Celebrating Homeownership Month by helping homeowners

Homeownership is the foundation for today, tomorrow and the future.

Just ask homeowners in California, who enjoy their own piece of the American dream – in Golden State style. Backyard barbecues, binge-watching on the couch, cooking gourmet meals in the kitchen or planting flowers and veggies in the garden are just some of the fun of homeownership.

But homeownership is much more than burgers on the grill or bulbs in the ground.

June is National Homeownership Month, when federal and state agencies, lenders and real estate agents educate and encourage home-shoppers to become homeowners. Homeownership is critical for building strong communities (property tax is the largest revenue source for the State of California), creating jobs, energizing the economy – and is often a good investment for homeowners over time.

More than 1.1 million foreclosures past decade in California

Keep Your Home California has helped more than 73,000 homeowners stay in their homes, avoid foreclosure, escape negative equity, and get back on their financial feet. The free mortgage-assistance program has allowed these families to continue enjoying the benefits of homeownership.

If these families would have lost their homes, it would have been devastating financially and emotionally. For most of these homeowners, it would take several years before they would have been eligible for a mortgage, if they could even come up with the necessary down payment, which has become increasingly difficult as home prices increase in the state.

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Currently, only one of three families can afford the median-priced home in California, compared to almost 50% in first-quarter 2012. The dramatic decline has taken place in less than five years, according to the California Association of Realtors (CAR).

Being forced to move from a home – either from a foreclosure, deed-in-lieu of foreclosure or short sale – has an emotional effect on homeowners and their families, especially if their children are attending local schools.

More than 1.1 million California homeowners – or the equivalent of everyone in San Jose, the third-largest city in the state –lost their homes during the foreclosure crisis of 2006-2016, according to CoreLogic. In fact, California had 193,000 foreclosed properties in October 2009, or more in that month than 40 other states for the entire past decade.

Homeownership is often a good long-term investment in Golden State

Despite the dark days of the past, many Californians embrace and enjoy homeownership, while many renters dream about becoming homeowners.

“After all we’ve been through, homeownership remains an American value and the cornerstone of our economy,” said U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson in a news release on National Homeownership Month. “Today, we recognize the abiding value of owning a home and rededicate ourselves toward ensuring that every hardworking and credit-worthy American enjoys a fair chance at becoming a homeowner.”

Of course, becoming a homeowner is not easy for most Californians, but it’s often a good investment. Fortunately, there are programs available to help potential homebuyers, such as the loan programs offered by the California Housing Finance Agency.

The state’s current median-home price is almost $537,000, the highest level since August 2007. That’s more than double the price in less than eight years.

California Home Prices 1976-2016

The state’s median home price has increased 18 of the past 20 years, though the drops were dramatic at 38% in 2008 and 21% in 2009, thanks to the Great Recession. And there have only been nine down years since 1969, with only two years of price drops of more than 5% (yep, 2008 and 2009).

Hardships hurt everyone, from neighborhoods to state budget

California homeownership, as you can see, has been a good investment. As such, it is important to help existing homeowners remain in their homes to protect that investment – especially in California’s still recovering economy.

Many homeowners were affected by the Great Recession and some areas are still struggling, especially in the Central Valley, High Desert and Northern California. Less than 4% of the homes in Bakersfield, Fresno and the Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino counties) have passed their peak price, meaning many homeowners have underwater mortgages, according to a Trulia report.

And almost 281,500 homeowners in California had negative equity during the first quarter of 2017 and owe more than the current value of their home, according to a new CoreLogic report.

Some of these homeowners are dealing with a hardship – such as a job loss, cut in pay, divorce, death in the family, extraordinary medical expenses or even an unaffordable or underwater mortgage (or both) – and could apply for Keep Your Home California.

The federally funded, state-managed program helps homeowners with what is often their largest investment, ensures stability for their families and neighborhoods, and even protects funding for local governments and the state.

A recent economic impact report found that Keep Your Home California preserved $2.5 billion in economic activity statewide, from property and sales-tax revenue to jobs. Basically, for every dollar the federally funded program issued, $2 of economic activity was preserved.

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Keep Your Home California is committed to helping low- to moderate-income homeowners to remain in their homes. Homeowners must have a financial hardship, such as a job loss, cut in pay, divorce, death in the family or extraordinary medical expenses in order to qualify for assistance.

In addition to the financial hardship, homeowners must meet county-by-county income requirements and their mortgage servicer – the company that collects the monthly payment – needs to participate in Keep Your Home California.

