More Women Seek Foreclosure Counseling

More than 1.3 million people received assistance from a foreclosure mitigation counseling program provided by local nonprofits and state housing finance agencies affiliated with NeighborWorks America since the program was launched in March 2008.

Over 51% of all homeowners seeking counseling were women.

The reasons why are split between homeownership statistics and gender behavior differences.

NeighborWorks America doesn’t independently track homeownership rates, says Douglas Robinson, a spokesperson for NeighborWorks. But data reported by the National Association of Realtors show that as of November 2011 64% of all homebuyers were married couples, 18% were single women and 10% single men.

Other data indicate decreases in the homeownership rates because of the crisis have not changed the homeownership ratio between single women and single men.

The ratio, however, explains part of the reason why more women seek financial counseling.

In today’s marketplace there is a renewed focus to doing business organically, says Vickie Milazzo, author of “Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman.” Same as corporations and other small businesses, financial counseling agencies are using the powers of collaboration, participation, innovation and engagement to win the attention of empowered consumers.

And since “collaboration and the ability to do business organically are qualities at the heart of what women do best,” she says, women take advantage of the growing opportunities available.

The NeighborWorks report reveals another interesting statistic, says Robinson, 13% of all the people counseled were single female, head of household with dependents, compared to just 4% of male heads of households with dependents.

“One conclusion is that women heads of households are three times as likely to seek counseling than men heads of households,” he adds. “Why? We did not pursue the reasons.”

Robinson argues that the difference in the overall number of women counseled (51%) is higher than the number of heads of households with dependents (13%) because there are at least three categories of women homeowners included in the total number of those who sought help: single women without dependents, single women with dependents and married women.

Up to 38% of those who asked for assistance were either single women without dependents, or married women who stepped in for their family.

Counseling programs improve a homeowner’s chance to prevent foreclosure by 70% and help them incur thousands of dollars in annual savings through lower mortgage payments.

According to NeighborWorks America CEO Eileen Fitzgerald, the NFMC program has helped the average homeowner save $2,100 each year after getting a mortgage modification. “In all,” homeowners saved an estimated $370 million annually because of the NFMC program.

Despite gender, mortgage affordability remains a top concern for most homeowners.

Up to 38% of NFMC program clients spend half or more of their income on their monthly payments. Another 23% of NFMC program clients spend more than $2,000 on monthly mortgage payments.

Loss of employment and reduction in income still are the main drivers of mortgage delinquency and an obstacle to successfully preventing foreclosure.

Foreclosure prevention scams and slow servicer responsiveness also challenge homeowners and their counselors.

Nonprofit housing counselors face “many challenges in helping homeowners,” according to the report.

Counselors report the servicing industry has significantly increased its response time, outreach tactics and overall synergy with nonprofit housing counselors. However, “the greatest challenge continues to involve servicer responsiveness.”