Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Carmel on the Case: Closure
It's no secret - having a house in South Florida can be costly. But if you can't pay the mortgage, be careful who's offering to help. In tonight's Carmel On The Case, Investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero found if you don't read the fine print, some local investors will soon own your home.
WSVN--The South Florida real estate market has been red hot for years.
But there's another side to the sky high prices - the number of people losing homes is also up - way up.
Foreclosures in Dade are up fifteen percent; in Palm Beach seventeen percent; and in Broward a staggering twenty-five percent.
Karon Johnson's one of them.
Karon Johnson: "My house is going into forclosure and I was going to file bankruptcy."
Karon was in big trouble.
With her house payments months behind, she risked losing her home.
But she thought her luck had turned, when an investor came calling.
Karon Johnson: "And he said he could help me get out of the foreclosure."
He claimed a group of investors was willing to make good on her debts... including all her back mortgage payments.
Karon Johnson: "I was excited because, you know, I didn't want the bankruptcy and I didn't want the forclosure."
Karon was so eager to get out of debt she says she signed the papers not fully understanding what they meant.
Karon Johnson: "They tricked me."
Without knowing, Karon signed over ownership of the property.
She says - instead of helping her - the investors helped themselves.
J. Jay Greene: "It is a dog eat dog world. In the real estate markets there's a lot more people in bad situations like this every year."
That's why mortgage banker J. Jay Greene and attorney Joseph Altschul are fighting to keep Karon in her home.
Joseph Altschul: "When you see someone who is really about to be set out of their home you know I just feel like I had to step in."
But she has only two options: pay the investors with money she doesn't have or fight it out in court.
J. Jay Greene: "They're basically holding the property hostage."
In this case, Joseph Altschul is planning to argue Karon was mislead.
When we tried to contact the investors and their attorney, neither would comment.
But Karon's learned her lesson.
Experts say if you're in financial trouble, contact your lender.
If somebody approaches you to help, read the contract thoroughly.
And remember, you can always call the Florida Department of Financial Services to see if an investor is legit.
Otherwise, you'll be hoping for a miracle.
Karon Johnson: "I have faith and faith moves mountains."
Carmel Cafiero: "But she'll also need facts. The investors have filed a lawsuit to evict Johnson because she's fallen behind in her payments. It will be up to the courts to figure out who gets what."
If you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE