When homeowners can't make their payments and want some sort of home loan workout, "they really need to go to a counselor, because then they will be represented," says Michelle Lewis, president of Northwest Counseling Service in Philadelphia.
When a mortgage servicer denies a loan modification or other type of workout, or when the servicer's offer of relief is insufficient, a counselor can make a counteroffer.
A counteroffer should be viewed as a "challenge," says James Jones, director of foreclosure prevention advocacy for ESOP, or Empowering and Strengthening Ohio's People, in Cleveland.
"When we look at a person's specific situation, we have a good idea of what they qualify for," Jones says. "If it does not look like the servicer is giving them the best deal, we do challenge. That's part of our process.
"In other words, what we're looking to do is get the best workable solution to the homeowner's problem. Challenging servicers -- we do it all the time, almost daily."
Counseling agencies often have direct phone and fax numbers they can use to cut through mortgage servicers' red tape. A good way of finding a HUD-certified housing counseling agency is to call the HOPE hot line at (888) 995-4673.