Struggling homeowners won't get much relief
Government programs so far have a dismal track record of delivering aid to homeowners who are unable to make their mortgage payment. Chances are this situation won't change much in 2011, due to the intractable nature of the problem.
Homeowners who are in financial difficulty or underwater on their loan should contact their loan servicer and ask about a loan modification, yet not get their hopes up too high, O'Toole suggests.
He says some borrowers have received "amazing" relief, such as a principal balance reduction to 90 percent of the home's current market value, plus a lowered interest rate. But those golden tickets are the exception. More often, the process results in frustration, disappointment and perhaps a temporary fix, at best, for the homeowner's situation.
There's no guarantee that you'll get a reasonable loan modification," O'Toole says, "but you might, so it's probably worth trying."