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By Jerry W. Jackson

RISMEDIA, January 16, 2009-(MCT)-Every day, more people slip into the foreclosure whirlpool and spiral downward toward the day they may have to leave their home. What should you do if you are on the verge of getting a foreclosure notice?

First and foremost, industry specialists say, you should resist the natural human tendency to freeze up. Face the issue head on and prepare for days and weeks of making phone calls and corresponding with people who may be able to help.

“Don’t assume it’s too late to act,” said Ralph Roberts, a consumer advocate in Michigan and co-author of Foreclosure Self-Defense for Dummies. “As long as you are residing in the home, you probably have some opportunity to keep your home.”

Roberts, a Realtor who lost his home to foreclosure back in the 1970s, said people facing foreclosure have more avenues to pursue than they might realize-certainly more than the typical “pay up or move out” that many people think is their only choice.

Potential solutions include:

– Negotiating a modification of the loan.
– Refinancing the loan.
– Listing the home through an agent for a possible “short sale.”
– Selling the home to an investor on your own.
– Declaring bankruptcy.

Short sales-in which the lender agrees to take less than is owed on the home, writing off some or all of the loss to avoid the expense of a foreclosure-typically are handled by real estate agents, which at least takes some of the pressure off of a harried homeowner. Many professional real estate agents are working more short sales these days and have buyers lined up looking for bargains, though the process can be slow and frustrating.

“The banks are just not moving fast enough. They are sitting on these, and it’s outrageous. Something’s got to be done about that” at the national level, said Ernst Urbainczyk, a veteran agent with Keller Williams Heritage Realty in Lake Mary, Fla. Lenders may also reject short-sale offers, sometimes leaving the seller with little or no time to prevent the foreclosure.

Matthew Englett of Kaufman Englett & Lynd, an Altamonte Springs, Fla., law firm that specializes in foreclosure defense, real estate litigation and bankruptcy, said there are usually several different defenses a borrower can take to dispute a foreclosure, including “wrongful or misleading conduct on behalf of the lender or its agents.”

As the case moves forward, the law firm negotiates with the lender to try to get it to modify the mortgage with a lower interest rate and loan amount.

“In many cases, that would mean the principal would have to be reduced,” Englett said. The law firm charges a flat fee ranging from $1,750 to $2,500 for its foreclosure-defense cases.

© 2009, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.