Keep Your Home California receives about 1,500 calls daily from financially struggling homeowners.
Each homeowner, from the empty-nesters in Eureka to the newlywed couple in Norco, has a financial hardship and a one-of-a-kind story. Sure, some of the details may be similar – such as a job loss, cut in pay, divorce or extraordinary medical bills – but none are the same.
As a result, applying for the mortgage-assistance program is far from a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all effort and requires communication, details, some documents – and, yes, even patience.
We want to share a few helpful tips that will make the application faster and improve the overall experience.
Before calling the counseling center, homeowners should check the list of mortgage servicers – the company that collects the monthly payment – participating in Keep Your Home California. More than 200 mortgage servicers, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase, are enrolled in the program. If your mortgage servicer is not on the list, then unfortunately you are not eligible for the program.
Homeowners should also visit the Keep Your Home California homepage and complete the short online questionnaire, which can help determine their eligibility – and the program that best fits their situation. Keep Your Home California is made up of four programs each designed to address different situations that face homeowners who may be at risk of foreclosure:
- Principal Reduction Program: Homeowners with negative equity could qualify for a maximum of $100,000 in principal reduction, which will also often cut their monthly mortgage payments. A mortgage with a loan-to-value ratio of 120% or greater is considered an eligible financial hardship for the program. Homeowners must also be able to make their mortgage payments going forward in order to be eligible for the program.
- Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program: Out-of-work homeowners collecting jobless benefits from the state Employment Development Department can receive as much as $3,000 per month in mortgage assistance for up to 18 months.
- Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance Program: Homeowners who are behind two months or more on their payments could receive as much as $25,000 to help them “catch up” on their past-due mortgage payments. To be eligible for the program, homeowners must have recovered from their financial hardship and be able to make their mortgage payments going forward.
- Transition Assistance Program: Homeowners who have reached an agreement with their mortgage servicer for a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure or a short sale could receive up to $5,000 in relocation assistance.
If your mortgage servicer is enrolled in the program and you’ve completed the online eligibility form with positive results, call the counseling center as soon as possible and learn more about Keep Your Home California.
Call the counseling center at 888-954-KEEP (5337) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Counselors are available in English and Spanish, and translators are available for free in virtually any language.
When you call, please be aware that applicants must complete a private counseling session, which takes about 45 minutes. All folks listed on the mortgage – such as a husband and wife – must be on the phone at the same time.
We strongly suggest you have a pad of paper and pen available during this counseling session, along with your mortgage loan number and most recent mortgage statement. Also, have your most recent wage or income information ready.
You should also be prepared to discuss your financial hardship – as mentioned above, a job loss, cut in pay, divorce, death in the family, extraordinary medical bills – a requirement for Keep Your Home California.
If you appear to be a good candidate for the program at the conclusion of the counseling session, you will be asked to fax or mail some documents to the center for review by Keep Your Home California and your mortgage servicer. Be prepared to send in proof of income – a W-2 or 1099 statement – bank statements, the mortgage payment statement and possibly additional documents.
Homeowners should send the documents as soon as possible to expedite the review process. Also, homeowners should return calls immediately when contacted by Keep Your Home California.
The review process can take 30 to 45 days and often longer for the Principal Reduction Program. The faster a homeowner can send in the documents and respond to questions, the quicker the review process – and the sooner for approval for the program.
Of course, not everyone who applies is approved for the program. But by following the advice above, you will improve your chances – and reduce the wait.