help for homeowners from HUD-certified counselorsQ: I was reading several of your articles in a New Jersey paper about loan modifications and what a nightmare they are. It made me tear up reading the second article which was almost exactly what we experienced with our lender.

Our poor financial situation was caused by a health-related issue, as so many are. I had back surgery and lost my job. But for the help from the HUD-certified housing counselors, we would have lost our home in foreclosure.

We took a class to understand the process we were going through. Our HUD-certified counselor was great. I just wanted to share this info with others to stress the fact homeowners in distress should only deal with HUD-certified housing counselors. Lots of other folks claimed they could help us, and in reality, all they wanted was our money.

Our other suggestion is to be very patient. Remember, there is no guarantee that the lenders can help you. They are providing a service for free and are truly doing everything in their power to help you save our home.

Our lender was Bank of America, and you can use their name in your column.

A: Thank you for your letter. You’ve made some excellent points.

We have received comments from our readers who found HUD-certified housing counselors to have been extremely helpful in assisting them with their lenders. While not everyone will qualify for a loan modification through the government’s Making Home Affordable (HAMP) plan, hundreds of thousands of borrowers have received lender modifications.

Unfortunately, not every home can be saved. Borrowers might still wind up in foreclosure and counselors may not be able to prevent that. But a good HUD-certified housing counselor will present important information to a homeowner that may be valuable in understanding the process and determining what options the homeowner has.

While HUD-certified housing counselors remain the best choice for homeowners in financial distress, there are plenty of other companies that claim to be able to secure a faster or better loan modification.

Recently a number of State Attorney General offices have obtained cease and desist orders against companies that advertised their foreclosure assistance, foreclosure avoidance, and loan modification services.

Many companies out there advertise these services for an up-front fee which can run into the thousands of dollars. Upfront fees of $3,000 to $5,000 are not uncommon.

The truth, however, is that some of these companies take the fee but never perform a service for their customers. And all of the lenders we’ve spoken with deny that any of these types of companies will help you secure a better loan modification deal.

You need to be careful who you hire. If you are short of funds and need assistance with a loan modification, help with your current lender or other services, you can find help in some cases for free from your lender or from government agencies.

One good site to start with is or At the site you can find links to housing counselor services around the country to assist you with problems you may be facing with your lender. You can also call the Hope Hotline toll-free: (888) 995-HOPE.