You've probably heard critics on Capitol Hill complain that too many financially-stressed home owners aren't getting help from lenders to modify their loans, lower their rates or freeze them -- and keep them out of foreclosure.
But late last week the "Hope Now Alliance" -- a Washington-based group convened by the Treasury Department and composed of the country's largest mortgage servicers -- fired back at the critics and said they just don't have the facts.
In its first report card since its founding last summer, the Alliance said its members helped 869,000 home owners stay out of foreclosure during the final six months of 2007, either through modifications of loan terms or through repayment plans that reschedule borrowers' debts.
During the same period, 283,000 borrowers could not be assisted, and lost their houses to foreclosure.
Hope Now's members service 33.3 million home loans -- about two thirds of all mortgages outstanding across the U.S.
Roughly 21 percent of all delinquent borrowers whose mortgages were originated at "prime" rates were given some form of loan modification to help them retain their homes.
The modifications included such techniques as postponing or eliminating scheduled rate reset increases, freezing adjustable rates, extending payment periods and the like -- all intended to make payments more affordable given the borrowers' current financial situations.
Among subprime borrowers, the modification ratio was higher -- nearly 28 percent of all delinquent subprime home owners received some sort of modification assistance during the last half of 2007.
But during the final three months of the year, rate freezes and other modifications for subprime owners began picking up steam, according to the Alliance, with 35 percent of troubled home owners receiving rate freezes or payment adjustments in some form.
What's the takeaway here for borrowers who find themselves behind on their mortgage payments? Number one: Get rid of the idea that your loan servicer wants your house -- or wants you to go into foreclosure. The LAST thing most lenders want right now is more foreclosed real estate on their books.
So talk to the servicer if you're having trouble making payments. Answer the phone call, letter or email from the servicer's staff seeking to discuss your situation.
Remember: Lenders are motivated like they haven't been for decades to work things out with you -- including adjusting your payments or freezing the rate -- as long as you're open to trying to solve the problem.