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Posted On: 04/20/2011

QUESTION:

In several recent columns you’ve told troubled home sellers to look for help under the government’s Making Home Affordable program. Isn’t it obvious that most people are doing this already?

ANSWER:

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Actually, no. Here’s an example: For the past few years Nevada has been among the most troubled foreclosure centers in the country. In January, says RealtyTrac, Nevada again led the nation in foreclosure filings.

Now you might think in a state substantially impacted by foreclosure trends that the one note on every refrigerator door would be a link to the Making Home Affordable program. The facts are entirely different.

A 2011 study by the Nevada Association of Realtors found that “sixty-one percent (61 percent) of those surveyed had never heard of the HAFA or the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative program. Only 3 percent said they used and were helped by the Nevada Foreclosure Mediation program. Less than 50 percent even knew there was a federal website for foreclosure assistance. There is a clear disconnect between what the government is trying to offer and what is actually needed for struggling homeowners.”

For all the talk about foreclosures it’s apparent that many people don’t know that federal help may be available to them. As of December, the government had modified almost 580,000 mortgages. For most borrowers a modification means monthly costs have been slashed by about $525, a big number in many households and generally enough to help avoid foreclosure.

The government program is hardly perfect. Nearly 800,000 modifications have failed, but virtually all of these homes would otherwise have been foreclosed months earlier.

So should people who might fail enter the government’s modification program? You bet. It can at least create additional time to find a buyer, land a job or move with dignity.

The bottom line: If you’ve run into tough times speak with your lender, contact your state attorney general (they often can point you to state and local programs) and visit MakingHomeAffordable.gov.

Peter G. Miller is the author of The Common-Sense Mortgage and a veteran real estate columnist. Have a question? Please write to peter@ctwfeatures.com.

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