Overwhelming response to SJ mortgage help

August 21, 2008 1:13:49 AM PDT
For hundreds of people in desperate shape because of the mortgage mess, San Jose was the place to be Wednesday night. Homeowners from around the Bay Area came to get immediate help to avoid foreclosure and the turnout was overwhelming.

People were clamoring to get in. Lines stretched around the building. As many as 400 people converged at Independence High School in San Jose, all hoping to get out of their mortgage mess.

"How many payments have you missed?" asked a volunteer.
"One payment," said a woman.

San Jose's Housing Department organized this event, called the Foreclosure Prevention and Resource Fair. The idea was simple: put lenders, counselors and legal agencies in the same room, giving homeowners easy access to help.

"A lot of people have received notice of default, have received trustee sales. We're trying to get them before they get foreclosed on," said Robert Lopez with the San Jose Housing Department.

The mortgage meltdown hasn't hit San Jose as badly as other Bay Area cities, but there are plenty of stories of foreclosed homes. Lyn Howsley is hoping she doesn't lose hers, since she's a couple months behind on her payments.

"I became ill five years ago and had to retire on disability. Five surgeries and many years later, here I am," said Howsley, a San Jose homeowners.

And many others will likely be at risk of losing their homes. Experts predict the mortgage crisis will drag on for the next two to three years. People with so-called liar loans, mortgages approved without proof of income or assets, are expected to be the next wave of homeowners to default. The Silicon Valley California Association of Mortgage Brokers does however, have some words of advice.

"Work with your lender, don't wait! Be persistent, lenders are overwhelmed with the number of people out there that are in foreclosure, that are in desperate and dire situations. Work with those lenders and call them back. If they say they're going to call you and they don't do it. Call them, continue to follow up," said Cathy Warshawsky, with the Silicon Valley California Association of Mortgage Brokers.

As for those with troubles now, some did walk away with the help they were looking for. The Bobadillas say they got their bank to work with them.

"They are going to give us three months free and then they're going to offer to make the interest low and the payments, so we're happy," said Maria Bobadilla, a San Jose resident.

This is the first foreclosure prevention fair put on by the City of San Jose, but it likely won't be the last. The night's high turnout has prompted city officials to think about organizing another one.

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