Thursday, December 29, 2011

Counseled Homeowners Get Better Loan Mods, Avoid Foreclosure

A report issued yesterday by NeighborWorks America shows that homeowners who received National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program assistance were nearly twice as likely to obtain a mortgage modification and at least 67 percent more likely to remain current on their mortgage nine months after receiving one.

The study (, prepared for NeighborWorks America by the Urban Institute on the consumer benefits of the NFMC program, also showed that homeowners received, on average, a mortgage modification that lowered their payment by $176 more per month, than homeowners who didn’t work with an NFMC counselor--a savings of nearly $2,100 a year. “By significantly reducing the chance that a homeowner re-defaults after a mortgage modification, servicers are saved added expense,” said NeighborWorks America CEO Eileen Fitzgerald. “This tells us that increased servicer investment in partnerships with nonprofit counselors is a win for everyone.”

The Urban Institute recently completed a three-year evaluation
of Rounds 1 and 2 of the NFMC program. Using a representative NFMC sample of 180,000 loans and a comparison non-NFMC sample of 155,000 loans, the Urban Institute was able to isolate the impact of NFMC counseling on loan performance through December 2010.
The final evaluation of Rounds 1 and 2 conducted by Urban Institute demonstrated positive effects for homeowners participating in the NFMC program. Counseled homeowners were more likely to receive better loan modifications, cure a serious delinquency or foreclosure and stay current, and avoid a foreclosure completion altogether.
Other findings of the study:
• Counseling greatly increased the ability of homeowners to stay
current once they cured a serious delinquency or foreclosure. Counseled
homeowners were at least 67 percent more likely to remain current on their mortgage nine months after receiving a loan modification cure. A small part of this effect is attributable to the impact of counseling on the size of monthly payment reductions. However, the study noted a significant part is attributable to other positive impacts of counseling, such as helping homeowners improve their financial management skills and assisting them in managing relationships with servicers.
• NFMC counseling made it more likely that homeowners would
receive a loan modification cure in the first place, increasing by at least 89 percent the relative odds of modification cures for counseled homeowners compared to non-counseled ones. The study said the federal Home Affordable Mortgage Progam amplified this positive effect. In the period before HAMP, 8 percent of homeowners receiving counseling assistance had modification cures, compared to 5 percent who did not receive counseling. Post-HAMP, 17 percent of homeowners receiving counseling assistance had modification cures, compared to 9 percent without.
• Counseled homeowners received loan modifications resulting in
a monthly payment that was $176 less, on average, than non-counseled borrowers, a savings of close to $2,100 a year. This savings was achieved on loans modified either before or after HAMP was implemented.
The study said “the great bulk of the sustainability benefit resulted from other impacts of counseling, such as helping borrowers to improve
their financial management skills, assisting them in managing relationships with servicers/investors, and providing other types of support.”

Last month, the Obama Administration released its November Housing Scorecard, reporting more than 5.4 million modification arrangements were started between April 2009 and the end of October. The reported modifications included more than 1.7 million HAMP trial modification starts; more than 1.1 million FHA loss mitigation and early delinquency interventions; and more than 2.5 million proprietary modifications
under HOPE NOW, the voluntary, private sector alliance of mortgage servicers, investors, mortgage insurers and non-profit counselors (of
which the Mortgage Bankers Association is a founding member).
HOPE NOW said its October data showed that permanent loan modifications totaled nearly 80,000 for the month, bringing the total for the year to 885,000.Also last month, a white paper from STRATMOR
Group, Jacksonville, Fla., reported that providing holistic financial
counseling to borrowers who are at risk of default and foreclosure can not only prevent foreclosure, but also can reduce re-default rates for borrowers. The study, The Impact of Consumer Credit Counseling on Distressed Mortgage Loan Losses, said holistic financial counseling could reduce losses on a 10,000-file portfolio by as much as $71.5 million. The STRATMOR study said for borrowers receiving basic counseling, the losses avoided are estimated at $3,894 per borrower (or 185 bps for a $210,000 average loan balance). This benefit increases to $5,754 to $7,147 (274 bps to 340 bps) if borrowers receive "holistic" counseling that addresses not only mortgage debt but also credit card debt and modifications to personal spending patterns. Applied to a portfolio of 10,000 borrowers who receive
counseling, the $7,147 scalable benefit would translate into $71.47 million in losses avoided.

Matthew Lind, managing director of the STRATMOR Group and author of the study, said while traditional borrower counseling in default servicing focuses mainly on the monthly mortgage payment, integrating
holistic financial counseling addresses the entire spectrum of a borrower’s financial picture, including lifestyle decisions. He said holistic financial counselors help borrowers assess all the factors that go into monthly spending, including credit card debt, car payments and discretionary spending.

