Q: I owned a day care business, and since I couldn’t pay that business loan, I sold the company. I didn’t earn any profit on the sale, and cut my income to a third of what it used to be.
Because of all this, I fell behind in my mortgage and real estate taxes. I had to file for bankruptcy in order to keep my house from being sold in a tax sale. The lender has filed to be released from the bankruptcy and we will go to court mid-month.
The lender wants $18,000 to allow us to live in the house. I went to “makinghomeaffordable.com” and filled out one of those little things and all kinds of “lawyers” started calling me to say they can modify the loan and keep me in the house. Some are asking for an initial payment of $499 with three other payments after that, and one asked me for a $1,000 retainer fee. Another said he would submit my application and only charge me if I’m approved.
My question to you is, are these people legit? Can they really help me keep my house? And since I already have a bankruptcy attorney, can he help me negotiate with the lender?
At this point, I’m ready to let my house go. But if there is a way to save it, I’d like to do that. I’ve been here 10 years. Thank you.
A: Foreclosure scams and loan modification scams abound, and it appears that you may have been caught simply because you mistyped the name of the site.
The government’s loan modification website is MakingHomeAffordable.gov. If you mistyped the name, you get a different site altogether, one that is not government-run and is clearly a lead-generation machine for loan modification scam artists and attorneys hoping to cash in on your unfortunate circumstances.
If you don’t trust the website, you can reach the same people by calling the HOPE Now hotline: 888-995-HOPE.
I don’t know who is calling you, but they all sound like versions of the same loan modification scam to me. Unless you have spoken with someone at the HOPE Now hotline or a HUD-certified housing counselor, I wouldn’t trust anyone asking you for money upfront. These are not the folks you want to work with. You should be able to get loan modification services for free.
Now for the bad news: If you’re in bankruptcy, you may not be able to work with your lender to get things straightened out. Bankruptcy puts everything on hold. You should ask your bankruptcy attorney if he can contact the lender on your behalf and come up with a scenario where you can keep your home.
The sad truth is that you may not be able to keep your home. If you don’t have enough income to get through the bankruptcy and be able to afford even a modified mortgage and catch up on your property taxes, you may have to allow the lender to foreclose and move.