Impact 5: Woman loses home and savings, could have been avoided

LAKE WORTH, Fla. - Deborah Johnson is in the middle of packing up her home.

"It is the worst time I can think of in my life. I never thought I would be here," Johnson said.

The home her father left her was recently sold in a foreclosure auction. Now she's picking and choosing which of her father's things she can keep.

"The last thing he gave me was [a] chandelier above the table. I will not part with that," she said.

Johnson knew early on she wouldn't be able to afford her father's mortgage. But she said she went through all of his savings trying to stay current.

"I paid until all his money was gone, at that point I called Bank of America. I said please work with me, please help, tell me what to do," Johnson said.

HUD-approved housing counselor Kevin Maher with said no one should wait to ask for help if they're having trouble paying their mortgage.

"Don't wait at all. If you know you're going to have a hardship, start dealing with it, start asking the questions, start looking for help as early as possible," Maher said.

Maher said Johnson reached out for help too late.  Many homeowners do the same thing, trying to make payments as long as they can, going through savings and 401Ks.

"If your plan is to try to keep the home, or avoid foreclosure, you want to start addressing it as soon as possible. You don't know how long you're going to have," Maher said.

If you know you won't be able to stay in the home, Maher said you can still avoid foreclosure with a short sale or deed-in-lieu. Johnson hopes others don't try to ignore their problem before asking for help.

"Seek it, go for it, do whatever you have to do," Johnson said.

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