The NFMC program was launched in December 2007 with funds
appropriated by Congress to address the nationwide foreclosure crisis by
increasing availability of housing counseling for families at risk of
foreclosure. NeighborWorks America distributes funds to competitively selected grantee organizations, which in turn provide the counseling services, either directly or through subgrantee organizations. Grants are also being made to fund legal assistance to homeowners, and to train foreclosure counselors. Upwards of 1,700 counseling agencies operate under the program.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Impact of Credit Counseling on Distressed Mortgage Loan

From the White Paper prepared by the Stratmor Group

Based on the best of recent research investigating the impact of providing counseling to distressed mortgage borrowers, this research (White Paper) analyzes the incremental economic benefits, as measured by foreclosure, deed-in-lieu and short sale losses avoided, accruing to investors and servicers per counseled borrower versus non-counseled
borrowers, without regard to the costs of counseling. Additional benefits from loss avoidance, including expected improved cash flows and portfolio value, liquidity, operational and legal cost savings, etc. are not considered.
For borrowers receiving basic credit counseling, our analysis projects an average benefit per borrower of $3,894, without regard to whether or not the counseled obtained a loan modification. For counseled borrowers who obtain a modification, the incremental benefit increases to $17,948.

When borrowers receive "holistic"counseling --- counseling that not only addresses mortgage monthly payment but also credit card payment as well as modifications that result in lower personal spending patterns --- the average benefit per borrower increases to $5,754 to $7,147 as a result of additional monthly cash flow made available to meet mortgage obligations. This freed up cash, as a result of the borrower debt payment/personal spending restructuring, and estimated at an additional $300 per month, sharply lowers the redefault rate of borrowers who initially cure their loan through a loan modification.

The full White Paper canbe viewed at

Monday, December 12, 2011

Consumer Credit Counseling Services Is Reaccredited

The Council on Accreditation (COA) is delighted to inform you that Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Buffalo, Inc. has been accredited. COA’s commitment to maintaining the highest level of standards and quality improvement is designed to identify providers that have set high performance standards for themselves and have made a commitment to their constituents to deliver the highest quality
services. COA is proud to recognize Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Buffalo, Inc. as one of these outstanding providers.

COA reaccreditation is an objective and reliable verification that provides confidence and support to an organization’s service recipients, board members, staff and community partners. The COA reaccreditation process involves a detailed review and analysis
of both an organization’s administrative operations and its service delivery practices. All are “measured” against national standards of best practice. These standards emphasize services that are accessible, appropriate, culturally responsive, evidence based, and outcomes-oriented, In addition, they confirm that the services are provided by a skilled and supported workforce and that all individuals are treated with dignity and respect.

Because COA reviews and reaccredits the entire organization, not just specific programs, you can have confidence in the credibility, integrity and achievement of your entire organization.

COA congratulates Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Buffalo, Inc. for their hard work and wonderful achievement and is proud to have it as part of COA’s Community of Excellence.

Founded in 1977, COA is an independent not-for-profit international accreditor of the full continuum of community-based behavioral health care and human service organizations. Today, over 1800 organizations—public and private—are either COA accredited or are in the process of seeking accreditation. These organizations serve over 7 million of our most vulnerable individuals each year!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


The November poll hosted on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) website,, revealed that 40 percent of respondents do not intend to spend any money on holiday purchases, as they anticipate experiencing further financial distress in the future.

The poll sends a strong signal that in spite of the increase
in sales during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a significant number of people lack enough confidence in their financial future to begin spending, even on traditional holiday expenses.

“Historically, consumers have put aside their financial concerns during the holidays, even if to their detriment, and spent at some level,” said Paul C. Atkinson, President and CEO of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo Inc. “These figures provide a snapshot of the
desperate situation in which consumers find themselves, and how seriously they are taking their situation.”

Of note is the statistically significant increase reflected in the year-over-year trend. The NFCC posed the identical set of poll questions in the same month one year ago. Between November 2010 and November 2011, there was a six percentage point increase in the number of consumers who indicated they will spend zero dollars during the holiday season, evidence of the depth of the financial despair in the country.

Also disturbing is that slightly more than half of all poll respondents indicated they would cut back on holiday spending, as their financial situation is worse this year than last. Combining those who will cut back on spending with those who will not spend at all, a full 91 percent of consumers are clearly concerned enough about their financial circumstances that they will remain on the spending sidelines this holiday season.

Looking at the two categories with the lowest responses,seven percent revealed that they will spend as they did in 2010, and a modest three percent will spend more than they did last year.

