As a longtime consultant and partner in his own South Florida mortgage firm, Jason Biro watched in horror as the pin of reality slowly approached the nation's real estate bubble. Unlike most, he and his wife Carolyn didn't just hold their breath and hope for the best; they started knitting a safety net called SavingYourAmericanDream.org, a nonprofit aimed at helping Americans save their homes in the foreclosure tsunami they knew was imminent.
"Delinquent homeowners suddenly get all these documents and paperwork coming at them from the courts, from the plaintiff, and they don't understand what they really mean," Biro says.
He wasn't surprised when the "robosigner" kerfuffle surfaced; he'd been dealing with it at the street level since publishing "Saving Your American Dream" and launching the website in 2007.
"The biggest question we get is: How can they foreclose on me if they don't have the promissory note?" Biro says. "They have a copy of it, they have an assignment, they looked here, they looked there, but they don't technically have the original promissory note, which is what you have to have to foreclose on someone, technically."
Biro suspects there's a deeper truth behind the robosigner scandal. "When they were splitting up the mortgages and all of these hedge funds were buying these mortgages and the note was split between all these parties, how could there be accountability? Just like these lenders that are transferring the rights; how can they technically, in most cases, have the original documentation through everything that has been happening?"
Rather than dwell on the blame game, Biro's focus is to arm those who want to keep their home with the advice and financial support to do so.
"If you're in this situation, get a nonprofit, get a counselor on your side to help you better understand what to say to the court system, the lender, the lawyer representing the lender, instead of just going in blind," he says. "You're eventually going to need an attorney on your side to fight, and these are the steps to take to let the court system and the plaintiff know that hey, I'm not going to overlook this; if you're going to foreclose on me, lender, and you're going to have a foreclosure mill represent you, you'd better have all your ducks in a row."
Biro figures it could take a decade to put the foreclosure mess behind us. After all, if the sheer numbers of foreclosures had lenders resorting to hiring "Burger King kids" to sign 300 to 500 documents daily, what chance does the Making Homes Affordable initiatives have to meet their lofty goals with loan modifications and refis?
If you're falling behind on your mortgage, Biro offers two tips: don't be embarrassed and don't go it alone.
"You can go to HUD.gov, your local municipality, folks like us. We deal with other social services every day to help people better understand the situation they're in. I know it’s embarrassing for a lot of people, but there are people who genuinely want to help you out there."
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