Whether a person is applying for a loan modification under the Obama Making Home Affordable loan modification program or any other plan, the cries for help always start like this:
“Ilyce, I have been trying to get my mortgage lender [fill in the blank with your favorite lender’s name] to respond to my request for a loan modification for [choose: weeks or month]. At one point, they told me I pre-qualified for a loan modification. Now, they say I don’t. My house payment is almost half of my income. My home is worth a fraction of what I paid.
“The story is always that I should call back in [choose one: 30, 45, or 60] days. I have heard that people who hire attorneys are getting great results with loan modifications. I know people who have had several hundred thousands of dollars in principle forgiven. What should I do? Do you know if my lender is helping anyone?”
I know it’s the dog days of summer, and everyone in D.C. wants to go on summer vacation (Hello, Martha’s Vineyard).
But if my inbox (which is stuffed) is any indication, the cries for help with loan modifications are growing stronger across the country as home prices continue to sink.
Several weeks ago, President Obama called the top mortgage lenders in for a meeting where he reportedly told them to get on the stick and do more loan modifications. The lenders sitting at the table reportedly said they’d do 500,000 loan modifications. The real question is how quickly will they do them? And will they require their borrowers to take a hit on their credit histories and credit scores by working with their lenders until the loan modifications are in place?
According to the latest statistics, about 9 percent of eligible homeowners have had their loans modified on a temporary basis, and an even tinier percentage have has those temporary loan modifications made permanent.
Loan modifications are supposed to be temporary for 3 months. Once you make three on-time payments, your temporary loan modification is supposed to be made permanent.
I heard from a homeowner this week who was told by her lender to make her fifth month of temporary payments because the lender just can’t get to the paperwork.
I heard from another borrower that their loan modification process started eight months ago and only now has their loan been modified.
Most borrowers have no idea if the process they have gone into will count against their credit history and credit score and don’t know whether the modification will help them. Worse, they don’t know if someone will forget they’re in the temporary program and never send them the finalized paperwork.
A highly-placed source in the Treasury Department says homeowners in this situation should only start to worry when they receive a foreclosure notice.
“If your lender tells you to keep making temporary loan modification payments, and you haven’t received a foreclosure notice or any other indication that something’s wrong, then that’s what you should do. But keep your canceled checks. Make sure that every time you speak to someone you write down their name, employee identification number and which office they’re calling from,” said the Treasury Department source, who asked not to be named because his inbox is already stuffed with email from homeowners who are looking for guidance and assistance.
What should you do if you can’t get your mortgage lender to pay attention to you particularly if you qualify under the Obama Making Home Affordable loan modification plan?
My Treasury source suggests you call the lender frequently. If you get someone who doesn’t seem to be able to help, hang up and call again.
If that’s not working, call the Homeowners for HOPE hotline: 888-995-HOPE. You can find more information on the Making Home Affordable Plan at MakingHomeAffordable.gov. You can also find a HUD-certified housing counselor through the Department of Housing and Urban Development website, HUD.gov.
“A nonprofit housing counseling group might have other ideas,” says my source.