Monday, March 30, 2009

Loan Modification to Save Your Home

I spent over three hours this morning getting together all the materials I needed to do a loan modification with our mortgage company. We looked into refinancing first, but while our credit is good for the moment, our house has dropped at least $40,000 of its value in the last two years. Because of that we wouldn't meet the required loan-to-value ratio and so we didn't continue down that avenue.

We thought of selling, but we couldn't get what we needed and none of the houses in our area are selling (and there are so many!). So that idea was also quickly scrapped. I decided to find out what exactly our options were, and I'm going to share them here with you.

We were told by several of our friends the nightmare stories of trying to get the mortgage companies to work with you. We were told mixed stories of what your status on the loan had to be (some said you had to have missed a few payments, others said the loan had to be current). I decided to stop taking other people's words and experiences for it and give my mortgage company (Countrywide Financial) a call.

They were surprised, it seemed, to hear from me. "But you're not behind on your payments and your credit is good." Yes, I know this, and I'd like to keep it that way, but with no end in sight to hubby's pay cut, our savings is nearly gone, we're eating mainly out of our food storage and things don't look promising, to say the least. When I told them this, they transferred me to their Financial Hardship Department and I talked to a consultant there.

The woman I talked to was very friendly and helpful. She asked me a few questions about our situation, I answered her, and then she asked if I would be willing to tell them all of our expenses, fax them our recent tax returns, a 4506-T form, checking, savings and 401k statements, credit card and loan statements, and the last two months' pay stubs. I also had to write a Letter of Financial Hardship. I was more than willing to do whatever she asked if it meant we might be able to afford to stay in our home.

I got the 4506-T form off the IRS website. I found out what a financial hardship letter should include. I went to the Making Home Affordable Government website which I was told by the mortgage consultant to look at. On that site you can find out if you may be eligible and if your mortgage company participates in Obama's Homeowner Affordability and Stability Program (HASP) set up in February. So far, it looks like we meet the requirements.

What HASP does is lower your mortgage payment within 31% of your gross monthly income. They can lower your interest rate down to as much as 2%. If that won't do it, then they look at extending the life of your loan to 40 years. If approved, you are put on "probation" for three months. If you make your payment on time for those three months, then you get that lowered rate for five years. If, in that five years, you have made all your payments on time, they will pay $5,000 toward the principal of your loan balance.

After five years, your interest rate will increase one percent each year--but will at no time go higher than what the current rate was at the time you modified (currently around 5%). This would be a great option for us, so we've sent them all the information they've asked for and are now awaiting the approval. They say the whole process takes about a month, so we'll just have to wait and see how it goes.

Beware of Foreclosure Rescue Scams. This whole process is free and can be done by yourself. You do not need to pay anyone for this process and should not be charged for a single part of it. If you wish to know more about this program, go to the FAQ on the website.

If you're struggling to make your mortgage payment, please look into this program. If your bank doesn't offer it to you, ask them to. Don't necessarily take no for an answer. Ask to speak to someone else if you're not getting anywhere. Keep calm, you'll get further if you're clear-headed and non-threatening. Be persistent, the squeaky wheel gets the grease:)

If you have any questions throughout this process feel free to shoot me an email. I'll be happy to help if I can.