A program set up last year to help North Carolina homeowners with subprime loans avoid foreclosure is being expanded to include struggling homeowners with traditional prime loans.
The program, called the State Home Foreclosure Prevention Project, offers counseling and legal services through a network of state and local government agencies and nonprofits.
Mark Pearce, chief deputy commissioner of banks, said today that the program is being expanded because the foreclosure crisis in North Carolina has spread beyond people who took on mortgages at high interest rates.
North Carolina foreclosure filings over the first eight months of the year totaled just under 40,000 and are up 7 percent over the same period last year. Pearce said 60 percent of the foreclosures in the state now involve prime loans.
Homeowners struggling with their mortgage payments can call a toll-free number, 1-866-234-4857, and receive foreclosure assistance at no cost. Homeowners also can visit the project's Web site.
The foreclosure prevention project was created by the General Assembly and began in November. Thus far it has counseled 5,710 homeowners and prevented 1,855 foreclosures, according to a report sent to legislators.
The state plans to run television ads encouraging struggling homeowners to call and get assistance. The Office of the Commissioner of Banks has also partnered with a company that provides telephone-based foreclosure counseling to handle the additional calls that are expected.
Attorney General Roy Cooper said at today's press conference that many homeowners are having trouble finding the person who can make decisions about their loan because their mortgage has been bundled with other mortgages and resold to investors.
He warned homeowners not fall for scams where they are asked to provide money up front.
"Never, ever pay anyone up front to help with our foreclosure," he said.
Pearce said he's been disappointed in the help loan servicing companies have been offering struggling homeowners.
"All too often homeowners fall through the cracks in the system," he said.