How Obama's anti-foreclosure plan works

Ball and chain attached to man's legs

Struggling homeowners can start calling their lenders. President Obama's new effort to save families from foreclosure is up and running.

If Making Home Affordable works as intended, it will modify or refinance one out of every nine mortgages in the country and stop many -- although not all -- of the 8 million foreclosures expected over the next few years.

It's the most ambitious government anti-foreclosure program since the Great Depression and is intended to whack hundreds of dollars a month off mortgage payments by subsidizing some of the losses lenders incur to rewrite unaffordable loans.

You'll be able to choose from two programs:

Home Affordable Modification for borrowers who are behind on their payments or in danger of missing payments and in immediate danger of foreclosure. It will last until the end of 2012.

Home Affordable Refinance for borrowers who are current on their payments but can't refinance out of high-cost loans because they don't have enough equity. This part will end in June 2010.

To qualify for either program:

Your loan must be owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Since the government-owned companies provide most of the money banks and mortgage companies use for home loans, the odds are in your favor.

To find out, call the mortgage servicing company you send your check to each month or contact:

Loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Administration don't qualify. But a plan is in the works that would allow the FHA and VA to make similar modifications for their loans.

Your loan must have been made on or before Jan. 1 of this year.

The principal balance must be no more than $729,750.

There is no limit on how much you can earn.