Behind The Mask: Credit Counseling

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This story was written as an urgent advisory to consumers, of the hidden truth behind credit counseling. Too many clients are learning this hard way, after it is too late to do anything about it.

You have probably seen television commercials reaching out to consumers who are struggling to pay their monthly credit card debt. They are advised to call an 800 number, and the credit counselors will contact all of their creditors, negotiate interest rates and lower their monthly payments. Sounds like a dream come true! However, they fail to mention the harsh consequences that follow.

As a branch manager of a large mortgage brokerage, I have had many credit-counseled consumers looking to refinance, or purchase a home. In the process, they were devastated to learn that their credit history was badly damaged because of credit counseling. They claimed the credit counselors never told them that this would happen. Under each negotiated item listed, their credit report reads "In Credit Counseling." Most banks and creditors will turn down a loan application if those three words appear on the credit report, regardless of good credit scores. If a loan does get approved after credit counseling, the interest rate and monthly payment will most likely be very high. The lender will view this borrower as a high risk. Therefore, the lender must charge a high interest rate to justify taking such a risk. Many lenders risk a credit-counseled consumer the same as if in bankruptcy.

Most credit counseling agencies also mention that they are a non-profit organization. But what does "non-profit organization" really mean? I was once hired by a "non-profit organization" to set up an accounting system. They actually requested that they be charged double; stating "If we don’t spend all of our profits by the end of the calendar year, we will lose our tax-exempt/non-profit status." The client also mentioned that they were taking their entire staff to Hawaii to ensure the profits will be spent by year end. With all due respect; I am not implying that "non-profit organizations" are dishonest. However, in some cases I believe the term may be misleading consumers to believe they are volunteers.

A few of my clients have negotiated lower mortgage payments on their own, with a simple phone call to the lender. Some lenders will allow this. However, months later, their mortgage history reported late payments every month since this negotiation was made. Their credit scores also took a plunge. They thought the lenders were being kind and understanding by lowering their monthly payments. They had no idea that negotiating payments would destroy their good credit history.

They have tried to dispute the late payment history with the lenders and credit bureaus; while showing proof that they did pay every month. However, they lost the disputes because a short payment is considered a late payment -- regardless of any payment agreement. This should have been disclosed, but was not. In all fairness; had they known this, they would have cancelled the payment agreement from the start. They will now have to wait about seven years for the negative credit to be removed.

A good rule of thumb: Try to keep your credit card debt under 5% of your yearly income. Keep in mind; a credit card with a $2,000.00 balance may take 20-years to pay in full if only minimum payments are made. By setting spending limits, you are greatly securing your financial future.

I encourage any homeowners with growing debt to take the proper action before the debt gets out of control. Waiting too long could make things worse and lead to fewer options available to them. A debt consolidation refinance may be the answer. It will most likely improve credit, save thousands, relieve financial pressure, and offer a fresh start.

Every person's credit situation is unique. I would like to answer questions and possibly offer advice to individuals who are concerned about making smart choices regarding their financial future. Please feel free to call or email me with questions or comments, or visit my web site.

Email:    Site: http://www.SmarterMortgage.Net

Jane Shebroe

Branch Manager

Empire Equity Group, Inc., dba

1st Metropolitan Mortgage

70 East Main Street

Little Falls, NJ 07424

973-812-1919 main office

973-766-4018 direct

973-812-1926 fax

Registered Mortgage Broker – NYS Banking Department. All loans arranged with third-party lenders.    25 Philips Parkway, Montvale, NJ 07645. Licensed by the California Department of Corporations under The Residential Mortgage Lending Act. Licensed in the State of Florida and Licensed Mortgage Lender-New Jersey Department of Banking.

1st Metropolitan Mortgage is pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of EQUAL HOUSING OPPORTUNITY throughout the Nation. We encourage and support an affirmative advertising and marketing program in which there are no barriers to obtaining housing because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.

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Jane Shebroe
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