Clearly the economy is in crisis. I've listed three foreclosure homes this week, and each one of those homes had a sad story to tell. Foreclosures do NOT happen quickly. Each of these homes showed the evidence of long term hardship before they went to foreclosure. Deferred maintenance was only part of the story. I am reminded that the lives of the people were affected even more than their homes.
While the government seeks to institute programs and regulations to solve this crisis at a national level, I am reminded that there are people struggling very close to home! Even as people are struggling, they are looking for new jobs, part-time jobs, even small odd-jobs to bring in a little more here and a little more there. And they are tightening up those wallets, squeezing every last penny out of their current resources.They are negotiating their credit card rates, making special payment arrangements, cutting out the cable, and the phone, and setting aside some bills that they just can't pay right now--some of those will end up in collections or court. And if that's not enough stress, they are dodging bill collectors phone calls and trying to make sure their utilities don't get turned off.
Even when they have slashed their expenses, and found additional avenues to create income, recovery takes time! And sometimes, there isn't enough time to recover before the foreclosure or bankruptcy is on the horizon. Sometimes the prolonged stress results in medical problems, and that just slows down the recovery.
I know there have been four foreclosures on my own street in the past two years. I am reminded of their individual struggles as I walk through my three new foreclosed home listings this week, and I think we all need to become more community-minded on an individual scale.
So what can we do to slow down the foreclosure machine? I believe it's time we started looking out for our neighbors a little bit more, and take notice of what's going on close to home. If you don't know if your neighbors are struggling, perhaps its time to take a walk around your neighborhood and get to know them, or catch up with those you haven't spoken to in the last few months...
In reality, WE are the solution.
Here are a few practical one-on-one suggestions to help your neighbors keep their homes and families running until they are able to recover financially:
1. Donate to your local foodbank or church with a pantry. They can help reach people you can't.
2. Be aware of what's going on in your own neighborhood. Has someone gotten laid off or hours cut back? Maybe they need a bag of groceries dropped on their porch..or a gift card for the local grocery taped to their door.
3. Even high school grads and college students are under-employed and un-employed this year. Maybe you can hire them to do some household chores or run some errands to help take the stress off parents who may be struggling themselves with the current economic atmosphere.
4. Build relationships in your neighborhood. You won't know who needs your help (personal or professional), or even just your prayers, if you don't know your neighbors.
5. Invite a struggling family over for pizza and a movie night at your home. Trust me, if they're really tightening their belts, they aren't getting out for any personal entertainment...it's just too expensive!
6. If you see deferred yard maintenance, it may be a sign that someone can't afford the lawn service they've always used, or they can't afford to get the broken lawnmower fixed. It might be time to offer some physical assistance. I know...some of your neighbors might be too proud to accept the help...but some will be sooo grateful.
7. If you talk with a neighbor in financial difficulty with their home, encourage them to explore their options NOW. Have them call a trusted local real estate agent or attorney to make sure they take advantage of all the options available: loan modifications can help them save their home, a short sale can help them preserve their credit at a higher level than a foreclosure.
If you have some other suggestions, please leave them in the comment section! Maybe we can all help solve the foreclosure crisis one house at a time, one person at a time.