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Foreclosure freezes have Utah homeowners considering options



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SALT LAKE CITY -- A freeze on several foreclosures nationwide has many homeowners considering their options.

Three major mortgage lenders have stopped evictions and sales involving foreclosures in 23 states. The largest, Bank of America, has extended that reprieve to all 50 states. However, financial analysts warn these freezes on foreclosure are likely just a temporary fix.


[It's] definitely a very emotional process. People are very embarrassed ... What they don't realize is that there are a lot of people who are in trouble and there are a lot of options.

–Greg Mauer, National Home Retention Advocacy Program


#mau_quote

Utah ranks among the top 10 nationally when it comes to home foreclosures. The National Home Retention Advocacy Program's executive director, Greg Mauer, has talked with many families who are agonizing as they try to hold on to their homes.

"[It's] definitely a very emotional process," Mauer says. "People are very embarrassed, they're afraid that people are going to know. They don't want their neighbors to know. They don't want people to know that they're in trouble. What they don't realize is that there are a lot of people who are in trouble and there are a lot of options."

There's also a lot of confusion. In August, a record 95,000 homes in the United States were repossessed, but there are growing questions about the system used for foreclosures -- specifically a process called "robo signing." That means legal documents were approved by bank employees and affiliates without ever verifying the details of foreclosure documents.

"The fear is that if this practice is taking place at a couple of the servicers, it may be taking place at all of the servicers," says Rick Sharga, senior vice president of RealtyTrac.


It's very likely that 99 percent-plus of all these loans that have been documented and signed off on are ultimately going to go into foreclosure.

–Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac


#sha_quote

Major lenders have acknowledged problems and stopped evictions and sales of foreclosed homes in many states, including Utah. But analysts warn the respite is likely just temporary.

"It's very likely that 99 percent-plus of all these loans that have been documented and signed off on are ultimately going to go into foreclosure," Sharga says.

Mauer, whose company helps people deal with their home loan problems, says many have options but often don't know it.

"There's a specific process you have to go through -- whether it be submitting a loan modification or a short sale package -- knowing how to put that paperwork together in the right order, knowing who to talk to and what to say," he says.

Meantime, Rep. Trisha Beck, D-Sandy, says she's working on new legislation to give homeowners a right to request mediation with their bank.

"It doesn't force them to have to say, ‘OK, we're gonna do a loan modification.' It just gives the homeowner the right to request mediation, which I think advantages all of us," Black says.

There's a town hall meeting coming up next week on the foreclosure issue. It will be held at Eastmont Middle School in Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m.

E-mail: jdaley@ksl.com

John Daley

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