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Home foreclosures way up in Becker County

Phone bill. Groceries. Student loan. Car payment. Mortgage installment. Sometimes it's difficult to cover all the bills and something suffers. House foreclosures are on the rise. Sometimes owners can pull through and not lose their house. Others ...

Phone bill. Groceries. Student loan. Car payment. Mortgage installment. Sometimes it's difficult to cover all the bills and something suffers.

House foreclosures are on the rise. Sometimes owners can pull through and not lose their house. Others aren't as fortunate. But borrowers are trying to help. Foreclosures aren't good for anyone.

"Foreclosure is not good for consumers. It damages communities, and it is detrimental to mortgage lenders and the capital markets investors who provide funding for homeownership," said Jason Menke, communications consultant with Wells Fargo Bank.

According to the Becker County Recorder's office, in 2002, 31 foreclosure sale documents were filed, and four of them were redeemed, which means the owners managed to prevent the foreclosure.

Because of the six-month redemption period, those being redeemed don't necessarily align with the year they were up for sale.

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In 2003, the sales documents filed decreased to 26, and 10 were redeemed. The next three years the numbers stayed pretty even with 27 sales and 5 redemptions in 2004, 27 sales with six redemptions in 2005, and 29 sales and nine redemptions in 2006. Then 2007 hit.

So far this year, there have been 42 sale documents registered and only two redemptions.

"There are so many different rules to foreclosure," Recorder Darlene Maneval said. "This is a very hot topic."

She said the first notice the county receives is when a power of attorney to foreclose is filed.

"A lot stop there," she said.

Many owners are "spurred" to get up-to-date on the payments and keep their homes.

Once a house goes into foreclosure, it is turned over to the Becker County Auditor's office, which then runs an ad in newspapers stating the house is being foreclosed on and is up for sale. Once the sheriff holds the sale, at which the house is usually bought back by the bank or lender, the owner then has a six-month grace period to pay up and redeem the house.

Maneval said it doesn't happen much in the Becker County area, but in larger towns, even Moorhead, for example, when a house hits foreclosure, someone will come in, buy the house, and resell it for profit.

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"Where there's hardship, there's someone who steps in," she said.

According to records at DL Newspapers, from March to September 2006, there were a total of 38 foreclosures advertised in the newspaper. Ten of those were canceled, meaning the owners paid the late payments on the house and the ad no longer ran the entire six weeks.

From March to September 2007, the number of foreclosures rose to 77, with 17 being canceled within the six-week period.

"We work hard to keep customers in their homes when they experience financial difficulties," Menke said. "This is especially true at a time when adjustable-rate mortgages are resetting at a higher rate."

Some of the options Wells Fargo offers include a toll-free number consumers can call to discuss solutions, provide credit management education programs and work with customers up to the actual point of foreclosure to help them prevent it.

When homeowners in financial trouble contact their lenders right away, Menke said it makes it easier for a way out.

"It enables the lender to help before the weight of the past due payments reduces consumers' options for remaining in their homes."

But admitting the struggle and making that contact can be difficult.

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"Contact remains the single biggest obstacle that mortgage servicers face in addressing the crisis that has shaken confidence in homeownership in America. Of the consumers who lose a home to foreclosure, 50 percent never contacted their lenders for help."

Hope Now is a program that will provide another way for servicers -- in partnership with investors -- to reach out to at-risk mortgage customers via not-for-profit advisors, he added.

Consumers will benefit from debt management and budget guidance that considers all of their debt, and can potentially lessen the severity of mortgage default before it becomes unmanageable.

"You have to understand every borrower's situation is different, and so every time someone who is facing financial difficulty calls us, the options that are available, and how the process works ... There are a lot of individual factors that go into the process and into the decision making," Menke said.

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