advice hub

A Step-by-Step Guide to Mortgage Relief Options

How Do I Get Help Paying My Mortgage?

Monthly mortgage payments are a significant financial commitment. An economic recession or job loss can turn the joys of homeownership into stress. If you need help making mortgage payments, here are some tips to get mortgage relief and avoid foreclosure.

Contact Your Mortgage Provider

The best thing you can do is call your mortgage provider. While it’s a difficult call to make, remember that mortgage advisors are humans too. The odds are they’ll work with you to find a solution that works for both parties.

Before you call, be ready to explain:

  • Why you cannot make your mortgage payment
  • Whether the problem is temporary or permanent
  • Details about your finances, including income, assets, and expenses

Most mortgage providers have a program to help clients avoid foreclosure. Your advisor may ask you to fill out a mortgage assistance application. Once they review your case, your advisor can walk you through different mortgage assistance options.

Call a HUD-Approved Counselor

Your next call should be to a housing counselor at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A counselor can discuss loss mitigation options if you’re having trouble paying your mortgage. That includes anything from forbearance to short-selling your home.

They can also direct you to nearly a dozen assistance programs. For instance, the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) lowers mortgage payments to 31 percent of your pre-tax income. HUD has additional resources to assist with budgeting, debt, and other financial issues.

Get Mortgage Assistance and Avoid Foreclosure


A loan modification is your best chance to avoid foreclosure. It lets you reduce monthly mortgage payments to an amount you can afford. Lenders may require you to extend the number of years or increase the interest rate as a tradeoff.

Make sure you understand the loan modification before agreeing to the terms. Most of the time, you get short-term relief but have to pay a little more in the long run. It can also negatively impact your credit score, though foreclosure causes more damage.


Refinancing replaces your current mortgage with a new one. You get to change the terms and make mortgage payments more manageable. If you're having trouble with ongoing payments, you should try increasing the term length.

One creative option is a cash-out refinance. In this case, the lender lets you withdraw money from your home to pay for outside expenses. This tactic is not possible using a loan modification.


Forbearance temporarily lowers or suspends your monthly mortgage payments. It’s similar to a loan modification but requires you to make a full payment at the end of the forbearance period. The payment includes the interest, principal, and other fees.

What if you could skip a payment and not worry about paying extra? That’s the thought behind United’s Skip-a-Pay program. Qualified homeowners can skip a mortgage payment once per year without worrying about denting their wallets later.


A mortgage repayment plan spreads out your payments over time. The goal is for you to make up missed payments incrementally. Most repayment plans last six to 12 months, though some last several years.


A short sale means selling your property for less than the value of the mortgage. It is an alternative to foreclosure, though hardly more appealing. A short sale means you have to leave the property and proceeds go to your mortgage provider.

After the sale, the mortgage provider has two options. First, they can forgive the homeowner. Second, they can issue a deficiency judgment. The second option requires a borrower to pay back the difference between the mortgage value and the home sale price.


You may qualify for mortgage assistance, depending on your provider. During the coronavirus pandemic, Fannie Mae offered relief to anyone with a mortgage loan. That included a one-year forbearance plan, late fee relief, and flexible repayment options.

Another path is emergency financial relief from non-profits, like the United Way and Salvation Army. These organizations have additional resources in case you need help finding healthcare, food, and employment. As a last resort, you can ask friends and family to cover your mortgage payment.

What to Do After Receiving Mortgage Relief

Congrats! You got the mortgage relief you wanted. Now it’s time to start moving forward.

In the weeks and months following loss mitigation, keep a close eye on your monthly mortgage statements and credit. Make sure there aren’t any errors. If you stop making mortgage payments without a repayment or forbearance plan in place, your lender will tell credit reporting agencies and your credit score will drop.

In the meantime, turn off or reduce auto-payments for your mortgage. Don’t risk unnecessary overdraft fees or strains on your bank account. Feel free to restore auto-payments once your income returns to normal levels.

Consider Your Alternatives

Mortgage assistance comes in two flavors. The first type involves adjusting your mortgage, like refinancing or a loan modification. The other type involves indirectly make it easier to pay your mortgage.

Here are some examples:

  • Adding a side hustle or second job
  • Asking for a raise
  • Cutting back on non-essential expenses
  • Having a yard sale
  • Packing your lunch
  • Stopping saving for retirement

The formula here is simple. You either increase your income or cut expenses, though the best solution is likely a combination of the two. Even if some of these adjustments seem small, they can provide substantial savings over time. For example, How Stuff Works estimates that bagged lunches are 60 percent cheaper than meals out, savings homeowners roughly $1,500 per year.

All of these solutions are not equal. We don’t recommend stopping or withdrawing from your retirement accounts unless it’s an emergency. If you have some leeway, try a budgeting app, like Acorns or Mint, that make saving possible on any budget.

If your eyes glossed over at the words "budgeting app," you're probably not alone. Fortunately, we have one last solution for you. Print out your most recent credit card statement. Highlight the expenses that were “nice to have,” but not essential. Cutting out these purchases offers a path to easy and immediate savings.

The Bottom Line

We all experience financial stress at one time or another. If you’re having trouble making mortgage payments, reach out to your mortgage provider and a HUD-approved housing counselor. They’ll guide you through your loss mitigation options and set you on the road to relief.

Contact your United mortgage advisor for more information today.