Personal experience with homeowner distress
My experiences in personal homeowner distress has led me down several interesting and edifying paths, but the one that has had the largest impact on me is the subject of today’s post:
A little more than a year ago I heard about an opportunity to become a Home Retention Consultant for Titanium, Inc.
From Titanium’s website: “Titanium Solutions is the leading provider of homeowner contacting and counseling services. We work with many of the nation’s largest mortgage servicers, primary mortgage insurers, government agencies and counseling agencies to facilitate communication with homeowners facing foreclosure, before it is too late. Titanium accomplishes this by working with experienced real estate professionals who care about their community and have a vested interest in preserving home ownership. Our nationwide network of Home Retention Consultants (HRCs) ensures that homeowners understand their options to avoid foreclosure and help them through the process”
This sounded interesting to me and I decided to move forward with certification. While totally convinced that I could assist people in a real meaningful way, I remained hesitant and nervous about the practice.
The first thing that a HRC has to do is knock on the homeowner’s door, unannounced.
I have this lifelong and inexplicable fear of knocking on doors…I used to make my younger sister do it when we were kids selling fundraiser items!
After struggling with the helping people vs. knocking on doors of strangers decision, I was ready to accept my first assignment.
On a crisp fall Saturday morning I pull up to my first assignment and true apprehension settles in. “I can’t possibly do this,” I think. “I don’t want to knock on this door!,” I cry inside. “What if they yell at me?,” I question myself.
I can do this.
I have already committed to this and I am big on following through with my promises, so I take 20 deep breaths and start the long walk up the front steps.
The door is answered by the homeowner (calling her Maria for this story), who is shocked to hear why I am on her porch, but not unfriendly. I have decided to tell these homeowners the truth of my own past pre-foreclosure and financial struggles. I share the short version of my story with Maria and tell her that I am there to help her.
Foreclosure danger, right here in front of me
Maria responds with relieved shock. “I don’t know what to do,” she explains. She had refinanced and has since gone back to school and her husband isn’t helping her with the mortgage. To make matters worse, this is a two family and the tenant has been regularly late with rent. Maria doesn’t want to lose her home and no one in her household knows she is in danger of foreclosure.
We make a follow-up appointment to fill in the necessary paperwork and she starts to cry and gives me a hug. “You are like an angel on my porch,” she tells me.
I leave Maria’s house feeling bolstered and elated by her reaction. I am already helping…this is fantastic! With this encouraging response I happily point the car to the second home.
What’s behind door number two?
Door number two is answered by a man I will call Tom. Tom has no shirt on, a shaved head and many tattoos. I dive into the same explanation of why I am there, but Tom cuts me off mid-way.
“I already told the mortgage company that if they want the house they have to come and get it and it will be a pile of ashes!,” Tom yells through the screen door.
I try to explain that I am not a bill collector, but a facilitator and in Tom’s case I am in possession of a pre-approved loan modification which will lower his interest rate, payments and restart the loan with no detriment to his credit.
But I want to help. 🙁
Tom is not only not interested in what I have to say, he is angry. He asks me to leave and I readily comply with a sad “I really am here to help.”
I return to my car and am in the process of re-programming my GPS when Tom comes toward my car. He is waving me down with a contrite look and asks me to talk with him. I unroll the window enough to hear him apologize.
“I have been trying for months to get this resolved,” he says “and no one has helped…the people on the phone run me in circles and the problem just gets bigger.”
Tom goes on to apologize for his treatment of me and asks for my help, if I am still willing to give it. We fill out the necessary paperwork, make the phone calls to his mortgage work out department and an hour later his loan modification is in process. Tom turns out to be a very nice man who has been under a lot of stress. He is grateful for my help and is relieved that the issue is finally resolved.
I was able to actually help
In that first day as a Home Retention Consultant I was able to help two thirds of the assigned people (the third home was deserted). It occurred to me that this was a tangible way that I could help not only these homeowners, but the real estate economy as a whole recover.
I have since visited many more homeowners, many of which I was able to help, but the memories of that first day are the strongest and most poignant.
Is the real estate industry endorsing Carson’s nomination to HUD?
(BUSINESS NEWS) Ben Carson’s initial appointment to HUD was controversial given his lack of experience in housing, but what is the pulse now?
NAR strongly backs Dr. Carson’s nomination
When President-Elect Donald Trump put forth Dr. Ben Carson’s name as the nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, NAR President William E. Brown said, “While we’ve made great strides in recent years, far more can be done to put the dream of homeownership in reach for more Americans.”
At the time of nomination, the National Association of Realtors (the largest trade organization in the nation) offered a positive tone regarding Dr. Carson and said the industry looks forward to working with him. But does that hold true today?
The confirmation hearings yesterday were far less controversial than one would expect, especially in light of how many initially reacted to his nomination. Given his lack of experience in housing, questions seemed to often center around protecting the LGBT community and veterans, both of which he pledged to support.