Homeowners interested in learning more or applying for the program should call the counseling center at 888-954-KEEP (5337) or visit www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org or www.ConservaTuCasaCalifornia.org for Spanish speakers. The counseling center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Calls can be taken in virtually any language through a free translation service.


I Fell Behind on My Mortgage: How Will This Hurt My Credit?

Editor’s note: Beth Kotz with Credit.com has provided a special blog to explain the effects mortgage delinquency and loss mitigation have on credit.

By Beth Kotz

As a homeowner, your mortgage and your credit rating are inextricably linked. To make sure you maintain solid credit, the best thing you can do is make your mortgage payments on time each month.

Mortgages have a major impact on your credit rating and even have their own category on a credit report.

So if you’ve hit some financial bumps in the road and are unable to make your next payment, be aware that falling behind does have consequences. While one isolated incident won’t set you back too far, if you’re unable to pay for longer you should know how this will impact your credit and what impact loss mitigation options can have on your rating as well.

Delinquent Mortgage Payments and Your Credit

Mortgage contracts typically include a grace period. If you make a payment just a few days after the due date, it will likely fall within this period. The lender still counts the payment as being on time, so there is no negative effect on your credit. Grace periods are usually 10 to 15 days.

If you miss the due date and the grace period, a mortgage payment will be considered late. According to  Sarah Davies, Sr. VP, Analytics, Product Management and Research with VantageScore, “Becoming 30 days delinquent on a mortgage loan can cause even a high credit quality consumers’ credit score to decline by as many as 100 points.”

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Your lender will report the delinquency to credit reporting agencies. It will appear on your credit report as a “Late 30” note. If you make the payment within 30 days, this note will go away after the next reporting period, and will not cause lasting damage to your credit score.

When mortgage payments are more than 30 days late, however, or when a consumer is repeatedly late making payments, the adverse effects on credit are more serious. Paying your mortgage 90 days late or more will damage your credit score for up to seven years.

If you fall more than 120 days behind on your mortgage, the lender normally considers you in default. You will receive a “Notice of Default” (NOD). A NOD is the first formal action a lender takes in a process leading to foreclosure. Because a NOD is a public document, it will be noted on your credit record and can also cost you in the form of late fees and higher interest rates. However, it is not as damaging as a foreclosure.

When a consumer falls too far behind, the lender can foreclose on the home. If you lose your home to foreclosure, or if you give it back to the lender via a deed in lieu of foreclosure, your credit score will drop by approximately 250 to 280 points. Restoring your credit score to a place where you will be able to secure a new mortgage with a lower interest rate and better terms will take about three years of on-time, consistent payments.

However, foreclosure proceedings typically take months or years and you can still try to work out an arrangement with the lender. If you take the initiative to stay in touch and find an option that will work, most lenders will work with you.

Loss Mitigation and Your Credit

Loss mitigation is a “catch-all” term that refers to any option that will help a homeowner who is behind on a mortgage to get caught up. There are several such options, and they have varying effects on credit.

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If you realize you are faced with a financial problem such as job loss or unexpected medical bills, you can ask your lender for a forbearance. You may need to act immediately as lenders may not grant a forbearance if you are already seriously delinquent on your mortgage. Under a forbearance agreement, you make smaller payments or no payments at all for a period of time. After you resume regular payments, you will also need to make up the payment amount that was skipped during the forbearance. The good news is that a forbearance will not negatively affect your credit.

Another option you may have is a loan modification. Essentially, loan modifications are permanently restructured mortgage contracts. The key feature of a loan modification is that it requires the lender to list the debt as current or paid in full with credit reporting agencies as long as you comply with the loan modification requirements. You should beware loan modifications that don’t present rigorous qualification guidelines as they can actually be debt settlement arrangements – which will hurt your credit.

Loan modifications endorsed by the U.S. government – like the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) – will not impact your credit. If you continue to meet the requirements of the loan modification program, the mortgage will continue to be reported as current and paid in full. Government assistance benefits are not reported to credit bureaus. As such, applying with Keep Your Home California will not affect your credit score.

If you’ve fallen behind on your mortgage, remember that the situation isn’t hopeless. The worst thing you can do is ignore the problem and wait for it to disappear. Be proactive, educate yourself about loss mitigation assistance and contact your lender right away. If you live in California, a great first step is to contact Keep Your Home California to see whether you might qualify for assistance.

