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Located in Kern County, in California’s Central Valley, Bakersfield California is one of California’s most populous inland cities. The city has long attracted migrants, both from inside the state of California and from without, due to its richly fertile land, low taxes and vibrant economy.

Throughout the 1930s, the area saw rapid expansion as dispossessed farmers fleeing Dust-Bowl-era Oklahoma and Kansas headed west to find greener pastures. The area’s rich farmland stands in stark contrast to the barren deserts the first settlers needed to cross to reach it, leading many to elation upon first gazing the rows of citrus trees and cotton extending to the horizon.

Today, Bakersfield continues to be one of the most important agricultural centers in the United States. Additionally, Kern Country is the single largest producer of crude oil of any county in the country. This has led to an economy dominated by agriculture and natural resource extraction yet still quite diversified, due to the low taxes, proximity to major Pacific ports and generally pleasant climate.

The city does enjoy very nice weather throughout most of the year. However, due to its location in a transition zone between humid-subtropical and arid climates, the city does suffer from extreme heat in the summer months, with daily highs often exceeding 100 degrees. Combined with its lack of water or nearby recreation opportunities, this makes Bakersfield far less tourism-oriented than many other major California towns.

Like so many other locales in the state, Bakersfield suffered mightily in the wake of the 2007 housing crisis. The city experienced some of the most dramatic losses in home value anywhere in the country. The average home price in the city plummeted from almost $300,000, in 2006, to just over $100,000 by 2008. This was spearheaded by record numbers of foreclosures. The city’s housing prices have yet to recover, with the average home price in 2017 hovering around $210,000.

This has been a devastating turn of events for the city’s residents, most of whom had their entire net worth tied up in their home’s equity. Further compounding things, the city’s official unemployment rate is still at a whopping 9.2 percent, putting it in the top 10 percent of all major cities’ unemployment rates in the nation. By contrast, the state of California as a whole only has a 5.5 percent unemployment rate. This is not even to mention the very large population of illegal and migratory residents who call the city home but do not participate in the official economy. All this adds up to a somewhat bleak economic picture, with many residents facing imminent financial crisis and few means of escaping it.

For such residents, Chapter 7 may seem like their only hope to exit from crushing debt. But for many, there may be better options. Debt settlement may provide a way out of debt, without incurring the agonizing costs of a bankruptcy.

Bakersfield residents can avoid Chapter 7

There are many reasons one should try to avoid bankruptcy at all costs. The total inability to get a mortgage for up to a decade may sound the death knell for any hope of family formation. The inability to get a car loan for similar periods may severely limit the types of jobs and amount of pay that the declarant may obtain. Still other reasons include being shut out from any kind of small business loans, short term business financing and even the likely barring from serving in many executive roles throughout various industries. In short, declaring bankruptcy is not a decision to be taken lightly. It can and will seriously affect the debtor, in some cases, for the rest of their lives.

However, there are other options that can achieve almost the same results without these terrible costs. Debt settlement can frequently wipe away large portions of the principal amount of the loan. The trade off is that some money will need to be paid, usually in a lump sum payment to the creditor after a certain threshold balance has been reached in an escrow account. The good news is that the best debt settlement companies can often negotiate discounts to the principal amount of 50 percent or more. These large reductions in principal can enable the debtor to free themselves from their obligations much sooner than would be possible by simply paying down the debt.

The only negative trade off is that their credit rating will usually take a hit of between 75 and 150 points. However, this can easily be overcome with a solid credit repair strategy lasting just a few months or a year.

But debt settlement is not for everyone. Generally speaking, debtors who will most benefit from debt settlement are those who have unsecured consumer debt, who have identified and corrected the spending or budgetary problems that led to the debt accumulation in the first place and who have sufficient income relative to the debt amount so that it is very likely that they will be able to complete the debt settlement program in less than three years. If those criteria are met, debt settlement is likely to be the best option.