Important Disclosure: This information is meant to be a general guide to consumers about what to expect from a loan modification. I currently do not do loan modifications nor do I receive any money from any loan modification company for referring people to them, although my employer apparently is setting up a loan modification team, I have yet to refer them someone. I know this information because of the estimated one thousand people that I personally have spoken to over the last year about their options and referred them to various organizations for help. I have been saying the same thing about loan modifications for quite some time – that no lender follows the same process and each individual situation is different – so do not take anything here as a “guideline” or a “formal loan modification process” . In my experience, there is no such thing as a formal loan modification process(even though there are programs recently announced such as the Streamlined Loan Modification Program).

Many people that I speak with are not currently late on their mortgage payments, but are having some kind of financial hardship and are not sure that they can continue paying and curious as to whether or not they would be better off doing a loan modification or refinancing their current loan.

My answer?

“It depends.”

When Loan Modification Makes More Sense Than Refinancing

For people who currently owe much more than their house is now worth, it probably makes the most sense to attempt to work with your lender to get your loan modified – because unless you are in an FHA or VA loan, you cannot refinance and even if you are in an FHA or VA loan, you are possibly going to end up with a better overall financial situation through loan modification process than the FHA/VA streamline without appraisal programs.

If you are currently in situation where owe more than your house is worth – you have two choices: keep paying on your mortgage or don’t keep paying on your mortgage (these choices are brought to you by Mr. Obvious).

If you choose the latter (to not continue to pay your current mortgage) at some point your lender may work with you to modify your loan or they will ultimately foreclose on the property and you will have to move out.

Loan Modifications: What To Expect If You Are Not Currently Late

If you are not currently late on your mortgage and you call your lender to inquire about a possible loan modification, expect them to tell you something like “they are sorry, but they can’t help you because you are current on your payments.” Usually, the lender will add something to the effect of “please keep in mind that if you do indeed become late on your payment, it will negatively impact your credit score.”

So at this point, you have two options: 1. hire a loan modification lawyer or company to represent you and attempt to negotiate with your lender or 2. not pay your mortgage payment (again, Mr. Obvious speaking).

No matter which of the two choices that you choose, you can expect that no matter what happens, your situation will probably take a path that is uncharted. Because there are no official loan modification guidelines, you cannot accurately “predict” what will happen with your situation. The loan modification process varies by lender. It also varies by individual borrower situation at any given lender.

So the absolute best thing that you can do as a consumer is to arm yourself with as much information possible and do your best at negotiating an outcome (with or without the assistance of someone else) that will help you stay in your home and have an affordable mortgage payment.

Possible Loan Modification Outcomes

Some of the loan modification outcomes that I have seen as people have reported back to me what happened in their situation:

  • Interest rates reduced to as low as 1% for a period of time, then increasing by 1% per year after a period of time and then fixed in the 5% range for the rest of the loan term.
  • The term of the loan being extended from 30 years to 40 years.
  • Principal reductions – where the lender agrees to “write off” a significant amount of money on the loan balance to reflect the current market value of the property.

These are the three most common things that I have seen — but because there is no formal process or guidelines for the loan modification programs – anything is possible.

If my experience holds true, there will be more than just a couple of loan modification attorneys who will leave a comment on this post telling us *even more* information about what is possible and how they can help you stay in your home.

Make sure that if you decide to choose a loan modification lawyer or company, you do your homework – many of them have different fees and different experience and it can be confusing who can best help you achieve a successful outcome with your lender.

  • Lynne

    My Dad owns a rental property that he inherited. It was in terrible condition so we took out a first mortgage on it to rehab it back in 2005. Due to the many foreclosures of similar 2 family properties in the neighborhood, the value of the property has dropped by 50% and we are now underwater on the loan by about $70k. Our interest rate is very high at 8.625% and we can’t refinance because of the current appraised value (our 6 figure equity has disappeared!). The loan is current, but the rental income doesn’t cover PITI or general upkeep…I’m paying that for my Dad out of my pocket. Is there ANY hope of getting Chase Bank to modify the loan and reduce our interest rate?

