Mortgage Modification

In recent years, banks on their own (and as the result of lawsuit settlements and government regulations) have been accommodating borrowers with loan modifications designed to cure existing defaults and provide affordable mortgage payment plans. In particular circumstances, a loss mitigation solution can be the best course of action. A borrower threatened with foreclosure should contact its lender and attempt to work out a modification or repayment plan in order to avoid the additional costs and consequences of foreclosure.

In this regard, knowing who owns your mortgage can be very helpful. Unfortunately, finding out is not as easy as it sounds. You should be able to call the phone number on your last mortgage statement or the number in your payment coupon book and connect directly with your lender. More often than not, this merely puts you in touch with the servicer – the business that collects and processes your payments. In some cases, the servicer is prohibited from divulging the true identity of your lender. In other cases, the person you are dealing with has no idea who your lender is.

Mortgages are often repackaged into mortgage backed securities (MBS’s) that are sold and traded on Wall Street. Many investors subscribe to an automated system called MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System) that keeps track of who owns the mortgage and note as it changes hands among investors, as well as who services it for that investor. MERS can provide another level of anonymity to the process. On many mortgages, the mortgagee (the party that was granted the mortgage) is listed only as MOM (MERS as Original Mortgagee). No, that doesn’t mean you can call your mom to find out who owns your mortgage note. It means you have to try to look it up in the MERS registry. Customers trying to look up the investor on the MERS registry will not find it. MERS makes the name and contact information of the servicer available, but not the name and contact of the investor. That information is for the servicer or investor to disclose, not MERS.

To add to the confusion, the mortgage meltdown sank many banks and other lending institutions which were taken over by other banks or regulators.

Some tips for obtaining the name of your underlying lender and determining whether any loss mitigation programs exist:

1. Call the telephone number on your most recent mortgage statement or your payment coupon book. This will put you in touch with the servicer who may also be the lender who owns your mortgage or at least be able to tell you the name of your lender. (Remember, the person may not know or may not be permitted to tell you.)

2. If you have an FHA loan, contact FHA’s National Servicing Center to determine who owns your mortgage:

(800) CALL- FHA / 1-800-225-5342
Department of Housing and Urban Development National Servicing Center 301 NW 6th Street, Suite 200 Oklahoma City, OK 73102.

3. You can try to contact Fannie Mae. If they own the note, they may provide the identity of the investor: 1-800-7FANNIE (1-800-732-6643).

4. If the mortgage is listed as MOM or has a MIN (Mortgage Identification Number) assigned to it, you can search the MERS database by mortgage identification number (MIN), your name and social security number, or the property’s address. Dial the toll-free MERS Servicer Identification System at 1-888-679-6377 (an automated touch-tone system) or search online .

5. If you know the name of the bank or other lending institution that owns your mortgage but have no contact information for them, check out “Hope Now.”

One of the most important steps to saving your home from foreclosure is to get in touch with your lender immediately. Better yet, hire a qualified attorney with experience in foreclosures and loan modifications to contact your lender on your behalf, so you have legal representation on your side. I can guarantee that your lender has an attorney reviewing the paperwork. You should have one to watch your back too.