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Borrowers Find Holistic Financial Advice Through Post-Mod Counseling

More than 11,000 homeowners have participated in ""Fannie Mae's"":http://www.fanniemae.com/portal/index.html post-modification counseling since 2011, according to a recent blog post on ""Fannie Mae's Housing Industry Forum"":http://housingindustryforum.com/content/post-mod-counseling-gets-heart-matter website.

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Recognizing that many homeowners continue to struggle with their finances after receiving loan modifications, Fannie Mae developed the post-modification counseling program to take a holistic approach to individual finances and set borrowers on a sustainable path.

""The industry is starting to look at a homeowner's entire financial picture, not just their mortgage,"" said Fannie Mae's Joe Weisbord, director of foreclosure prevention, according to the blog post.

""We can put someone in a position to have success with their mortgage, but if they have insufficient income or excessive non-housing debt, they are ultimately not going to succeed,"" he said.

About 47 percent of borrowers said they were open to financial counseling, according to a survey conducted by Fannie Mae's National Servicing Organization.

Consisting of four sessions and a host of online tools, the post-mod counseling program offers borrowers who receive loan modifications 12 months of counseling to help them create a viable budget, reduce household debt, and gain a strong financial footing.

The program is free, and homeowners may drop out at any time, but according to Fannie Mae, ""once clients become involved, they typically stick with it.""

Fannie Mae introduced a small test program in 2010 before releasing the program more broadly in 2011.

While many homeowners are still navigating the program, Fannie Mae has found that between 75 and 80 percent of those who complete the first counseling session go on to the next session, Bob Kantor, director of foreclosure prevention and counseling at Fannie Mae told _DS News._

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The numbers are preliminary findings, but the general sentiment is that once enrolled in the program, homeowners are taking advantage of its offerings, which include counseling by phone and Web-based tools.

""We think it's a good thing, and we're seeing good performance,"" he said.

The post-modification program is currently available through 18 servicers, according to Fannie Mae, and servicers are continuing to enroll. In fact, the 18th servicer joined the program Wednesday, according to a Fannie Mae representative.

Servicers offering Fannie Mae's post-modification counseling include:

• Ally/Ocwen
• Bank of America
• Capital One
• Citi
• Green Tree Servicing
• Homeward Residential
• JPMorgan Chase
• Loan Care Servicing
• Nationstar
• OneWest Bank
• PHH Mortgage
• PNC Bank
• RBS
• Regions Bank
• Seterus
• SunTrust
• US Bank
• Wells Fargo

""It is a true partnership we have with our servicers,"" Kantor said, according to the Housing Industry Forum. ""The servicers who are participating see the benefit of counseling because we are educating the borrower for long-term success.""

Servicers participating in the program must present Fannie Mae with an inclusion file of all participating homeowners. They must also send a letter to all homeowners entering trial modifications to inform them about the program and let them know the next steps for enrollment.

As servicers implement the GSEs' single point of contact (SPOC) guidelines, Kantor says he will ""want SPOCs to get more involved because they have developed some trust"" with homeowners. SPOCs will likely be responsible for introducing the program and connecting homeowners to counselors.

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