  • EJ

    To Lynne:
    A the Gift & The Curse of being Current!!
    The quick answer is YES there is hope. The long answer is just that…it will take a LONG time:The unfortunate and disgusting truth, is that the bank will sit on your modification application forever, and I do mean forever. The idea is leverage. They’re not motivated to help people who are doing the right thing out there by paying there mortgage on time because the twisted logic they use is: Why help someone who will continue to pay us anyway? I am NOT suggesting you mess with your credit or livelihood by not paying your mortgage, not by any means, and I want to be crystal clear about that! It is important though to understand what you’re up against.
    In the beginning of this mortgage crisis, immediately after the bailout, banks were helping the current folks out there, and delinquent borrowers were cast aside. They started abandoning their homes and that cost the banks dearly. So basically they flipped the process, and now focus on people who are behind because anyone who has always paid their mortgage on time, and will continue to do so, also makes the perfect borrower to maximize the most money from. The hope is that you can continue to pay what you pay now, for as long as possible.

    If you’re diligent and persistent and certainly patient, then you may succeed in getting a slight rate reduction or term extension. Chase will attempt to offer you something that allows you to break even to pay the mortgage (since it is a rental) since you’re showing a negative. It also will usually be a temporary fix so expect to see 3-9 months of lower payments, with the promise that if you make those on time, they will consider the prospect of permanently fixing the payments at the reduced rate. Another stall tactic indeed, but again, they know you will pay because you always have. Remember, the banks will always try and keep the rate at what it was when the mortgage was recorded originally due to the current secondary market conditions of mortgage back securities. In their eyes it is not in their best interest to lower your payments, although it makes even more sense in our eyes to do that for people who can and will pay.

    Being current or delinquent makes it a tough battle, but their is no doubt, nowadays, being current is a much tougher sell. It is possible, but the Hardship has to be super-solid. There has to be significant proof of reduced income or the pending inevitability of one. You will certainly have to wait awhile (even with an attorney which is highly recommended), and you will need to be very diligent in regards to follow up and paperwork. You can certainly do this while current but be prepared that you may not see a long term modification or a high rate reduction, so I urge you to keep that in perspective when considering your options. You may also want to strongly consider hiring or at least consulting a Loss Mitigation Attorney before doing this on your own. Attorneys can level the playing field and allow you to dictate the terms a bit more. Permanent modifications; STEP program mods and considerable interest rate reductions are all more possible when you have the gift of leverage, and that is the one thing you do still have by being current. But that same leverage is exactly what keeps the bank in the driver seat for now, and that’s the curse.
    My advice would be to be proactive. Organize your income docs, rental agreements, bank statements, mortgage statements etc…then do an Income/Expense report and itemize ALL your monthly expenses (down to the dog food and gym memberships!)…and write a Hardship Letter to Chase, explaining the difficulties you’re going through in detail. Then call chase and apply for an “In-House Permanent Modification”. You won’t qualify for HAMP, HASP, HOPE or any of the other government programs, so dont let them defer you to those programs. you want an In House modification directly through Chase. Do not do a Verbal one over the phone, instead ask them to send you a loan modification package to fill out. Do so, and return to them and most importantly, KEEP GOOD RECORDS OF IT ALL. At the same time you do this, consult with an Attorney as well, so if you have to make a lateral move and retain counsel, you’re a step ahead of the bank. The road no matter what direction you take, will be a long and arduous one. However, if you remain diligent and you deal from strength of leverage, you CAN get somewhere in the Land of Better, sooner than later.

    Good Luck…n Keep us ‘Posted’!

