Is A Loan Modification Worth The Cost?

With the large number of people in arrears on their mortgages, various governmental agencies have been attempting to provide solutions.   Loan modifications have been proposed as the answer for over a year now.  The FDIC has recently been pushing this as the solution to keeping people in their homes and  spearheaded the effort to formalize and streamline the mortgage modification procedure.

From a practical standpoint of the person who is behind on their mortgage, the most important questions to ask, assuming that you want to remain a homeowners, are as follows:

  1. Do I qualify to have my mortgage modified?
  2. Will a loan modification help me in the long run?
  3. Should I pay someone to get a loan modification?

1.  As far as qualification goes,  a good place to start is by reviewing the new SMP guidelines – see Streamlined Modification Program – Who is Eligible? If a review of the guidelines leads you to believe that you qualify for a loan modification, a good way to start is by calling your loan servicer directly, whose phone number is on your monthly statement.

Be advised, however, that nothing is simple when it comes to a loan modification.  The process is controlled by different parties with different interests.   If your mortgage is not owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the SMP guidelines that they issued may not apply to you.  A large percentage of mortgages originated over the last five years were sold on a worldwide basis to many different investors.  Generally speaking, the loan servicer that you are dealing with is operating under the guidelines of the investors who own your mortgage.  Some of these investors are willing to do a loan mod and some are not.  The terms of a loan mod that each investor allows will differ depending on their guidelines.

2. Whether or not a loan modification will help in the long run is a complex topic and will be the subject of another post.  Each loan situation is unique but if we examine the data from the Comptroller of the Currency, Office of Thrift Supervision, the results of a loan mod after 6 months showed re-default rates of 50 to 60%.

Three Months After Modification (30+ Days Delinquent)

Six Months After Modification (30+ Days Delinquent)

On-book portfolio (loans held by servicers)

35.06%

50.86%

FHLMC (Freddie Mac)

39.09%

57.87%

FNMA (Fannie Mae)

38.34%

57.11%

Private Investors

42.28%

60.76%

3.  Assuming that questions number 1. and 2. were answered with a “yes”,  a potential loan mod applicant should assess whether or not it makes sense to pay someone to do the loan modification for him.  The loan mod business seems to growing larger every day with a large number of companies offering to provide  loan mod services.   Some factors to consider when deciding whether or not to engage a loan mod company to help you include the following.

-How difficult will it be to get my mortgage modified?  The best way to get a preliminary assessment of this is to call your loan servicer, whose number is on your mortgage statement.  Depending on your situation and who owns your loan, it may be relatively simple to provide the servicer with the documents that they are requesting.  Many servicers and investors consider getting your loan current again to be in their best interests so they should be willing to help you out.

-If for whatever reason you do not want to deal with the loan servicer directly a call to a non profit organization such as Hope Now cannot hurt.  I have heard some people say that they have helped, some say that they are a waste of time; either way, a free phone call is an easy way to find out.

-Keep in mind that if you do engage the services of a loan mod company, they do not have any special powers of persuasion over the the investor owning your mortgage.   The loan servicer is going to make the same modified payment offer regardless of who they deal with.

-The price of a loan mod varies depending on what company you engage to help you.  I have seen prices ranging from $700 to $3500.  The amount of fees charged upfront also varies as do the service guarantees.  Some companies want the entire fee upfront and sometimes the entire fee is nonrefundable.

-If a loan mod company has expertise in the mortgage modification business they should be able to give you an accurate idea of what they can accomplish for you.  For example, there are some servicers (due to restrictions by the investor) who essentially refuse to modify a mortgage.  Regardless of who owns your mortgage, the loan mod company should be able to tell you give you a good idea of how your mortgage will be modified and what your new monthly payment will be.

-A principal reduction is done by very few servicers so if the company you are speaking to guarantees that they can do this for you,  be very skeptical.

-Do not work with any loan mod company without first checking their references.  There are few state or federal licensing requirements or proof of expertise required to enter this business so it is “buyer beware”.     Do not pay more than a modest nonrefundable application fee ($300 to $400 is common).  I would also not recommend engaging a loan mod company whose fee is nonrefundable.   You are paying for their expertise and they should know if they can help you before they take your money

-If your mortgage is delinquent by 90 days, which is usually required before a loan can be modified, do you really have up to $3,500 to spend getting your loan modified, when the odds of re-defaulting are up to 60%?

Conclusion:

There are reputable loan mod companies willing and able to get your loan modified for you and save you the time and hassle of paperwork and phone calls.   Considering the cost that most loan mod companies charge, your best bet is to directly contact your loan servicer or a nonprofit help agency first.

2 Responses to “Is A Loan Modification Worth The Cost?”

  1. Mortgage Loan Modification is a process whereby a home owner’s mortgage is modified and both the lender and homeowner are bound by the new terms of the new mortgage.

    The most common loan modifications are listed below:

    • lowering the mortgage interest rate
    • reducing the mortgage principal balance
    • fixing adjustable interest rates within the mortgage
    • increasing the loan term throughout the mortgage
    • forgiveness of payment defaults and fees
    • or any combination of the above

    Check out this Public site at http://LoanModificationMortgage.org

  2. I am a paid professional who helps homeowners in PA. It sickens me to hear all the “bad” about people like me. I agree, there are some who take advantage of homeowners. I have seen homeowners pay thousands to companies, just to hear “we need more money”, and they homeowner never gets an answer.
    However, my company is not like that. I have helped a number of homeowners who have tried themsleves, only to be told no or be given a repayment plan and not a modification. Most lenders are so overwhelmed that they do not want to speak with a homeowner who does not understand the process.
    We offer performance guarantees and refunds, if we cannot obtain a modification. We are in business to help people, not hurt them…but at the same time, I cannot afford to work for free.
    So please make it known that there are some ethical companies out there, that has the goal of helping homeowners. We place everything in writing for our homeowners, so they know what to expect. They know when they hire us what they need to provide and they know what to expect from us. When a written contract is enforced, along with guarantees and refunds…a good company always has to do what is right…if I didn’t I would not be in business. I also disclose to my clients they can do a modification with their lender, themselves. I hide nothing from my clients.

    Thanks

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