Eddie Jones worked for 42 years as a cross-country truck driver, so when he was finally able to retire, it was a long-awaited reward. In 1996, he purchased what he calls his “dream home” in Milwaukee, and life was good − until November 2013, when his son was diagnosed with cancer and the financial strain from expensive treatments pushed Jones close to foreclosure.
|Eddie Jones (right) and Gerber DeLeon
He was not alone. Milwaukee is among the metropolitan areas hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis and that have the highest incidence of negative equity. With high foreclosure rates continuing, black and Latino homeowners account for more than 40 percent of people whose mortgages are underwater, according to a recent report by the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society.
However, thanks to members of the NeighborWorks network like Select Milwaukee
, there is help for Jones and others. Jones was 12 months behind on his mortgage when he attended a Take Root Milwaukee Home Loan Assistance workshop this fall. There, he met Select Milwaukee Preservation Specialist Gerber DeLeon, who took him on as a client. Preservation specialists work as advocate on homeowners’ behalf. With this help, research has shown that homeowners are twice as likely to obtain a mortgage modification as when they work alone with their mortgage servicer or lender.
“Gerber is strictly business, and I like that. He let me know when I should do certain things and didn’t let me fall behind,” Jones says. “I don’t know what I would have done without Gerber and Select Milwaukee. I would probably be losing my home right now.”
Just 26 days after meeting DeLeon, Jones helped him secure a loan modification. Gisela Ortega, special projects coordinator for Select Milwaukee, explains that the organization had the tools (access to the online Home Loan Port for submitting applications) and the lender relationships to make the process as stress-free and successful as possible. “Before becoming our client, Mr. Jones had been denied a modification due to an incomplete application,” she recalls.
With the modification, Jones’ monthly mortgage payment dropped from $1,158 to $711.05, and his interest rate changed from 6.95 percent for 30 years to 4 percent.
Jones plans to share his experience with those he meets and help spread the word at his church. He is looking forward enjoying the holidays, without the stress of worrying about where he’ll be sleeping in the future. He is truly home for the holidays.