  • http://n/a tracy d

    Dear EJ,
    My wife found your website as I was on a several hour phone call with my mortgage co. We originally inquired about a home modification in November 2009. I say inquired because we needed to know if we would qualify before proceeding. Our income and debt info was given via phone(estimates only). We were not behind our loan payments but would pay on a monthly basis with the late payment. Approx 2mths later we received a trial loan packet. Payments were no different plus they impounded taxes & insurance. Well to make a long horrid story short. They are threatening to take action to forclose because we have not paid the taxes that we never authorized them to pay or should I say the new loan amount that included this. I had called them in January telling them they helped us in no way and we refuse their offer. However, this isnt the end. Apparently, there is a loophole for freddie mac to insure taxes & ins are impounded since we inquired, even though there is no legal documents that we agreed to this type of loan. Our original loan was through CountryWide. We spoke with HUD and unfortunately, they can only help with proceeding with modification. My wife states we need to obtain a attorney. We do continue to make our original house payment but refuse to pay the taxes & insurance that they paid until they change our loan payment as our original loan document states . The bank states its freddi mac and of course we know our goverment is a supporter. Do we have any legal recourse? I ask before obtaining legal counsel or are our hands tied and no hope to win this.
    p.s. we never provided them with any documentation, letters etc., nor did they ever request such documentation.

  • EJ

    To Tracy D.

    Wow! I have a few questions first before you hire counsel but perhaps you would want to consult with me personally as well so I can provide my email address for you to reply to if you decide to do so and would prefer that.
    I certainly am biased towards using an attorney when negotiating your largest asset, but I also don’t believe in self or false promotion or angular advice. There are usually some things you can do without the help of a loss mitigation attorney. So before you fix on a firm to hire, I am curious about a few things.

    1- When they faxed you the Trial Package, did you sign and return it?
    2- Was their some kind of verbiage contained within the package that dealt directly with ‘Failure To Reply To This Offer’?
    3-Did your mortgage payment change in subsequent months? Meaning if they sent the package in January, in the months since, has the payments on your mortgage statements actually changed?
    4-Check your mortgage statement for Escrow Balances and see if their is a surplus, a shortage or a zero balance.

    You always have legal recourse if something was done without your permission. But the fine print is important as well. From a Legal standpoint, here’s what we attorneys are going to want to know:

    -If you are current on your mortgage and taxes, then there is NO WAY for the bank to foreclose on your home.
    -If you DID NOT escrow your taxes and insurance before, and you have never failed to pay your taxes yourself; & your mortgage company changed your payments without your permission, you have recourse.
    -Have the threats to foreclose come verbally or in writing?

    Before hiring or even consulting counsel, let’s see what kind of leverage they think their working from. If I am interpreting this correctly from the surface, you have more than recourse. However, it seems a bit TOO ‘open and shut’ of a case in my professional opinion! I would want to make sure these things remain constant before advising which I hope and am sure, you can appreciate! So I’ll eagerly await your responses!


  • http://n/a tracy d

    Dear EJ,

    I apologize for the delay, we were leaving out of town at the time this email was sent and then the new school year began. I greatly appreciate your responding. Yes, I would prefer to reply by way of email if possible. I will obtain all the information as requested plus new information from the bank. Thank you again.

  • Jerry

    We are current with our mortgage payments, yet we struggle to make them every month. We have a ton of installment debt (e.g., credit card debt that was incurred during a period of unemployment PRIOR to refinancing with our current lender), and are supporting an adult relative who lost her home in a short sale. We have tried to get a loan mod with Wells Fargo, but our income is too high – our mortgage payment is less than 31% of our monthly gross income. However, it’s still a struggle due to our other debt.

    The day is coming when we will NOT be able to make our mortgage payments on time. Should we miss a payment, what is the likelihood the lender would grant us a modification (bearing in mind that our our mortgage payment is less than 31% of our monthly gross income)?

  • Stephen Atchison

    I am in the same situation, running 2 weeks late on my mortgage, , upside down on my loan, and need to modify my loan to reduce payment and interest, my attorney wants to charge $3000. its a HAMP program arrangement? I am a vettran

  • EJ

    @ Tracy… I look forward to hearing from you.

