I got my first mortgage in 2006. The interest rate has jumped, so the payments have doubled from $767 per month to $1,440 per month.

My boyfriend says I have a predatory loan. He says I need to do a short sale and then the lawyer will sell the house back to me. Is this your professional recommendation as well? If so, do you have attorneys here in Atlanta who would be willing to do this and could you please forward their contact information?

Yes, I’m upside down and do not qualify for a refinance at this time. My credit is good. Thanks for your assistance.

What you’re describing sounds illegal. You couldn’t hire an attorney to buy a property to then turn around and resell it to you, dumping the negative equity in the meantime.

To do a short sale, you’d need your lender’s approval and it has to be to an unrelated third party. You couldn’t buy it back. Approvals for short sales are supposed to happen in 30 days, but they often stretch on for months. The short sale process would damage your credit and you would be unlikely to qualify for financing at an affordable rate.

We’re wondering, however, if you might qualify for a HARP refinance. HARP stands for the Home Affordable Refinance Program, which is a program that was started during the Great Recession under the Making Home Affordable Act.

You should go to HARP.gov and read up on the rules. Being underwater does not disqualify you. In fact, this program was designed for people who are in trouble.

According to HARP.gov, there are more than 20,000 homeowners in Georgia who are eligible for a HARP refinance but have not yet applied. The basic eligibility requirements include being current on your mortgage, with no 30-day-plus late payments in the past six months and no more than one late payment in the past 12 months. Your home must be your primary residence, a one-unit second home or a one- to four-unit investment property. In addition, your loan must be owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae (you can use the Loan Look-up Tools at HARP.gov to find out if your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac). In addition, your loan must have been originated on or before May 31, 2009 (the loan look-up tools will give you this information).

Finally, your current loan-to-value (LTV) ratio must be greater than 80 percent. You would calculate that by comparing the current amount of your loan to the current value of your home. If you’re “upside down” or underwater, your home is worth less than the loan amount.

Some people who got loans in the housing boom are still struggling, as those properties lost a tremendous amount of value. Lenders have been incentivized to help underwater homeowners keep their homes and restructure payments that are affordable.

Start by gathering together your information, including your mortgage statement and income details. Then, contact your existing lender to determine if it is approved to make HARP loans. Figure out whether your loan is with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and start the process. If you’re told “No,” then ask why you are being turned down and ask to speak with a HARP specialist.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to get the help you need in order to keep your home. But if not, then you have to consider whether you should try to sell your home or if you can rent out a room for enough cash each month to pay the higher mortgage amount.

Good luck, and please let us know what happens.

Ilyce Glink is the creator of an 18-part webinar + ebook series called “The Intentional Investor: How to be wildly successful in real estate” as well as the author of many books on real estate. She also hosts the “Real Estate Minute” on her YouTube channel. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Contact them at ThinkGlink.com.