With friends like these: Homeowners not finding lenders very helpful

The New York Times profiles a woman in Mesa, Ariz., who is having a hard time making her mortgage payments since she lost her job as an executive assistant at a local university.

"Ms. Ulery is among that unhappy cohort -- her house is worth about $122,000, and she owes $143,000 -- but walking away is not for her."

Despite all the rhetoric, owners who are upside down on their mortgages and have not yet defaulted are caught in something of a netherworld, where lenders are not compelled to offer them a lower rate, but sooner or later, they are going to miss a payment or default on the loan.

Particularly if rates continue to rise, the situation is going to get worse and not better. The only thing that would help is if home prices start to go back up again, and that is not likely to happen if more people go into foreclosure due to unemployment.

When Ms. Ulery called her bank for help, they wanted her to put more money down and pay additional fees to change her rate. So she continues to make the payments as best she can, racking up credit card debt to cover her other expenses.

"A Treasury spokeswoman, Jenni Engebretsen, confirmed that homeowners like Ms. Ulery -- current on their mortgages yet grappling with a hardship like unemployment -- were eligible for loan modifications under the program. She said mortgage servicers had offered to modify more than 100,000 loans since the department announced the program."

"But how many loans have been modified? Ms. Engebretsen declined to say..."

Ms. Ulery's doctor has encouraged her not to find another job due to a stress-related illness, but you can imagine that she's not resting very well if she knows she's going to default on her mortgage in the near future.

One assumes she's going to have to get a job sooner or later, or start the foreclosure process, but she may not have any other options.

Brett Widness is an editor with AOL's real estate channel. Find homes for sale, foreclosures, home values, home finance and apartments at AOL Real Estate.
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