  • EJ

    @ Jerry
    Legally Im in no capacity to recommend NOT paying your mortgage. Here’s what you should know however. The banks are not denying you based on your income…REMEMBER: IF YOU CAN PROVE THAT YOU ARE BARELY MAKING ENDS MEET, INCLUDING ALL EXPENSES VERSUS TAKE HOME INCOME; then you can make a strong case for modification. The bank is actually looking at this in the simplest, yet greediest way possible. If you can afford your mortgage now, there is no incentive to give you a modification. As attorneys, our firm consists of about 36% of our clients are current. The biggest issue they have is the amount of time it takes to finalize their modifications. Typically it takes us 45-60 days. Nowadays, we’re operating on an average of 4 months now, from start to finish and in some cases much longer! While they all qualify, the bank’s tactic is to stall the process as long as possible, until you cant make the payments. Now logic would tell us that it’s at that point they would want to negotiate but truthfully, they’d rather gain more LEVERAGE so that you will do what they say when they say. Think about it. You’re the best candidate to perform scare tactics on, because you’ve never had a problem before this and so the bank knows that you will panic if you cant make your payments, thus relinquishing most of the remaining leverage you have.

    Best thing to do is to start the process again (Id recommend using an attorney, ESPECIALLY if you decide to start missing payments while it happens) with the use of a 3rd party negotiator. This will help sift through the back and forth and paper trails. If you can continue to pay the mortgage then go ahead. If you cant, then make sure you hire an attorney before you officially miss one! The worst thing would be to do nothing. Current borrowers are operating against the bank and TIME, which means that you will definitely have to wait for the process to go on for a bit. Not many of us have the resources to afford the time needed but that’s why it is even more imperative to do something now, rather than be forced into doing it. current borrowers actually have more leverage and the bank’s only way of reducing that is by waisting time.

  • EJ

    @ Stephen:
    I’d advise you the same way I have most folks on this post and that is to direct you to 3rd party counsel for help. A few things to keep in mind when selecting an attorney:

    $3000 isn’t unreasonable for this kind of work, however, make sure it is a standard rate and that you aren’t being charged for extemporaneous things like, success, difficulty, loan size or type of bank…etc…Our firm has a flat rate no matter the case, the client or the bank and that is important to you as you don’t want the million dollar clients getting more or less attention than you!

    Make sure you have a guarantee for success. All attorneys will charge you a fee, but the ones who are truly worth their own spit, will guarantee this kind of work. NOT GUARANTEE success, but guarantee their work. Translation: If they cant get a modification for you, you get your money back. (usually minus a processing fee)

    Make sure you can cancel.

    Make sure the firm isn’t bankrupt. Sounds silly, but this is public info, and the ONLY WAY TO GET SCAMMED BY AN ATTORNEY IS IF THEY ARE FILING FOR BANKRUPTCY. And yes this happens (rarely) even as people are still paying the retainer.

    Make sure you can pay in installments. You will be required for an upfront retainer, but monies should go into an escrow account and since the process takes a few months usually, you should be allowed to make payments. (Not all attorney’s allow for this, but most will not require ALL monies upfront.)

    Most importantly, you want access and communication. This may not be available 24 hrs a day and 7 days a week, especially with the larger firms like ours, but you should have a paralegal anmd an attorney with whom you can reach out to and contact at least once a week for updates and status reports. Keep in mind there is a ton of down time and not often are there even weekly things to report! However, we as Americans need the piece of mind of being able to at least KNOW someone is watching their back!

    Its hard to go wrong with an attorney, and when current, it’s really the only way to fight the bank accordingly. You have to make them accountable and legal documents scare the crap out of them. While your success is almost inevitable, you still should prepare for a long wait!!

    Hopefully that helps Stephen!! Let me know how it goes!


  • Maty

    My mom is trying to qualify for a modification loan but she hasn’t been late on any payments. She has lost her job and knows she will not be able to make the payments in the near future. She is concerned that if she stops making payments and she loses her home that they might go after her IRA account. She is 6 months away from being able to touch her IRA money without any penalties. Does anyone know if her IRA account can be at risk if she decides to go ahead and loose her home. Any Help!!!

  • EJ

    @ Maty: Absolutely not. Those assets have nothing to do with her mortgage company. That is completely unethical and utterly illegal.

  • EJ

    @ Maty: Also… In rare cases, I’ve seen banks attempt to freeze bank accounts if their personal banking is the same as her mortgage company (ie: Bank of America), but even that is far in the foreclosure process and still extremely uncommon. But as far as liquid assets go, the bank has no legal right to seize your IRA or any other retirement or investments she may have. Her mortgage was not attached to those assets when originally financed, therefore the only thing the bank can seize is a property.

