Loan Modification: How To Be Successful

By Stephanie Vang, HomeOwnership Program Manager at Neighborhood Housing Services of Silicon Valley, one of the members of ForeclosureHelpSCC

Do you ever wonder what does it take to get successful loan modification from your lenders?  How long is the loan modification process?  From our experiences of working with distressed homeowner in imminent danger to default and homeowners already in foreclosure; the answer to these questions is TIME.  You must take time away from your busy work schedule to visit your lender’s website to educate and empower yourself and you must allow time for your lender to respond to your request.

Lenders put useful links on their website to help struggling homeowners know their options.   By empowering yourself with this information, you will be better equipped when communicating with your lender about your hardship.  Although every homeowner’s hardship is unique, banks and servicers know which homeowners did their research and which ones did not.  You must take at least a day or two to fully understand what options are available.  You should also visit helpful sites like: www.makinghomeaffordable.gov, www.keepyourhomecalifornia.org, or www.conservatucasa.org, www.hud.gov, and knowyouroptions.org.

You must also take time to prepare a timeline of events with concrete dates of when your hardship started.  When applying for a loan modification, it takes twice if not three to four times the effort as when you initially purchased or refinanced your home.  Like before, you have to get all your documentation ready and prepare yourself when calling your lender.

This call should not be made during a 15 minute break and not during your lunch hour.  This call should take place when you have more than two hours to spare.

Through Neighborhood Housing Service Silicon Valley’s Successful Loan Modification Survey, 31% of the homeowners that were able to prevent foreclosure noted a wait time of 20 – 30 minutes when calling their lenders.  Of the 31% percent, half noted that they outreached to their lender once a week to verify that status of their loan modification and had to repeat the same information every time they contacted their lender.  Some even designated a specific notebook where they recorded the date, time, the conversation, the lender’s representative and the representative’s I.D. number.

Lastly, loan modification varies from lenders to lenders.  If you’re applying for a loan modification, do not expect to get your lender’s response within 30 days.  On average, loan modification can range from 30 to 45 or more business days in response time or longer.  During this time frame, you must stay focused on your goal and stay connected with your lender.  Set aside ample time when calling, designate at least one day out of the week to call and always prepare yourself when calling your lender.  These are some helpful tips from our past homeowners who received successful loan modification.

You may also enjoy our earlier blog posts related to this topic:  “Maggie’s Five Rules for Working With Your Bank or Servicer,”Foreclosures in San Jose and Sunnyvale: Three Reasons Time is NOT on your Side,” and “Five Reasons Working With A Housing Counselor is Better Than “Going Alone.”

If you are a homeowner living in San Jose or Sunnyvale and are struggling with your mortgage, please contact ForeclosureHelpSCC, a program funded by the City of San Jose and the City of Sunnyvale at (408)-293-6000 or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org.  Our HUD-approved counselors can help you evaluate your options, learn more about federal and state programs that may help you with your mortgage issues, and will help you create a plan forward.

Please note: All content included in the ForeclosureHelpSCC blog is provided for information only and should NOT be considered legal or tax advice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on our hotline: (408)-293-6000, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org or send us an email: help@foreclosurehelpscc.org.

October 20th Foreclosure Prevention Resource Fair Agenda

The ForeclosureHelpSCC Consortium is sponsoring a FREE foreclosure prevention resource fair on October 20th at Overfelt High School.  Housing counselors from HUD-approved agencies will be on-site to meet with homeowners on a first-come, first served basis from 9:00am to 2:15pm.  For more information, call (408) 293-6000, or visit our event webpage.  In addition to housing counseling, homeowners can attend and hear practical advice on a variety of topics related to housing.  The event is free and open to the public.

Agenda for Foreclosure Fair

9:30AM  Facing Foreclosure? What Steps Should you Take and Keep Your Home California

10:15AM Legal Issues You Need to Know About

11:15AM Presentation about the ForeclosureHelpSCC Program

11:45AM Roundtable With Representatives from Bank of America, Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo

12:30PM Bankruptcy and Tax Issues You Need to Know About:

1:30PM Renters Rights and Renting after a Foreclosure or Short Sale

2:30PM Buying Again: What Do You Need to Know and Do Now to Become a Homeowner Again

Day Concludes

Free Foreclosure Resource Fair: October 20th at Overfelt High School

By Sean Coffey, MPA, Program Manager at ForeclosureHelpSCC

Do you live in Santa Clara County?  Are you struggling to make your mortgage payments?  Has your income gone down?  Would you like to speak with somebody who knows about the mortgage programs and settlements and can give you honest advice?

