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Consumer Action Housing Help

Foreclosure Prevention Guide

This free resource guide is designed to help struggling homeowners at all stages in the foreclosure process. It lists a wide variety of government and private programs and websites where homeowners can learn if they are eligible for help in saving their homes.


Since the foreclosure crisis erupted in 2008, Consumer Action has been working in coalition with other non-profits to advocate for greater servicer, lender and government efforts to save families and individuals from foreclosure.

At whatever point you are in the foreclosure process, this guide is a resource to help you avoid losing your home. We have gathered a variety of programs, websites and other resources that may be of help if you are at risk of losing your home.

Research for this guide was conducted from Jan. 28-Aug. 11, 2011. Elizabeth Angeles, a Columbia University student and Consumer Action intern, assisted in the research and writing of this guide under the supervision of Ruth Susswein, Consumer Action’s deputy director of national priorities. Susswein also participated in the research, writing and editing of this project.

Many of the resources and opportunities for assistance continued to evolve as we worked to compile this guide. To find the most up-to-date information, review this guide carefully and consult a HUD-approved, non-profit housing counselor (see Housing Counselors) and your mortgage lender/servicer. Most of the resources listed are voluntary programs, so you will need to learn if your lender/servicer participates before you can pursue some of these opportunities.

The Housing Help Foreclosure Prevention Guide can be freely used for educational purposes by non-profit and community-based organizations. You can download a PDF copy from the Download field at the very bottom of this page, or by clicking here: Foreclosure Prevention Guide PDF. Note: To ensure that you can click on live links in the PDF, open it in Adobe Reader. Click here to download Adobe Reader for free.

If you have any questions about using this guide, send an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Please let us know if you learn that any of the information presented in this guide has changed or if the programs are no longer available.

Foreclosure Process

Notice of Intent to Foreclose. This notice is a legal document telling you that the foreclosure process has begun. It will provide the dollar amount you’re behind on your mortgage and what you must do to prevent foreclosure.

Foreclosure timelines vary by state.
Click here to view your state’s estimated timeline.

First, know that you don’t have to immediately leave your house because the lender has started foreclosure proceedings.

Contact the lender/servicer—and a non-profit housing counselor—to try to work out a realistic solution.

Some states require that a lender first take you to court before a foreclosure sale can occur; some states don’t.

If a judgment is filed against you:

  • your house could be put up for sale;
  • you could be offered money to get out (cash for keys); or
  • you could receive notice that you will be evicted by a certain deadline.

Important: Lenders/servicers can (and often do) proceed with the foreclosure process while they evaluate you for a loan modification.

If you have applied for a HAMP loan modification, the lender/servicer cannot sell your home unless your application has been denied. Nevertheless, verify that a scheduled foreclosure sale has been stopped or postponed. Keep careful records of everyone you talk to (with times and dates) and record exactly what anyone has promised you.

Housing Counselors

What is a housing counselor? A housing counselor can be helpful to you in any stage of homeownership. A housing counselor can help you regain control of your finances, understand your options and communicate more effectively with your lender. With the help of a housing counselor, you are more likely to avoid foreclosure.

How do I contact a housing counselor? The Obama administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), also known as Making Home Affordable, offers free assistance from a housing counselor.

You can work with a housing counselor to see if you are eligible for a mortgage modification. Through the government’s HAMP program, counselors review your financial obligations and work with you and your lender or loan servicer to make your monthly mortgage payment affordable. For more information on HAMP’s housing counseling services, see Making Home Affordable: Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).

HOPE Hotline

Always deal with a non-profit housing counselor certified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). To contact a non-profit HUD-approved housing counselor visit the HUD website and click on “Avoid Foreclosure,” or call the HOPE Hotline: 888-995-HOPE (4673). The HOPE Hotline provides free comprehensive telephone counseling to help you avoid foreclosure. You can contact the hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week and receive help in over 170 languages. For information on the organization that runs the HOPE Hotline, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, visit

You can seek assistance directly by contacting non-profit HUD-approved foreclosure counselors in your area. Another legitimate source of free assistance is Affordable Housing Centers of America (AHCOA). You can go to the website (click here) or call HELP hotline at 888-409-3557. For further information, see Affordable Housing Centers of America (AHCOA).

CredAbility is another non-profit organization approved by HUD that offers you the help of a trained housing counselor for free, either online or by phone via the HOPE hotline. Visit CredAbility to start an online session with a housing counselor and to learn more about these options.

Click here for a list of HUD-approved housing counselors nationwide. 

You can also locate HUD-certified non-profit housing counseling services—at no charge—in your state by visiting the HUD website. Click on your state to find a counseling agency near you.

When you speak to a housing counselor, take the time to prepare the information needed to help you remain in your home. Be prepared to explain your situation and make sure to have the following documents available:

  • Your monthly mortgage statement
  • Account balances and minimum monthly payments due on all of your credit cards
  • Your most recent income tax return
  • Your monthly gross (before tax) income for your household (This includes recent pay stubs and/or documentation of income you receive from other sources.)
  • Information about your savings and other assets
  • Information about other debts (for example, student loans or car loans)
  • Information about a second mortgage or home equity loan
  • A letter in which you explain the circumstances that caused your income to be reduced or expenses to increase (job loss, divorce, illness etc.)

Questions you can ask your housing counselor:

If you are just getting started, ask:

  1. How do I find out who owns my mortgage? Who is my lender?
  2. How do I know if I am eligible for a mortgage modification? Refinance? Forbearance? Principal reduction? (terms defined below)
  3. What is the deadline for a foreclosure sale to take place?

Terms to Know, Questions to Ask

Mortgage modification: change in the terms of your mortgage (home loan) which could include refinancing your loan, reducing your interest rate, extending the term of your loan (for example, from 30 to 40 years) or forgiving penalty and other fees

Refinance: replacing an existing loan with a new, more affordable loan

Forbearance: postponing current mortgage payments (They are typically tacked on to the end of the loan.)

Principal reduction: when a bank reduces the original balance or the original amount borrowed (the principal) on your mortgage

Questions to ask your housing counselor:
If you have already applied for a mortgage modification, ask the counselor:

1. For a loan modified under HAMP (the Home Affordable Modification Program), how long after I receive a temporary HAMP modification should I expect to wait to receive a permanent modification? (Also see Making Home Affordable: Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).)

  • Temporary modfication: HAMP offers a temporary modification for a three-month trial period. If payments are made on time during the trial period, homeowners should be informed that they are qualified for a “permanent” modification. However, this is not an automatic process. Long delays and even

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Consumer Action Housing Help
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Filed Under

Foreclosure   ♦   Housing   ♦  


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