I recently blogged a few thoughts on loan modifications that I believe is helpful. You can re-visit that post by checking out my blog - http://www.trulia.com/blog/jeri_creson/2008/12/making_sense_
But primarily, the big 3 items that will help you (and help the bank) determine if you may be a candidate for a loan modification are: 1. Can you provide supporting documentation that you can afford the payment once it's modified. 2. Do you have a legitimate hardship, change in financial situation that caused your situation (in other words, do you NEED a modification, not just want one) and/or: 3. Did your financial situation come about as a result of an adjusting mortgage that you can no longer afford.
Another big issue: BEFORE you file bankruptcy, determine the affect a bankruptcy will have on your loan modification options. Some BK attorneys may rush you into the BK option when a loan modification may be a better bet for you first. Sometimes a bankruptcy is used as an emergency measure to stop the foreclosure - however it only delays the inevitable, and buys you some time. Later, you may find that having filed the bankruptcy limits several of the options you would have had previously. The key is to acting quickly, and getting the loan modification process started before the foreclosure process gets out of hand.
You may have limited success going directly to your lender, although I would suggest to try that first. I also suggest that you get everything in writing, and confirm your understanding of any arrangements in writing by certified mail. You may have more luck with getting an attorney to negotiate your modification, rather than trying to do it yourself. I would suggest that you avoid "loan modification companies" that charge large upfront fees in addition to the retainer that you would be charged by the attorney. What is generally happening here is that someone who is looking to profit from loan modifications is getting a fat salary for doing nothing more than referring your case to an attorney to negotiate for you. You can do that yourself and save the extra fee.
Also, be aware that when you are in the process of negotiating a loan modification, you may still be receiving collection calls from your first and second, (if applicable). These folks can be nasty. They often make threats that make it sound as if they will be garnishing your wages or getting judgments on you if you don't make a payment asap. Don't be bullied by collectors. Collectors will often do or say just about anything to break you down and get you to send in another payment. In most cases, the payment you send in will not help you at all in your loan modification process - in fact, it may stall or stop the process. This situation is emotional enough to begin with. You don't need to be harrassed on top of everything. Tell them (in writing) that you are in the process of negotiating a loan modification, and ask them not to call you, but rather, send any information regarding your account in writing. You have the right to do this, and they must cease harrassing you or face penalties.
There are some good classes coming up that are open to both consumers and professionals in January - no gimmicks, no selling - just real info to separate fact from fiction. I'm not going to post them here - because I'm not sure if some might consider that a "spam" issue. I'd rather be safe than offend. But I think it's important that we, as professionals get as much real education and keep up with the latest developments to help consumers. Pulling out my soapbox again...I believe that we as real estate professionals hold the key to reversing this crisis. That key lies in taking a stronger role of educating and advocating for our consumers in crisis - without profiteering off their misfortunes - If you're interested in more info on the classes, please email me.
TotalAccess Realty Advisors