If you would like to get all of this information in one place, then you should come to a free Foreclosure Resource Fair here in San Jose on October 20th, from 9am to 3pm at Overfelt High School.

At the fair, you can meet one-on-one with a HUD certified Foreclosure Counselor who knows the system.  They can help you find solutions and develop a plan forward.  You will learn about which programs can help you, and scams that can hurt you.

Tax and legal experts at the event will give presentations and we’ll also have a free shredding truck for you to safely shred your old documents.

Assemblymember Jim Beall, who represents the 24th District for California, will also speak about recent legislation to address the foreclosure crisis here in California.  His office is helping to organize the event, and Assemblymember Beall explains, “In this tough economy, many families are living from paycheck to paycheck, struggling to meet their mortgage. Homeowners facing default who attend the foreclosure prevention fair can get effective counseling and learn how new laws passed by the Legislature can protect them.’’

Jeffrey F. Rosen,the District Attorney for Santa Clara County states “Real estate fraud, and particularly foreclosure rescue scams have a devastating impact in our communities.  We are proud to partner with ForeclosureHelpSCC and other non-profits to protect homeowners from real estate fraud, and hold con artists accountable for their misdeeds.”

Dr. John Porter, the Superintendent of Franklin McKinley School District and its Children’s Initiative,explained the impact of foreclosures on children and neighborhoods:  “I have seen how the stress and disruption of foreclosure hinders a child’s performance in school and affects their classmates.  And foreclosures take their toll on the whole neighborhood with the lack of income and resource that make children feel less safe and secure.”

Time and space with a housing counselor is limited, so if you would like to meet with a counselor, please call ahead of time to RSVP.  You can call (408) 293-6000 to reserve your space.

WHEN: Saturday October 20, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

WHERE: Overfelt High School, 1835 Cunningham Ave., San Jose, CA.

WHO:  ForeclosureHelpSCC is a consortium of non-profits serving the community and led by the Housing Trust of Santa Clara County with Asian, Inc., Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, Neighborhood Housing Services, Project Sentinel, SurePath, and volunteers from Santa Clara County Association of Realtors, funded by the cities of San Jose and Sunnyvale. Other non-profits and banks will be there to offer information

WHY:    In July more than 1,000 families in Santa Clara County were impacted by a foreclosure proceeding, per Realty Trac. The foreclosure crisis may have passed its peak but a statewide study by the Center for Responsible Lending found, “Over 50% of existing single-family homes sold in California in 2011 were short sales or bank-owned foreclosures. ‘Lost Ground, 2011‘ found we are only about halfway through the foreclosure crisis.”

MORE INFORMATION: Please call the ForeclosureHelpSCC office: 408-293-6000, visit our website for the foreclosure resource fair, or email us: sean@housingtrustscc.org.

Five Reasons Working With A Housing Counselor is Better Than “Going Alone”

By Aurora Olivares, Housing Counselor at Project Sentinel, one of the members of ForeclosureHelpSCC

Did you call your mortgage company because you are having problems with your mortgage payment? If you live in the state of California you were given the phone number for HUD (HUD stands for The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), a requirement under California law. (This requirement was included in Senate Bill 1137 which was passed in 2008 and is set to expire in January 2013).

If you called that number, you were likely referred to a local HUD approved agency where you can receive free housing counseling services. Many folks wonder about what the benefits may be to working with a housing counseling agency.

Here are my top 5 reasons to work with a housing counselor at a HUD-approved agency:

  1. Honest Advice: A housing counselor will help you by assessing your situation. We will talk to you about the good and the bad with an unbiased opinion, but we bring the background knowledge of the best practices and we uphold the national Industry Standards for Homeownership Education and Counseling. In addition, we have worked with many homeowners, banks, and servicers, and this experience means we know how to keep the process moving forward, and we know the programs that may help your situation.
  2. Explanation of bank letters: A certified housing counselor can help you dissect the terminology used in the correspondence issued by your lender and in the paperwork of the loan modification process. While a bank or servicer may say your loan is “going into foreclosure,” we can help you understand what the actual timeline is for foreclosure and how to look out for important things like a Notice of Default. Understanding letters from your bank or servicer can be especially beneficial for non-English speaking homeowners.
  3. Your Budget: A counselor will work with you to review your budget. Counselors can provide budget counseling and calculate your housing ratios so you understand your ability to afford your mortgage and explain how these same ratios could impact your eligibility for assistance. For example, a counselor can review your income vs. your housing expenses and explain to you how that will impact your eligibility for a program like Making Home Affordable.
  4. Communication with your Bank or Servicer: Have you submitted paperwork to your bank or servicer multiple times, or called your designated representative but were not able to speak to them? While these types of issues can’t be completely eliminated, a certified counselor may have a reliable contact with your lender or have an efficient method of submitting your documents which can help smooth out some of the bumps along the way during the lender’s review.
  5. Resources: We provide you with resources. Did your lender tell you if you were eligible for the Keep Your Home California program? (English Website for Keep Your Home California, Spanish Website for Conserva Tu Casa California) Were you advised if you are a good candidate for a reverse mortgage? Did your lender tell you about an up and coming program your county may be working on to aid homeowners in distress or where you could go to get the much needed repairs to your home? Odds are you were not told about some of the resources that are right in your own back yard. We are local, just like you and we know what programs are truly out there to help the community we live in.

