Learning about the modification of loans secured on your home

During the boom years, all you had to worry about was the color to paint your home. Everything else was just great as house values kept on going up, releasing ever more housing equity as collateral for your loans. Now we have a recession and a wave of foreclosures has been sweeping across the land. Friends and neighbors have suddenly disappeared and their empty homes now stand out like bad teeth along streets that have forgotten how to smile. Needless to say, all these empty homes have no buyers and the resale value of all property has been falling over the last eighteen months. To complete the picture of the perfect economic storm, unemployment has pushed up above 10% in some areas. With this number of people out of work, there's little chance of any significant pick up in the housing market over the next months. Indeed, you may be feeling the pressure of keeping your own head above the water. Too often people are discovering that the loans they acquired in the good years have terms raising the interest rates now. At a time when money is tight, this is unwelcome news.

The answer is negotiating a loan modification. This should be easy. You call up the loan company, explain your problems, show how much you can afford, agree to extend the term of the loan, and reduce the monthly instalments. Except you suddenly discover you no longer know who owns the mortgage. All these clever banks and finance companies sliced and diced all the loans into securitized bonds. The debts were all sold on and funding out who the owners are now can a real problem. But let's assume you are lucky. That the original lender still owns the debt or you can find someone to talk to who works for the new owner. What exactly do you want? There are two options. The first changes the interest rates applied. Many people have been caught out by variable rates that have increased. To survive, you need to replace this balloon rate with a low fixed rate. The second option is hopefully added on to the first. You need to add years to the term of the mortgage. If you repay the same amount over twenty years instead of ten, your instalments are suddenly affordable again. Yes, you will pay slightly more interest over the additional ten years. But this will be a small price to pay to save your home.

At this point you discover that the person listening is not that sympathetic and sees no reason why the owner of the mortgage should now make less profit. Telling this person about family emergencies and health issues cuts no ice. You also discover the much-publicized Home Affordable Modification Program introduced by the Obama Administration is actually not that helpful. So what does work? The answer is either you are persistent or you get a specialist to help you. But be warned. There are a small army of crooks and con artists out there pretending to be home loan modification specialists. Never employ someone to help unless you have proof they offer real services. Always remember one truth. In the end, the lender makes more money if you stay in your home and pay something. If there is a foreclosure, everyone loses.

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