Dealing with the threat of foreclosure is never pleasant. However, those facing foreclosure today are in a better position than many in times past. That is because, with the wave of foreclosures washing over the nation and the hugely negative impact that wave has on the overall economy, the range of options for those in such situations has significantly increased. From the federal government right on down to local government, as well as through individual lenders and a variety of consumer advocate and community organizations, there are numerous efforts and programs aimed at keeping struggling homeowners in their homes and out of foreclosure.

According to recent data cited by Business Wire on January 14, 2009, the number of homes that were foreclosed upon in 2008 went “up nearly 63.5 percent from 2007.” On January 15, 2009, the New York Times, citing data from RealtyTrac, reported “foreclosures increased 81 percent in 2008.” On the same date, the LA Times reported that “Irvine-based RealtyTrac, a self-described “online marketplace for foreclosure properties,” issued its tally of foreclosure filings — including default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions — showing that one in 54 U.S. housing units nationwide received at a foreclosure filing last year.”

 In some of the many foreclosure hotspots dotting the nation, such as cities in California, Arizona, and Nevada, the numbers are even grimmer. For example, a news report from January 14, 2009, revealed that “the number of foreclosed homes in Las Vegas nearly tripled from 2007 to 2008.” The number of homeowners facing foreclosure is likely to increase in 2009, as some industry experts point out, because the number of homeowners that are upside down on their mortgages – owing more than the house is currently worth – has increased significantly, and many of those homeowners are struggling to make their monthly payments as the overall economy experiences trouble on a variety of fronts, including rising unemployment.

While in usual economic circumstances, homeowners struggling, perhaps even falling behind, with a mortgage payment or dealing with a looming foreclosure may face limited options with which to try to save their homes, these are far from normal economic times. In light of that, federal, state, and local governments are looking ways to help the homeowner. Community groups, consumer advocate associations, private charities, churches, and even individual lenders are taking action aimed at keeping homeowners in their homes and reducing foreclosures.

Some of the current federal efforts include, as reported by the Wall Street Journal on January 10, 2009, lawmakers considering using some of the monies set aside for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) as a financing source for federal foreclosure prevention programs. Federal money is an important source of funding for many of the state programs designed to help homeowners stay in their homes. States such as North Carolina are reaching out to homeowners via websites and other states are participating in multi-state foreclosure prevention taskforces. Loan modification is one of the primary means of helping to reduce foreclosures in these efforts.

City officials, tending to be closer to the day-to-day effects of the problems, have been taking action, as well. Some of these actions have been extraordinary, such as moratoriums on foreclosures, something that several states have been considering and a concept that has even garnered attention on a federal level. Other actions on the city level include credit counseling and foreclosure prevention workshops.

Interestingly, lenders are initiating their own moratoriums on foreclosures and are taking aggressive steps towards renegotiating and modifying loans for borrowers struggling to make their payments and keep their homes. JP Morgan Chase, for example, according to a recent article published in the Arizona Republic, “said it would extend its mortgage-modification efforts to include $1.1 trillion in loans that it services for others, expanding the reach of its foreclosure-prevention program.” Another major lender is actively discussing options to help homeowners with legislators. reported on January 8, 2009, that “Citigroup reached an agreement with Democratic lawmakers Thursday on legislation that would allow judges to reduce mortgage debt for individuals who have filed for bankruptcy.”

The most important thing struggling homeowners should remember today is that right now there are many options available to help avoid foreclosure. Lenders are more willing now than they have been in the recent past to help homeowners through a difficult period. Legislators throughout the nation are considering ways to ease the foreclosure crisis, as are private organizations and consumer advocate groups. In today’s fiscal climate, it is best to take action right away if struggling with a mortgage or facing a potential foreclosure, as there are real options available that can prevent the loss of a home.

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