Maybe the mortgage-delinquency notices are just starting to arrive after a missed payment or two. Or maybe foreclosure is starting to look like a distinct possibility.
Conventional wisdom suggests you should contact your lender as soon as possible and see whether something can be worked out. At the very least, you should open any letters you receive from the lender as soon as they arrive and deal with them.
But if the next step doesn’t seem obvious, Patricia Hasson, president of the Consumer Credit Counseling Services of the Delaware Valley in Philadelphia, advises that you contact a housing-counseling agency approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and "set up an appointment to understand your options and develop a plan."
How do you find such an agency? Go to www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/fc, then click on the map for your state.
It’s one way to avoid getting shaken down for whatever assets you have left. There are scams galore these days designed to take advantage of homeowners desperate to dig themselves out of mortgage trouble.
Several legitimate (mostly government) programs offer help. If you aren’t sure which you might qualify for, here are some to check into:
Making Home Affordable is the federal program designed to save as many as 9 million borrowers through mortgage modification or refinancing. Only loans owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac are eligible for the refinancing program.
Makinghomeaffordable.gov outlines how to determine whether you are eligible and allows you to link with the list of HUD-approved foreclosure-counseling agencies.
Hope for Homeowners was created by Congress to help those at risk of default and foreclosure refinance into more affordable, sustainable loans.
The program, effective until Sept. 30, 2011, refinances mortgages into new 30-year or 40-year fixed-rate loans with lower payments. Visit www.hud.gov/hopeforhomeowners or call 800-225-5342.
Hope Now joins HUD-approved counseling agencies, mortgage companies, investors and other mortgage-market participants to provide free foreclosure-prevention assistance. Visit www.hopenow.com or call 888-995-4673.
Home Equity Conversion Mortgage may help homeowners 62 and older extricate themselves from financial distress. These "reverse mortgages" are insured by the FHA and should be obtained only through FHA-approved lenders. Visit www.hud
.cfm or call 800-569-4287.
Based on HUD guidelines, there is a fee up to $125 for counseling, but it may be waived depending on income.