  • Maty


    Thanks so much for the info. I’m sure this will help my mom feel better about the decision she and my dad will have to make in reagrds to their home.

  • EJ

    @ Maty…No problem. Good Luck to you and yours!

  • jon w

    After 20 months of no payments on a VA loan balance 30 yrs $565k @5.75%, Wells Fargo offered loan modification to 40 yrs, $565k, @2.00%.

  • Rosemary

    My husband passed away last September and my family income has been reduced drastically. I am current on my mortgage payments with my father’s assistance. I meet all the general criteria for the government modification. After months of dealing with Citimortgage, I was declined because they say I’m not in a emminant default situation and that I have some equity in my home. They then considered me for a traditional modification and I was quickly declined – the reason being I am not behind in my mortgage payment. Is it true that you have to be behind in your house payments to be considered for a modification if your loan is funded by Freddie Mac?

  • EJ

    @ Rosemary

    yes it is unfortunately. If you have a Freddie mac loan you must be delinquent to qualify for the Governement Program. You dont however, havce to be delinquent for CitiMortgage’s In House modificatio, which is what they denied you for without telling you. You can get a modification through them, but while you still have the money, you should consult counsel to take up the fight. You can email me directly for recommendations on how or who to use.

  • Karlos

    I would really like to see the feds make banks publish the success rate of loan modifications so home owner could see that most of these are not successful before they try it and end up near foreclosure.

  • EJ

    @ Karlos, you’re absolutely right. The odds are against most people who are current but not because the process doesn’t work. Its because time is not on your side when you struggle and greed gets in the way of morals. It makes sense to help people in the morally and ethical world. Actually, there are thousands of modifications that are done each month by the same banks we all hold mortgages with. Problem is, if you don’t own you’re home outright, you are always at the mercy of the documents you signed when receiving the mortgage loan in the first place. No one reads the fine print and even if you did and disagreed, you have no recourse anyway. Banks don’t have to modify your loan at all. There is no law that forces them to do that, and the documents we sign at closing clerly states if we do not pay our mortgage, they have the right to foreclose on our home. If you fall 90 days behind on your mortgage, you are in foreclosure, end of story. So leading back to your statement, if you are current and you’re struggling to make ends meet, there is only so much time a person has before they can’t pay it at all. That is what gets people into foreclosure, not the modification process. Hardships, bad luck, death, loss of wages, incarceration, divorce, car troubles, layoffs, adjustable rates, no equity, the mortgage crisis, the war in iraq, the economy,real life in general and OF COURSE COMBINED WITH the unwillingness of corporate America to just look at things morally rather than financially CAUSES foreclosure. But with all that said, there is hope between the lines and you can certainly look at numbers to justify that things can work if done the right way. Greed can only stand up to the Law for so long.

  • Rosemary

    Thanks EJ. I’ve done enough complaining to Citimortgage (emailing the President & COO and CEO) that they have someone in some type of executive department taking a look at my situation in depth. I am now being told that I was given wrong reasons for denial. Believe me, I don’t have any hope where Citimortgage is concerned. I’m sure they are just going through the motions because I was a big enough pain, and I’ll be turned down in the end. Anyway, at least I put up a good fight up to now. I’ve looked into the class action law suit that’s getting started.

  • http://zillow Teresa

    I have been struggling to keep up with my mortgage payments in the last couple of years. I have been unemployed and have cashed out on all my savings, credit cards, and 401ks to make my payments. I have never been delinquent up until this month. I have about $100K equity on my home and have a $750K mortgage loan on it. I have a couple of roommates who pay me rent and share with utilities, but together still cannot meet my current Interest Only payment. My question is: Can I try to have my loan modified even if I have some equity? I really want to keep my house as I am the sole caregiver of my disabled parent.

  • Johanna

    My husband lost his job and can’t find employment. We are 30 days behind on our mortgage. I can make the November payment, but not sure if I can afford it. How can a loan mod work if only 1 person is working and yet having difficulties trying to make ends meet? I know it’s illegal to not make the payments, but what is my recourse? I don’t want to got to foreclosure. I would rather try to sell my house, but in this financial market, trying to sell a house may be difficult.

