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Mobile mortgage assistance helps those in need

A mobile command center for the state's Department of Financial Services is rolling across New York state looking to help people who may be having trouble paying their mortgage. It brings foreclosure prevention specialists to urban areas that need them.

Stopping in downtown Syracuse on an overcast May day, the big, white RV invites homeowners inside who are in any of a number of stages of foreclosure.

State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky says that these are people who have filed for foreclosure, homeowners having trouble dealing with banks, and most importantly, folks who might be on the verge of losing their home.

"If you see a financial cliff approaching, and you're in your home and paying your mortgage currently, now's the time to seek help and see if you can get a modification of your mortgage payments," Lawsky said.

In this situation, it's important to be proactive.

"If you miss a mortgage payment or two, you don't qualify for the mortgage products that are out there," Lawkey said.

New York's foreclosure rate stands at 5.6 percent. While that's not as bad as other states', Syracuse Home HeadQuarter's HomeOwnership Center Manager Rickey Brown says it's still a crisis.

"It's a crisis in the sense that a lot of homeowners don't know how to navigate through the process. It slows up the process and, unfortunately, it adds to the consequences of them dealing with the mortgage," Brown said.

There's a lot at hanging in the balance when mortgage payments become difficult to make.

"Equity is at stake. Life savings are at stake," Brown said.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.