News 12 at 6, June 26, 2007
AUGUSTA, GA-- If you have a roof over your head, consider yourself lucky. A record number of people are losing their homes with foreclosures on the rise again this year, and it's no different here in Augusta.
And a local Iraqi war veteran is struggling to keep his American dream.
Anibal Santiago is a single dad who went from fighting on the front lines in Iraq to fighting to keep his Grovetown home.
Anibal Santiago says this house was a Christmas gift for his nine-year-old son Louis in 2005. He bought it so the pair could be finally be together again after spending 3 years apart while he recovered from his injuries.
This February, it became a gift he could no longer afford.
"I was scared, and I prayed, and I cried." says Santiago.
The 40-year-old injured Iraqi war veteran has a fixed income and is living off of his disability payments. His home has an adjustable rate mortgage so when interests rates increased, so did his mortgage to a point he could no longer afford.
"I was sad because I did not want to lose it for him, his present."
So Santiago filed bankruptcy in hopes of saving his home and instantly became like so many other Americans fighting to stay afloat.
Nationally in March 2006, foreclosures rose 72 percent from 2005. This year, they're up another 38 percent.
His attorney says she now sees about 50 people a month in his same situation. This year alone, she's seen a 20 percent increase in the number of people losing their homes all together.
But Augusta Mortgage President Larry Moss says foreclosures aren't an epidemic in Augusta like they are in Atlanta. However, he does warn customers against adjustable rate mortgages.
"Why take that risk if you can get a fixed rate today that’s only half a percent higher than what that arm rate is initially." adds Moss.
And as interest rates continue to rise, more Augustans may soon find themselves in Sanitago's shoes.
"I'm doing the best I can." But Santiago is not out of the woods yet. He needs an increase on his disability payments soon. If he doesn't, his attorney says he will probably loose his house.
So if you're facing delinquent payments there are things you can do to try and prevent foreclosing?
The biggest advice we found was to get into a fixed rate mortgage by refinancing your home. That might not work for everyone, but filing for bankruptcy should be your last resort.
Either way, the earlier you reach out for help, the better your option and credit rating.