Archives for 2010

Loan Modification and Scams

What is a Loan Modification?  It’s when a borrower who is facing great financial hardship, having difficulty making their mortgage payments and is facing foreclosure, works with their lender to change the terms of their mortgage loan to make it affordable. 


But now there are many companies scamming the borrowers (you).  Below are a few things to look out for to protect yourself from Loan Modification Scammers:

  1. A company/person asks for a fee in advance to work with your lender to modify, refinance or reinstate your mortgage.
  2. A company/person guarantees they can stop a foreclosure or get your loan modified.  Nobody can make this guarantee to stop foreclosure or modify your loan. Legitimate, trustworthy HUD-approved counseling agencies will only promise they will try their very best to help you.
  3. A company/person advises you to stop paying your mortgage company and pay them instead. NEVER send a mortgage payment to anyone other than your mortgage lender.  If you find you are having trouble making your monthly payment, contact your mortgage lender.
  4. A company pressures you to sign over the deed to your home or sign any paperwork that you haven’t had a chance to read, and you don’t fully understand.  A legitimate housing counselor would never pressure you to sign a document before you had a chance to read and understand it.
  5. A company claims to offer “government-approved” or “official government” loan modifications.  Contact your mortgage lender first.  your lender can tell you whether you qualify for any government programs to prevent foreclosure. Remember, you do not have to pay to benefit from government-backed loan modification programs.
  6. A company/person you don’t know asks you to release personal financial information online or over the phone.  You should only give this type of information to companies that you know and trust, like your mortgage lender or a HUD-approved counseling agency.

Information taken from Neighbor Works America


Holiday Safety

It’s that time of year. It’s Christmas time.  Time to put up decorations, trim the tree, have friends over and just celebrate the joy of the season.  But while your celebrating make sure to be safe.  This is also the time of year where if you’re not careful, that beautiful tree could cause disaster.  So below are a few tips to be aware of and practice while decorating that tree and keeping your home fire free.


  • Keep trees securely upright in a stand to ensure that it will not accidentally tip over or be knocked over by children, pets, or over-enthusiastic dancing adults.
  • Keep your tree away from any and all heat sources. This includes electrical outlets, radiators, space heaters, and fireplaces.
  • Make sure natural trees are well watered.
  • If you have purchased an artificial tree, please make sure it is labeled “fire retardant”.
  • Unplug the tree lights before leaving your home or before going to bed.
  • Avoid using real candles on a tree, especially if it is not artificial. Real Christmas trees contain a lot of natural oils that are very flammable, especially if the tree is dry.
  • Use a maximum of three strands of tree lights on a single extension cord.
  • Dispose of your tree at an appropriate recycling center promptly after the holiday season. Your community may also offer pick-up services from your home—this is also a good option
Holiday Lighting and Fire Safety:
  • Unplug any lighting, indoor and out, before going to bed.
  • Never leave any candles unattended. It only takes a moment to light and blowout a candle. It also only takes a moment for a spark from a candle to turn into a big fire.
  • Avoid using live candles (candles with a flame) on windowsills and mantles.
  • Do not let pets or children chew on strands of lights meant for the tree or home décor.
  • Make sure the cords used for lights and other decorations are not frayed. If they are, it is time to get rid of them. It is easier to buy a new strand of lights than to try to restore your home after a fire.
  • Do not run electrical wires under rugs.
  • Make sure all candles are in sturdy holders that will not tip over and are placed away from furniture and other home accessories.
  • Trim candle wicks to a ¼-inch in height

By following these tips, you are sure to have an enjoyable, safe, holiday season.

