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There are many reasons you might seek a loan modification. In most cases, the reason stems from something you can’t control or prepare for, like the loss of a job or an unexpected illness. These hardships could make it difficult to pay your important bills, like your mortgage. This in turn could lead your lender to send a notice of foreclosure.

However, all is not lost. You may still have the option to negotiate a loan modification if you’re struggling to make your mortgage payments. Here are three things to know about loan modifications before exploring this option with a skilled attorney:

1: You are applying for a loan modification, not a loan guarantee.

One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make when opting for loan modifications is to assume the modification will be guaranteed simply because they applied. The fact is, lenders do not have to perform a loan modification at all; they have the ability to approve or deny the application.

Many do wish to work with the borrower since it’s typically in their best interests to help the homeowner stay current, but the process can be time-consuming, slow and frustrating without help. If you’re considering a loan modification, the services of a lawyer will likely come in handy.

2: Your loan principal may get reduced, but not always.

In some circumstances, your loan’s principal could be reduced as part of the terms of your loan modification. However, you should not assume this will be the case. Many debt consolidation companies use this promise as a tactic to lure unsuspecting homeowners into using their services. Often such companies only end up lowering monthly payments or interest rates, not the actual principal on the loan.

So, while it’s true that monthly payments can undergo a reduction, you should be suspicious of any promises to lower the principal, whether verbal or written. If you receive an offer to reduce the principal, have your lawyer look over the terms to determine whether the offer is legally sound.

3: Foreclosure proceedings should be delayed.

According to the National Mortgage Statement and Consumer Protection Bureau, foreclosure proceedings can be delayed while loan modifications undergo negotiations. However, you should never ignore any foreclosure documentation. Instead, present this paperwork to your attorney for review.

Don’t give up your home without exploring all of your options. The housing crisis and prolonged economic issues have caused banks to reassess the profitability of helping homeowners with loan modifications versus attempting to auction off homes in a depressed market. An experienced attorney can help you negotiate the terms of your mortgage or find the most appropriate solution to protect your home from foreclosure.