U.S. foreclosure activity has declined across the country since peaking four years ago, but some areas cannot seem to shake off the epidemic. Foreclosure and mortgage delinquency rates in the Federal Reserve's Fifth District -- which includes Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, West Virginia, and the District -- were essentially flat in the past year, according to recent data from the Richmond Fed. Maryland is an exception: in November, the state posted the third-highest foreclosure rate in the United States, housing data firm RealtyTrac reported.
A study by the Richmond Fed suggests that mortgage-aid events often failed to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. More than half of borrowers who received assistance at one of those events failed to bring their mortgages current. To determine how effective these events were, the study authors, starting in 2010, began attending events and asking to follow up with people. They eventually were able to track about 120 homeowners for at least a year. About two-thirds of the homeowners surveyed received assistance through either a loan modification or refinancing. Those who received help were more likely to become current on their mortgage payments, and servicers were more likely to help those already in a position to succeed. However, homeowners who owed a great deal more on their homes than they were worth or who had experienced illness or job loss could not dig themseves out of the hole even with aid.