21 Ways to Use Energy Wisely

Heating

  1. Turn down the heat to 65 degrees F. at night and when you leave home.  (However babies and elderly people need a higher room temperature than other people and a safer room temperature for this, 70 degrees F.
  2. Don’t block radiators or heating vents with furniture or draperies.
  3. Vacuum the dust from radiators, heat and air conditioning vents, and baseboard heaters because dust reduces their efficiency.
  4. Bleed air trapped in radiators to improve water circulation.
  5. When the heating season begins, close all storm windows and lock your inside sashes. If you open a bedroom window at night, close the door.
  6. Close your curtains at night to cut down heat loss.
  7. Close closet doors.
  8. Shut the fireplace damper so heat doesn’t go up the chimney.
  9. Cover through-the-wall air conditioners so cold air can’t leak into your home.  Close central air conditioning vents.
Hot Water
  1. Have dripping faucets fixed.
  2. When shaving or washing up, fill the sink half-way instead of letting the water run.
  3. Turn off the water heater when  you’re away from home for an extended time (such as a weekend trip or vacation).
  4. Take showers instead of baths.
  5. If you have a gas water heater, drain half a bucket of water from the faucet at the bottom of your water heater tank every two months to remove rust and sludge that can collect there.
  6. Set your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees F.
Washer and Dryer
  1. Always put a full load of clothes in the washer.
  2. Presoak heavily soiled clothes to avoid having to rewash them, and use cold water, not hot.
  3. Remove clothes from the dryer when they’re slightly damp if you are going to iron immediately
  4. Keep the lint filter clean.
  5. Do two or more dryer loads in a row.
  6. Dry your clothes outdoors when possible.
*Disclaimer*  This information was taken from Western Mass Electric Company

Fuel Assistance

Springfield Neighborhood Housing Service is pleased to announce it’s partnership with New England Farm Workers Council Fuel Assistance Program.

Residents in the Mason Square Area of Springfield, MA can now come to our office at 111 Wilbraham Road, Springfield MA Monday thru Friday between the hours of 8:30am and 4:30pm to pick up an  intake form in order to set up an appointment for Fuel Assistance at the New England Farm Workers Council.  The eligibility period is from November 1 thru April 30.

INCOME GUIDELINES
1 $30,751 6 $78,060
2 $40,213 7 $79,835
3 $49,675 8 $81,609
4 $59,137 9 $83,383
5 $68,598 10 $85,157

The following groups may apply for assistance:
  • All homeowners and renters who pay for their own heating costs
  • All renters whose heat is included in their rent
  • Renters in public and/or private subsidized housing who pay for their own heat and utilities and do not receive a heat/utility allowance
  • SOME RENTERS in public and/or private subsidized housing who heat is included in their rent might be eligible depending on the type of housing subsidy and category of rent. Please call our office for additional information to see if you qualify.
PLEASE BRING TO YOUR APPOINTMENT:
  1. Proof of Identity
  2. Proof of Address
  3. Social Security numbers & birth dates for all household members
  4. Proof of Income for all household members
  5. Gas & Electric bills (and name of dealer if oil/kerosene/propane
  6. Renters should bring the tenant/landlord information sheet
  7. Renters receiving a subsidy must bring a copy of the recertification housing sheet or letter from the housing authority.
You will also need to bring all of the following income documentation (as applicable):
  • Wages (4 most recent pay stubs)
  • Welfare, Social Security, SSI, VA, Workers’ Comp, Pensions (copy of most recent check/stub)
  • Unemployment (copy of DUA claim record)
  • Alimony/Child Support (copy of checks, divorce decree, court order, DOR print out)
  • Bank Interest, Dividends (statement from bank, copies of checks, tax forms)
  • Rental Income (mortgage interest, property tax, water/sewer, insurance, proof of rent received)
  • Self Employment (copy of Federal Tax Return from previous year)

*Disclaimer – Springfield Neighborhood Housing Services are not in charge of the fuel assistance program but a service to help make it convenient to those in the Mason Square area who wish to apply for fuel assistance*


Tenants Have New Rights After Foreclosure

The new Just Cause Eviction Law says:

  • If you are a bona fide tenant you can stay in your building while the bank owns it, unless the bank has just cause to evict you;
  • The bank can evict you only if you violate standard tenancy rules, or if the bank has a signed contract to sell the property to another buyer;
  • The bank cannot pressure you into leaving or do anything else to force you out;
  • The bank must notify you that you  have the right to a court hearing before eviction;
  • The bank must post and send you a notice telling you how to contact the bank and the person in charge of repairs and management of  your building.
Who is a “bona fide” tenant?
  • If you moved in before the foreclosure, and
  • If your landlord before foreclosure was not your husband, wife, child or parent,
you are probably a bona fide tenant and the Just Cause Eviction Law protects you – even if you do not have a lease.
This is only a summary of tenants’ rights after foreclosure under the Just Cause Eviction Law and other laws.  For complete information call Springfield NHS at (413) 739-4737.

