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Can't Afford Your Mortgage? What to Do To Avoid Foreclosure

San Francisco has weathered the foreclosure storm much better than most places in the country. 

But, I’d be flat out crazy if I believed that there aren’t at least some of you out there that got in above your head.  No down payment loans, negative amortization loans and loans whose rates reset within a short period of time have put many homeowners in uncomfortable situations. In some cases, those situations are just plain painful. 

Because there are those of you that need help, I thought I’d pass on some information provided by the California Association of Realtors.

The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) has created consumer information sheets detailing the various mortgage modification programs available through the larger lenders and government entities, and also has created an easy-to-use reference chart about available programs.

· The consumer sheets contain information such as eligibility requirements; who to contact to apply; costs associated with the program; and other vital data. In general, the loan modification programs on the chart and consumer information sheets are intended for primary residences only.

· Mortgage loan modifications typically are handled on a case-by-case basis. Homeowners having difficulty meeting their mortgage obligation or interested in finding out more about a loan modification program should start by contacting their lender. Prior to calling a lender or loan servicer, homeowners should have the following information available: loan number; income information and documentation; most recent mortgage statement; bank statements; and a letter demonstrating financial hardship.

To download the mortgage modification sheets, please visit:

What if you don’t qualify?

The majority of the mortgage modification programs from the larger lenders only are available to homeowners who either already are in default or are at risk of defaulting on their primary residences. However, some homeowners, in particular those who may default on a vacation home or an investment property, have some options available.


· Homeowners who are in default or at-risk of defaulting should contact a reputable credit counseling agency to discuss possible options other than foreclosure. When calling a credit counseling agency, the homeowner should have their loan number, most recent mortgage statement, bank statements and a letter demonstrating financial hardship. To find a credit counselor, visit the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Web site at or the non-profit organization National Foundation for Credit Counseling at

· Homeowners should contact their loan servicer as soon as possible to try to work out potential solutions. According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), some borrowers who do not meet the requirements for an existing mortgage modification program may still be considered for a loan adjustment based on personal circumstances.

· If a mortgage modification is not possible, homeowners may want to consider a short sale — sell the home for less than the amount of the mortgage. Although a short sale enables a homeowner to avoid foreclosure and often causes less damage to the homeowner’s credit score than a foreclosure, the lender must agree to accept the loss and in some cases the homeowner may have to pay taxes on the difference. Also, many lenders are overwhelmed by the large number of short sales being submitted by homeowners, so it could take longer than usual to receive a short-sale acceptance from the lender.

· If a homeowner cannot qualify for a mortgage modification or a short sale, some lenders will consider a deed in lieu of foreclosure, where the homeowner transfers the title to the lender in exchange for debt forgiveness. Properties that have additional debt, such as home equity lines of credit or additional mortgages, may not qualify for a deed in lieu of foreclosure. Homeowners who have additional debt tied to the property must share this information with their lender for consideration when applying for a short sale.

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