More than 200 homeowners met with mortgage lenders and financial advisers Saturday in Modesto to discuss ways they can avoid foreclosure and keep their homes.
The daylong foreclosure prevention workshop attracted financially strapped borrowers from throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
Norma and Moises Robles of Riverbank were among them. They refinanced their home loan a year ago, but they didn't understand the terms of their new adjustable-rate mortgage.
"We wanted a fixed rate. We don't know what happened. It was a bad decision we made," said Norma Robles, whose husband does not speak or read English fluently. She said their mortgage broker had them sign the loan documents before reading them. "Sometimes, you trust people, and you don't know what's going to happen after that."
Their interest rate has risen to 7.5 percent, and they've fallen four months behind on their payments.
"We don't want to lose our house," said Robles, who brought the youngest of their three children to Saturday's event. They waited several hours to talk to a representative from Citi, their lender.
Citi, Wells Fargo, Chase, Countrywide and Washington Mutual sent staff members to the event to negotiate personally with borrowers. Those private conversations enabled homeowners to at least start the process of stopping foreclosures and renegotiating loans.
"The (bank employees) at these events want to do deals. They are not from the collections arena. They don't want to foreclose and get those houses back," said Robin Stout Migala, a delinquency resolution manager for Freddie Mac, which buys mortgages from lenders.
Migala said there are numerous ways lenders can help homeowners avoid foreclosure. They include modifying loans to permanently change contract terms, offering forbearance deals to temporarily reduce or suspend payments, and arranging repayment plans that enable homeowners to catch up on loans.
Aida Puducay of Ceres wasn't able to get such a deal Saturday, but she knew her situation was not promising. Her family bought a new home a couple of years ago, then refinanced it and tapped its equity.
"We got the money, but we got ourselves into a bad adjustable-rate, interest-only loan," Puducay said. Then her husband became terminally ill and medical expenses began stacking up. "We've had the house for sale for seven months (at a price below what we owe on the loan). But we're not getting any offers."
Although she won't be able to keep the home, Puducay said, her lender offered to help her save some of her credit and to stop the collection proceedings.
Just getting borrowers and lenders to talk to each other is a good thing, said Lena Robinson, a regional manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
Robinson helped organize Saturday's event, along with a community-based group, No Homeowner Left Behind-Stanislaus. More than 40 volunteers donated their time to organizing and staffing the workshop at the Stanislaus County Agricultural Center.
"I knew it was worth the effort when I arrived at 7 this morning and there were already 10 homeowners waiting in line," Robinson said. "There were 75 people in queue at 8 a.m. when we opened."
She said the lenders who participated met with an average 35 homeowners each.
Foreclosure prevention workshop set March 29
The next foreclosure prevention workshop in Modesto will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 29 at Modesto Centre Plaza, 1000 K St.
Among the lenders scheduled to attend are Bank of America, Countrywide, Wilshire Credit Corp. and Washington Mutual.
Credit counselors will be there to work one on one with borrowers who are having trouble paying their mortgage.
Homeowners from throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley and nearby foothills are invited to attend if they are concerned about foreclosure.
To improve their chances of getting the terms of their mortgage altered by their lenders, borrowers are encouraged to bring all their loan documents, copies of pay stubs, bank statements, income tax returns and lists of their assets and monthly expenses.
The free workshop is sponsored by The Bee, the city of Modesto, the California Consumer Services Agency and the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency.
For more information about what to bring and updates about the March 29 workshop, go to www.modbee.com/housing.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2196.