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Exhausting its options, Habitat deals with foreclosure

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

After investing 400 hours of sweat equity in building their home, the work doesn’t end for Habitat for Humanity homeowners. There is still a mortgage to pay.

Owners in two Pawleys Island communities deeded their homes back to Habitat for Humanity’s Georgetown County chapter this fall rather than go through foreclosure.

“Our job is to help families stay in their homes. Unfortunately, after repeated attempts to help them get back on track, working one-on-one and having them go to a six-week long financial course, it is obvious they are unable to afford the home,” Annette Perrault, executive director of Habitat, said.

If a homeowner has financial trouble, Habitat will work to make their payments smaller or help owners create another budget, she said. That happened with an owner who lost her job, but was still able to keep her house, according to Perrault.

After putting in their sweat equity, “you don’t want people to lose their homes,” Elaine Minkler, family coordinator for Habitat, said.

A Habitat owner on McNeil Lane out in October after deeding her home back to the nonprofit.

A homeowner on Grate Drive is still in her house, although she deeded to the nonprofit in lieu of foreclosure. As a result, Habitat went to magistrate’s court seeking an order to have her vacate the house, according to court records.

A hearing is scheduled next month.

“This has been coming for a while,” Perrault said.

Taking a homeowner to court has never been an option, she said, but there was nothing else to do after the sheriff’s office went to the home, instructed the owner to leave and she didn’t.

When the owner does vacate, Habitat will renovate the home, clean it and give it to another homeowner.

“Each family has one chance so other families have chances as well,” Perrault said.

Habitat worked with the Grate Drive owner for years to help her make her monthly payments. After she didn’t pay her mortgage for nine months, refused to attend financial counseling classes with Loretta Washington Cooper, the Georgetown County treasurer and tax collector, and did not respond to any attempts from Habitat to contact her, a deputy served her a letter. She does not have a phone.

The letter informed her she had to sign a forbearance agreement with Habitat in lieu of foreclosure or lose her home of 11 years.

“We really bend over backward to work with our families,” Perrault said.

The owner signed the agreement in July. It allowed her to pay about $2,000 in outstanding mortgage payments.

She paid the majority of the amount on the day she signed the forbearance agreement, but still owed Habitat about $200. Habitat reminded her of her outstanding debt, but the owner did not meet her deadline and Habitat asked her to vacate.

“That is the hardest part of the job, when we tell a family that,” Perrault said.

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