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Delinquent Borrowers Unaware of Options

Freddie, Roper survey findings released

December 12, 2005

By MortgageDaily.com staff


Many delinquent borrowers needlessly lose their homes to foreclosure, according to a new report.

Because over half of all foreclosed borrowers never contact their lender, Freddie Mac and Roper Public Affairs and Media set out to find the reasons why through a survey they claim is the nation's first to learn why more late-paying borrowers risk losing their homes rather than reaching out to their mortgage servicers.

The survey was reportedly based on a 14-day telephone study conducted in August on 2,031 borrowers more than one month past due on their mortgage, according to an announcement Monday.

Three-quarters of the delinquent borrowers recalled being contacted by their servicers but, for a variety of reasons, neglected to follow up and discuss workout options, the survey said.

Over a quarter -- 28 percent -- of the respondents said they did not follow up because there was no reason to talk to their servicers or because their servicers could not help them, the report said, and another 17 percent said they could take care of their payment problems without any help. Inadequate funds to pay was cited by 7 percent, while other reasons included embarrassment, fear, or not knowing whom to call.

While the lack of borrower follow-up may explain why 61 percent of the respondents cited being unaware of a variety of workout options that could help them overcome short-term financial difficulties, 92 percent said they would have talked to their servicers had they known such options were available, Freddie and Roper noted.

"Part of the problem is that the data shows that there's a knowledge gap: People's interest in the options available to them is quite high, but their awareness of these options is quite low," said Elizabeth Armet, a Roper vice president, in the statement.

A study last year by Freddie concluded that repayment plans could lower the probability of home loss by 80 percent among all borrowers and by 68 percent among low-to-moderate income borrowers, according to the announcement, which added that Freddie and its servicers have helped more than 100,000 borrowers avoid foreclosure over the past two years.

"These findings are consistent with what Wells Fargo Home Mortgage has done and the great success we have had during the past several years with our early intervention process," said Patrick Carey, a Wells' default and retention operations executive, in the announcement. "We try to educate customers to contact us early in times of financial crisis, and hope that they will learn from studies like these that their lender can be their best resource when financial strain threatens their homes."

Deb Oakley, National City Mortgage senior vice president, said the company encourages troubled borrowers "to proactively contact their lender and explore the options that could help them avoid foreclosure," and its also works "with credit counseling agencies to further help borrowers learn how to take charge of their situation."

Amongst other findings of the Freddie/Roper survey was that 47 percent of the defaulters were first-time homeowners and that 62 percent of homeowners in good standing had owned a home in the past. Delinquent borrowers reportedly earned a median annual income of $52,400 a year, while good standing borrowers earned $4,300 more.


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