By population, Iowa ranks 30th in the nation, but in home foreclosures, the Hawkeye State’s cracked the top ten. A new report from the Mortgage Bankers Association places Iowa ninth in the U.S. in foreclosures overall and fourth in sub-prime foreclosures.
Karen Atwood, C-E-O of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northeast Iowa, says she’s no longer surprised by people who come into the Waterloo office and have no clue how to create a budget for themselves — or how to live within one.
Atwood says: "You need to have enough money each month to pay all of the bills, but if you’re starting to wait to pay a house payment until the middle of the month or catching up on a few other things and taking care of that later, you’re headed for the wrong thing. Many people don’t know how much they’re paying for basic expenses."
Atwood says Iowans need to watch for the warning signs that they may be entering into dangerous financial territory or they could end up like the thousands of others who lose their houses. She says two-thirds of the agency’s counseling sessions since last October have involved foreclosure problems.
Atwood says: "Many people are put into homes who don’t have any reserve. All that needs to happen is they need to put a new front door on or they need to put a water heater in or a new plumbing issue comes up costing a few hundred dollars. Well, they’ll meet their house payment later because they need to get this taken care of now. Without the reserve, they’re in trouble."
The Iowa Attorney General’s office is attempting to create some sort of mediation service between banks and homeowners that would work to keep people in their homes. Atwood says people need to take responsibility if they’ve made the leap into home ownership to be educated in credit and debt management and to recognize if there’s a problem.
Atwood says: "First, contact your lender if you’re late. Tell them you’re getting on top of it and you’re seeing a counselor. Second, contact a credit counseling agency and sit down with a certified credit counselor who will go through a budget and make sure this is stopped and stopped soon." She says counselors will help to make sure house payments and utility payments are made first, with credit card payments second, as she says housing is the most important element.
For more information, call 800-714-4388 or visit "www.cccsia.org". Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northeast Iowa has offices in Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Dubuque, Decorah, Mason City, Forest City, Marshalltown, Grinnell and Ames.