Bank of America offers mortgage aid event Downtown Mortgage aid event

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Bank of America, which has had difficulties handling delinquent mortgages, is reaching out to local homeowners who are behind in their payments, offering to review their financial situations to determine if there is a chance to save their homes.

More than 2,600 customers of Bank of America who are at least 60 days behind on their mortgage payments and live within 60 miles of Pittsburgh have been invited to a two-day event -- starting today and ending Wednesday -- at the Westin Convention Center, Downtown, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to get down to brass tacks on whether they can afford to stay in the homes. So far, only 41 homeowners in this area have registered for the event.

"Everyone's financial picture is different," said Jessica Garcia, a mortgage executive at Bank of America based in Charlotte, N.C. "The solutions can vary. Among those solutions we will look at are loan modification repayment plans and special assistance programs, for example for active duty military. Other solutions could be short sales or deeds in lieu of foreclosure," she said. "Specialists will be on site for all these options."

For homeowners who have either lost their income or exhausted all their loan modification options and decide they want out of their homes, Ms. Garcia said there will be representatives at the event from the United Way who can help with alternative solutions, such as assisting them with a deposit to move into a rental unit until their finances improve.

While Bank of America has no branch offices in Pittsburgh, the bank services more than 284,000 mortgages in Pennsylvania. More than 26,700 of those mortgages -- 9 percent -- are delinquent.

To date, the bank says it has prevented more than 23,582 foreclosures in Pennsylvania by working out mortgage modifications for homeowners who fell behind on payments.

The foreclosure picture statewide and in Allegheny County, however, is improving.

Foreclosure data complied by RealStats, a South Side real estate information service, show there were 2,834 foreclosures in Allegheny County in 2006. By 2011, that number had dropped to 1,308 or less than half the 2006 total.

"Foreclosures peaked in 2006 in the Pittsburgh market and have steadily trailed off since," said Dan Murrer, vice president of RealStats. "It's too soon to say what holds for 2012. But this area is not in crisis as far as foreclosures are concerned."

Fewer home losses here could be partly attributed to a foreclosure reconciliation process spearheaded by Allegheny County Sheriff William P. Mullen in 2008 that requires mortgage servicers to meet with borrowers to try to find a solution before foreclosing.

Bank of America has made headlines in recent years for problems the financial institution has had in handling foreclosures and mortgage modifications. Most recently, Bank of America was among the nation's five largest mortgage servicers that reached a $25 billion settlement to end mortgage servicing and home foreclosure abuses stemming from so-called robo-signing practices.

The attorneys general of 49 states and the federal government found that Bank of America and other mortgage servicers did not bother to read foreclosure documents before automatically submitting cases to the courts for action.

The Pittsburgh mortgage assistance event is the sixth time this year Bank of America has hosted an opportunity of this kind for its customers in Pennsylvania.

Ms. Garcia said homeowners who bring the necessary documents could potentially get a mortgage modification approval on the spot. But requirements vary for the different investors that the bank serves, which includes the Federal Housing Administration, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and private lenders. Bank of America only services loans owned by those entities.

A sample of the financial documents that attendees are asked to bring to the event include pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns and utility bills to prove they are still living in the house.

To get a more complete list of documents to bring and to register for the event call toll-free 1-855-201-7426 or go to www.bankofamerica.com/homeownerevent.

businessnews - yourbiz

Tim Grant: tgrant@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1591


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