Thursday, February 25, 2010

Do's and Don'ts When Buying A Home

UNHS NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center in Utica, NY, brings you the second in its series of 12 educational videos for consumers. In this video, Homeownership Coordinator Julie Howarth clears up the myths and gives homebuyers the real scoop on buying a home. If you are unable to view the embedded video below, view it here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Underwater Mortgages Hit 11.3 Million

Millions of homeowners are underwater on their mortgages — owing more than their homes are worth — according to new research released this week. According to the study conducted by First American CoreLogic and reported by, more than 11.3 million residential properties, or 24 percent of all homes in the U.S. with mortgages, were in negative equity at the end of 2009.

Many of the people who own these homes are facing foreclosure because of job loss or other circumstance. Faced with these issues, many homeowners are confused about what to do.

Disreputable companies are betting that people in financial distress will be easy targets for their foreclosure and mortgage modification scams. NeighborWorks America continues to push its loan scam prevention efforts and promote its foreclosure prevention counseling initiatives.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Housing Nonprofits are Using Social Media

A few weeks ago we asked NeighborWorks Facebook fans how they're using social media. We wanted to get a pulse for how affordable housing and other nonprofits working in low and moderate income neighborhoods are using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, social networks, and such to advance their missions. At the same time, we're seeing some good local examples emerge.

So this is what we found out:

More and more, organizations are using blogs, Facebook pages, and YouTube to tell their stories. Organizations are incorporating personal testimonies to give a face to the real people whose lives are benefitting from their services.

NHS of Greater Cleveland's Facebook page, with more than 1,200 fans, is an impressive example of how a local nonprofit, working in neighborhoods hard hit by foreclosures, is using their page to post relevant information on homeownership education, scam prevention, information on purchasing vacant homes, and much more. NHS of Baltimore's Homeownership blog offers current, practical advice for residents, like a recent post on dealing with damage to your home after a snowstorm.

NeighborWorks Dakota Home Resources is tapping the philanthropic crowdsourcing trend by participating in Pepsi's refresh project to seek support for their block club in Rapid City, South Dakota. Pepsi is donating $20 million in grants this year to applicants who submit "good ideas that move communities forward" and are using a website and their large social media base in the process. Crowd-sourced philanthropy could be a game changer for local nonprofits.

Organizations are setting up YouTube channels to tell their story and make available educational information. Utica NHS, for example, worked with a local television program to do a series on financial education. The first segment on cleaning up holiday debt was terrific.

Nothing new here, clearly a lot of nonprofit staff are using LinkedIn for professional contacts. The site seems to be replacing business cards for following up with people met in a professional setting and exchanging information in online groups around common professional interests.

Are you using sites like and to promote your volunteer events? These kinds of sites could get traction this Spring for tapping volunteers to plant flowers, fix porches, paint, clean-up debris and other activities.

One more thing we're seeing is that informational and rating sites are becoming a factor in how people give to local nonprofits. Savvy nonprofits are keeping a watch on how they're represented on sites like Charity Navigator and Inside Good.

Tom Austin

Friday, February 19, 2010

NeighborWorks Launches Loan Scam Alert Campaign in NYC

Yesterday NeighborWorks America launched the national “Loan Modification Scam Alert” campaign in New York City to provide City residents facing the possibility of foreclosure with vital information to guard against loan modification scams, find trusted help and report illegal activity to trusted authorities.

NeighborWorks Chief Operating Officer Eileen Fitzgerald was joined for the announcement by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz, representatives from the Center for New York City Neighborhoods and other City officials.

The national foreclosure rate has reached an all-time high of 8.85 percent, and millions more foreclosures are expected in coming years. In New York, the rate is near 7.78 percent.

As Fitzgerald told Ron Scherer with The Christian Science Monitor, "It is a rising problem, with more and more people every day calling to say they have been scammed. [...] Folks are desperate, and they are willing to try anything.”

To learn more about the event, visit NeighborWorks' newsroom or read the Christian Science Monitor story about mortgage fraud and yesterday's event.

To learn more about loan modification scams and how you can avoid them, visit

Thursday, February 18, 2010

U.S. Senator Mikulski and NeighborWorks America Unite to Fight Loan Modification Scams

U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, NeighborWorks America COO Eileen Fitzgerald and other federal, state, and local government agencies, nonprofit organizations and financial institutions launched the national Loan Modification Scam Alert campaign at the Seat Pleasant Activity Center in Prince George’s County, Maryland on February 17. The “Loan Modification Scam Alert” campaign provides Maryland residents facing the possibility of foreclosure with vital information so they can guard against loan modification scams, find trusted help, and report illegal activity to trusted authorities.

