Roughly Speaking podcast: Halloween special: Best of horror movie music (episode 168)

Spike in Md. foreclosure-warning notices this month

More than 18,000 Maryland homeowners have received formal warnings from their mortgage servicers so far this month that a foreclosure case could be filed against them in as little as 45 days.

That sounds like a big number, and it sure is after about a year of mostly suppressed activity as a result of the robo-signing scandal. Fewer than 11,000 notices of intent to file for foreclosure were sent to Marylanders in all of November 2010, according to the state.

Maryland regulators believe the big increase is a sign that some of the backlog created when revelations of robo-signing ground the foreclosure apparatus to a crawl could be starting to hit now. (They also say that October changes to the state's foreclosure-mediation rulebook seem to have prompted more filing from attorneys who were waiting for certainty about how it would look.)

More in today's story.

While I was at it, I asked for data on the state's opt-in foreclosure-mediation program, which has drawn relatively few applications from homeowners.

Sometimes the borrowers don't show up or don't bring paperwork. Frequently the mortgage servicers won't agree to a foreclosure alternative. But state records suggest that 40 percent of cases end with a positive or positive-ish result for the homeowner, from a loan modification to a better-than-eviction exit strategy such as a short sale or cash for keys.

The state's housing officials say homeowners have the best results if they've sought counseling from a nonprofit foreclosure-prevention group and/or arrive with an attorney. Housing counselors are helping link homeowners with free or low-cost legal assistance for that purpose.

Have you been to mediation? How did it go?

Final food for thought: The Center for Responsible Lending says the foreclosure crisis has cut a swath through the poor, middle class and affluent alike, and it isn't even half over.

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