Home Affordable Modification Program: 6 Key Facts Distressed Homeowners Need to Know

The worst of the housing crisis is over, but don't tell that to Americans who are still struggling with their mortgage payments. One of the most tragic parts of this story is that some people are in danger of losing their homes without realizing that there are government programs that can help them. The Home Affordable Modification Program is one example.

The Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, can help you overcome financial setbacks and real estate downturns that have threatened to put you out of your home. Before it gets to the point where you lose that home, you should learn the basic what, how, why, and other key aspects of HAMP. Below are six things you need to know about HAMP:

1. What Is HAMP?

HAMP is a federally-sponsored program that gives loan servicers incentives to modify loans in order to make their terms easier for borrowers to meet. The idea is to make loan modification a win-win proposition for borrowers and the companies that own their loans. After all, foreclosure is not a happy ending for homeowners, and it is also a less-than-ideal solution for loan servicers. So, HAMP seeks sustainable solutions that allow homeowners to stay in their homes and keep making payments over time.

2. How Does It Work?

HAMP can work in a variety of ways, all with the goal of making monthly loan payments more affordable. One way to do this is to lower the interest rate on the loan. Another is to restructure the loan so that the payments are spread over a longer period of time. For homeowners who have seen a substantial decline in the value of their properties, HAMP can also reduce the remaining amount you owe. If you currently owe at least 15 percent more than your home is now worth, you could qualify for a principal reduction under HAMP.

3. Why Should You Consider It?

The best reason to consider HAMP can be found in one statistic. The average participant in the program has seen monthly payments reduced by around $500. As you no doubt realize, a $500 reduction in your mortgage payment would make your monthly obligations much easier to meet, and would likely make the difference between keeping or losing your home.

4. Who Is Eligible?

HAMP is available to homeowners who obtained their mortgages on or before January 1, 2009. To qualify for HAMP, you have to be delinquent or in danger of falling behind on your mortgage due to financial hardship. The program can be used for primary mortgages and rental properties with one to four units, as long as the property has not been condemned. The maximum amount you can owe on a single-family residence is $729,750, though higher limits apply to multi-unit rental properties.

5. Where Do You Apply?

Though this is a federally-sponsored program, you would apply through participating lenders rather than directly to the government. There are dozens of lenders around the country who make HAMP loans available to borrowers. Your first step should be to contact your current loan servicer to see if they are participating, or you can click here for the section of the government website that lists participating institutions.

The application process will involve a comprehensive review of your financial situation, including documentation of all sources of income, your assets, and your current financial obligations.

6. When Does the Program Expire?

If you think HAMP can help you, make sure you do not miss out on the chance to participate, because the program is not permanent. It is currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2016.

People often feel that the government is insensitive to their plight, but in the case of the housing crisis and its aftermath, the feds did a number of things to try to help homeowners. The Home Affordable Modification Program is just one example of how the government did its part; the next move is up to you.

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