Home owners who are struggling to make mortgage payments may now begin applying for relief, under the Obama Administration's $75 billion foreclosure relief plan. The plan was unveiled in February.
Until now homeowners who owe more than their homes are worth have been unable to refinance their loans. With their low "teaser" rates setting to a much higher level, the situation has pushed many into foreclosure.
The Treasury Department has spelled out the eligibility guidelines for its mortgage modification program. It offers relief for borrowers who are delinquent in their payments or at risk of falling behind.
Help is available to people who live in single-family homes and have mortgages up to $729,750 taken out before the beginning of this year. There are higher limits for owner-occupied condos.
If homeowners can stay current on their modified loans, they could have the amount of their loan reduced by up to $5,000.
How do you find out if you qualify? Government officials say the first step should be to contact the company that services your mortgage. By looking at the monthly statement or coupon, you should find a contact telephone number.
You need to find out who owns your mortgage, and that might not be easy, since mortgages have been sliced up and bundled into securities.
To qualify for a refinanced loan you can owe up to five percent more than your home is now worth. That leaves a lot of homeowners out in the cold, especially those in Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada, where home values have fallen the most.
The goal of the program is to help consumers get their monthly payments down to no more than 38 percent of their after-tax income. This may be accomplished by lengthening the term of the loan, reducing the interest rate, or both. After than, the government and the lender pay the cost of lowering the principal down to 31 percent of after-tax income.