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Foreclosure prevention assistance offered

Losing one’s property through foreclosure is, unfortunately, one of the pitfalls of attempting to live the American dream.

That dream is homeownership…giving an individual or a couple the opportunity to make an investment in their future.

But what happens when that future dissipates before your eyes; seeing that major investment evaporate?

Since the nation’s economy turned sour beginning late in 2008, home foreclosures have steadily increased.

According to numbers provided by the North Carolina Office of the Commissioner of Banks, there were 63,322 foreclosure filings statewide in 2009. Financial officials expect that number to increase at least 20 percent this year and 2010 got off to a shaky start with 5,247 filings across the state during January.

Locally, 80 foreclosure filings were reported in Hertford County during 2009. Eight more filed paperwork last month.

Northampton County ranked second on the local list with 65 foreclosures in 2009. Six have already filed in January of this year.

There were 63 foreclosure filings in Bertie County last year (5 for the month of January 2010).

In Gates County, the 2009 foreclosure filings numbered 54. Last month, seven Gates County properties were added to the foreclosure list.

The NC Office of the Commissioner of Banks was directed by the General Assembly to help reduce unnecessary foreclosures in North Carolina. The focus initially was on subprime mortgages, but because the economy took a turn for the worse and so many homeowners have lost their jobs, it has affected prime mortgages as well.

In September of last year, the Banking Commission expanded SHFPP (State Home Foreclosure Prevention Project) to assist any struggling North Carolina homeowner. When foreclosures happen, it affects the whole community, as it brings down surrounding property values, and because so many homes are left vacant, there is an increase in crime in some of those areas.

SHFPP is a state-led program that offers free foreclosure assistance to any homeowner that is struggling with their mortgage. The Banking Commission wants homeowners to reach out for help before they face foreclosure. As of Feb. 1, completed intake sessions between homeowners and housing counselors through SHFPP (current active cases) total 8,678.

Those officials also warn of scam operations that target struggling homeowners by offering assistance for an upfront fee (often thousands of dollars), which is illegal in North Carolina. Many of these homeowners don’t know they have been scammed until they receive an eviction notice.

Roanoke-Chowan area homeowners looking to avoid foreclosure can call, toll-free, 1-866-234-4857 or visit www.fightncforeclosure.org to learn more about the program.