From the NY Times:
LUIS CEREZO’s eyes welled up as he awaited the outcome of his latest attempt to resolve the 18-month backlog of mortgage payments he owes on the town house in Elizabeth where he and his wife and son have lived for the last 16 years.
“I couldn’t sleep last night knowing that today we’ve got to make the decision, do we stay in the house or not,” said Mr. Cerezo, holding hands with his wife, Marjorie, after the two met with a Bank of America mortgage specialist to plead their case for a loan modification.
The Cerezos were among the hundreds of people who filtered through a three-day homeowner assistance program held by Bank of America at the Hilton Hotel here in early August. A second Bank of America event was scheduled for the following week at the Atlantic City Convention Center, and several more will be held throughout the country this year. Wells Fargo held a similar public workshop at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus this month. The goal of these sessions is to use in-person meetings to help underwater or delinquent homeowners find a solution short of foreclosure.
“We’re a bank,” said Tamika Eubanks, a vice president of Bank of America in charge of the recent New Jersey events. “We’re not in the business and have no desire to foreclose on anyone’s home. We want to do everything we can to keep you in that house.”
Preparing for the Newark session, the bank contacted 6,000 customers who lived within a 30-mile radius of the city and were more than 60 days in arrears on their mortgage payments, urging them to attend. By the start of the event, 375 people had registered for meetings with one of 50 bank officers on site. The workshops also involve independent financial counselors, so participants can get help with other money issues. The process takes three to four hours, with about 40 percent of cases being resolved on the spot, Ms. Eubanks said.
Wells Fargo will hold 33 “home preservation” workshops around the country this year. For its program at the Meadowlands on Aug. 8 and 9, the bank contacted 38,000 customers, 760 of whom registered to attend. The bank’s last New Jersey workshop, in Newark in January 2011, drew 542 customers. Marie Day, a regional service director for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, said that two-thirds of those who attend these events “will find an option that doesn’t include foreclosure.”
The Cerezos had been hoping to get an answer before leaving the Bank of America workshop in Newark, but were told the wait would be a bit longer, because the Federal Housing Administration holds their mortgage. Even so, Favio Cerezo said, the session provided the family with some relief.
“They gave him a lot of hope that there’s not just one way out,” he said, speaking of his father. “It looks like it’s going to be accepted. Now we just have to wait.”