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For immediate release Thursday, September 10, 2009.
Contact Bob Brammer 515-281-6699 or rbrammer@ag.state.ia.us

Miller: “Mortgage Help Hotline” Helps Stabilize Foreclosure Rate in Iowa

Iowa rate of new foreclosures improves
from 26th to 6th best in U.S.
Miller urges Iowans at risk of foreclosure
to call Mortgage Help Hotline at 877-622-4866.

Des Moines, Sept. 10, 2009. Iowa has been among the best states in responding to the national mortgage crisis, Attorney General Tom Miller said Thursday. Miller partially credited the Iowa Mortgage Help Hotline for helping thousands of Iowans, often by negotiating modified loan terms to make payments affordable for homeowners threatened by foreclosure.Mortgage Chart

["Q107" = 1st quarter 2007, "Q207" = 2nd quarter 2007, etc.]


The most recent foreclosure data from the Mortgage Bankers Association shows that Iowa’s national ranking has improved significantly over the last two years. Iowa ranked 26th best in the nation for the rate of new foreclosure “starts” in the first quarter of 2007, but by the second quarter of 2009, Iowa’s rate improved to 6th best in the nation. [Click here for chart showing Iowa's ranking.]

“This is a good trend,” Miller said. “Foreclosure rates are starting to stabilize in Iowa as compared to other states,” Miller said, “but there are many more Iowans who might be able to avoid foreclosure by calling the Hotline. While we have improved compared to other states, our foreclosure numbers are still high compared to historical norms,” he said.

“We strongly encourage any Iowans to call if they are fearful of not being able to make their mortgage payments. Iowa Mortgage Help can’t help everyone, but it has helped a great many,” he said.

“The first step is to call the toll-free Hotline at 877-622-4866,” Miller said, “or visit the website at www.IowaMortgageHelp.com.” The Hotline is free, confidential, effective, and open to all Iowans, he said. Hotline calls are answered weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Miller said he believes that work done by the Iowa Mortgage Help Hotline is responsible for some of the improvements compared to other states. Since February 2008, the Hotline has taken an estimated 8,500 intake calls, and received over 6,600 applications from all 99 Iowa counties. In 60% of those cases, Iowa Mortgage Help is negotiating directly with the lender on behalf of the borrower.

The Hotline, which is run by a coalition of organizations, provides services to Iowans including counseling, negotiating loan modifications, and other forms of loss mitigation. “Where we can’t save the home, we can still help prepare the family for a ‘soft landing’ instead of a crash,” Miller said.

Miller noted that Iowa Mortgage Help has been receiving nearly 100 applications per week since early this year. Before that, the Hotline had received about 80 per week since its launch in 2008. Miller attributed the increase in part to a law proposed by his office that requires lenders to notify borrowers when they are served with a foreclosure notice that the free Iowa Mortgage Help Hotline is available. “The law helps us reach more people, and that means saving more homes,” he said.

Miller made his comments at a news conference Thursday held in conjunction with the the “HousingIowa” conference and the annual meeting of the Iowa Home Ownership Education Project (IHOEP). He praised the work being done in Iowa by many organizations helping to save Iowans’ homes.

The Iowa Mortgage Help Hotline was created in February 2008 by Miller and the Iowa Finance Authority with a $1.5 million federal grant. (IFA Director Bret Mills participated in the news conference.) Other partners in the Iowa Mortgage Help program include Iowa Mediation Service, the Iowa Home Ownership Education Project (IHOEP), Iowa Legal Aid, and many local housing counseling organizations around the state. Another partner, Strategic America, has helped develop a statewide public awareness campaign to encourage Iowans in need to call for help. A second grant is helping the program continue at least through 2009. The funds expanded a hotline originally started by Miller and the Iowa Mediation Service in September 2007, which at the time was one of only a few in the nation.

“Iowa’s program was one of the first in the nation and it remains one of the very best,” Miller said. “The program is working. It is saving Iowans from foreclosure.”

“The Hotline deserves some of the credit for Iowa doing better than the national average,” Miller said. He noted that 55% of the cases resolved by the Hotline this year have resulted in various kinds of agreements that may help the borrowers save their homes. These cases include temporary or permanent loan modifications as well other agreements that help resolve the financial distress.”

Iowans Should Call the Hotline If They Are Struggling to Pay Their Mortgage

“Iowans should call the Mortgage Help Hotline if they are currently struggling or as soon as they think they may be headed toward financial difficulty,” Miller said. “That one free call could help save your home.”

The toll-free number for Iowa Mortgage Help is 877-622-4866. More information is also available at www.IowaMortgageHelp.com.

When Iowans call the Hotline, operators will gather basic data and will refer the callers' cases to one of the local housing counseling agencies around the state that are part of Iowa Mortgage Help. The certified counselors then will gather more in-depth financial information and will determine the level of counseling that is needed.

If a caller's situation requires financial counseling, such as help with managing personal finances, the case will be handled by the local counseling agency. If a caller's situation requires interaction with the mortgage servicer or lender, the caller may go back and work with Iowa Mediation Service to facilitate a loan modification, if possible.

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