Are you having trouble paying your mortgage and do you live here in San Jose or Sunnyvale California? If so, contact ForeclosureHelpSCC by telephone: (408) 293-6000, email: help@foreclosurehelpscc.org, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org.

ForeclosureHelpSCC is a program that is supported by the Cities of San Jose and Sunnyvale, and staffed by housing counselors from four local, HUD-approved counseling agencies. Our housing counselors can speak to you about what your options are if you’re having trouble paying your mortgage, including programs like Making Home Affordable, Keep Your Home California, the Independent Foreclosure Review, and private, in-house modifications offered by banks and servicers as well. Your housing counselor can work with you to develop a plan of action to begin dealing with the problem instead of ignoring it.

Remember, the sooner you start working with a housing counselor, the more options you will have to address your mortgage situation and potentially remain in your home.Time is not on your side, so pick up the phone and give us a call.

Please note: All content included in the ForeclosureHelpSCC blog is provided for information only and should NOT be considered legal or tax advice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on our hotline: (408)-293-6000, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org

Foreclosures in San Jose and Sunnyvale: Three Reasons Time is Not on Your Side

By Sean Coffey, MPA, Program Manager of ForeclosureHelpSCC

In a famous Rolling Stones song, Mick Jagger told us that “Time is on My Side.” However, this is NOT the case if you are having trouble paying your mortgage here in San Jose or Sunnyvale, California. While you have probably heard stories of people not paying their mortgages for a long time and remaining in their home, these stories are the exception, not the rule.

In today’s post, we are going to review three “time issues” that homeowners should consider if they are having trouble paying their mortgage:

1. Foreclosure timeline in California: Once you miss your first mortgage payment, it will be reported on your credit. However, it isn’t until after you miss your second mortgage payment that your bank or servicer can file a Notice of Default. This is the first step in the foreclosure process. While it is serious, you still have at least 90 days after the Notice of Default is filed before you could receive a Notice of Trustee Sale. During that 90 days, you can bring the mortgage current or work with your bank on an arrangement like a modification or repayment plan.

After the 90 days has passed, then your bank or servicer can send you a Notice of Trustee Sale. A Notice of Trustee Sale tells you that the home is going to be sold in three weeks. These are the minimum time frames allowed by law. Your bank or servicer may move slower than these time-frames, but they can’t move any faster.

An important note: the Notice of Default and Notice of Trustee Sale are both public record, so you may be contacted by people who want to “help.” I’m biased, but based on our experience cleaning up after these “experts,” I would be very wary about accepting help from people that call you. In fact, in California, it is illegal to charge an up-front fee for a loan modification.  Instead, if you’re here in San Jose or Sunnyvale, call ForeclosureHelpSCC (408-293-6000), where we can set up an appointment for you to meet with a trained housing counselor from one of our four HUD-approved counseling agencies. We are funded by federal and local grants, so we do not charge the homeowner for our services.

2. The Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act is currently set to expire at the end of 2012.
Earlier this month the Los Angeles Times reported on a topic that has many people in the housing world concerned: “Mortgage debt relief may bring new pain: a tax bill.”  The Times explained that a law passed in 2007- The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act is set to expire at the end of the year. Prior to enactment of this law, if you had a foreclosure or a short sale, the difference between what you owed and what the house ultimately sold for (at auction or via a short sale) was considered taxable income. The same issue would apply for principal reductions. For example, if you had a mortgage balance of $450,000, but short-sold your house for $400,000, then the $50,000 difference would have been considered income by the IRS. However, under the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act, that income has been exempted.

As the Times notes, many of the new settlements, like the Attorneys General settlement, include principal reduction, and much of the relief isn’t slated to begin until 2013. Kevin Stein from the California Reinvestment Coalition pointed out that the relief offered under these settlements won’t be nearly as meaningful if homeowners are being taxed on it.

