Many homeowners are in a panic these days, with rising home foreclosures and plummeting home values, bankruptcies and layoffs. Those on the brink of foreclosure wonder if help will come from President Barack Obama's new housing plan that will be announced Wednesday and if they qualify, will help come soon enough?
Keeping money in the bank, food on the table and a roof over her family's heads is the daily struggle of Cynthia Russell, a single working mom. Today she's got the food and the money, but tomorrow she may not have her home.
Russell assembles computer motherboards and has held her job for almost 20 years. But for the last few years, her weekly hours have been cut from more than 40 to only 32. Her yearly salary is down from $36,000 to $32,000.
"It was getting unbearable using my vacation to just make a 40-hour work week in order to take care of my bills," she said.
Finally, Russell couldn't pay her bills. She filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy and is now on the brink of foreclosure.
"This is my first home," she said. "I've been here 13 years and I'm not going to see myself let no one come in here and take me away from something I have worked so hard for."
Like so many others in Alabama, Russell may lose the home she shares with her son and star high school athlete, Raymond.
The year 2009 started with 920 foreclosures statewide in January. But as seen on http://realtytrac.com, the numbers in all counties are constantly changing. Each home and each family has a story.
"I am a single parent with a 17-year-old son," Russell said. "We've been getting by with the Lord's help and my mom and my family. They help me a lot. It's very touching."
Russell was desperately looking for help when help came looking for her. Erich Nelson is a bankruptcy and foreclosure survivor-turned-counselor with Core Home Solutions email@example.com .He's making a business from his financial blunders, walking people like Russell through the steps to save her home.
"The last thing I want is you getting a notice in the mail saying there's a sheriff's sale on your home," Nelson said.
Russell owes $52,000 on a home that's only worth $42,000. She's not only facing foreclosure, but is upside down in her loan.
Nelson is trying to work with Russell's mortgage lender. He's given her two options. The first is to try to modify her mortgage so it's manageable. Many lenders will lower the loans if homeowners prove hardship. The plus side is that they would get to stay in their home. The negative is that it takes up-front money to make it happen, usually a month and a half's loan payment.
The second option is a short-sale, where lenders agree to be shorted the remainder of the mortgage that's owed them if the house is sold to an investor in a short period of time. The bank loses money, but would lose more if the home loan went to foreclosure. Investors get a deal on the property and the homeowner doesn't get foreclosure on his or her credit record.
Russell said she and her son aren't budging, so the first option is her goal. And like her son, she's willing to play hardball to win.
"I don't see myself going anywhere till it's my time to go upstairs with the Lord," Russell said.