The rule hasn't changed.
If you're seeking a loan modification -- a change in the terms of your EXISTING mortgage, not a new or refinanced mortgage -- you must deal with your current lender.
No other lender.
End of story.
It was the end of the story until Larisa of Olive Branch, MS, e-mailed me this:
"Those of us with Countrywide mortgages are being contacted by Heart Financial for Loan Modifications...We didn't even ask for a modification, they just sent us contracts. We have even been instructed to only make payments beginning with the new contract."
That is NOT how the typical loan modification works.
If you want to keep your current mortgage, but modify the terms, you would have to initiate the process directly with your current lender. You might get a call or letter from your lender saying you qualify for a loan modification, but not a contract -- and NOT FROM A THIRD PARTY. It would have to come directly from the lender servicing your loan.
"It is very common for a servicer to pull a population of loans that fit within certain criteria and send out "blind" or unsolicited modification documents," says Roshun Austin, community relations specialist with GMAC/Rescap and the Memphis Housing Counseling Network (http://memphis.earnbenefits.org/page.php?pageID=607).
But Austin qualifies that with this: "If the new payment does not make financial sense for the borrower, they should probably complete a workout package with their lender."
That means DIRECTLY with their lender, not some third-party.
I got a closer look at Larisa's documents. It looks like these solicitations are being sent to Countrywide mortgage-holders who are either late or delinquent on their loans. Countrywide appears to be reversing the process, offering to modify their loans instead of waiting on them to ask -- and in some cases, Countrywide is using a third-party to issue the notices.
I've asked Countrywide's media department to verify this, but so far, no answer to my calls or e-mails.
Austin also says most lenders are now insisting that their mortgage-holders seeking a loan modification fill out an application for the Obama Plan Financial Package first. That way, the lenders can see if they qualify for a loan modification under the assistance of the President's mortgage plan. For more information on that, go to www.financialstability.gov.