While there is legislation pending to extend the debt forgiveness, nobody knows for sure what will happen. If an extension is not put in place, homeowners who already face difficult financial situations could find themselves facing a large tax bill.

3. Independent Foreclosure Review Program This is the third “time issue” for San Jose and Sunnyvale homeowners to consider. In our earlier blog post, we explained the details of the Independent Foreclosure Review for homeowners who dealt with issues related to robo-signing from 2009-2010. The deadline to apply for this program is December 31, 2012.

Are you having trouble paying your mortgage and do you live here in San Jose or Sunnyvale California? If so, contact ForeclosureHelpSCC by telephone: (408) 293-6000, email: help@foreclosurehelpscc.org, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org.
ForeclosureHelpSCC is a program that is supported by the Cities of San Jose and Sunnyvale, and staffed by housing counselors from four local, HUD-approved counseling agencies. Our housing counselors can speak to you about what your options are if you’re having trouble paying your mortgage, including programs like Making Home Affordable, Keep Your Home California, the Independent Foreclosure Review, and private, in-house modifications offered by banks and servicers as well. Your housing counselor can work with you to develop a plan of action to begin dealing with the problem instead of ignoring it.

Remember, the sooner you start working with a housing counselor, the more options you will have to address your mortgage situation and potentially remain in your home. Time is not on your side, so pick up the phone and give us a call.

Please note: All content included in the ForeclosureHelpSCC blog is provided for information only and should NOT be considered legal or tax advice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on our hotline: (408)-293-6000, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org

Refinance vs. Modification: What are the differences?

By Yvonne Castillo, Housing Counselor at SurePath Financial Solutions, one of the members of ForeclosureHelpSCC

With the housing crisis all around us in San Jose, Sunnyvale, and other cities in Santa Clara County, we hear some buzz words over and over, words such as foreclosure, modification, refinance and short sale. As a HUD-approved housing counseling agency, we often hear questions about the differences between modification and refinance, and which one is the best one to choose. The information below explains some of the main differences between these two options.

REFINANCE
What is a refinance?  A refinance is a new loan that you take out to pay off your old loan. A traditional refinance will require you to have equity on the property (up to 20%) to request a new loan.

Reasons why people refinance:  There are many reasons you may want to refinance your existing mortgage. For example, you may do it to lower your payments or interest rate. Or, to consolidate your 1st and 2nd mortgages, to extend or shorten the length of your mortgage, to change lenders, or to add or remove someone from your existing mortgage.

What happens when you refinance?  It is similar to the process of when you received your original mortgage. Because this is a new loan, you will receive a new loan number and your new loan may have different terms than your old loan.

Before you contact a lender to consider refinancing you should order your credit reports from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion (consider using Annual Credit Report to get an idea of the information included in your credit report). Generally speaking, the higher the credit rating you have, the better an interest rate you can qualify for, and the more money you will save. You will also need to show sufficient income to afford the new payments as well as your household expenses.

Unemployment and temporary disability benefits are considered temporary forms of income. Therefore, they are not acceptable forms of income when refinancing. You should also be current on your mortgage, car and credit card payments for approximately the past twelve months when considering refinancing as an option to remain in your home.

What costs are involved in a refinance? When refinancing there can be origination, processing and closing costs. Some lenders may waive some of these fees by including them into the loan balance. Check with your lender about any up-front or financed cost involved.

What if I do not have equity in my property? If your property is worth less than what you owe and your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you may want to learn more about the Home Affordable Refinance Program, also known as HARP. This is one of the federal programs to assist homeowners to refinance their loans even if they don’t meet the equity criteria. You can learn more about the program on the Making Home Affordable website.

MODIFICATION
What is a loan modification? It is a temporary or permanent change of the terms of the current mortgage agreement that is usually requested to make the mortgage payments more affordable.

What is the main reason why people request a loan modification? The main reason to consider a loan modification is to have more affordable mortgage payments and remain in your home, especially if you do not qualify to refinance your mortgage. You have to be experiencing a financial hardship which has made it difficult to make your current mortgage payments or missed one or more of your mortgage payments. It’s important to note that banks and servicers do not consider it a financial hardship if your only reason to modify your loan is because you owe more on your mortgage balance than the home is currently worth (also known as being “upside down”).

What terms can be changed in a modification? When receiving a loan modification you will keep your current loan number but some of the terms on your mortgage will be modified. This could include lowering your interest rate, or modifying an adjustable rate mortgage (where the interest rate varies) to a fixed rate mortgage where your mortgage payments and rate will remain fixed for the life of the loan. In some modifications, the interest rate is lowered for a few years (for example, a modification under HAMP can go as low as two percent), and then gradually increases over the course of a few years.

