Loan modifications hard to come by

Despite difficulties, homeowners finding relief with HOPE NOW program

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Editor's note: A previous version of this story erroneously stated that the HOPE NOW Alliance of loan servicers charges borrowers for consultations. The consultations are free. Q: "I have been giving my clients an article you wrote about a year ago advising borrowers having payment problems how to request a modification in their loan contract ... Could you bring it up to date?" A: A lot has happened since that article was written. Very shortly thereafter, the HOPE NOW program promoted by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson began as an effort by housing counseling agencies and mortgage servicers to modify loans on a strictly voluntary basis. Since then, the first recourse of borrowers in trouble has been to call them at 1-888-995-HOPE. I have sent many people to HOPE NOW, with mixed feedback. House prices have declined further in the last year, turning more borrowers "upside down" where they owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth. This induces som...