  • Heather

    Hi Justin.
    I have a 30yr fixed @ 5.5%. I’m recently divorced and am financially jammed up as a result. I did lots of homework and talked with my lender, Wells Fargo, extensively. They told me I did not qualify for loan mod under the investor guidelines. My mortgage is FHA, so they told me to look up the FHA investor guidelines. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the FHA investor guidelines website (too much info).. I ended up browsing and found that in all HAMP programs the mortgagor must be at least 30 days but not more than 12 mos in default. The underwriting guidelines require not less than 31% front end debt to income ratio and not more than 55% back end debt to income ratio. It looks to me like my choices are either stremline refi into another 30yr fixed or 30 yr 5/1 ARM, or default and hope they’ll work with me to set up a loan mod. I had bankrupcy discharged mid@2004 and have credit score of 694. M.y front end is 33 and back end is 46 What would you do were you in my shoes?

  • Hard Money Personal Loans

    No matter what choice do you have at this point of time. Because there are no official loan modification guidelines. You case depends on your current situation. It is also affected by lender and condition of the borrower.
    Best way to get rid of all the risks and confusions you need to gather as much as information you can..

  • home building

    Loan modifications are few and far between. The whole “media storm” around this has turned out in the banks favor.

  • cindy valdez

    Tracy D.

    If you have any advice I would greatly appreciate it. I am currently unemployed and goind back to school also a single mom of 3. My home is upside down and interest only for 40 years with a 30 year then a balloon payment for the last 10 years. I was able to go from 220,000 to 118,600 and put some work into the house. I have a loan with BofA from the Acorn Loan where I also bank. I’m barely getting by…and will soon be using my savings. I’m afraid to jump into a home modification. I figure either way I am screwed. If modification went through I would hope for a normal loan where I am not paying interest only. Just to save two hundred a month and have that would be great. If I was able to sell everything I own…pay off my van in one year and do this on my own in thirty years I may not be able to pay off that balloon payment. Being upside down it sounds tempting to finish school and then foreclose and buy another house under my boyfriends name who has excellent credit and is also in school. Putting off any improvement in the house to save money. I’ve been told that a home modification could raise the loan amount. How would it work if I wanted to sell the house in 5 years…do you owe a tremendous amount for doing that? Is it possible that a home modificaton could be more than my payment now? Thanks for any info.

  • tony galarza

    I am not sure if I am answering Cindy’s question or Tracy’s but before I go into what I think you should do… where are you located and have you spoken to your bank already?

  • Kala

    We bought our house about 6 months before the fall. Our broker talked us into putting our money into paying bills off instead of a down, because in 3 years we’d be able to refinance and get our 2nd mortgage rolled into one low payment. Well it’s been almost 4 years now and of course there are no possible refinance options being that we bought at the peak time and now we are so upside down on our mortgage that we can’t even qualify for the HARP program on our first mortgage. I’ve spent the last 4 months in the modification process and was finally told that we have been denied. I was told that I can make the payment based on our income. Though when I look at my payments I see that I’m overextended every month and pulling money from credit cards to make ends meet. I’m not sure what to do next. I don’t want to leave my house. Anyone have suggestions? Thanks.

  • Jamie

    We also have a b of a loan which was transfered to bac home loans, it is a fha loan with a pmi, are loan was for 170,000 but we are now upside down i don’t know how much. We have not been late ever but due to falling income and increased bills are very close to not being able to pay and not wanting to pay for something that is worth nothing. We have already done the fha streamline a couple years ago, interest rate is now around 5%. Who should we talk with about a possible principal reduction. Homes in the area or selling for 50,000 right now.

  • Larry

    I have been at our current home since it was built in 1993. I am current on payments and taxes. I lost my job after 29 years and had been out of work 13 months. Just got a new job but is not paying enough. My rate is 6.25% and I am upside down about 25k.
    I called my CU who services the loan and said that we didn’t qualify because our loan was not in emminite default.Freddy Mac or Fanny Mae own the loan. Why would they help? After being here so long they got their money already! I feel that they want me to lose my home so that they can sell it again.
    Can we be helped?

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