“These are the toughest of times. People are anxious about their jobs, bills, and how to keep their homes. But where there is need, there is greed – and where there’s greed, there’s scam and scum,” said Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.). “Maryland has been hit hard by slick scammers and schemers preying on families in a tight spot. That’s why I am so proud to join NeighborWorks in announcing the Loan Modification Scam Alert campaign. Today our message is clear: where there is scam and scum, we’ll go after it. Help for homeowners is just a phone call away.”

“Too many residents in Prince George’s County and the state of Maryland are losing thousands of dollars and their homes to scam artists who make big promises and then do little or nothing to help them save their homes,” said Eileen Fitzgerald, Chief Operating Officer of NeighborWorks America. “Anyone can be a victim and the people of Maryland need to know what resources are available to them. Knowledge is the best defense, which is why we’re equipping homeowners with the tools they need to minimize their risk and stop scammers in their tracks.”

Read more in the NeighborWorks Newsroom.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Senate Introduces Bill to Help Unemployed Homeowners and Provide Third Round of NSP Funding

Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania has introduced the Homeowners' Relief and Neighborhood Stabilization Act of 2010, which provides temporary relief to unemployed homeowners and proposes a third round of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP3).

The bill provides $3 billion to allow homeowners facing a temporary loss in income due to unemployment, underemployment or medical condition to receive low-interest loans for up to 24 months to assist in their monthly mortgage payment. Homeowners must be at least 3 months behind on their mortgage payments and have received a notice stating that the holder of the mortgage intends to foreclose.

The bill also establishes $1 billion for NSP3 to provide grants to eligible entities to purchase and redevelop foreclosed and abandoned properties. The proposed third round of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program uses the NSP2 version of the program, but for a few changes.

Learn more about the Homeowners' Relief and Neighborhood Stabilization Act of 2010 at

Friday, February 5, 2010

Video: Bringing You Home - How to Reduce Your Post Holiday Debt

The video below takes a look at how to reduce your post holiday debt. It is the first in a series of 12 educational videos brought to you by UNHS NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center in Utica, NY, and sponsored by Adirondack Bank. If you are unable to view the embedded video, view it at

Thursday, February 4, 2010

NeighborWorks Recognizes Black History Month by Offering Tips for Long-Term Affordable Homeownership

For more than 30 years NeighborWorks America has strived to help make the dream of affordable homeownership a reality for underserved populations. For some time, however, families were priced out of the market and homeownership was a distant dream. Today there is improved affordability and tremendous opportunity, which makes homeownership an achievable dream for potential buyers who should heed the lessons learned from the housing crisis.

This year, NeighborWorks America recognizes Black History Month by urging African Americans who are interested in becoming homeowners to seek homeownership education at local NeighborWorks organizations to best prepare for making their dreams of long-term homeownership come true.

“Buying a home is a complex financial transaction and homebuyers who begin the process with the right information through homeownership education lay the groundwork for long-term success for themselves, their families, and the community at-large,” said Ken Wade, CEO of NeighborWorks America.

If you are interested in becoming a homeowner but want to know if you are on the right path, Wade offers seven questions that homebuyers should ask themselves so they know whether they are ready for homeownership:

  • Do you have a reliable source of income?
  • Do you plan on living in your community for 10+ years?
  • Are you a saver?
  • Do you have minimal debt?
  • Do you have a good credit score?
  • Do you have at least a five percent down payment saved, along with funding to cover closing costs and moving expenses?
  • Are you prepared for the responsibility of maintaining a home after purchase?
“Whether you are ready to buy a home now or you want to prepare for homeownership in a year, two years, or more, homeownership education will put you on the path toward achieving your dream,” said Wade.

Where can homebuyers find homeownership education in their community? NeighborWorks has nearly 100 local HUD-approved nonprofit housing counseling organizations across the country that have trained counselors on-staff, ready to advise families one-on-one and help them make the right homeownership choice for them. To find a local NeighborWorks organization that offers homeownership education in your area, visit

Monday, February 1, 2010

Nonprofits Are Urged to Share Information on Earned Benefits With Their Employees and Clients

The federal government took steps in 2009 to significantly expand benefits and supports for the nation’s low-income families, with much of the new assistance coming through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This legislation increased benefits for struggling families, including unemployment insurance coverage, tax credits and assistance programs such as food stamps, child care and housing subsidies.

These investments can make an enormous difference for America’s struggling families, but only if they can gain access to and receive the benefits for which they are eligible.

The National Assembly (of which NeighborWorks America is a member) has produced a series of materials and tools to make it easier for nonprofits to share this information, and The Annie E. Casey Foundation has produced an issue brief, Improving Access to Public Benefits to help individuals and families get the income supports they need.