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Foreclosure: I Didn't Think It Could Happen to Me

Foreclosure explosion spreads to middle-income Americans with fixed-rate loans.

Ron and Sharon Pizer were among the luckier ones. Because they have a small income—his Social Security and Sharon’s new job in retail—they were able to get their lender to extend their loan by shifting the bulk of their eight missed payments to the back end. But even so, Ron Pizer says they’re facing an uphill battle.

It’s people like the Pizers who seek help from the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta hotline. Spokesman Scott Scredon says that between January and August, 81,500 people nationwide received foreclosure prevention counseling—double the 2008 figure. More than 70 percent said they or someone else in their household became unemployed or had a reduction in income; 69 percent had fixed-rate loans.

“We’re seeing a gradual increase this year, especially in recent months, of people who’d typically be considered middle-class Americans with two-income households, and now for a variety of reasons—lower commission sales, state employees furloughed a few days a month—they’re calling us,” says Scredon.

Veronica McGill, 55, had no trouble paying the $1,850 monthly mortgage for her home in Maryland until she lost her job as a legal assistant in financial services. She quickly ran through her savings.

Now, she’s in foreclosure proceedings. With no income, she’s unable to refinance or get her loan modified. And she can’t afford to sell, since she won’t make enough to pay off her mortgage.

“I thought I’d be able to get another job right away,” says McGill. “If I don’t get one soon, I’ll be living under a bridge.”

Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.

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