So, here's the good news: The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), created in early 2009 from the TARP funds by the Obama Administration, uses federal funds to reduce borrowers' monthly mortgage payments to about a third of the borrower's (pretax) monthly income. The program's website says the program is "designed to help as many as 3 to 4 million financially struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure."
So, here's the part that is tough to swallow: While nearly half a million people have so far reaped the rewards of President Obama's HAMP program, the number pales in comparison to those who are struggling with the ongoing threat of foreclosure.
In fact, as the most recent RealtyTrac Inc. report shows, recent economic conditions have created such dire circumstances for residents struggling with untenable mortgage payments, that filings of foreclosures have increased in 75% of all US cities.
Victims of high unemployment and an ongoing credit crunch, these millions of homeowners find themselves at the mercy of their lending institutions. It is so difficult to understand what steps should be taken and the questions these homeowners should be asking. I certainly won't go as far a agreeing with Republicans in the U.S. House who recently called HAMP a "colossal failure" and introduced a bill that would kill the program. No way! If you look at the HAMP site, you will see that this program is designed to help struggling and strapped homeowners. The problem is that, just as homeowners almost always use mortgage brokers or a representative at the bank to shepherd them through the process of acquiring a mortgage, the same needs to be done for the process of modifying the mortgage. In obtaining a mortgage, a homeowner pays in the form of points. Sadly, homeowners seeking modifications have been paying upfront fees to scammers and agencies that are preying on their desperation.
On freeMortgageFix.com there are ten suggested steps that those seeking modifications should do when dealing with a mortgage situation:
1. Know Your Expenses: Write down your monthly financial expenses beforehand. DID YOU KNOW that for 9 out of every 10 people filling out their HAMP worksheet hasn't done a budget in over 5 years!
2. Know Your Rights: The mortgage servicer and/or bank is trying to collect money, be careful of what you tell your lender.
3. Get Contact Info: Get the Full Name, Employee identification number, and extension of who the person on the other end of the line. Make sure you find out exactly who is your point of contact.
4. Supervisor: If you are having issues getting answers you need ask to speak to a supervisor.
5. Programs Available: Ask the bank to tell you the programs they have in place for borrowers struggling to pay their mortgage. Be careful about going into detail about your own problems.
6. Submission Info: Ask for info on how to submit a request for help and who to follow up with.
7. Submission Documents: Make sure to go in depth in terms of what documents are needed in order to apply for assistance.
8. Apply over Phone: Ask if it is possible to do initial application over the phone?
9. Ask Which Department to Talk to: the collection department's job is to collect! Make sure to talk to the mitigation department.
10. Ask for FREE Help: Call the toll free number on the government's HAMP site (888) 995-4673 or get a free report and a free consultation from an attorney via using a site such as freeMortgageFix.com (that also provides the tools for determining eligibility and for organizing the process).
Always keep in mind that most departments of the banks and mortgage servicers don't have any incentive to help you. There are a few specialists allocated to help with modifications but you need to reach those people. Don't pay anyone upfront or take on any obligations for those that say they will help. Keep all of your records and track the entire process -- beginning to end. But, my message is that you can't do it alone. You need help and use the resources that are free and at your disposal and advocate the best you can for yourself and, at the end of the day, you will need help in the form of an ethical and proven attorney.
Hilary Kramer is the editor of GameChangerStocks.com.