Will my payments be lower with a loan modification? For many households the loan modification has allowed them to reduce their mortgage payments and bring their loan current. However, it is important to note that if your current loan is an interest only loan, then changing it to a fully amortizing loan (where you are paying interest and principal) could result in an increase of your mortgage payment. However, banks and servicers can address this issue by lowering the interest rate, or lengthening the life of the loan (for example from 30 to 40 years).

In some limited cases, a loan modification may reduce or defer the balance owed. The homeowner may have a wish list of how they want their bank or servicer to modify their loan, but ultimately it is up to the bank or servicer (and sometimes the investor(s) who own the mortgage) whether or not they will modify the loan, and if so, how the terms will be adjusted.

Are there costs involved with a loan modification? Generally, there is no origination, processing and closing costs included when doing a loan modification. However some lenders will charge a small loan modification fee that is added to the balance of your loan and disclosed in the loan modification documents.

What information will be reviewed in a loan modification? Your bank or servicer will require a complete financial disclosure to evaluate the possibility of granting a loan modification. Information regarding your household income and expenses, amount of debt, proof of income, reason of the financial hardship, debt to income ratio etc, will be required to evaluate your modification request. If you have stopped making your mortgage payments, your bank or servicer will review if the non-payment is a result of the financial hardship. The bank will also want to see that there is a sustainable action plan going forward that will allow you to have sufficient income to continue paying your modified mortgage.

If you are a homeowner living in San Jose or Sunnyvale and want to know if either of these options will be applicable to your case please contact ForeclosureHelpSCC, a program funded by the City of San Jose and the City of Sunnyvale at (408)-293-6000 or visit our website www.foreclosurehelpscc.org. HUD approved counselors are available to provide free counseling sessions that will help you review your finances and evaluate the options for you.

Please note: All content included in the ForeclosureHelpSCC blog is provided for information only and should NOT be considered legal or tax advice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on our hotline: (408)-293-6000, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org

Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program, Part of Keep Your Home California: How Does It Work?

By Aurora Olivares, Housing Counselor at Project Sentinel, one of the members of ForeclosureHelpSCC

Have you heard of the Keep Your Home California program? (KYHC) Are you unsure how the program works to help struggling homeowners avoid preventable foreclosures? A few homeowners I’ve worked with here in the Bay Area are good examples of how Keep Your Home California works.

Are you like Michelle?

I recently was contacted by a woman who was laid off two months ago. She received a flyer from her local EDD office about the Keep Your Home California program. Michelle had used up her savings and was concerned about her ability to pay her mortgage while unemployed. I met with her the following day to go over the Unemployment Mortgage Assistance (UMA) program. Michelle met all the requirements in order to apply for the Unemployment Mortgage Assistance program and her application was submitted the same day.

Michelle kept in contact with the Keep Your Home California team and provided all documents needed for the eligibility review. Michelle’s review went smoothly and she was approved for the UMA program. Michelle was approved to have KYHC make her payments for up to up to 9 months while she looked to secure new employment and had KYHC administer her first mortgage installment before her payment was due, helping her preserve her credit.

Here are some quick facts about the Keep Your Home California program:

Your lender/servicer must participate in the program in order to qualify for the Keep Your Home California funds. Each lender/servicer can participate in as little as one or in all four of the Keep Your Home California programs.

Is my bank or servicer participating in Keep Your Home California?
Check this list: Servicers Participating in Your Home California

There are 4 award programs:

  • UMA-Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program: Is designed to assist unemployed homeowners who are receiving EDD benefits.
  • MRAP-Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance Program: This program can help by reinstating past due payments.
  • PRP-Principal Reduction Program: Homeowners who owe more than their property is worth, may be eligible for a principle reduction.
  • TAP-Transitional Assistance Program: Provides a payment of up to $5,000 to help homeowners, who cannot retain their home transition into new housing.

The Keep Your Home California program applies to primary mortgages in first position only. Second mortgages or home equity lines of credit are not eligible for Keep Your Home California programs. The property must be owner occupied and located in the state of California. The loan balance on the first mortgage is below $729,750. The homeowner(s) cannot be in bankruptcy while applying for Keep Your Home California Program.

Will you be the next success story?
To find out more about these four programs, or to set up an appointment with a housing counselor who can discuss these programs with you, contact ForeclosureHelpSCC by calling us at (408) 293-6000. You can also email us at help@foreclosurehelpscc.org or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org.

Please note: All content included in the ForeclosureHelpSCC blog is provided for information only and should NOT be considered legal or tax advice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on our hotline: (408)-293-6000, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org