Stories of economic confusion, distress in California

Day in and day out since 2007, callers who struggle with mortgages throughout the Sacramento region, those who can't sleep for worrying, who want to stay with houses that have lost $150,000 in value, have phoned the Bee's Home Front column to fret and express a common sentiment.

"My lender," they say, is "difficult." Callers complain about long waits, bureaucratic snafus and a sense of not being helped. These calls have kept coming through every government program unveiled to help borrowers, despite every statistical release saying more loans are being modified.

Now, as the state has unveiled a law making lenders prove they have comprehensive loan-modification programs, a new round of callers have weighed in with their problems. Two told of modifications that raised their monthly payments instead of lowering them. One, regretfully, paid $3,800 up front to a loan modification company for that outcome. Another, sheepishly, told how a new-home sales agent told him – in 2007, no less – that his house would appreciate enough to refinance the adjustable-rate loan now taking him under.

Most callers feel lost, confused by a system that holds their lives in its hands, yet often provides no one point of contact, where e-mails and phone calls go unanswered.

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