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Wells Fargo Steps Up Foreclosure Prevention

From foreclosure moratoriums to targeted community outreach programs, lenders across the country are stepping up their home retention efforts to tackle the foreclosure epidemic that has strangled the U.S. housing market and the economy. In addition to its staunch support of the administration's new foreclosure prevention plan, California-based ""Wells Fargo"":http://www.wellsfargo.com is adding one more weapon to its arsenal.
The bank has announced that, in conjunction with the ""National Urban League"":http://www.nul.org, it will co-sponsor a new edition of ""The Foreclosure Workbook: The Complete Guide to Understanding Foreclosure and Saving Your Home."" The workbook, written by foreclosure author ""Carla Douglin"":http://www.speakermatch.com/keynotespeakers/748423909.htm, will be free-of-charge to at-risk customers across the nation through Wells Fargo’s Leading the Way Home initiative.
Cara Heiden, co-president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, said, ""Our vision has long been to help our customers succeed financially by helping them achieve and sustain homeownership. We believe in doing what is right for our customers, and that includes working with them to find solutions to keep them in their homes when they face financial difficulties.""
The hands-on guide will help homeowners experiencing challenges making their mortgage payments and who may face potential foreclosure. Copies of the workbook will be distributed at Wells Fargo home preservation workshops held across the country and at all 101 Urban League affiliate offices.
The workbook was officially launched during the Feb. 28 State of the Black Union address at the Los Angeles Convention Center, staged by Tavis Smiley. Wells Fargo served as the title sponsor for the event for the third consecutive year.
Earlier this year, Wells Fargo introduced Leading the Way Home, a multi-faceted initiative to stabilize housing, advance homeownership, and revitalize neighborhoods in cities hit hard by foreclosure. In addition to providing financial literacy tools, Wells Fargo is helping real estate agents, nonprofit housing organizations, and city officials understand how to sell vacant and foreclosed properties to new owners. The company also offers financing to new buyers of vacant properties, and provides loan education that reinforces sustainable homeownership.
The National Urban League assists more than 400,000 people a year with homeownership issues by providing housing counseling and financial literacy services in an effort to improve the financial situation for minorities with respect to securing homeownership, maintaining good credit, and obtaining monetary savings. Through its distribution of the workbooks, the organization says it can continue to provide homeowners at-risk of losing their residences with information to help them preserve and sustain homeownership.
Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, commented, ""This workbook complements the National Urban League’s outreach efforts to homeowners in distress to help them stay in their homes. The opportunity to own, and the ability to pursue and preserve homeownership, are core components of the Urban League’s Opportunity Compact, and are deeply embedded in the Urban League’s Economic Empowerment Agenda.""
According to Heiden, over the past year and half, Wells Fargo has provided more than 706,000 foreclosure prevention solutions for at-risk homeowners. Heiden explained that the new foreclosure prevention workbook is just one more way the bank can improve on its 94 percent contact rate to help customers who are two or more payments past due on their mortgage loans.
Just last week, Mary Coffin, EVP of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Servicing, ""testified before a House subcommittee"":https://www.wellsfargo.com/press/2009/20090224_MaryCoffin on housing financial services in support of the administration's new Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan. Coffin testified that last year, Wells Fargo made it possible for half a million families to purchase a home, and refinanced another half a million families into lower mortgage payments.
At the end of 2008, Coffin said, ""For the 8 million mortgage customers Wells Fargo services, 93 of every 100 were current on their mortgage payments. And, for the 7 who were not, we have worked hard at keeping them in their homes. Since our servicing portfolio is predominantly held by other investors, this has required gaining consensus to honor our contracts.""
Coffin continued, ""As the number of customers in need rises, Wells Fargo has advocated the creation of a standardized modification process that is aligned across all investors. The one described in the administration’s plan will significantly improve our ability to serve more customers and to set appropriate consumer expectations for a modification.""
Coffin noted that 56 percent of the nation’s 55 million mortgage loans are owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - who are already aligned with the new standardized modification process. But, Coffin said, most critical are the 16 percent held by private investors, which represent an askewed 62 percent of seriously delinquent mortgage loans.
Addressing the government's broad-based foreclosure prevention initiative, Coffin said, ""Even though the details of the administration’s plan are not final, Wells Fargo has already begun to operationalize the proposed standard modification program. Immediately after the President’s announcement, we were ready to assist our customers with information through our web sites, voice response units, and team members. And, our analysis to find customers who may qualify is well under way.""
The bank has also suspended foreclosure sales until at least March 13th, to give the administration time to finalize the loan modification component of its plan and ensure all options are made available to homeowners.
Coffin added that while the government's plan for sustained homeownership ""will go a long way in addressing our nation’s housing challenges,"" even more can be done through continued collaboration. Coffin told lawmakers that the Federal Housing Administration's (FHA's) authority should be expanded and changes should be made to its Hope for Homeowners program.
""No loan modification, alone, can solve this dilemma,"" Coffin said, noting that in some cases, counseling which considers full debt restructuring may be required.

About Author: Carrie Bay

Carrie Bay is a freelance writer for DS News and its sister publication MReport. She served as online editor for DSNews.com from 2008 through 2011. Prior to joining DS News and the Five Star organization, she managed public relations, marketing, and media relations initiatives for several B2B companies in the financial services, technology, and telecommunications industries. She also wrote for retail and nonprofit organizations upon graduating from Texas A&M University with degrees in journalism and English.

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