December 7, 2009 Finance 0

The real second wave doesn’t hit until the 2010 resets of the rest of the sub prime market(which includes quite a bit of commercial) resets in 2010.

‘Second wave’ of foreclosures continues to rise

Wheaton homeowner saved moments before his home goes on the auction block

In a matter of months, Wheaton resident Constantine David lost his wife of 23 years through divorce, his job as a private translator when he was laid off and therefore both the incomes that were paying for his split-level Connecticut Avenue Estates home.

He approached his bank, which was then Chevy Chase Bank and is now folded into Capital One Financial, in late 2007 to refinance his loan. He figured that a more affordable loan could help him better support his two children while he searched for a new job, David said.

But Chevy Chase wouldn’t negotiate. In the meantime, David paid too little too late and fell behind on his mortgage three months in a row. He received a foreclosure notice in January 2008. By June of that year, a lawyer advised a still-unemployed David to file for bankruptcy. That didn’t move along talks either: By filing for bankruptcy, David took the case to court, so the court must decide the outcome, David said bank officials told him.

“The bank is not talking to me, because I became the enemy,” David said.

A former diplomat unversed in the nuances of mortgage loans, David scrambled for help from area nonprofits and county agencies. All were too overwhelmed to take his call, so it took weeks for someone to return his message and months to assign him a counselor, he said.

Despair eroded his hope as the knocks on his door became louder.

“Foreclosure became imminent. It seemed to be the only way out of this situation,” David said.

David is one of a rising number of longtime homeowners whose cushy lives have been turned upside down by the foreclosure crisis. Dubbed the “second wave” of foreclosures by housing experts, many homeowners who made all their payments on time are suddenly struggling after losing their jobs in the cascading economy.

The second wave continues to rise even as the first one, comprised mostly of sub-prime mortgages, has yet to subside, creating fresh chaos for already overworked home-counseling agencies and uprooting longtime residents of solid neighborhoods, experts say.

But where the new foreclosure dilemma truly lies is in many banks’ unwillingness to renegotiate loans for people like David, some experts say.

“The banks don’t bring anything to the table,” said Farida Muhammad, a foreclosure counselor with the Montgomery County chapter of Home Free USA, a nonprofit homeownership development organization.

“We don’t have the power,” added Muhammad, who worked with David. “The power’s in the investor and what they decide to do with the loan.”

David and Muhammad struggled to reach a Chevy Chase official who could hear out his hardship case. In the meantime, David found a $12-an-hour job stocking shelves at CVS. But what little money David could save to start paying off his mortgage didn’t help, because the bank refused to take partial payment, David said. As the delinquent payments piled up, Chevy Chase announced it was putting his house up for auction Nov. 18 on the steps of Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville.

Situations like David’s are complicated and demand an equally complex answer—preferably before foreclosure is imminent, said Richard Nelson, the director of the county’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs. Unfortunately, banks are reluctant to sit down with homeowners before a foreclosure notice is sent out—and oftentimes just as reluctant after, he said.

“The banks are the last ones to realize what new approaches are necessary to solve this problem,” Nelson said. “The question I have is: … When do they realize it cost them more to go into foreclosure than it does to help settle with the borrower?”

In late 2008, Capital One purchased Chevy Chase. Julie Rakes, a spokeswoman for Capital One, wrote in an e-mail to the Gazette on Nov. 23 that “…it has always been our policy to work with borrowers who experience financial distress and to offer relief alternatives when appropriate. For customers experiencing financial challenges, we work to reduce the monthly repayment burden for those who qualify for assistance.”

She declined to elaborate on how and when Capital One offers to renegotiate loans.

Since 2007, some 2,060 Montgomery County homes were foreclosed on and purchased by banks, and more than 12,000 were at some stage of the process, Nelson said.

But banks have been even more difficult to work with in the second wave of foreclosures, Nelson said. In the third quarter of 2009, which began in July and ended in September, 864 properties received notices they were late on their mortgages, 986 homeowners were told by their bank that their home would be sold in an foreclosure auction and 368 were acquired by the bank, according to Nelson’s stats.

David awoke the morning of Nov. 18 prepared to become yet another number.

“I was not just angry. I was devastated,” he said. “I thought I would go to the highest building possible and … pretend I was going to jump.”

But a phone call from his foreclosure counselor confirmed what he hadn’t dared to hope: Capital One had suddenly agreed to make a new offer at the very last minute.

He arrived at the foreclosure auction anyway, just to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.

“They were highly unpredictable,” he explained. “For nine months, they weren’t willing to speak with me.”

When investors skipped over his home at the auction, his taut face relaxed into a loose smile.

But he remained hesitant to accept his good fortune: “One thing is they can tell you that [they’ll negotiate],” he said. “Another thing is they can stab you in the back.”

Several weeks later, a happy David answered his home phone. Capital One had made an offer he could afford. If he made every payment on time for three months, the offer would become permanent.

“People in good faith did not know me but had sympathy,” he said on how his problem got solved. No one involved in his case really understood the bank’s change of heart, David said, and Capital One declined to comment on individual cases.

Many housing officials know David’s story is a rare success.

The only way to ensure there are more cases like David’s is to engage in full, pre-emptive talks among banks, homeowners, local governments and foreclosure counselors. At least one of those entities is usually unwilling to cooperate and the rest are overwhelmed, he said.

And if unemployment continues to rise, there’s no limit to how many more people could be in his shoes and just how big this second wave of foreclosures could be, Nelson said.

“I don’t think we’re at a crest,” he said. “I think we’re going to see a lot over the course of the next year.”

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‘Second wave’ of foreclosures continues to rise.