Remember, the bank or other mortgage provider does not want your home. Foreclosure is an expensive last resort for the lender. If you take the initiative to keep in touch and do your best to work out an agreement that will bring your account up to date, it will minimize any harm to your credit.

559520_1767301903269_1946830701_n (1)Beth Kotz is a contributing writer to Credit.com. She specializes in covering financial advice for female entrepreneurs, college students and recent graduates. She earned a BA in Communications and Media from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, where she continues to live and work.

 


Homeowners can now upload documents when applying to Keep Your Home California

Collect, convert (if necessary) and click “upload.”

It’s now that easy to submit documents for your Keep Your Home California application.

Keep Your Home California recently established a document upload system, providing homeowners with the ability to send the necessary paperwork, such as bank statements and mortgage documents, through a secure website.

It’s a big change for the free mortgage-assistance program, which has accepted documents from homeowners by fax or mail since starting in February 2011.

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Under the new document upload service, homeowners can send in PDF documents on a secure website. In fact, each applicant will have a unique website address. Data security is of the utmost importance to Keep Your Home California and this new system provides a secure, yet user-friendly option for homeowners to return necessary paperwork.

Additional information, including easy-to-follow upload instructions, are included with the application package that Keep Your Home California provides to all homeowners once they have completed their counseling session and are found conditionally eligible.

Homeowners, even those who aren’t “tech-savvy,” should find the new upload service easy to use.

Perhaps the most technologically demanding aspect of the new service for homeowners is ensuring their documents are saved in the PDF format. Many financial documents are already saved as PDFs. However, if your documents are saved in another format, don’t worry. Converting documents into a PDF is easy.

If your document is in Microsoft Word format, just open the document and go to the “Home” tab and in the upper left corner of the page click on the Office icon. Scroll down to “Save As” and then hit “PDF or XPS” on the right. The original document will be copied and converted into a PDF.

If the homeowner only has hard copies of some or all of their documents, they can scan and save their documents in PDF format.

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It’s probably best to save the PDF version on the computer desktop for easy reference. You may also want to create a folder on the desktop where you save all Keep Your Home California-related documents.

An alternative way is to visit one of the many websites that convert documents into PDFs – for free. You upload the document and the website does the rest.

Of course, homeowners still have the option to fax or mail in the necessary paperwork.

  • If homeowners fax documents, they must use the document cover sheet and fax the paperwork to the fax number provided in their application package. If they do not use the cover sheet, the documents may get lost and the processing of their file may be delayed.
  • Regular mail and express mail documents should be sent to: Keep Your Home California, P.O. Box 5678, Riverside, CA 92517. Please do not send original copies or double-sided copies.

Also, homeowners can apply for Keep Your Home California through the dozens of partner housing counseling agencies in the state, which offer face-to-face counseling services at no cost to the homeowner. The certified counselors at these nonprofit agencies can assist homeowners throughout the application process and their services are completely free for homeowners.

Uploading documents is fast and easy, but the only way to ensure a quicker response from Keep Your Home California is to make sure all required documentation (including all pages of each required document) has been sent in and the homeowner’s package is complete.

As of the latest quarterly report (fourth quarter 2016), the median processing time for Keep Your Home California was 50 days. In general, the Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program has the shortest application process, while the Principal Reduction Program often takes the most time.

Keep Your Home California has assisted more than 72,000 homeowners with approximately $1.7 billion in funding.

In order to apply, homeowners must have a financial hardship, such as a job loss, cut in pay, divorce, death in the family or extraordinary medical expenses.

In addition to the financial hardship, homeowners must meet county-by-county income requirements and their mortgage servicer – the company that collects the monthly payment – needs to participate in Keep Your Home California.

Homeowners interested in learning more or applying for the program should call the counseling center at 888-954-KEEP (5337) or visit www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org or www.ConservaTuCasaCalifornia.org for Spanish speakers. The counseling center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Calls can be taken in virtually any language through a free translation service.

Photos courtesy of the artists of Unsplash.


More than 10,000 homeowners helped in 2016

Keep Your Home California recently closed the books on another strong and successful year, assisting more than 10,000 homeowners from Calexico to Crescent City – and just about every community in between.

The federally funded program has become much-appreciated by homeowners, helping them through difficult and stressful chapters of their lives. Many homeowners dealing with hardships – such as a job loss, pay cut, a divorce, a death in the family or even extraordinary medical bills – are helped by the free mortgage-assistance program.

