Money Talks: New Program Helps Struggling Homeowners

By some estimates, 1 in 4 Americans owes more on their home than it's worth - a condition known as underwater.

In some states, like California, Nevada and here in Florida, the number is closer to 50%. But if you're underwater, there's a new government-sponsored program that might rescue you by reducing your mortgage balance to less than your home is worth.

To qualify, you have to have a conventional loan: not one of the 50% of mortgages guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. You must be current on your payments. And the bank has to be on board - this program is entirely voluntary. You have to be able to qualify for a new, FHA loan, and you have to have a credit score of at least 500.

Those qualifications will shrink the number of potential rescues down to about a million - less than one in ten of the nearly 11 million homeowners now underwater.

But if you do qualify, you'll be able to refinance at historic low rates - currently around 4.5% - and reduce the amount you owe on your mortgage to less than your home is worth.

To see if you're eligible for the program, call your your mortgage servicing company - the place you send your check to every month - and ask about the "Short Refinance" program. But don't be surprised if they don't know about it - it just came out.

So if you're underwater and looking for rescue, you need the details of the program. And I've got a lot more information right here at