JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Two years ago, Falona Larkins and her
husband Alexander bought their first house. She was a cashier at a
Dairy Queen, he was a Sheetrock hanger, and the monthly $552
payment was affordable.
That's until the payment jumped to $772 this year and Alexander
Larkins lost his job.
"We were going to have to move out of our house," said Falona
Larkins, 35, of Jackson. "The foreclosure date was Sept. 16." But
three days before foreclosure, Falona Larkins discovered one last
hope: a workshop run by the Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of
"They stopped the foreclosure," Larkins said, "and now my
payments are $432 a month. I didn't know anybody could do anything
In fact, if you're a Mississippi homebuyer worried about making
your next payment, or even facing foreclosure, there is a lot that
can be done, but officials say many people don't know that.
"It's amazing to me that statistics show that more than half of
those whose homes are foreclosed never picked up the phone and
called their lender," said Julie McAdory, the Mississippi
education director for Consumer Credit Counseling Service of
Greater New Orleans.
"They're afraid," McAdory said. "They don't think there's
anybody out there who can, or will help them."
There's an abundance of free counseling services, HUD-approved
agencies, community organizations and more that will.
"Banks will work with consumers to modify their loans or make
the loans more affordable," said David Johnson Sr., senior vice
president and director of community development for BankPlus in
Apparently, affordable loans are in short supply in Mississippi,
which is among the top 20 states for foreclosures started,
according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Mississippi faces a nearly $235 million economic impact from
these foreclosures, officials with the Federal Deposit Insurance
Corp. have said. The estimate is based on losses in home values,
decreases in neighboring property values and diminishing property
In many cases, homebuyers have been confounded by adjustable
"Some people sign papers without reading them," said Jeanette
Bland, director of NACA, the agency that helped Falona Larkins.
"Especially in the case of adjustable rate mortgages, the loan may
have been affordable, until the ink dried on the paper."
As for Falona Larkins, "I thought we had a fixed-rate
mortgage," she said. Within a year, that thought flew out the
window of her south Jackson home when her mortgage payment soared
by $52 to $604. The next year, it surged by another $168.
"I knew we couldn't afford that," Larkins said. "I didn't
know what to do until I happened to be talking to my sister-in-law.
She was trying to buy a house, and was going to a workshop held by
NACA. She said, 'They even help people with foreclosures."'
The NACA holds workshops for families, meets with them in
person, and counsels them on household budgets. "And we
restructure the loan package for the lender, according to what the
homeowner can afford," Bland said.
Scott Spivey is a spokesman for Mississippi Home Corp., which
was created by the state Legislature in 1988 to help low- to
moderate-income families and young couples purchase homes.
Spivery says a lot of people don't realize, "that the banks
don't really want to foreclose on them. That costs the banks money,
"But people are embarrassed," Spivery said. "They take the
ostrich approach, but you can't afford to bury your head in the
sand on this. The longer you wait, the bigger that snowball gets
Information from: The Clarion-Ledger,