The phone rings daily with people wondering what they should do about their houses in Sacramento. Here's one this afternoon from a retired real estate agent whom a member of the family has turned to for advice.
A younger family member in her 30s bought a condo in Natomas "four or five years ago" for $250,000 and now it's worth $110,000, says the caller. The owner is still current on payments, but has lost some income - like so many now around this region - and wonders what to do. Stay, keep paying on a hugely upside down investment? Walk and take the hit to her credit? Try a short sale? Try to modify the loan?
Do the lenders write down the loan amount, I was asked? Not too often, I had to say.
All these buyers - who bought when everyone said "buy now, or you'll never get in" - are so completely lost now. It's one story after another, a run of stories that never ends. I wonder sometimes if they'll go on for years around here.
The Sacramento region has several nonprofit loan counseling agencies that can steer struggling borrowers toward free help under the new Obama administration program.
* The federal government advises those needing urgent help to call the Homeowner's HOPE Hotline at (888) 995-HOPE. The nonprofit venture offers free advice and counseling and can help negotiate with lenders.
* NeighborWorks Homeownership Center, Sacramento Region: (916) 452-5356; nwsac.org
* Home Loan Counseling Center of Sacramento: (916) 646-2005; hlcc.net
* Sacramento Mutual Housing Association: (916) 453-8400, ext. 43. Staffers can accommodate those who speak Russian, Hmong, Vietnamese and Mien.
* California Senior Legal Hotline: (916) 551-2140 or (800) 222-1753; seniorlegalhotline.org. Staffers specialize in free loan counseling for senior citizens.