"If you don't reach out, you will go to foreclosure," said Schwartz. But she says her group has found that if people do call their lenders, and can demonstrate they're facing financial hardship, fewer than half end up losing their homes.
"It sounds easy, doesn't it?" she said. "But it's amazing how many people are afraid to pick up that phone."
Counseling services -- especially those with agents approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development -- can help people get organized before they make that daunting first call.
Organizations reached by ABC News said to be suspicious, though, of scam artists who charge upfront fees, or con people into signing over the deeds to their houses. "Some of these companies even use names with the word HOPE or HOPE NOW in them to confuse borrowers," warned the Federal Trade Commission.
But good help does exist, and need not cost anything. "While it's not perfect, there's a lot of reason for hope," said Schwartz. "A lot of people, in the end, are relieved."