Things aren't moving along all that swimmingly in the loan modification world. The number of proprietary loan modifications – those conducted by lenders themselves rather than a government program -- fell by almost 14% in October, according to the Hope Now alliance. At least in part, the decrease can be tied to the robo-signing controversy and the fact that large lenders suspended foreclosures to investigate.
Government mortgage modification programs aren't helping that many homeowners, either. HAMP – the Home Affordable Modification Program – was once expected to stave off three to four million foreclosures. Today, that expectation has fallen to around 800,000, with only about a half million permanent modications made thus far.
To help troubled homeowners, the folks at CitiMortgage, one of the largest mortgage lenders in the country, have decided to take matters into their own hands by hosting a Call-a-Thon.
"We really wanted to refocus attention on what has been our priority, keeping distressed borrowers out of foreclosure and keep them in their homes," says CitiMortgage spokesman Mark Rogers who notes that between proprietary modifications, HAMP, forebearances and other initiatives the company has helped around 1 million homeowners avoid potential foreclosure since 2007. "This is not just for consumers in default, but those worried about default and with general questions about their modification options," says Rogers. And what if you're not a CitiMortgage client? "I imagine [the reps] would give some general information about modification programs," he notes.
Will it work? Maybe a little, says Keith Gumbinger, vice president at HSH Associates, if they're able to unearth a few people who haven't yet explored their loan modification options. But he doesn't expect that other servicers will follow CitiMortgage's lead, and he's skeptical that loan modifications, in general, will solve the housing market's problems. "It's going to help some people for a time, but the only solution for the market is to finally let it fail. I'm on the side of the coin that says let's get it done with so we can move forward. We've slowed the failure, but the fact is, we are still on a failing path."