Growing Bank Owned Foreclosures Put Stress on Counselors

by Peter Vernon on Foreclosure Crisis

Foreclosure causes undue stress to everyone, even to housing counselors. In Chicago, Illinois, where the number of Bank Owned Foreclosures continues to soar, homeownership consultants, as they are known professionally, even worked during Saturdays to cope with the growing number of distressed homeowners who need help to remain in their properties.

One housing consultant handles as many as 67 cases in a week and all of them involved helping distressed homeowners avoid putting their homes on Bank Owned Foreclosures.

Results of a research showed that despite the hard work and individual successes of housing counselors, their effort has barely made a dent in providing assistance to troubled homeowners to get through the foreclosure problem.

Report from the Woodstock Institute and Housing Action Illinois indicated that an average of 7.3 distressed homeowners in Chicago received government-approved home foreclosure counseling and assistance out of 100 area repossession filings in 2008.

The report also showed gaps in counseling activity in northwest Will County, Lake County, suburban Cook County and McHenry County. And even in areas where counseling services are usually offered, an average of 80 percent homeowners are still facing the possibility of Bank Owned Foreclosures without the free counseling provided by agencies certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Woodstock Vice President Geoff Smith said that there were troubled homeowners who could be helped if only assistance was provided to them in time and they were represented appropriately.

Currently, the state of Illinois has a total of 94 HUD-approved counseling agencies. The report pointed out that the problem is the lack of awareness of homeowners and limited resources of agencies.

DuPage Homeownership Center executive director Dru Bergman said that many housing counselors complained that they have not signed up for a job that involves preparing distressed homeowners for a life-altering event and the possible loss of their properties.

Bergman said that to help ease stress, the center provides chocolates to counselors. In other agencies, counselors said that they discuss their frustrations with their fellow workers or on online bulletin boards where they share stories, caseloads and strategies on how to negotiate with lenders.

But many counselors claimed that they have learned a lot by talking with distressed homeowners.

And with every client they helped to avoid Bank Owned Foreclosures, counselors find themselves changing their own spending habits and saving more as they realize that a change in circumstances could result in them ending up on the other side of the table.