RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.
For many people facing foreclosure, the idea of getting a bank to modify a home loan seems a long shot. On average, only about 10 percent of those who ask for a modification succeed in getting one. And many housing advocates complain the process is broken.
But NPR's Yuki Noguchi found some owners refused to lose hope, even when time is running out.
YUKI NOGUCHI: One of the people who still feel optimistic about loan modifications is Isabelle Walker.
Ms. ISABELLE WALKER (Realtor): I have done a lot of last-ditch efforts at the 11th hour.
(Soundbite of laughter)
NOGUCHI: This Springfield, Missouri realtor and her business partner Todd Thomas go door to door, offering salvation for those who are within days of losing their home to foreclosure.
(Soundbite of knocking)
Mr. BONHAM: Yeah?
Ms. WALKER: He's here.
Mr. BONHAM: Hello?
Ms. WALKER: Yes, Mr. Bonham?
Mr. BONHAM: Yeah.
MS. WALKER: Hi, this is Isabelle Walker. I have a brochure that I was giving out for homeowners with options for foreclosure.
NOGUCHI: They spend 20 hours a week offering their help for free.
Still, going door-to-door is a tough sell, even if they aren't actually selling anything, because homeowners facing foreclosure seldom answer mail, phone calls, or even their front door. When they do find the homeowners, they're often testy.
Mr. TODD THOMAS (Realtor): I've had people that be near violent.
Ms. WALKER: We always go out together.
Mr. THOMAS: It's safer.
Ms. WALKER: Yeah, it's safer, because, you know, I've gone to them by myself before, but you never know the reaction you're going to get from the homeowner.
NOGUCHI: On this day, even when they see two cars parked in the driveway, no one answers. Sometimes there's a security camera, and one gets the sense a homeowner might be silently peering out, suspicious that anyone at the door might be trying to evict them.
Walker and Thomas drive on to the next house.�
Mr. THOMAS: Is that it? OK.
Ms. WALKER: No. It's that one over there.
Mr. THOMAS: Yep, that's it there - 2426?
NOGUCHI: Some have moved out already. Many have already asked their lender for a modification on their loan, were denied, and are skeptical about the realtors' offer of help. Many people are denied modifications, Walker believes, simply because the paperwork requirements are such a challenge. There are so many documents, and even tiny mistakes can get an application rejected.
Mr. THOMAS: The house next door to it, it has foreclosure stickers on it.
NOGUCHI: Isabelle Walker has a long and personal history fighting foreclosure. Two decades ago, she was nearly evicted from a home after its previous owner sold it to her without disclosing he'd been through foreclosure. As a newcomer to Springfield, she had few resources, but fought back successfully.
Ms. WALKER: You know, it's personal and it's embarrassing. And you get emotional. And, you know, it can cause you - to make you physically ill.
NOGUCHI: That feeling is familiar to Sonja Finley, who tried earlier this year to get her bank to modify her loan because she'd gotten behind on her bills.
Ms. SONJA FINLEY: They don't want to hear that. And you don't want to have to say it to them.
NOGUCHI: She figured she'd already lost the battle. And that's where things stood on the Saturday before Halloween, when she answered the door to find Walker offering her a brochure.
Having confronted foreclosure scams before and having been denied once for a loan modification, she nearly threw it away. But the weekend ended, and she found out on Monday morning that her house was up for sale at a foreclosure auction in two days. She picked up the phone to call Walker.
Ms. FINLEY: When I finally made the call Monday morning, it was of desperation.
NOGUCHI: At 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, just two hours before the scheduled sale, Finley's lender, US Bank, gave her a seven-day grace period - just enough time, Finley hopes, to push through a last-minute modification.
Ms. FINLEY: I'm very, very stressed. I'm not sleeping much. I'm not eating much. I'm just trying to take it one day at a time.
NOGUCHI: Finley says she's hopeful, though there's little time left. The next sale date for her home is scheduled for 11 AM tomorrow.
Yuki Noguchi, NPR News.