Vinh L

“The support is a big financial relief,” says homeowner Vinh L., who benefited from the Principal  Reduction Program through Keep Your Home California that saves his family almost $400 per month. “We were in huge financial distress.”

 

And that’s the mission of Keep Your Home California, which has issued more than twice as much funding to homeowners than any other state in the Hardest Hit Fund program.

Even with an improved economy and housing market, there are still many homeowners who need help. For example, there are an estimated 400,000 out-of-work homeowners in the state. About 310,000 California homeowners with a mortgage are considered underwater.

Keep Your Home California is definitely needed and continued to help at an impressive pace in 2016. Homeowners who were helped by the state-managed program received more money, on average, than previous years.

In 2016, Keep Your Home California assisted 10,262 homeowners with a total of $342.2 million in funding, the second best year in terms of the amount of assistance provided to homeowners. Last year’s funding was down slightly compared to 2015, when 11,173 homeowners received a total of $352 million.

The average homeowner received a record $33,346 in 2016, almost $1,850 more than in 2015 – and $8,359 more than 2014. A boost in Principal Reduction program recipients, where homeowners can receive as much as $100,000, accounted for the increase.

KYHC Funding Comparison

Clearly, there still are many homeowners who need help in the state. Whether it’s catching up on past-due mortgage payments or seeking assistance for an unaffordable or underwater mortgage, Keep Your Home California has a program to help.

The Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program remains the most utilized, helping 5,699 homeowners in 2016. The average assistance was $26,594 – almost $2,300 more than a year earlier.

The Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program offers as much as $3,000 per month for up to 18 months – or a total of $54,000 – to help out-of-work homeowners eligible for jobless benefits from the state Employment Development Department. The program allows homeowners to focus on finding a job rather than worry about their mortgage payments for a while.

The Principal Reduction Program is the largest of the five programs based on funding issued — $154.8 million in 2016. The average homeowner approved for principal reduction received about $62,390. The program provides a maximum of $100,000 in mortgage assistance.

FamilyinFrontofHouse

Of course, the now 6-year-old program also has an economic impact on nearby homeowners, the surrounding communities, and even property and sales-tax revenue.

An economic impact report conducted by Dr. Joseph C. Von Nessen, a Research Economist at the University of South Carolina, Darla Moore School of Business, determined that for every $1 issued to help homeowners through Keep Your Home California, $2 of economic activity was preserved within the state’s economy.

Another highlight from the report, found that Keep Your Home California preserved a total of $2.5 billion of economic activity by preserving jobs, tax revenue and property values of nearby homeowners across the state.

A few other highlights from 2016:

  • Keep Your Home California received an additional $383.3 million in funding from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The dollars will allow Keep Your Home California to help at least another 12,000 homeowners. The program sunset date was also extended to December 31 2020, or until all of the money is issued to homeowners, whichever comes first.
  • Added 30 new mortgage servicers to the program. Almost 270 mortgage servicers – including Bank of America and Wells Fargo – currently participate in the program.
  • Developed six homeowner stories for online and TV commercials in English and Spanish. If you haven’t seen them, they are available on the Keep Your Home California website.

Keep Your Home California has assisted more than 71,000 homeowners with approximately $1.7 billion in funding.

As always, we encourage more low to moderate income homeowners to apply for Keep Your Home California.

In order to apply, homeowners must have a financial hardship, such as a job loss, cut in pay, divorce, death in the family or extraordinary medical expenses.

In addition to the financial hardship, homeowners must meet county-by-county income requirements and their mortgage servicer – the company that collects the monthly payment – needs to participate in Keep Your Home California.

Homeowners interested in learning more or applying for the program should call the counseling center at 888-954-KEEP (5337) or visit www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org or www.ConservaTuCasaCalifornia.org for Spanish speakers. The counseling center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Calls can be taken in virtually any language through a free translation service.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Financial literacy, planning key to your financial future

April is National Financial Literacy Month, and it’s the perfect time to plant the seeds for long-term financial success.

Spring is about April showers that bring May flowers, preparing flowerbeds and gardens for new growth, and tossing out those never-used things as part of spring cleaning. Spring brings new hope – and new life.

Another reason why April is an excellent time to button down and get serious on establishing a financial plan? Chances are you recently filed your tax return. Whether you cheered a refund or jeered owing taxes, an effective financial plan can make dealing with Uncle Sam a bit easier – and possibly more rewarding.

As is the annual tradition, Governor Jerry Brown designated the month of April as California Financial Literacy Month and The California Department of Business Oversight has once again put together a tremendous webpage to highlight the multitude of financial resources available to Californians.

