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Originally published May 23, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 23, 2009 at 12:23 AM

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Mortgage trouble? Contact approved HUD agencies

Maybe the mortgage-delinquency notices are just starting to arrive after a missed payment or two. Or maybe foreclosure is starting to look...

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Maybe the mortgage-delinquency notices are just starting to arrive after a missed payment or two. Or maybe foreclosure is starting to look like a distinct possibility.

Conventional wisdom suggests contacting your lender as soon as possible and seeing whether something can be worked out. At the very least, you should open any letters you receive from the lender as soon as they arrive and deal with them.

But if the next step doesn't seem obvious, Patricia Hasson, president of the Consumer Credit Counseling Services of the Delaware Valley in Philadelphia, advises that you contact a housing-counseling agency approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. How do you find such an agency? Go to www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/fc, then click on the map for your state.

It's one way to avoid getting shaken down for whatever assets you have left. There are scams galore these days designed to take advantage of homeowners desperate to dig themselves out of mortgage trouble.

Several legitimate (mostly government) programs offer help. If you aren't sure which you might qualify for, here are some to check into:

Making Home Affordable is the federal program designed to save as many as 9 million borrowers through mortgage modification or refinancing. Only loans owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac are eligible for the refinancing program.

MakingHomeAffordable.gov outlines how to determine whether you are eligible and allows you to link with the list of HUD-approved foreclosure-counseling agencies.

Hope for Homeowners was created by Congress to help those at risk of default and foreclosure refinance into more affordable, sustainable loans. The program, effective until Sept. 30, 2011, refinances mortgages into new 30-year or 40-year fixed-rate loans with lower payments. Information: www.hud.gov/hopeforhomeowners or 800-225-5342.

Hope Now joins HUD-approved counseling agencies, mortgage companies, investors and other mortgage-market participants to provide free foreclosure-prevention assistance. Information: www.hopenow.com; 888-995-4673.

Home Equity Conversion Mortgage may help homeowners 62 and older extricate themselves from financial distress. These "reverse mortgages" are insured by the FHA and should be obtained only through FHA-approved lenders. Information: www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hecm/hecmhome.cfm or 800-569-4287. Based on HUD guidelines, there is a fee up to $125 for counseling, but it may be waived depending on income.

REO Rental Initiative is a temporary Freddie Mac program for rental properties, under which qualified former owner-occupants and tenants will be offered options to lease properties in which they reside that have been acquired by Freddie Mac because of foreclosure.

To qualify for the month-to-month rental option, a property must be in good condition, meet all state laws and local code requirements, and be free of environmental hazards. Information: www.freddiemac.com/avoidforeclosure/rental-initiative.html.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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