For part 2 of my series on home foreclosure in Chattanooga, I recently interviewed Jay Mace, founder of SaveAmericaHomes.com, which is a Chattanooga non-profit organization that helps homeowners in trouble with the mortgage companies save their homes from foreclosure.
Save America Homes has helped hundreds of people get the best resolution for their foreclosure issue. They do this by drawing on years of experience, and knowing what’s possible.
I sat down for an interview with Jay last week, and we talked about who they are and what they do.
FM – What is “Save America Homes?”
JM - Save America Homes is a non-profit that has been helping homeowners avoid foreclosure since 2007 and has stopped over 400 foreclosures. Our main objective is loan resolution for the homeowner or whatever is in their best interest. We can stop a foreclosure and help the homeowner fight for their home. Never walk away without a signed written agreement with your bank, because someone, probably a sleazy debt collection company will show up harassing you down the road.
FM - Who are you, what's your background, where are you from?
JM - I'm from Knoxville. I moved to Chattanooga from Fort Myers Florida which has had the distinction of being the foreclosure capital several times. I was a mortgage broker at the time of the mortgage boom in southwest Florida.
FM - How did you get interested in this and why did you found the non-profit?
JM - I started working with this because I had several properties in Florida that lost over 50% of their value so I had to figure out how to save my properties. Through my experience fighting for my homes, I understood the overwhelming amount of stress, feelings of embarrassment, feelings of failure and feelings of hopelessness that goes with it. Florida is a judicial state, the opposite of Tennessee and Georgia. That means the default of your mortgage is public record as soon as the bank's foreclosing attorney files the complaint with the court. Realtors, bankruptcy attorneys and scammers start sending you letters. My wife would stack them up on the counter for me. I had no idea which way to go, who to call or who to trust.
FM - How many people have you helped in Chattanooga?
JM - I've helped stop over 400 foreclosure auctions in this area.
FM – What’s your philosophy in this non-profit?
JM - I want people to know they have options. Through my own battles with the banks, I learned that someone needs to stand up and help families stay in their homes or at least get a signed written agreement to leave. And in every case, we are able to get the homeowners money when they choose to move on.
FM - If you could reflect in a general nature about the downturn, the way the bailout of the banks worked and how it impacted homeowners.
JM - My take on the downturn in our country as a whole is our representatives made a decision to allow the banking industry to lower the normal standards to obtain financing for a home. They said in the press releases that their intent was to help lower income families to live the American Dream. What really happened was it gave the banks a weapon to steal trillions of dollars from investors, 401k's and pension funds, while stealing millions of homes nationwide. Why else would a bank take a home when it’s so easy to work something out?
FM – So, your strategy is to try to get the homeowner a new loan, and if that’s not possible, to help them walk away free and clear?
JM - We work on behalf of homeowners to do what’s best for them in their particular situation. Our first hope is always that we can get the homeowner a loan modification. In a loan modification, we get their monthly payments lowered to work within their budget or if they want to settle and move a short sale might work best.
FM – What is a short sale?
JM - A short sale is a sale of real estate in which the proceeds from selling the property fall short of the balance of debts secured by liens against the property. We negotiate with the lien holders to accept less than the amount owed on the house. Short sale agreements do not necessarily release borrowers from their obligations to repay any shortfalls on the loans, unless specifically agreed to between the parties. That's why it’s so important to have us work out the settlement, because the homeowner doesn't want to get jammed up later.
FM - What kind of negotiations do you do?
JM - We do loan resolution negotiations. The biggest benefit to the homeowner is to get a signed written agreement instead of just walking away.
FM - Does having more equity in your home make it more likely you will
JM - No equity needed, and damaged credit doesn’t matter, we can get something resolved.
FM - Can you help people with any type of loan or just certain ones?
JM - We can work with any type of mortgage, including FHA, VA, 1st, 2nd, 3rds, and tax liens.
FM - What's the story with debt companies?
JM – They’re two fold. These debt companies are bottom feeders who will buy the left over debt from a foreclosure and then pop up later to try and collect something from the homeowners. If a homeowner just walks away then they have no representation on their behalf to get a written settlement. Realtors who work on short sales are not likely to know of all the legal issues so future problems are more likely to come back and haunt the homeowners. They’re credit companies who buy debts from banks, or banks looking to gouge people for money, they know there was money left on the table, and with no written settlement, why not go back later to get more from homeowner who walked away? They know the person isn’t likely to show up to a court proceeding to defend themselves.
FM - What is the debt you're talking about?
JM – It’s the difference between what’s owed and what’s received at auction including inflated attorney fees, penalties, escrow overages, and whatever else the bank thinks they can get away with.
FM - Is everyone who's foreclosed vulnerable to this?
JM - Yes, if they don't get a written agreement. Don’t walk away, call us. This is our mission.
You can find more information on Save America Homes at saveamericahomes.com or call (423) 558-0393.