Local News

Financial strain hits home for Wilson man

Posted October 17, 2008 7:25 p.m. EDT
Updated October 17, 2008 7:38 p.m. EDT

— The financial strain from the nation's struggling economy hits home in any number of ways – families sidelining medical needs, power bills, cutting back on non-necessities.

For Jim Richardson, the strain comes in the threat of foreclosure. Until late Friday, he was preparing to watch his home of more than 30 years go on the auction block.

"It's just been a nightmare," said Richardson, a disabled veteran who lives with his mother and brother who are also disabled.

Richardson says he took out a subprime mortgage on his house from HSBC Bank in 2005 to pay for needed renovations.

Recently, he had to pay expensive medical bills which put him nearly three months behind on his mortgage.

Richardson says he called his mortgage company numerous times to try to get a lower rate and an affordable payment.

"When you call them, you get conflicting answers, and nobody wants to take responsibility for it," Richardson said.

Then, he received a letter saying his home would be sold at auction on Oct. 20.

So far this year, according to the state Administrative Office of the Courts, nearly 42,000 people face the same problem. Mecklenburg County leads the state with the number of foreclosures with 6,509 year-to-date.

Guilford, Forsyth, Wale. Cumberland and Durham counties are also among the highest in the state. And in Wilson County, where Richardson resides, there have been 320 this year.

In August, Gov. Mike Easley signed a foreclosure protection bill to help those homeowners.

Starting Nov. 1, the North Carolina Banking Commission must receive a 45-day notice from lenders before they file foreclosure paperwork. The banking commission will then try to help homeowners renegotiate lower rates.

The State Banking Commission has a Web site and the Homeowner's HOPE Hotline (88-995-HOPE) for people facing foreclosure.

"They've been able to do more in three weeks than I've been able to do in three months," Richardson said.

The banking commission is already working with Richardson, and on Friday got his lender to put the foreclosure sale on hold for 30 days. He hopes to secure a more affordable rate so he can stay in his home.

"I am still on shaky ground," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen."