This is a guest post from Anthony, a housing counselor, who helps struggling homeowners find solutions.
You are a responsible adult. You have a good job with reliable income, you pay down your debt, and you pay your mortgage on time. Then, an unexpected situation happensâ€”you or your spouse gets sick, you lose your job, or maybe you get divorced. Suddenly, you start to fall behind on your payments and don’t know what to do.
To me it does. I’m a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-approved counselor who takes calls through the Homeowners HOPE Hotline. I counsel homeowners who are struggling to make their mortgage payments or are in danger of foreclosure. In my conversations with these homeowners, I try to help them achieve the best possible outcome for their particular situation.
I hear these stories from struggling homeowners all the time. For example, a woman called me after experiencing some personal hardships and falling behind on her mortgage payments. Although she initially didn’t meet the criteria for a mortgage modification, there were still ways I could help. I took a look at her household budget and found that she was overspending by about $1000 each month! Once she was able to make changes in her budget she was approved for a modification a few months later.
While everyone’s story may be different, the positive is that there are a variety of different programs that homeowners may qualify for. I share information about services such as mortgage modifications or assistance to families if they do need to leave their home. We’ll help you figure out the best one for your individual situation.
Here is some guidance for struggling homeowners interested in taking advantage of these resources:
You’re not alone: Currently 1 in 14 U.S. homeowners is struggling to make his or her mortgage payments, and about 4 million homeowners are facing foreclosure. Whether you experienced a salary reduction, have excessive debt, are recently unemployed, or have experienced illness or divorce, there are others out there just like you.
Be prepared for the phone call: When you call the HOPE Hotline, the phone call will likely be about an hour long conversation where we’ll review your entire mortgage situation. This means you should come prepared with accurate financial information including your household budget, income, and information that you provided to mortgage companies or lenders.
Be open and honest with your housing counselor: The housing counselors will treat you with respect and will give you an independent opinion on the best options available to you. We don’t work for your lenders and don’t have any stake in the individual programs.
Have an open mind: Some homeowners may be eligible for a mortgage modification, while some may not. In some cases, a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure may even be the best option. Whatever your situation is, we’ll come up with your best possible plan for moving forward.
Have patience: There can be a lot of steps involved, but we will make sure you understand the process and have the tools you need to take advantage of any programs you may be eligible for.
If you’re looking for help, call the HOPE Hotline at 888-995-HOPE (4673) and speak with one of our HUD-approved housing counselors, who are available 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year in over 180 languages. Or, you can visit MakingHomeAffordable.gov ® and learn about the options available to you. These counseling services are available completely free of charge.
I know the foreclosure process can be confusing or you may be hearing conflicting opinions from friends or neighbors about what to do. I urge you to take just one hour of your time to make that call and get the help you need.
Anthony G. “Tony” has been a HUD-approved Housing Counselor at the HOPE hotline for nearly two years. His role is to educate and empower homeowners on their mortgage options and to help them avoid the consequences of foreclosure. Tony provides budget and credit counseling, providing community and housing referrals and helping homeowners establish effective communication with their mortgage servicers. Additionally, he has earned a Personal Financial Planning Certificate through the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc., is certified as a Housing and Credit Counselor through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and is an Enrolled Agent candidate through the Internal Revenue Service.