Financial Literacy Month encourages consumers to learn more about financial tools and establish a financial plan. We want consumers to learn about important financial matters such as creating and managing a budget, paying down debt while saving for emergencies, and establishing achievable financial goals, from building a college fund for your children to a retirement plan for you. Of course, if you’re already making use of these financial tools, you are steps ahead of most people.

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About three of every four consumers live paycheck to paycheck. It would be great to see consumers lower that percentage – and having the appropriate financial literacy resources available is a great place to start. Plus, a few dollars saved today could definitely help if a financial storm hits in the future.

Here are five basic steps that will help you build a better financial foundation.

  • Make a commitment: Consider how you view – and spend – money. Be honest, are you a spend-every-dollar consumer or do you spend wisely?
  • Assess your financial situation: List your assets – house, savings, retirement plans, etc. – and your monthly spending. How can you save more and spend less?
  • Get organized: Make sure you are aware of all of your finance-related accounts and situations, from every credit card and their balances to the homeowner or renter’s insurance policy. Develop a financial organization system (the pile on the kitchen counter doesn’t count).
  • Establish priorities: Understand your needs (food, housing) and wants (cashmere sweater, weeklong cruise to the Bahamas). Also think about what you are working and saving for: A house, college for the kids, retirement (even if it’s decades away). It is never too early to start saving for college and/or retirement, they come fast.
  • Live on a budget: Spend a month tracking your spending, save every receipt. Then, establish a monthly budget to determine what you need – and what you can live without. Passing on the cashmere sweater every so often and saving those dollars can help you reach your long-term goals and be better prepared for a financial emergency (car repair, medical bills, a home plumbing problem, an unplanned trip for a family emergency).

There are many excellent books about financial planning and numerous online resources, including many of our partner housing counseling agencies, that will help with the five steps listed above and so much more. Also, many banks and credit unions offer financial planning resources and services.

We encourage everyone to take full advantage of Financial Literacy Month and establish a financial plan for long-term success.

We also understand that even with the best financial plan in place, hardships happen. A job loss, cut in pay, a death in the family, divorce or even extraordinary medical bills are hard to prepare for and recover from financially.

If you’re facing that situation, please consider Keep Your Home California. The free mortgage-assistance program offers as much as $100,000 to help hard-hit homeowners with their payments. The federally funded program has helped more than 71,000 homeowners through March 2017.

In addition to a financial hardship, homeowners must meet county-by-county income requirements and their mortgage servicer – the company that collects the monthly payment – must participate in Keep Your Home California. More than 260 servicers, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, are enrolled in the program.

Homeowners interested in learning more or applying for the program should call the counseling center at 888-954-KEEP (5337) or find more information at www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org or www.ConservaTuCasaCalifornia.org for Spanish speakers. The counseling center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Calls can be taken in virtually any language through a free translation service.

 

 


Outreach and collaboration key to helping homeowners

Editor’s note: Wells Fargo has provided a special guest blog to reiterate the importance of collaboration in foreclosure prevention efforts and to detail an upcoming event where homeowners can get assistance.

wells fargo

By Martin Sanchez, Vice President of Wells Fargo Mortgage Market Outreach

California’s economic recovery continues to show encouraging signs and while the state’s foreclosure rate is among the lowest in the country, there are still many struggling homeowners in the Golden State.

That’s why at Wells Fargo we believe in collaboration with credit counselors such as BALANCE and programs like Keep Your Home California (KYHC) are essential to providing solutions to help struggling homeowners identify resources to stay in their home.

For instance, on April 5, we are joining BALANCE and the KYHC program to host a Home Preservation Workshop in Antioch, California to assist Wells Fargo homeowners facing payment challenges.  At the Home Preservation Workshop, homeowners will have the opportunity to meet face to face with housing counselors and Wells Fargo to learn about options that may help you overcome payment challenges including:

  • Understand how you may be able to keep your home and avoid foreclosure,
  • Find out ways to help you get back on track with your mortgage payments,
  • Determine your KYHC eligibility to accept the offer of assistance
  • Connect with helpful resources such as housing counselors, and
  • Learn about online tools available to you.

We have learned when we are able to work with customers we are often successful in helping them identify a solution to avoid foreclosure. We are not alone in our efforts and our collaboration with trusted nonprofits such as HUD-approved counselors and programs like Keep Your Home California makes all the difference for assisting homeowners who are coping with very real and life-changing struggles such as job loss, underemployment, health issues, divorce and  even having negative equity on your home.

