Not without a fight
BY TERRY SAVAGE Sun-Times Columnist
When Jeanette Maxie's mortgage nearly doubled, she educated herself and used her knowledge to get the bank to back off.
Updated: May 3, 2013 12:14PM
Jeanette Maxie has a good-paying job in the airline industry. Several years ago she bought a small bungalow on Chicago's South Side, where she lives today with her elderly, bedridden father, her two children, and two granddaughters.
The house is on a block in the Auburn-Gresham area, which has many homeowners assisted by Neighborhood Housing Services. Their mission is to rebuild the neighborhoods, one house at a time. Recently, they've seen inner city neighborhoods go backward, marred by "for sale" signs dotting the streets, so NHS has an aggressive program to prevent foreclosures.
In 2008, more than 565 properties in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood were in foreclosure, up from 444 in 2007. And so far this year, the numbers of foreclosures, and vacant homes owned by lenders, is soaring.
When Jeanette purchased her home -- clearly her proudest moment -- she relied on advice from a mortgage broker. She was offered a loan that carried a fixed rate for two years, and then would be "adjusted." Jeanette never dreamed it could adjust upward from the original hefty 9 percent rate to nearly 15 percent. Her mortgage payment nearly doubled overnight, something she realized she could not afford.
Jeanette decided she wouldn't give up her home without a fight. This feisty woman knew her family was depending on her. She needed to get that loan modified. Jeanette barraged her lender with calls and e-mails, never taking "no" for an answer. She even threatened to write to Congress, charging the bank was not fulfilling its mission to help troubled homeowners.
SEEKING HELP: Although she was both determined and outspoken, Jeanette realized she needed help in her fight. She attended a NHS foreclosure-prevention seminar in her neighborhood. Housing counselor Sandra Wells helped her fill out the forms and understand the legalities. As well, Sandra contacted her lender to add her voice to Jeanette's entreaties.
LESSON LEARNED: Jeanette refused to be caught in the bank's "voice-mail hell." She describes taking names and numbers, then calling again to speak to a supervisor. She researched the law, using her knowledge to her advantage. And she made use of every available resource. Jeanette's strategy of being a persistent gadfly worked. She received a loan modification, and now encourages others to follow her example.
Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser.
Neighborhood Housing Services offers free, two-hour workshops in foreclosure prevention at six of its area offices. The workshops are offered in English and Spanish. For more information, call NHS at (773) 329-4185 or register at www.NHSChicago.org. (To register for Spanish-speaking classes, call (773) 329-4181.) NHS also has an affordable lending fund to help buyers and those looking to refinance.
The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department has resources for Chicago residents at its Web site, www.HUD.gov. Just search under "Illinois Foreclosure Prevention."
For free legal representation, contact the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago at (312) 341-1070 or www.lafchicago.org.
To report suspected Mortgage Scams, call the Illinois Attorney General's Consumer Fraud Hotline at (800) 386-5438.
For credit counseling or to understand bankruptcy options, call Consumer Credit Counseling Services at (800) 388-2227.