SEATTLE—If your home's about to go into foreclosure you've got plenty of company.
Experts say foreclosures were up 15% last month over a year ago.
On Thursday, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna announced a new $1.8 million dollar Foreclosure Prevention program.
They money will pay for a counselors who help homeowners work out loan modifications, as well as restitution for Countrywide Financial borrowers who have already lost their homes.
McKenna says preventing foreclosures doesn't just help struggling families -- but the whole community.
"Those homes go on the market at fire sale prices. The bank doesn't want to own them," he says. "That drives property values down for everybody in the area. Those who need to obtain re-financing because they've got an adjustable mortgage they can't afford -- find now they're underwater -- and they're at risk of foreclosure."
Part of the money for the program comes from a landmark settlement Washington and five other states negotiated with Countrywide -- now owned by Bank of America.
If you need help with a loan modification or restitution, click on the link to the Washington State Housing Finance Commission website for more information.
The money is part of the $150 million Bank of America will spend nationwide on foreclosure relief.
The Attorney General's Office is allocating Washington's share of the settlement payment as follows:
- More than $925,000 in restitution to Washington residents who lost their homes. Checks are being mailed Feb. 12 to 491 Washington residents, who will each receive $1,884 to help offset the origination fees and other costs they paid when they applied for their Countrywide loans.
- · Nearly $600,000 to be distributed among qualified housing counselors to provide one-on-one counseling for up to 2,300 homeowners. The grant will also fund 100 statewide Homebuyer Education seminars. The funds will enable the state to continue providing services available through the Washington State Homeownership Hotline, 1-877-894-HOME.
- · $320,000 to the Washington State Bar Association to fund the Home Foreclosure Legal Aid Project, which provides pro bono legal services to homeowners facing foreclosure.
The Housing Finance Commission says it's helped train more than 140,000 Washington residents on how to properly buy a house and avoid bad loans since 1992.
It's also helped more than 5,000 households avoid foreclosure through a statewide counseling network.
A recent study found counseling clients were 60 percent more likely to avoid foreclosure than homeowners who didn't seek counseling.
They also secured loan modifications that lowered their monthly payments by $454 more than clients who received modifications without foreclosure counseling.
· $10,000 for data analysis to assist the State Foreclosure Prevention Working Group. This multistate group of attorneys general and financial regulators collects loan data from non-federal servicers and publishes reports on the effectiveness of loan modification efforts.
Under its agreement with Washington and 39 other states, Bank of America also agreed to modify loan terms for qualifying Countrywide subprime borrowers.
The most recent statistics show that as of September 2009, 2,295 Washington borrowers have received modifications with expected savings of more than $37.7 million in principle and interest payments.
Ultimately, nearly 10,000 Washington homeowners are expected to receive about $200 million in loan payment relief.