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Now the Repo Man is Coming for your House Keys

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Don't call him a repo man. But if you are behind on the house payments, he's coming for your keys.

In what can only be considered a sure sign that the current housing crisis is unlike any other, banks are now deploying professional "mediators," to visit struggling homeowners to negotiate a settlement, which usually ends up with the homeowner accepting a check and the bank changing the locks. In the same day.

Long the route taken by banks to seize cars from owners who, for one reason or another, could no longer make the payments, repossession is now a strategy being used by mortgage lenders across the country.

While car repos are often done surreptitiously under the cover of night by shadows darting in and out of garage-mounted motion lights, those sent to take back your home come in the light of day. In suit and tie with hands crossed, they appear on doorsteps like harbingers of future financial doom. It's a doorbell ring that will often be the last one a family hears in their home.

Joseph Laubinger is a home taker. He comes to settle the final details for exiting the home in a legal but relatively hassle-free way. "Here is your check," he may say. "Now, can I have your keys?"

Banks employ Mr. Laubinger to run the middle ground between forgiveness periods and foreclosure. In other words, after everything has been said and every step taken before the inevitable, he shows up to smooth things over.

However, he doesn't just come to hold the door open while you and some friends carry boxes of china out the curb. He is often sent in the early stages to talk to families about their options and to explore early alternatives before things escalate. When sitting at the kitchen table, he often gets the same question. "People ask me how much time they have left," he said.

And he has been getting that question a lot lately.

Currently in America, more than four million households nationwide are "severely" delinquent in their mortgages. Industry experts report that the first quarter of 2010 has seen more mortgage failures than at any other time during "the crisis." Close to 250,000 homes have been taken over by their lenders since the start of the year. Laubinger's job is to make the exit process a bit easier for everyone.

Foreclosure is an expensive option for banks—and they don't like it. Families that meet people like Laubinger don't have to accept his offer, but as one might imagine, it's often a hard one to refuse.

Many homeowners are becoming more brazen in the defense of their homes. They know there is no legal grounds on which they can be evicted until the foreclosure process is made formal. Thus—out of spite in most case—people can hang around just to tick off their mortgage lender.

In the majority of cases, bankruptcy can save a debt-stricken family's home. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the mortgage lender must accept the terms of a 5 year repayment plan. By also getting rid of your unsecured debt, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can put you in a better position to succeed after bankruptcy.

Laubinger's company is expanding rather rapidly. He has moved tables and chairs into his garage as a makeshift office to train a couple of new employees. He currently roams the Midwest, working for Fannie Mae (the government) and regional banks. But don't think he, or folks like him, won't be making headway to North Carolina in the near future. Just listen for the doorbell.

If you're behind on your mortgage, call the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt today. In North Carolina, call 1-888-234-4181 for a free initial debt consultation or visit www.billsbills.com for more information.

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