Such challenges may feel insurmountable for homeowners to manage on their own.  Or even worse, homeowners can be victimized by unscrupulous mortgage modification scammers that create false-promises of modifications with a fee of hundreds and even thousands of dollars.  As time passes, a homeowner’s difficult circumstances may become dire and opportunities to provide solutions to help keep them in their home while workout options fade away.

Call your lender or a HUD-approved counselor

My advice to homeowners is if you are facing financial difficulties, the most important action you can take is to contact your lender or a trusted HUD-approved credit counselor.  That’s why the work of trusted HUD-approved nonprofits such as BALANCE and Keep Your Home California is so vital for homeowners and our country’s housing recovery. At Wells Fargo, this kind of collaboration is invaluable to assist the homeowners.

My view is the work of trusted HUD-approved counselor does for homeowners is an important complement to mortgage servicers like Wells Fargo.  And even as we see signs the housing market is improving, Wells Fargo believes supporting the work of HUD-approved housing and credit counselors is the right thing to do.

Event Information

Home Preservation Workshop hosted by BALANCE with Keep Your Home California and Wells Fargo.

When: Wednesday, April 5

Time:   9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Where:  Wells Fargo Branch

Somersville Town Center

2601 Somersville Road

Antioch, California, 94509

To register online go to http://www.wellsfargo.com/attend;  And for more information, call 1-866-790-3276.


Goodbye HAMP, hello Keep Your Home California

While many Americans cheered, made soon-to-be broken resolutions, raised a glass for a celebratory toast, or sang Auld Lang Syne to ring in 2017, a popular and successful federal mortgage-assistance program essentially ended with little ceremony on New Year’s Eve.

The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) started in February 2009, at the height of the foreclosure crisis. Since then, the Making Home Affordable-managed program has assisted more than 2 million Americans struggling financially and faced with the very real possibility of losing their homes.

But as HAMP fades away, Keep Your Home California and its Principal Reduction Program will continue to help homeowners in the state faced with financial hardships and hard-to-make mortgage payments through 2020, or until all the funding is used, whichever comes first.

Keep Your Home California, also federally funded, shares the mission of helping homeowners to remain in their homes. There are five unique programs that make up Keep Your Home California, designed to address the different circumstances homeowners face that could lead to foreclosure.

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Like HAMP, Keep Your Home California requires homeowners to have suffered a hardship, such as a job loss, cut in pay, reduced hours, divorce, a death in the family or extraordinary medical bills.

HAMP helped homeowners with their mortgages by extending terms, adjusting mortgage rates, and reducing or temporarily deferring principal payments.

Keep Your Home California’s Principal Reduction Program offers different, but comparable benefits for homeowners. The Principal Reduction Program provides as much as $100,000 in assistance to reduce a homeowner’s outstanding principal balance. The lower principal balance is then recast, with no changes to the rate or term of the loan, often resulting in lower monthly mortgage payments. In the fourth quarter of 2016, the median monthly payment was reduced by $258 after Principal Reduction Program assistance was provided.

The Principal Reduction Program can also help homeowners solve for affordability, regardless of their equity position. If a homeowner’s monthly payment becomes unaffordable due to a financial hardship, they can qualify to have their principal balance reduced to a level that will result in an affordable monthly payment based on their income.

Keep Your Home California will continue to offer the Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance Program – allowing homeowners to catch-up on their past-due mortgage payments, up to $54,000. It also offers the Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program which provides as much as $3,000 per month for up to 18 months – or a maximum of $54,000 – to out-of-work homeowners eligible for jobless benefits from the California Employment Development Department.

Homeowners who planned to apply for HAMP, but failed to make deadline of Dec. 31, 2016, should consider Keep Your Home California’s Principal Reduction Program, or another Keep Your Home California program that can help them in their situation. The state-managed program is completely free, from the first phone call to the mortgage assistance, whether it’s a few thousand dollars or up to the maximum of $100,000.

In addition to a financial hardship, homeowners must meet county-by-county income requirements and their mortgage servicer – the company that collects the monthly payment – must participate in Keep Your Home California. More than 250 servicers, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, are enrolled in the program.

Homeowners interested in learning more or applying for the program should call the counseling center at 888-954-KEEP (5337) or find more information at www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org or www.ConservaTuCasaCalifornia.org for Spanish speakers. The counseling center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Calls can be taken in virtually any language through a free translation service.