“Consumers are doing themselves a disservice if they do not
reach out to a legitimate credit counseling agency for help surviving these difficult economic times, as there may be solutions available that have not been considered,” continued Atkinson.

For professional assistance regarding your financial questions, consider an appointment with a certified consumer credit counselor at an NFCC Member Agency. Counselors are on hand to help you at Consumer Credit Counseling Service Inc. Call us at 712-2060.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Good News For Agencies that Provide Housing Counseling!

Last Spring, terrible news came down for housing counseling agencies. Funding that they planned to use to counsel hundreds of thousands of potential homeowners was no longer available due to problems with the federal government.

This news was especially troublesome.

Housing is typically a person’s largest expense and investment. Housing counseling helps educate consumers and level the playing field between individuals and institutions that naturally have very different amounts of information and power. Housing counseling creates confidence for first-time homebuyers facing mortgage banks, tenants facing housing court, and homeowners facing foreclosure attorneys.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, Inc. (CCCS Buffalo) fought hard to get funding restored. We see every day how effective this funding is to the people of Western New York, and were determined to make sure that our community was well served.

We have reason to celebrate now. As of last week, members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees filed the Conference Report (i.e., the final version) on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations for FY 2012. Included in the bill is a total of $125 million for HUD housing counseling assistance programs, with $80 million going to the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program; and $45 million for HUD’s comprehensive counseling programs. The Conference Report also directs HUD to award the comprehensive counseling funding within 120 days after enactment of the bill. The legislation is expected to be approved by the House and Senate, and signed by the President, by the end of this week.

Given that HUD’s comprehensive counseling funding for FY 2011 was zeroed-out, this represents a significant victory for agencies providing housing counseling---like Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo--and for the consumers that they serve.

We at CCCS Buffalo reached out to many elected officials for their help. Our thanks to all of those who responded. Your efforts made a difference. Special thanks to Congressmember Brian Higgins and
Congressmember Louise Slaughter for their special assistance.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Credit Scores!

There are a lot of misconceptions about credit scores. Some people believe everything from where they live to the color of their skin affects their score. Here's what influences scores, what doesn't, and what you can do to improve yours.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Small Business Assistance is Right Here

According to a study by the U.S. Small
Business Association, only 2/3 of all small business startups survive the first
two years and less than half make it to four years. Of all the new business
startups, 1/3 eventually turn a profit, 1/3 break even, and 1/3 never leave a
negative earnings scenario. With numbers like that, it's no wonder so many
would-be entrepreneurs think twice before taking the plunge.

In response to these statistics and to help
potential entrepreneurs overcome their fears, we at Consumer Credit Counseling
Service of Buffalo Inc. (CCCS Buffalo) have launched a Small Business
Counseling Program.

Often, small businesses have the same issues
as families – pressing financial demands, limited funds, and ineffective
planning or budgeting. Frequently, the
Small Business Owner does not know where to turn.

Small Business, across Western New York, now
has a resource to help them with their financial problems. We may have the next
Microsoft right here in our backyard but unless we as a community provide them
with the necessary tools, we will never know.

With trained and certified financial
counselors, CCCS Buffalo is making its service available to ALL Small Business
Owners across Western New York.

Specifically, CCCS Buffalo can help with the following:
Credit report review and credit scores
Assistance with disputing discrepancies on
credit reports,
Creation of a realistic budget
Cash Flow issues

Starting a business can certainly be a
challenge. CCCS Buffalo has combined our efforts with the Small Business
Development Centers of both Buffalo and Niagara, the IRS, the SBA and the Canisius
College Women’s Business Center to help budding entrepreneurs have the
resources and financial knowledge that they need to succeed. CCCS Buffalo
provides valuable services in the critical start up phase of a small business
as well as assistance throughout its’ various life cycles.

Consider George Vlagos. In August 2010, Vlagos
launched his small business, Oak Street Bootmakers. Hugely successful—less than
one year later, there is a six-week waiting list for a pair of Oak Street

As Vlagos told Inc. magazine, “There are
certain things you can do to increase the odds of success. You don't need an
MBA to make your small business profitable - just guts, determination, one-on-one
counseling and a little common sense advice.”

Needless to say, small business counseling is
the key.

For more information, on Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, Inc., call 712-2060 or

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Models of Financial Literacy Training For Youth

Paul C. Atkinson, CEO and President of Consumer
Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, Inc.

There is no doubt that parents play a critical role in teaching their children about the world of money. A recent Buffalo News article highlighting this importance confirms the message that we give every
day to the thousands of people who use our services. All too often, we see
adults whose spending habits create negative consequences in their lives. Many times, they express regret that they didn’t learn proper habits in their youth.

