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Home Affordability Mortgage Program to end soon

There's the good news and the bad news about home ownership in Minnesota.

The good news is that the national mortgage meltdown of 2008 seems to be in the past, with a new market of Twin Cities home buyers in 2015 reaching a 10-year high. The other side of the coin is there still are homeowners struggling to keep up, as well as more than 5,400 foreclosed homes in Minnesota listed for sale at internet realty sites. Lutheran Social Service Financial Counseling wants to alert homeowners one of the main tools for help will soon be unavailable.

"The Home Affordability Mortgage Program is a really special tool to help people get their mortgage back on track," says Sandi Kleist, program manager for LSS Financial Counseling, in a news release. "There are so many reasons why people can get behind on housing costs, from job loss or reduction in hours to disability, divorce and new medical expenses—but with help, those problems don't automatically need to mean losing your house."

Not all mortgage companies participate in the mortgage program, and there is no guarantee an application for HAMP will be approved. But if a mortgage originated before 2009, the mortgage payment is more than 31 percent of gross household income and payments are late by 60 days or are in danger of becoming delinquent, the Home Affordability Mortgage Program could be the answer, the release stated.

The program can modify existing loans by any of these changes:

• Reduction on the interest rate to as low as 2 percent.

• Extension of the loan term of up to 40 years.

• Rolling any delinquent payments and fees into the loan to bring it current.

• Incentives paid to homeowners to keep loans in good standing with on-time payments

The deadline for Home Affordability Mortgage Program applications is Dec. 30, 2016. Darryl Dahlheimer, program director for LSS Financial Services, encourages every homeowner who needs help and might qualify for this modification to act now.

"Don't get scammed by these 'foreclosure rescue' services that charge fees to help you or push you into short sales or bankruptcy filings," Dahlheimer said in the release. "There is free, expert help from HUD-certified nonprofit housing counselors. And the earlier you seek help, the more good options you have."

Lutheran Social Service Financial Counseling serves all homeowners with free and confidential foreclosure prevention counseling, offering in-person help at 10 offices statewide as well as phone counseling. To get started, visit www.ConquerYourDebt.org or call LSS at 1-888-577-2227.

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