There's a reason JPMorgan Chase chose Riverview for its second Homeownership Center in the Tampa Bay area.
It's where a sizable portion of its troubled borrowers live.
The lender is trying to make it easier for its financial distressed customers to meet face-to-face with counselors in an attempt to staunch the flow of foreclosures.
"Our goal is to get the customer early, before they fall behind," said Rocky Stubbs, a vice president at Chase.
The new center is located at 4017 Crescent Park Drive in Riverview.
Last March, Chase opened its first homeownership center in the nation. It was located in Tampa, and Stubbs said it was so successful that the lender expanded the program nationwide and decided to open another center here. It has 51 such centers across the country, 11 of which are in Florida.
The lender wants to focus on Florida, Stubbs said, because the state has such a high foreclosure rate. Stubbs wouldn't give specific data, but said the Bay area was chosen because of its large number of troubled loans.
The selection of Riverview says a lot about the Bay area's foreclosure dilemma.
"We have more than double the number of loans in default in Tampa than in Jacksonville or Daytona," Stubbs said.
Chase looked at its loans in the Bay area, Stubbs said, and chose Riverview because it has a large percentage of customers falling behind on payments. These customers may not have slipped into foreclosure yet, Stubbs said, and may qualify for a loan modification.
"We choose communities that represent the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis," Stubbs said. "People appreciate that they won't come in and get yelled at for an hour. We want to help people keep their homes."
The lender's efforts come as Florida's foreclosure troubles continue to mount. The Sunshine State's foreclosure rate is third in the nation, and lenders expect more foreclosures this year, despite government incentives to keep homeowners in their homes.
Chase says its centers in Florida have worked with nearly 5,300 borrowers who were late on their mortgages. Even so, Stubbs said, not everyone helped in the centers ends up avoiding foreclosure. Some situations are just too dire.
While the lender can't help all of its customers, Stubbs said counselors have been successful in helping homeowners keep their homes. Some options include lower interest rates, loan extensions or lower monthly mortgage payments.
The center serves those with loans owned or serviced by Chase, Washington Mutual or EMC, all of which are now part of JPMorgan Chase.
Stubbs said he hopes other lenders will open similar centers.
"We're not fighting for market share," he said. "We don't want to be the only bank doing this."