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State-Backed Program Offers Lifeline To Desperate Homeowners

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(Source: CBSMiami)

(Source: CBSMiami)

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David Sutta joined the CBS4 news team in April of 2007. As S...
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MIAMI (CBS4) – On Wednesday, South Florida homeowners waited hours in line for a face-to-face meeting with bank experts who pledged to help them keep their home sweet home.

Maggie Zamor came ready to wait all day in hopes of saving her home from foreclosure. “We have been there for almost nine years,” Zamor told CBS4’s David Sutta from her place in line.

She was one of the first to line up at the James L. Knight Center, where hundreds attended Hope Now, a unique program which allows homeowners to meet one-on-one with bank representatives.

“I’m hopeful because they have different programs and they will be able to help me somewhere, somehow,” Zamor said.

Just a few people back from Zamor, Evelyn Perez clutched a mountain of paperwork.

“I don’t know what I would do…get a tent?” she said. Her husband is fighting brain cancer, putting their finances in a tough spot.

“I need someone to tell me what to do. I’m taking care of him. I’m doing everything else,” said Perez, fighting back tears. “I need someone to look at me…to tell me what I need to do to keep my place.”

The two women were hopeful as they sat down with counselors and bank representatives. The Hope Now event, in its fifth year, has a good track record of helping residents keep their homes: more than five million people have seen loan modifications.

Hugh Rowden, a Wells Fargo representative, explained it has been very helpful for all parties involved.

“When customers work with us, 7 out of 10 avoid foreclosure. When customers try to do it on their own, or don’t respond, then only one out of three avoid foreclosure,” explained Rowden.

Homeowners that attended the event received advice, were pre-qualified for loan modifications and refinancing and, in last resort situations, discussed short sale options.

There are a variety of programs in place, including one for the unemployed or underemployed, in which the government will pay your mortgage.

It sounds too good to be true, but is it? Luis Diaz, of Consolidated Credit Counseling, said, “It’s true.”

He explained the program has roughly $1 billion to provide to Florida residents. It’s administered through approved agencies.

Florida’s Hardest Hit program is actually a federal grant. The program offers up to $18,000 to help homeowners catch up on their mortgage payments. In addition, the state will pay your mortgage for the next year while you look for a job. The mortgage is paid for through a no-interest loan.

However, if you stay in the house for five years, it becomes a grant and doesn’t have to be paid back.

“I’m just doing whatever I have to do,” Perez said as she stepped outside, after a two-hour meeting with her bank, PNC.

PNC didn’t offer a loan modification program for which she qualified, so she is hoping the Hardest Hit program will help her and her husband stay in their home.

Zamor walked out with a game plan in hand as well–and hope.

“Modification is the best and we are going to work on it,” said Zamor. “And I know we are going to succeed.”

If you’re considering applying for homeowner’s assistance, be cautious: Florida ranks second in the nation for loan modification scams.

South Floridians are advised to get a free loan modification. If someone asks you to pay, you should be suspicious.

If you are interested in attending the last day of the Hope Now event on Thursday, click here.

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