What to know before you make a home loan modification

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) Steve Sampollo has been protecting lives for most of his. He's an Horry County Firefighter and Paramedic, but right now he's in the fight of his life to protect his home. Sampollo and his wife, Laurie, moved from New York to the Carolina Forest area four years ago.  As a first responder, Sampollo was on the front lines during one of our country's worst days.

"I was actually on a call when the planes hit. We went back to base and picked up a bunch of people and went in," Sampollo remembers about 9/11. "Couple of my partners died that day. It was terrible. That was one of the reasons we came here."

A few years ago, Sampollo had surgery on both of his wrists. He has carpal tunnel and it was crippling him on the job. He was out of work for six months and started to fall behind on his bills.

To get back on track, Sampollo applied for a mortgage modification under the government's program. His mortgage company, SunTrust, approved the modification and he paid on time for a year.

"The plan for the modification fit us perfect; we did everything we were supposed to do. We were getting back on our feet!" Sampollo said.

Last fall, SunTrust sent him a letter saying they sold his mortgage to a new company and he should start paying them immediately. So he did; but the new company, Nationstar, wanted more money.

"They just basically kept going on saying, 'Well we don't know about that modification but we can help you start a new one'," Sampollo remembers Nationstar representatives telling him.

He also remembers faxing his modification papers to Nationstar several times, but each time he called to confirm, they said they didn't know what he was talking about.

Blake Sloan is a foreclosure expert who says homeowners need to put the pressure on mortgage companies.

"It's very important to call over and over and over to make sure that you get through and you speak to someone that you can document you talked to them and what the result was," Sloan warns.

He says mortgage companies sometimes buy thousands of mortgages at a time.

"They're so overwhelmed, they're getting hundreds of thousands of packages a day that they're literally just falling through the cracks."

Sampollo says Nationstar took it a step further and sent him a foreclosure notice.

"I don't know why they want my home, because, there's a lot of foreclosed homes and I'm making payments," he says.  "I have three kids. Two years ago, we planted fruit trees and they're ready to bloom. I don't want to leave."

While Sampollo fights Nationstar, Sloan says there are tips every homeowner can take when battling their mortgage company.  First, make sure you have every document they require before trying to fax your information.  Also, have those documents clearly labeled and put a checklist on the very top.  Last, remember to keep a log of every single time you contact the company.

"What date you sent it, did I get confirmation, who'd you speak to, did they verify documents," Sloan adds.

Another tip from Sloan: make sure you read the fine print on your mortgage. He said some companies may have a clause that says your modification won't transfer if your mortgage is sold. In Sampollo's case, his attorney says since his modification was through a government program, not a bank, Nationstar has to acknowledge it.

If you're facing a similar situation, use Sloan's step-by-step guide to loan modification to get the process started. We've also linked you up to a sample checklist of what to keep in mind when dealing with your mortgage company.

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