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SALT LAKE CITY — More than 6,500 properties in Utah registered a foreclosure filing during the third quarter of 2011, which translates to one in every 145 housing units receiving a notice of default, scheduled auction or bank repossession.
The most recent report from the market research firm RealtyTrac, which is based in Irvine, Calif., showed the Beehive State with the sixth-highest rate of foreclosure filings in the nation.
Unfortunately, many homeowners in Utah are unaware of numerous resources that could help them avoid losing what is typically the most valuable asset they own.
Utah has many nonprofit agencies that are sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to dispense advice and information regarding foreclosure counseling, budgeting and credit, along with personal and mortgage finance.
While most of the services are free, some may require a small charge.
"One of the things that is great about HUD-approved housing counseling agencies is their fees are very low because they are nonprofits," said Afton January, foreclosure and event coordinator for the Utah Housing Coalition. "They take in consideration people's ability to pay (and charge accordingly)."
For a list of HUD-approved housing counseling agencies in Utah, dial 211 or visit these Web sites:
• Housing Education Coalition of Utah: utahforeclosureprevention.com /index.html
• U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development: hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/h cs.cfm? webListAction=search&searchstate=UT
• The Homeowner's Cafe: www.thehomeownerscafe.com
Among the other useful resources is 211 Utah, a telephone referral service that residents can contact from anywhere in the state to obtain information on various resources that are available — mostly at no cost or a relatively low fee.
"211 is really an important number for people in the community to know whether they are doing very well or whether they are struggling," she said.
While the state's foreclosure filing rate is among the highest in the country, that figure has fallen significantly this year. The state's rate declined more than 18 percent from the second quarter of 2011, and almost 39 percent from the third quarter of last year.
Despite the falling rate, many Utahns still find themselves facing some difficult mortgage challenges.
"Once (homeowners) have hit a point when they are a month or two past due, they (usually) contact us … into the foreclosure stage," said Jared Holt, certified foreclosure intervention and default counselor for AAA Fair Credit Foundation, a HUD-approved nonprofit agency located in Salt Lake City.
"Mortgage companies, for the most part, do want to keep homeowners in their homes," Holt said. "Most of the time, it just requires finding a way to get the homeowners to meet with the servicers and connecting those two together. … That's where a housing counseling agency really comes into play."
In the wake of the mortgage crisis, some for-profit financial institutions have also developed programs to offer resources to customers.
In Utah, Zions Bank recently created the Homeowners Café — a resource center dedicated to issues concerning homeownership. It is a first-of-its-kind resource in the area to serve as an education center where community members — clients or nonclients — can go for guidance with their homeownership questions at no cost.
"There are many services, tools and resources available throughout the community," said Michele Weaver, vice president and manager of The Homeowner's Cafe. "However, there are many people who do not know about the services (or some) that know about the services but feel that they may not qualify. The Homeowners Café is a good bridge for that gap."
Other institutions also offer services, but may be limited to banking customers.