Valley Works: avoiding foreclosure

FRESNO, California

When George Esquivel bought a modest home in Central Fresno five years ago it was a decision he and his wife Roberta Cabrera didn't make lightly. "It was nerve-racking thinking about the responsibility of it and taking the challenge of it... buying a home."

But after nine years of living in apartments this couple who has 11 children between the both of them were happy they could finely afford a place for their blended family.

Esquivel's wife, Roberta Cabrera said, "It's a blessing that he was able to buy this home and to combine our families together, share moments here."

Esquivel, who works as a janitor for Fresno County says the family finances were good, but in 2010 things began to change. "We started losing hours and we started having to take furloughs."

It wasn't long before the county enforced furlough days began to impact the family budget. Roberta, who was a student at Fresno City College put her education on hold and found work at the highway city thrift shop.

The couple's finances suffered another blow when Esquivel was forced to take a 9% paycut in December. They were now in danger of losing their home.

Facing foreclosure, the Esquivel's sought help from the Community Housing Council. John Shore, executive director says for homeowners seeking a loan modification it's important to develop an action plan. "The first thing the lender is going to want to know is if they have been to a housing counseling agency like us and have they received the counseling that shows they have put together a budget and shows they have an action plan in place."

Shore says due to new programs and a willingness on the part of banks to now work with people in trouble with their mortgages, homeowners have a better chance of saving their homes.

Paperwork in hand the Esquivels attended a home preservation workshop in Fresno sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank. "I really thought we weren't going to get no results and there was a gentleman there and he was very calm...and he made me feel calm too."

Tim Rios, senior vice president with Wells Fargo says he knows people may be skeptical about a banks willingness to help homeowners but he says that is their goal. "I think people where surprised when they walked in I don't know what they were expecting but I think they walked out feeling like someone listened to their situation, someone hopefully found a resolution to their mortgage."

The Esquivel's were among the families that did find a solution that day. "When he told us we were approved I just wanted to fall and start praying because our prayers were answered."

With the loan modification this family says they are now back on solid financial ground. Rios says it's not only a win for the homeowner but the entire community. "No one wins with a foreclosure, banks don't win, the customer doesn't win, the community doesn't win so our ultimate goal is to keep families in their homes."

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