Foreclosure Prevention Phone-A-Thon aids homeowners

CINCINNATI - Hundreds of Greater Cincinnati residents took the first step Tuesday on the road toward saving their homes from foreclosure.

They called 1-877-7BUZZUS to reach the Foreclosure Prevention Phone-A-Thon and talk directly with a certified housing counselor.

The Phone-A-Thon is a joint venture between WCPO-TV and the Home Ownership Center of Greater Cincinnati.

Counselors worked the phones for hours taking basic information from homeowners to start the foreclosure prevention process.

"Everyone who called will receive a packet in the mail in the next few weeks," said Home Ownership Center President Rick Williams. "This packet will ask for additional written information and documentation from the homeowner."

Once the paperwork is filled out, a face-to-face meeting occurs to see what available program is the best for the homeowner.

They might be eligible for Restoring Stability, a program run by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.

"This is a State of Ohio program and it does provide financial assistance to a mortgage servicer to help the homeowner stay in their home," said Debbie Somerville of Restoring Stability. "Rescue payment assistance can get that loan current."

Somerville said the process isn't difficult, but becomes much more complicated the closer a homeowner gets to a foreclosure sale.

"The homeowner can also pick up the phone and contact their mortgage servicer directly," she said. "We have assisted over 6,000 homeowners in preventing foreclosure. That's a pretty good track record."

Williams said the Home Ownership Center has sponsored more than a half-dozen Phone-A-Thons in the past five years and each one nets about 1,500 calls. The success rate is between 30 and 40 percent.

"The ones who move forward and stick with it are the ones that we're most likely to save," he said.

However, nothing happens until a homeowner makes the call seeking help.

"The best piece of advice is to act early," said Somerville. "Pick up the phone. Call for help. There is help available."

Both Williams and Somerville acknowledged that the process can be stressful and frustrating, but if it means saving their home, they say it's worth it.

The 1-877-7BUZZUS number will be answered by housing counselors all week.

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