So what should you do when facing foreclosure? John Hope 'Bryant is with the nonprofit group Operation Hope. What's the first thing that people need to do or things that they can do to hold on to their homes? You hear about all these people getting into this caravan. Clearly it's because they feel like they're at wit's end.
JOHN HOPE BRYANT, OPERATION HOPE: Yeah. The first thing you need to do is have hope. I mean in a literal sense. Open your mail, 50 percent of all those in foreclosure never open their mail or call their lender. Open the mail and call your lender.
WHITFIELD: Meaning they're missing out on opportunities that perhaps their lender or this mail may be telling them what to do next?
BRYANT: Absolutely. The lender has no benefit in keeping your house. They want to find a way to sort it out to get you paying again on a reasonable basis but they don't want that house but most people are just frightened because of financial illiteracy.
WHITFIELD: They're afraid it's going to be an eviction notice.
BRYANT: I guarantee you if you don't call there will be an eviction notice. We can't guarantee what will happen if you call. What we can guarantee is if you don't call what's bad will get worse.
WHITFIELD: You talk about hope, people need to have hope. The mortgage modification plan unveiled this week by the White House, Treasury Department saying, OK, here are some measures to help you out if your home is under $729,000 and some change. From what you learned of this plan, do you like it? Do people need to be hopeful? Are you hopeful it will help avert 4 million foreclosures?
BRYANT: I think it sends a very powerful message to the market that things — that hope is on the way. I do believe it's better than the last administration's plan. That said, it's about a day late and $12,000 short in the sense that most people who are in pain right now are a day late or 90 days late or six months late and about $12,000 short of being able to cure their mortgage.
This really helps people who have been paying their mortgages. A lot of misinformation about that, this is a give-away program. It's actually almost the opposite. This really helps people who have been paying their mortgage but can't refinance. It helps people who are on the bubble, whose interest rate will change to stay in their house. What — the only challenge is I don't think it goes far enough. What we need is a systemic comprehensive solution because what we have —
WHITFIELD: Like what, in what way? Meaning you want more people — perhaps people who are behind on their payments to get more help?
BRYANT: Well, I think that we're having academic conversations while Rome is burning. What we need to do is go back and connect the bank crisis with the mortgage crisis and have a systemic — a bank — if you created a bad bank, as an example, took all the assets from the banks that are bad assets, put them into the bad bank, then you've got transparency in the banks, investors can see the bottom, regulators can then — this is an FDIC suggestion, by the way, I which support — the regulators can then certify the bank is in good shape now. All the bad assets are out. Now you've got control of the bad assets in a bad bank that the government can then wrap their hands around and do things like loan modifications, restructuring the principal, lowering the interest rate.
WHITFIELD: Well, if I am worried about my home and I'm worried about the job right now, that still sounds so foreign and far off for me.
BRYANT: Call me.
WHITFIELD: Right now help me out. Yeah. Well, help me out if I'm the person who is — I'm in my home but I'm worried about what's next. I have a job, but I'm worried about what's next. Where does my emphasis need to be, if there's anything I can do right now to secure either one, if not both at the same time?
BRYANT: Yeah. You can do a lot right now. We have — at Operation Hope; we restructured $200 million in mortgages. Restructured and or modified. They can call 800- 388-hope and other HUD approved credit counselors. This is what you shouldn't do. Don't pay $400 to $1600 to some so-called nonprofit credit counseling agency to supposedly modify —
WHITFIELD: If they do have that money save that and maybe put it toward your mortgage or something to actually save your home.
BRYANT: It's worse. It's a fraud. It's — you're being pimped again, because these folks will put a lawyer on your case that then won't — that the lawyer is the only person who can talk to your lender. You need to call your lender. As soon as you call your lender, the lender will stop foreclosure proceedings. That's very important for your listeners to understand. As soon as you call the lender, the foreclosure will stop temporarily.
WHITFIELD: Give me your number. What was that number one more time to call you?
BRYANT: 888-388-hope. 888-388-hope.
WHITFIELD: Great. And we're going to try and get that number up, too, in our next hour where we're focusing on mortgage modifications, all the things you talked about, because we've got a lot of e-mails and I-reports, all that coming our way because people really need help. John Hope Bryant thanks so much. Always good to talk to you appreciate it.