A new study by the Pennsylvania of Realtors provides new evidence that job losses and unexpected medical bills, not subprime mortgages, are the two leading causes of foreclosure in that state.
Fifty-seven percent said their household had experienced a wage-earner's job loss in the 12 months prior to their foreclosure, while 47 percent said they had been hit by unexpected medical bills. Thirty-six percent indicated they had other "unexpected bills."
Few Pennsylvanians who lost their homes had subprime mortgages, a leading cause of foreclosure in California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona. Forty-one percent of survey respondents held prime fixed-rate mortgages and 12 percent had prime adjustable-rate loans. Only 14 percent carried a subprime mortgage.
In the second quarter, Pennsylvania's foreclosure rate was a modest 0.3 percent, placing it in lower third of states, according to RealtyTrac.
"The study represents a significant number of Pennsylvanians who have personally experienced foreclosure in some way. They're people from all walks of life, various socio-economic backgrounds and all parts of the Commonwealth," said Joel Searby of the Florida-based polling firm Strategic Guidance Systems (SGS).
Most of those surveyed also did not know about the state and federal programs available to those undergoing the foreclosure process. Sixty-seven percent of respondents "never heard of" the federal Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program (HAFA) and 57 percent never heard of the federal Making Home Affordable program (HAMP). Sixty-one percent were unfamiliar with the Homeowner Equity Recovery Operation program of the PA Housing Finance Agency.
Ninety-one percent of those surveyed said they attempted to contact their lender about a solution to their pending foreclosure but 48 percent said their lenders were "not at all" willing to work with them. The 30 percent who worked with their lenders said it made no difference. Nineteen percent said it "made things worse."