By: Melinda Hudgins, Business Writer

Posted: Sunday February 8, 2009 in The Daily News Journal

Broker earns designation in Mid-Tenn.

As the economy began its downward spiral, the number of property foreclosures steadily increased. However, homeowners in financial distress have other options, and now they have help, too.

Joe Hafner, managing broker of John Jones Real Estate recently earned the designation of Certified Distressed Property Expert - the first in Middle Tennessee to do so - which allows him to educate and assist individuals who've found themselves facing foreclosure.

"This training has put our entire team in a position to help people who are experiencing hardships that put their home at risk," said company owner John Jones. "We can now offer our clients facing financial stress access to the tools, resources and expertise that can help them avoid foreclosure and save their credit."

Hafner has dealt with foreclosure since the beginning of his real estate career in the mid-1990s, but added that the training further educated him on the subject.

"We sit down with people, help them understand just what they are up against, and usually show them they do have options other than foreclosure," Hafner explained.

While there are several alternatives to foreclosure, Hafner said that nearly everyone qualifies for either a short sale, assuming they haven't waited too long to begin the process, or a loan modification.

A short sale is possible once the bank allows the sale of a home at a discounted price.

"The banks look at it like a kind of risk management," Hafner said, adding that the process is made easier when a buyer is on hand.

And because a short sale appears like an ordinary real estate transaction from the outside, there isn't the added embarrassment on the homeowner's part as there would be with a foreclosure.

"Keeping their dignity is the biggest thing we can do for these people," Jones added.

Additionally, the homeowners credit rating is saved, whereas a foreclosure can affect credit scores by 200 to 300 points for seven to 10 years and must be listed in every future home loan application.

It can also negatively impact employment, especially when security clearance is needed.

On the other hand, a short sale generally only affects between 50 and 150 points for roughly two years because of defaulted payments.

"Some people get scared and panic, and that rush decision impacts them for the next decade," Hafner said.

Jones added, "I feel like we're saving them years of their lives."

One Smyrna woman couldn't be more grateful to Hafner and Jones for their assistance in helping her avoid foreclosure.

"I had already gotten a few months behind on my mortgage," Tina Pritchard recalled, "so I contacted Joe. He introduced me to the short sale and explained what I needed to do to get things started."

"Joe worked all the way through and stuck with me until we could get everything done," Pritchard said. "I walked away with everything paid and my credit good."

Although she is renting now, Pritchard said one day she plans to own a home again.

"And Joe will probably be the one to put us in our new home," she said.

The John Jones Real Estate company has set up a website at www.TheHomeSaverGuys.com and a no-obligation toll'free foreclosure hotline 800-239-2513 ext. 2047 where homeowners can learn more about the foreclosure process, the horrible impact it has on credit and how to escape the foreclosure nightmare.