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Peralta, broker hold foreclosure workshop

When in dire financial straits and facing foreclosure, the first instinct for many people is to sell their homes — and in this economic crisis, many are fighting to keep their heads above water.

“We expect about a million people [in America] have gone through foreclosure,” state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) said, “and it’s only on the rise.”

But the homeowners may not know they have other options, said Penelope Ifill, a licensed real estate saleswoman at Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate, the largest residential brokerage in New York City.

Ifill’s company suggested the foreclosure workshop to Peralta, and was one of many to participate in the workshop, which was held last Thursday at Voces Latinas on 83rd Street in Jackson Heights. According to realtytrac.com, in June 2010 one in every 26,225 houses filed for foreclosure. In the nearby neighborhood of Elmhurst, one in every 7,100 houses filed for foreclosure in June 2010 and in Corona one in every 2,445 houses filed fore foreclosure in June 2010.

At the event, nonprofits, government organizations, real estate groups, lenders and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development spoke to homeowners about various avenues open to them, such as refinancing or modification, when facing foreclosure.

“We want people to get informed before they leave here on the status of their loans,” Ifill said.

She said that several months ago, Prudential Douglas Elliman came to Peralta’s office and said the firm wanted an event to help educate people in Jackson Heights about foreclosure.

Jennyferr Marcano Vargas, deputy director of operations for Peralta, said the workshop was six months in the making. The office contacted numerous organizations, then sent out mailers and distributed fliers to residents. She said she believed about 70 to 75 residents came to the event.

“We have a great turnout,” Peralta said.

Eight of the participating organizations gave presentations on how to prevent foreclosure. Some of these included Prudential, lenders like Bank of America and Chase and nonprofits like Asian Americans for Equality.

David Ng, outreach coordinator for the nonprofit, said AAFE was on hand to help Asian immigrants overcome the language barrier and understand their home ownership documents as well as provide home ownership counseling in their native languages.

Raquel Colon, senior counselor for foreclosure prevention at AAFE, said her organization also acts as a liaison between immigrants and their banks. She said the organization has a 30 percent success rate for getting their members a renegotiation of the terms of their loans.

Prevention and self-education were major topics at the workshops. Most of the organizations said the major failing of homeowners facing foreclosure was not contacting their lenders early and telling the lenders about how they could fall back on their payments before it gets too late.

“A mortgage is like a marriage: If you don’t communicate, it will fail,” said Donneil Reed-Harris, a foreclosure/homeownership counselor for the nonprofit group Neighborhood Housing Services of Northern Queens Inc.

Reed-Harris also encouraged homeowners to get their paperwork in on time and to do an assessment of all their expenses, food and utilities as well as their mortgage payments when analyzing whether they could truly afford their home.

Manny Alvarado, operation specialist for HUD, said he was on hand to educate homeowners about federal modification programs FHA-HAMP and Making Home Affordable to see if they qualified.

Alvarado also said homeowners should find out the state of their loan since in many cases their loans have been resold innumerable times without their knowledge, eventually coming into the hands of federal programs Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

“That’s the problem,” he said. “Most of them don’t know what they got into.”

Peralta said the most important thing for homeowners and potential homeowners to do is to be informed and read any document before they sign it.

Widez Perez, assistant to Ifill, also said homeowners should not allow the situation to overwhelm them.

“Specific advice is to look for help as soon as you can,” Perez said. “That’s what we’re here for.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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