Housing crash leaves local families fighting for their homes

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    Getting By: Losing the American Dream

    Everything was going according to plan for Marty Knepp.

    He and his wife were living in their Crofton home with their three children. Knepp earned enough at his job as retail marketing director for HD Radio for his wife to be a stay-at-home mom. The couple lived comfortably.

    Then came the country's worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

    In August 2009, Knepp was laid off in a round of company cutbacks. He had enough in savings to cover his $2,300 mortgage for four months. Then he had to contact his bank, SunTrust Mortgage, to try to modify his loan.

    More than two years later, he's still trying. If he doesn't succeed, the family will lose the house.

    "It's a constant guessing game," said Knepp, 48, who's thousands of dollars behind in payments. "What should I have done? Why didn't I do this?"

    A family about to lose their American Dream could be the most telling symbol of people's struggles to get by in this economy.

    This is the last story in a series looking at the recession and its impact on county residents. Baby boomers have seen their retirement dreams dashed. Food banks have been flooded with requests for help. College graduates can't find jobs in their field.

    But for others, the recession has quite literally hit home, with the threat of foreclosure hanging over their heads.

    Knepp, who's also a musician, said faith and his tight-knit circle of family and friends are all that keep him going some days.

    The worst thing about going through foreclosure, he said, is that not everyone is sympathetic - even those who are supposed to help you.

    "They tend to make you want to feel like you're such a subpar human," Knepp said. "There are days when you just want to throw your hands up in the air."

    When unemployment rises, so do foreclosures. Homeowners such as Knepp, faced with job loss, find themselves unable to make their house payments.

    The employment picture is improving somewhat. The U.S. Labor Department said last week unemployment dipped to 8.6 percent in November, the lowest it has been in 21/2 years.

    Maryland has fared a bit better - the state unemployment rate in October was 7.2 percent.

    In Anne Arundel County, 4,144 homes have sold since the first of the year, according to statistics from Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, a real estate tracking firm. Of those, 685 were foreclosures and 378 were short sales - when the bank agrees to accept less than the homeowner owes because the property's value has fallen so much.

    "In other words, 25 percent of the sales were distressed sales," said Jeffrey Ross, an Annapolis-based broker specializing in short sales. "Pretty substantial number, don't you think?"

    READ MORE Getting By: Losing the American Dream • Top Stories (www.HometownAnnapolis.com - The Capital)
     

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