House & Home

Jobless couple credit 'miracle' for saving their home

Posted May 15, 2009 10:42 a.m. EDT
Updated May 15, 2009 7:08 p.m. EDT

— Larrell Brown says “a miracle” helped save him and his wife, Monica Brown, from being homeless after the pair lost their jobs within two months of each other and faced foreclosure on their house.

They got down to one car, sold jewelry and cut other expenses after Larrell Brown lost his job as a truck driver due to health problems and his wife was laid off from her job at a car dealership.

Even with their unemployment payments, they got behind several months on the mortgage. Their lender said foreclosure was coming.

"It took us 45 years. I mean, we're in our late 40s. This is our first home. It took us this long to purchase a new home. I don't want to lose it,” Monica Brown said. “I thought we were going to have to get boxes and start packing.”

Then, she remembered a letter from the state commissioner of banks about foreclosure help. They connected her to the free, HUD-approved housing counselors of the Raleigh Area Development Authority, a not-for-profit organization.

“We went over there wondering what was going to happen, if we were going to still have our home,” Monica Brown said. “We left there wondering what did happen, what just happened because they were just so incredible!"

Counselor Albert Wilmer got the Browns to bring in all their paperwork – pay stubs, mortgage info, tax returns, etc. – and in minutes he was on the phone with their lender.

“We can get directly to the loss mitigation department or home retention team and actually get somebody who can make decisions on the account,” Wilmer said. “I haven't met one (person) that I couldn't help yet."

The Browns were granted 30 extra days to make a regular mortgage payment. If they can’t make two more on time after that, the debt they owed will be adjusted over the life of the loan.

“(Wilmer) didn't say it was going to cure it all. He couldn't make no promises. But what he done for us I would consider a miracle,” Larrell Brown said.

Some families have interest rates reduced. Others have been able to turn their high adjustable rates into fixed ones.

"I think we spend more time explaining the process, because people fear, they just fear debt,” Wilmer said.

James Stroud, director of the Raleigh Area Development Authority, said he knows of other success stories besides the Browns.

"I had one particular individual; she had a 13 percent interest rate. We were able to lower that rate down to 4 percent … so that probably saved her about $800 or $900 a month.”

Stroud says homeowners should beware of mortgage companies that charge a fee. For more information about the Raleigh Area Development Authority, visit their Web site or call 919-807-8400.

The Obama Administration has introduced a $75 million program called Making Home Affordable, which hopes to stabilize the housing market and help up to 7 to 9 million Americans reduce their monthly mortgage payments to more affordable levels.