Hugh Rowden takes his responsibility to develop solutions for home and property preservation for African American homeowners to heart. Wells Fargo’s reach as the number one home mortgage lender in Atlanta is met with a great responsibility to ensure that struggling homeowners are provided help and assistance, and Wells Fargo and Rowden recognize this challenge.
“We are really turning the corner when it comes to foreclosures. There’s a 50 percent decrease in owner-occupied foreclosures since April 2010. We’ve helped 27,000 homeowners since the beginning of 2009 to [complete or start] a workout arrangement,” informs Hugh Rowden, senior vice president, servicing and community relations, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. “Eighty-one percent [of them] received loan modifications.”
Rowden advises homeowners to talk with their lending institutions if they’re facing mortgage payment problems. There have been many success stories for those who were proactive and contacted their lenders early and stayed in communication throughout the process.
“We’ve had some great success working closely with key community stakeholders, elected officials, housing activists and nonprofits in order to move these numbers. We’re proud of the progress, but we can do more and are accelerating our efforts to help our customers stay in their homes,” Rowden shares. “In November 2009, about 90 percent of our customers in metro Atlanta were paying on time. It sounds good, but anytime any one customer is having payment challenges, it’s one too many. Now, we’re at 93 percent paying on time.”
Wells Fargo is listening to customers who’ve offered feedback about the pitfalls of the loan-modification process. As a result, the company has rolled out a one-to-one customer assistance model, where customers are teamed with a specific representative — a single point of contact skilled to help them with payment challenges and the loan-modification process.
Rowden continues, “Unemployment continues to play a key factor. We can help the unemployed and underemployed with a temporary solution. We have a longstanding relationship with CredAbility. They do a great job with providing housing counseling, pre- and post-purchase. They are phenomenal partners on many levels. We’ve partnered with HomeFree-USA — they have enhanced technology [that allows them] to receive decisions on loan modifications for our customers quicker — and with the Concerned Black Clergy to encourage financial awareness. We’ve given the CBC a $100,000 grant to work with those who are experiencing payment challenges.” The finance and home preservation workshops at the member churches provide counseling on banking, credit and foreclosure prevention for parishioners.
Rowden advises non-Wells Fargo customers who are experiencing payment challenges to contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to be connected to HUD-certified housing counselors. –yvette caslin