Interview: Rick Harper, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of San Francisco

This week, we present an interview one of our clients, Rick Harper. Rick is Senior Vice President of Program Services with Consumer Credit Counseling Service of SanFrancisco. He’s worked for CCCS since 1994, and holds his J.D. and real estate brokerage license from the California Department of Real Estate. We consider him a housing expert, and someone who understands first hand the impact of the housing crisis on struggling homeowners. We hope you enjoy his insights.

Some studies are showing the housing crisis is nearing an end, while others say it is still going strong. What’s your take on things?

Definitely we have seen less demand for foreclosure and loss mitigation counseling this year than in the previous four years. With that said, we anticipate 2013 to be another difficult year for over a million families who are still trying to recover from this great recession and who run the risk of losing their homes to foreclosure.

What’s the best and most rewarding part of the counseling process for you?

Recognizing and appreciating the successes that my staff has each day working with families who are struggling to save their homes. Our foreclosure prevention counselors have the hardest job within our agency. Every day they must face family after family in crisis. They are the real heroes and I take a great deal of pride in observing their genuine kindness towards the families who come to them for assistance.

What advice would you give someone who is struggling to pay their mortgage loans?

Seek help as early as you can in the process and don’t be dismayed if your initial attempts are unsuccessful. Contact yourlocal HUD approved housing counseling agency and/or call the 888 995HOPE hot line. The process itself eliminates many families that might otherwise qualify for assistance. It is heavily “paper laden” and as unreasonable as it might seem to a family in crisis, the collection and submission of this paperwork is absolutely essential. Without a complete package of documentation, no decision for help will be made. Every document requested, no matter how superfluous, must be provided. Families should seek out HUD approved counseling agencies for assistance with the documentation and the process in general.

How do you think local resources help struggling borrowers? Do you have any anecdotes?

Families in crisis often turn to those they know and trust as a first response. Local community resources can assist clients in crisis by ensuring that there is a safety net available. Some organizations can help transitioning families find suitable and safe rental housing, while other resources that help reduce the cost of things like utilities, prescription drugs, and good are great and have tangible value for many homeowners.

With changes made during the housing crisis, do you think struggling borrowers have more options available to them than before? Or is the climate for a struggling borrower unchanged?

There have been across-the-board improvements over the initial government programs designed to assist these families. The HAMP and HARP programs have been modified to allow a greater number of families to participate. Enhanced financial incentives to servicers with such incentives tied to specific timelines and outcomes, have also given rise to greater retention and non-retention options for homeowners. There has been an attempt at the standardization of the loan modification and short sale processes and this also has had a very positive impact. In summary,
there are more options today for the foreclosure counselor and his or her clients, than there were four years ago.

Who is your favorite James Bond?

This is a no brainer – Sean Connery – the original