New HUD releases.
Â In recent years, many people have turned to individual agencies, housing counselors and lenders to avoid foreclosure â€“ but many found themselves paying scammers who took money and failed to protect them.
In a new information campaign, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is telling homeowners that anyone at risk of foreclosure can receive free counseling from HUDâ€™s nationwide network of approved counseling agencies.
Although each agency offers specific services, each generally offers the following types of help:
â€¢ General counseling in matters related to housing
â€¢ An evaluation of a homeownerâ€™s specific situation
â€¢ Counseling on ways to avoid foreclosure
â€¢ Help with refinancing through HUDâ€™s various programs or with lender negotiations
HUD-approved agencies cannot charge for their foreclosure counseling services. However, they can charge a reasonable fee for other services, such as general housing education, pre- and post-sale counseling, and other services.
Preparing for a first meeting
A homeowner does not have to be in the foreclosure process to seek counseling. In fact, HUD advises anyone who thinks he might have problems in the future to contact a mortgage counselor sooner rather than later. Before a first meeting, HUD suggests having the following information ready:
â€¢ Household monthly income and expenses
â€¢ Current monthly mortgage payment amount
â€¢ Latest mortgage account statement
â€¢ Any relevant communication with your lender regarding late mortgage payments
â€œIt is also a good idea to have a sense of what you want to accomplish with the help of the approved counseling agency â€“ keeping your home, selling it, refinancing, etc.,â€ HUD says in a release.
Working with a non-approved agency
To avoid a scam, HUD advises homeowners to take the following steps if working with an agency no approved by HUD:
â€¢ Avoid paying for foreclosure counseling services. HUD-approved agencies provide these services at no cost.
â€¢ Resist any tactics that pressure you into signing documents without enough time to go over them carefully.
â€¢ Do not sign over the deed of your house to any other person or organization.
â€¢ Make your mortgage payments only to your lender or an institution approved by your lender.