These days, it is hard to find a person who has not been touched in some way by the foreclosure maelstrom that seems to feed off its own fuel as it swirls across the nation, turning homeowners into renters and leaving many homes vacant, neglected, abandoned, and in the worst cases grossly vandalized.

These days, it is hard to find a person who has not been touched in some way by the foreclosure maelstrom that seems to feed off its own fuel as it swirls across the nation, turning homeowners into renters and leaving many homes vacant, neglected, abandoned, and in the worst cases grossly vandalized.

The very word "foreclosure" evokes powerful images — law enforcement officials forcing out tenants and owners; lawns and landscaping overgrown and untended; stagnant for-sale signs in front of long-dormant homes; walls gouged and copper piping gutted. The emotional toll can be devastating, too: sadness, despair, hopelessness, instability, depression.

Real estate agents and brokers have been on the front lines of the foreclosure crisis — meeting with sellers in various stages of distress, helping banks to unload their massive inventory of foreclosed properties, and working with buyers who are trying to navigate the new real estate market reality of short sales and bank-owned properties (also known as REOs).

Foreclosure data company RealtyTrac reported on April 16 that a record 803,489 U.S. homes were subjected to foreclosure filings in the first quarter of this year, up 9 percent compared to fourth-quarter 2008 and up 24 percent compared to first-quarter 2008.

During the month of May, Inman News will detail the depth of the foreclosure crisis, explore the impact of past and proposed fixes, and highlight possible new approaches and solutions.

We want to hear from you.

Share with us your personal experiences with homeowners and properties facing a foreclosure process. What are the roadblocks and helping hands you have encountered along the way? What was the most difficult transaction related to foreclosure that you handled, and why? How did you make it through?

What are your suggested fixes for the foreclosure crisis, and how can they be implemented? What mistakes has the federal government already made, what mistakes must it avoid going forward, and what did the feds get right so far in addressing the foreclosure problem?

We are offering $200 (in the form of an Amazon.com gift card) to the best guest contribution received this month, and we are also awarding free passes (for new registrations only) to the upcoming Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco to the author of each guest contribution that we publish in full at Inman.com.

Some ground rules:

  • Contributions should be 500 to 1,000 words in length — mail them to future@inman.com.
  • These contributions should not be written for marketing or promotional purposes.
  • Inman News retains all copyrights for all published guest contributions.

Inman News is conducting a survey (click here to participate) about the state of bank-owned (REO) and short-sale properties. View the Inman News Editorial Calendar for information on future coverage topics.

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