unlike other foreclosure-prevention services on the Internet, Bedard said, LoanSafe gives free foreclosure help, information and advice free of charge. But it also is a for-profit enterprise that survives because of the paid advertising of a Beverly Hills mortgage lawyer, Marshall E. Rosenbach, he added.
Bedard said a number of the homeowners who come to the web site describe circumstances that indicate they have been the victims of broker or lender fraud. Whenever this occurs, he said, Web site members have used the threat of going to court to nullify the mortgage as leverage to obtain more favorable loan terms.
While Rosenbach said he has received plenty of referrals from the web site, he and Bedard stress that homeowners usually can get their mortgages modified without hiring a lawyer. The keys are patience and persistence.
Bedard acknowledges not everyone who bought or refinanced a house has enough income to keep it. When he learns this in blogging with a Web site member, he said he advises that renting is the best option and may give someone an opportunity to live more cheaply in a nicer neighborhood.
Nathan Fransen, a Corona lawyer who previously advertised on Bedard's Web site, said he is concerned that members tend to give one another free foreclosure help and legal advice that may not be sound. Still, he said, he believes the Web site is helpful and performing an important service.
"The fact it is popular is evidence it is needed," he said.
Ted Grose, a mortgage broker and past president of the California Assn. of Mortgage Brokers, said he is familiar with LoanSafe and finds it is a consumer-friendly resource that gives good information on alternatives to foreclosure and reassures people in crisis that they are not alone.
"It is very common for consumers to pull the sheets over their heads when what they need to do is reach out," Grose said.