UPDATED 9.14.2012 by Julie Montanaro
One in every 850 homes in Leon County is facing foreclosure. according to August 2012 statistics released by RealtyTrac.
A roundtable discussion in Tallahassee Friday focused on how families can get help before they wind up in that boat.
A representative from Housing and Urban Development joined Tallahassee's mayor and others in the housing and banking business to talk about programs that can help.
Tallahassee homeowner Stella Gomez wanted to hear what they had to say. Gomez says she and her husband have steady jobs but their $1800 a month mortgage doesn't leave much for spending or saving.
Gomez says they have never missed a payment, but worry because their home is worth less than they owe on their mortgage.
"It's discouraging. We haven't saved a penny for retirement for example because the mortgage is taking a great proportion of our income," Gomez said. "Maybe we are a group in this county that needs help to avoid losing our house in maybe one year or two years. Everybody's getting help, but because we are paying on time and we are good citizens and we have stable jobs, we're not getting help."
HUD representative Ed Jennings says there are programs in place now and bills moving in Congress that can help more people refinance their homes and avoid foreclosure.
"The way they do it is through a HUD approved housing counselor for free, free, free. Do not respond to the ads 1-800 this or that, give me a $1000 or $1500 I'll save your mortgage. Don't respond to those," Jennings said.
Jennings says organizations like the Tallahassee Lenders Consortium and the Urban League offer free counseling that folks should take advantage of as soon as they miss a mortgage payment or if they're in danger of missing one.
"If you've got a 6% mortgage, a 7% mortgage you need to access the lower interest rates that are below 4%," Jennings said.
He said the bills being debated in Congress could expand refinancing opportunities to even more Americans.
"If you have a mortgage below $417,000, you're in that pool. That's the lion's share of people in Tallahassee. This is not a "poor persons" program, this is an opportunity if we can get these bills passed - for more Americans can get their homes "re-fi'd", he said.