Vote No on Question 2

Question Two would repeal an existing state law that allows a qualified organization wishing to
build government-subsidized housing that includes low- or moderate-income units to apply for a single
comprehensive permit from a city or town’s zoning board of appeals (ZBA), instead of separate permits
from each local agency or official having jurisdiction over any aspect of the proposed housing. The repeal
would take effect on January 1, 2011…

A YES VOTE would repeal the state law allowing the issuance of a single comprehensive permit to build
housing that includes low- or moderate-income units.

A NO VOTE would make no change in the state law allowing issuance of such a comprehensive permit.
Question 2 would take away opportunities for affordable housing across Massachusetts by
eliminating the main affordable housing law. VOTE NO.


Foreclosure Help Is Available

Has your financial situation changed due to increased mortgage payments, job loss, divorce, medical expenses, increased taxes or other circumstances? If it has, you are not alone.


In the current economic downturn, many families find themselves facing similar situations.  However, help is available.  Whether you are in danger of foreclosure or already facing foreclosure, SNHS is a HUD approved housing counseling agency providing honest and unbiased information to troubled homeowners.  Our housing counselors can provide advice on defaults, foreclosures, and credit issues and will work with you to understand your situations and determine what options are available to you.


We understand how difficult it is to talk about this situation and we offer a compassionate, single point of contact for foreclosure prevention assistance.


Also, as a non profit agency, we are recognized as a neutral third party and often have access to resources not readily available to the public.  So, if you find yourself facing foreclosure, call us immediately.  Remember:  “The worse thing you can do is nothing”.


Another SNHS Success Story…30 Colonial Street

Like many properties in the greater Mason Square area, the house at 30 Colonial Avenue sat uninhabited, ultimately falling into a sate of disrepair.

Although the house had “good bones”, it couldn’t seem to attract any real interest – or commitment, from potential homeowners or local developers.  In 2007 SNHS acquired the “eyesore” property in the Upper Hill neighborhood and began the process of “bringing it back to life”.

Under the watchful eye and direction of our Rehabilitation Specialist, Robbin Jones, structural and cosmetic improvements were undertaken.  The windows were replaced, a new roof put on and siding added.  The floors were refinished and both the kitchen and bathrooms completely refurbished.

The 3,000 sq. ft. house, with a finished attic, was outfitted with Energy STAR – rated appliances including air conditioning and a forced – hot air heating system and a central alarm system was installed as well.

So what was once the neighborhood eye-sore, is now a shining example of the work done by SNHS.  Not only that, but it is also owned and occupied by a family that participated in our 1st Time home buyer’s Program.

At the end of the day, the new owners are happy to be in their spacious, energy-efficient home, and frankly, we’re happy another blighted property has been removed from the community.


BUY SPRINGFIELD NOW

There has never been a better time to buy a home in Springfield,MA..  Interest rates and home prices are at all-time lows and with a variety of property types and choices available, it just got easier to find the “KEY” to the home that’s right for you or your family.

The city of Springfield has recently formed a collaborative to help prospective homeowners.  This extensive network of Realtors, Lenders, Attorneys, Home Inspectors and nonprofits have joined together to provide critical information and incentives that will help open your door to home ownership.

In addition to down payment and closing costs incentives, an attractive home buyer tax credit can make it even more the perfect time to unlock the doors to home ownership.

As one of the partners, Springfield NHS stands ready to assist with its Home Buyer/Home Owner Education and Financial Fitness classes.  And, in addition to our HUD certified education and counseling services, we offer a number of mortgage products at all income ranges, to put you in a home at the price you want to pay.  As our Executive Director says, “If you’re not doing business with SNHS, you’re probably leaving money on the table”.

So, if you’re thinking about becoming a homeowner, check with SNHS on how the BUY SPRINGFIELD NOW program can benefit you and how we can help put you into your own home.


SNHS Salutes Robbin Jones

Springfield Neighborhood Housing Service, Inc is proud to announce that Robbin D. Jones, our in -house Rehabilitation Specialist and Certified Lead Inspector recently graduated from NeighborWorks Training Institute.  He is now a Certified Green Building and Healthy Homes Specialist, which means that, in addition to his six other construction-related licenses and five other certifications, he is now certified to ensure that SNHS will be able to provide our customers with energy efficient, durable, healthy and environmentally responsible homes.

As Robbin continues his professional development, he is assisting us in building our capacity as an agency.  He is ensuring that we will continue to make a meaningful difference in the neighborhoods and communities we’re helping build, as well as in the lives of the people we are dedicated to serving.  Great Work Robbin!