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Local foreclosure help for homeowners in need

More than 50,000 Marylanders were behind on their mortgage payments at last count in September. Homeownership advocates fear that even more will be this year, with thousands of adjustable-rate mortgages scheduled for their first resets to higher payments.

Worried that foreclosure could be in your future? You have places to turn for help.

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Contact your lender. Lenders are more open to working something out than they were even several months ago, whether that's freezing your interest rate or temporarily forgiving payments you missed. Ask for the loss-mitigation department.

Call a nonprofit housing counselor. They will act as a go-between and can have more luck getting to the right people. You can find a list of HUD-approved Maryland groups at www.hud.gov/foreclosure. Or call 888-995-HOPE.

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Inquire about a no-interest loan to get you current on your mortgage. The state of Maryland's new Bridge to HOPE program offers loans of up to $15,000 to qualifying homeowners with subprime or exotic loans. Go to mdhope.org for details, or call 877-462-7555. City residents could also qualify for a $5,000 loan from Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore. You'll need to be referred by a housing counselor.

Refinance. The state has a Lifeline refinancing program - details at dhcd.state.md.us/Lifeline - and there is also the federal FHASecure, www.hud.gov/news/fhasecure.cfm.

Sell. If you can't do so for at least as much as you owe, ask your lender if it would approve a "short sale" and forgive the difference.

Be wary of unsolicited offers of help. Foreclosure-rescue scammers are targeting homeowners.

Remember: Don't sit idly by, hoping things will improve or fretting that nothing can be done. There's hope if you don't delay.

Find Jamie's blog at baltimoresun.com/ realestatewonk


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