Most youth experience their first introduction to financial management at home. However, many low-income parents, themselves struggling to make ends meet, are ill-equipped to teach effective financial management skills to their children. Knowing this, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo (CCCS Buffalo), launched a program to teach economically disadvantaged youth the skills of money management. Thus far over 200 youth have completed this program at Child & Adolescent Treatment Services’ three after-school sites and WNY United Against Drugs & Alcohol’s Summer Leadership Institute. Many more youth are being taught by CCCS Buffalo staff at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo, the Renaissance House and through a unique “Mommy & Me” program for women and families in transitional housing
situations at Cornerstone Manor.

The City of Buffalo is one of America’s poorest cities so we serve an economically distressed region. As noted in the National Foundation CC April 2010 report, minorities and youth are at greatest risk for financial instability, and in the greatest need of acquiring financial education. Low income individuals are also at great risk. "Research demonstrates the positive impact of financial literacy training for low-income individuals…”

We cannot simply leave the teaching of financial literacy to parents, but we also cannot rely solely on youth financial literacy programs. In a significant development, recent research has indicated that there is little evidence that traditional efforts to boost financial literacy help students make better decisions outside the classroom. Even as the financial-literacy movement gained steam over the past decade, scores have been falling on tests that measure how savvy students are about budgeting, credit cards, insurance and investments. A 2008 survey of college students conducted for the JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy found that students who'd had a financial literacy course in high school scored no better than those who hadn't.

A growing number of researchers and educators agree that a more radical approach is needed. They advocate starting financial education a lot earlier than high school, putting real money and spending decisions into kids' hands and talking openly about the emotions and social influences tied to how we spend. Based on this research, CCCS Buffalo has deliberately chosen to work with Kindergarten through 2nd graders and with 5th through 8th graders.

Without program intervention, Buffalo’s youth may be relegated to a life of poor financial choices. Our Financial Literacy Program stops this destructive cycle which not only harms local families, but decreases economic vitality in our region…a region which desperately needs financial health.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Identity Theft

Hello and welcome to our new blog!

We want the community to know about all that we are doing at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo (CCCS Buffalo), so we proudly bring you this information source to keep you up to date on our latest goings-on. We welcome your comments and input!

In case you are not sure exactly what we do:

“CCCS of Buffalo is a non-profit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling and credit repayment assistance to consumers since 1965. CCCS of Buffalo helps consumers trim expenses, develop a spending plan and repay debts. Counseling is available at our Main Office in West Seneca, in one of our Satellite Offices, by telephone and via Internet.

Latest News:

Buffalo Community Secures Their Identity With Help From CCCS and Partners

In 2010, 8 million Americans were victims of identity theft. The overall losses from identity fraud last year were over $37 billion and the average consumer out-of-pocket cost due to identity fraud jumped from $387 per incident in 2009 to $631 per incident in 2010, an astounding 63 % increase.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, Inc. (CCCS Buffalo) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) hosted their 4th annual “Secure Your ID Day” event on October 22nd in conjunction with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s National Protect Your Identity Week. “Secure Your ID Day” was held at three different Tops Markets locations: 2101 Elmwood Ave in Buffalo, George Urban & Union Road in Cheektowaga, and Robinson Road & Niagara Falls Blvd in Amherst.

As many have discovered, it is much better to protect yourself against ID theft than to pick up the pieces after being victimized. CCCS Buffalo served hundreds of consumers and small business owners at our event, with folks showing up to have their personal documents shredded at no charge. CCCS Buffalo also disseminated information on how to prevent identity theft. Event sponsor Shred-It reported that 15,000 pounds or nearly 8 tons of material were properly destroyed.

The event also offered a secure way of disposing of old cell phones that were no longer being used. These cell phones are stripped of all personal information be stored in them, and then given 911cellphonebank, an organization that provides an ongoing and readily available source of emergency cell phones and funds to meet the unexpected and urgent needs of participating law enforcement and affiliated victims services agencies.

Many people do not realize that most cell phones not only carry a great deal of personal information on them, but can also be used as a tool to steal someone’s identity. “Shoulder Surfing”, a term that refers to someone who tries to gain person information by peeking at a credit card or cell phone while the consumer is making a purchase, has become a more prevalent way to steal personal information. Also, the ability to take pictures of a person’s credit card can now be easily done with the high quality camera capability on cell phones.

CCCS Buffalo held this project with the help of the following sponsors: The Better Business Bureau, Evans Bank, Tops Friendly Markets, Shred-It, 911CellPhoneBank and WGRZ-TV. The collaboration was seamless, with the end result—a well-served community.

For more information, contact Tara Vogel at716.712.2062, or go to