Help for homeowners who owe more than their homes are worth

2:28 PM, Sep 6, 2013   |    comments
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(WXIA) -- More than 10 million homeowners across the country are deeply underwater on their mortgages, according to RealtyTrac.com.

317,000 of those homeowners are right here in Georgia.

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Jewel Brown is among them.

She bought a home in 2005, at a time when the economy was solid.

"Everything was great up until 2009, 2010," said Brown. "That's when everything started to sink. My house became upside down."

She now owes $50,000 more than her home is worth.

Housing experts say many people across the country got into the same situation, purchasing homes at attractive prices just before the housing crash.

Values dropped dramatically. On average, the value of a home bought in 2005 is now 14% less, 18% less for homes purchased in 2006 and 2007, according to RealtyTrac.

Values are rising, but for some not fast enough.

"There's not the home buying to the degree we need it to happen," said Scott Scredon of CredAbility.org.

Dan Forsman of Prudential Georgia Realty says home values are about three years from a full recovery.

"If we continue at the rate we are, if we get ten percent appreciation next year and the year after that, we're out of it," said Forsman.

If you owe more money than your home is worth you may qualify for a government funded loan modification or other relief.

Call 1-888-995-HOPE (4673) to get a counselor to help guide you through your options. The hotline is a partnership between the federal government and the Home Ownership Preservation Foundation. It is open 24 hours a day seven days a week.  Some homeowners qualify for a refinance at a lower interest rate. Others are offered loan modifications that reducs the principal or lowers the balance on a second mortgage.

11Alive's Help Desk recently came up with a list of tax resources and tips. When filing taxes for 2013 and upcoming years, remembering some key facts helped prepare taxpayers.

A report from February showed that around half of Atlanta homeowners were underwater in their mortgages by then end of 2012. The report predicted that by the end of 2013, Atlanta's negative equity rate would dip to 47.9 percent.

Home and real estate marketplace Zillow has an online Mortgage Education Center, where several numbers can be figured. It has a calculator tool to determine what monthly payments will be, if you can afford a certain home price, decide if you should refinance, estimate your credit score, estimate a home's closing cost and more.

For those who fear they might fall behind in making payments and want to take early action, Fannie Mae gives options that could keep worriers at home. From modifying a mortgage to setting a new repayment plan and making payments more affordable, temporary solutions can help anyone get back on track.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says seeking help early can help you keep your home. Early action of working with lenders, knowing which scams to avoid and getting education on foreclosure prevention, homeowners can stay above water.

According to Georgia's Department of Banking and Finance, the IRS can help people who have lost their homes to foreclosure. It says foreclosures will bring tax consequences to homeowners facing foreclosure, but special relief provisions can help reduce or do away with that penalty.

The Atlanta Housing Authority is an online stop for families and individuals as they make housing choices. It provides a direct contact for a variety of housing needs, including apartment application tips, Quality of Life initiative information, property listings and agencies around metro Atlanta.

Consumer Credit Counseling and Debt Management is available in Atlanta from CredAbility, a nonprofit agency that offers advice and education. For those worried about debt, the agency can talk with homeowners about bankruptcy, managing payments, figuring a budget and expert tips.

Makinghomeaffordable.gov explains the various modification programs and who qualifies for them. Most programs are only designed for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac backed loans.

Georgians who are unemployed or underemployed may qualify for mortgage assistance through HomeSafeGeorgia.com.

Also contact your lender to see if they will work with you on regaining equity in your home.

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