MY VIEW/Joe Russo – Foreclosures: Is Virginia doing enough?


According to the Pew Research Center, the State of Virginia is expected to suffer a rather hard blow of foreclosure activity.  One in 33 houses in Virginia will suffer foreclosure activity by 2010. 

Although only 23 percent of all the loans made were sub-prime,”  the foreclosure problem is expected to affect as many as 43 percent of the state’s homeowners with regard to a decrease in property value.  This simply means that almost half of the properties in the State will see a reduction in value. The PEW Study was released in April, 2008. 

It is expected that almost $7 billion will be lost from the local and state tax base combined.  This will of course affect municipal budgets across the board. 

lthough no States anticipated the magnitude of the foreclosure problems, Virginia seems to have a more severe challenge than other states. 

According to Virginia is 15th in the nation relative to foreclosure activity, and the pace appears to be accelerating, not only in Virginia, but across the Nation.

As of the study date, the State has done little to address the challenge which is rated to be very severe as compared to other states. The only action that has been taken is the formation of a task force.  Other States seem to be more proactive. 

Although counseling sessions have been set up across the State, walk-ins are not assured a face to face meeting. This surely will discourage last minute walk-ins and families who need help.  Families under financial stress are usually in a state of denial and typically need encouragement in seeking help.  These counseling sessions seem to be too little too late.  Approximately 70% of homeowners in trouble do not seek help because they are in denial, are embarrassed, or simply are not aware of the help that is available.

Virginia has one of the fastest acting foreclosure processes in the Nation.  Virginia foreclosures, if uncontested, can occur in approximately 90 days, with no right of redemption unlike other States.  In comparison, New York and Massachusetts is considering legislation to stall the foreclosure process.  New York is one the longest, with the process taking approximately 445 days. Delay may not be the right way to handle the problem, but at least it sparks debate about solving the problem of foreclosure. 

Virginia appears to have fallen into the Ostrich scenario and is not aggressively defending itself against what is inevitably going to be a huge blow to the State and Local government’s tax base and revenue stream.  As the values come down, so does the tax base. At that point, it may be too late and Government services may have to be cut back drastically due to lack of tax revenue.

The Federal government is too bureaucratic and always too slow to act and with National foreclosures coming in at over 5,000 per day. The Feds are acting too slowly on this matter and the States must act independently and respond quickly.

The following actions are being addressed more aggressively by other states: 

State-funded refinance programs

Encouraging loan modification

Prevention of rescue scams

Encourage programs that provide mortgage counseling

Legislation of high cost lending laws

Aligning mortgage brokers/lenders to consumer interests

Rescue scams are adding to the problem and must be handled accordingly.  Although there is legislation in force, consumers are still becoming victims of various scams. Communication of rescue scams and fraud to the public, by the media, is not aggressive enough.  

Virginia is high on the list of mortgage fraud states and its citizens are not being protected even after the fact.  The fraud and scam problem is so severe across the nation, that the FBI is redirecting its agents from other financial crimes to focus on mortgage related problems.  The FBI however, is running short on manpower.  The State must step up to the plate and tackle this problem aggressively to prevent further financial damage to individuals, as well as the taxpayers of the State of Virginia. 

It seems as though Virginia legislators have been and are still asleep at the switch with regards to protecting consumers from predatory lending and subsequent frauds and scams.

Joe Russo is a freelance journalist specializing in real estate, mortgages and consumer credit issues. He is has recently published a book titled, “Selling Your House/Condo in this Housing Emergency of