In fact, Dr. Carson said the Fair Housing Act is “one of the best pieces of legislation we’ve ever had in this country,” promising to issue a “world-class plan” for housing upon his confirmation…
Job openings hit 14-year high, signaling economic improvement
The volume of job openings is improving, but not across all industries. The overall economy is improving, but not evenly across all career paths.
Job openings hit a high point
To understand the overall business climate, the U.S. Labor Department studies employment, today releasing data specific to job vacancies. According to the department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLT) for April, job openings rose to 5.38 million, the highest seen since December 2000, and a significant jump from March’s 5.11 million vacancies. Although a lagging indicator, it shows strength in the labor market.
The Labor Department reports that the number of hires in April fell to 5 million, which indicates a weak point in the strong report, and although the volume remains near recent highs, this indicates a talent gap and highlights the number of people who have left the labor market and given up on looking for a job.
Good news, bad news, depending on your profession
That said, another recent Department report notes that employers added 221,000 jobs in April and 280,000 in May, but the additions are not evenly spread across industries. Construction jobs rose in April, but dipped in professional and business services, hospitality, trade, and transportation utilities. In other words, white collar jobs are down, blue collar jobs are up, which is good or bad news depending on your profession.
Additionally, the volume of people quitting their jobs was 2.7 million in April compared to the seven-year high of 2.8 million in March. Economists follow this number as a metric for gauging employee confidence in finding their next job.
If you’re in the market for a job, there are an increasing number of openings, so your chance of getting hired is improving, but there is a caveat – not all industries are enjoying improvement.
If you’re hiring talent, you’ll still get endless resumes, but there appears to be a growing talent gap for non-labor jobs, so you’re not alone in struggling to find the right candidate.
Economists suspect the jobs market will continue to improve as a whole, but this data does not pertain to every industry.
Gas prices are down, so are gas taxes about to go up?
Do low gas prices mean higher gas taxes are on the way? Budgeting for 2015 just got a bit more complicated, if some politicians have their way.
Gas taxes and your bottom line
Many industries rely heavily on time in their vehicle, not just truck drivers and delivery trucks. Sales professionals hop in their vehicles throughout the day, as do many other types of professionals (service providers like plumbers, and so forth). For that reason, gas prices and taxes are a relevant line item that must be budgeted for 2015, but with politicians making the rounds to push for higher gas taxes, budgeting becomes more complicated.
Gas prices are down roughly 50 cents per gallon compared to a year ago, which some analysts say have contributed to more money in consumers’ pockets. Some believe that this will improve holiday sales, but others believe the timing is just right to increase federal taxes on gas. The current tax on gas is 18.40 cents per gallon, and on diesel are 24.40 cents per gallon.
Supporters and opponents are polar opposites
Supporters argue as follows: gas prices are low, so it won’t hurt to increase federal gas taxes, in fact, those funds must go toward improving our infrastructure, which in the long run, saves Americans money because smoother roads mean better gas mileage and less congestion.
Gas taxes have long been a polarizing concept, and despite lowered gas prices, the controversial nature of the taxes have not diminished.
While some are pushing for complete abolition of federal gas taxes, others, like former Pennsylvania Governor, Ed Rendell (D) tell CNBC, “Say that cost the average driver $130 a year. They would get a return on that investment” in safer roads and increased quality of life, he added.
The Washington Post‘s Chris Mooney points out that federal gas taxes have been “stuck” at 18 cents for over 20 years, last raised when gas was barely a dollar a gallon and that the tax must increase not only to improve the infrastructure, but to “green” our behavior, and help our nation find tax reform compromise.
Is a gas tax politically plausible?
Mooney writes, “So, this is not an argument that a gas tax raise is politically plausible — any more than a economically efficient tax on carbon would be. It’s merely a suggestion that — ignoring politics — it might be a pretty good idea.”
Rendell noted, “The World Economic Forum, 10 years ago, rated us the best infrastructure in the world,” adding that we “need to do something for our infrastructure, not in a one or two year period, but over a decade.”
Others would note that this rating has not crumbled in just a few years, that despite many bridges and roads in need of repair, our infrastructure is still superior to even the most civilized nations.
Regardless of the reasons, most believe that Congress won’t touch this issue with a ten-foot pole, especially leading up to another Presidential campaign season starting next year.
“I think it’s too toxic and continues to be too toxic,” Steve LaTourette (the former Republican congressman best known for his close friendship with his fellow Ohioan, Speaker John Boehner) tells The Atlantic. “I see no political will to get this done.”
Whether the time is fortuitous or not, and regardless of the positive side effects, many point to a fear of voters’ retaliation against any politician siding with a gas hike, so this matter going any further than the proposal stage is unlikely.
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