Who's No. 1 in aiding mortgageholders? Think small.

Banks have made uneven strides toward modifying mortgages so that delinquent borrowers can hold onto their homes.

CitiMortgage has modified 15 percent of its estimated eligible delinquent home loans, the federal government reported (.pdf) Tuesday. But Bank of America has only done 4 percent. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank has modified 20 percent; Wachovia Mortgage, only 2 percent.

But one bank has them all beat. Lake National Bank, a small community lender in Mentor, Ohio, has modified 100 percent of all its delinquent home loans.

It helps that the four-year-old bank doesn't have a big mortgage portfolio, sits in an economically diversified part of northeast Ohio, and didn't go crazy during the housing boom. "Like most community banks, we pretty much continued to do things the old-fashioned way," says Andy Meinhold, the bank's chief operating officer.

Of course, what really helps is that Lake National Bank had only one delinquent borrower who qualified for the federal program. (That's 79,303 fewer than J.P. Morgan, for example.)

In fact, the only reason the bank joined the federal program was that the borrower approached the bank, asking if he'd qualify for the federal help after losing his job. He did, so the bank signed up for the Making Home Affordable loan-modification program, which gives lenders and borrowers various incentives to lower loan payments so that homeowners can continue to afford living in their home.

The bank reduced the borrower's payment through various means, allowing his wife to finish school so she would qualify for a full-time position. "It's exactly the sort of situation the program was made for," says Mr. Meinhold in a telephone interview. "It really ... helps people get over the hump."

So far, no other foreclosures are looming in Mentor, home to a number of companies including Steris Corp., a global manufacturer of hand soap and other disinfectant products and services. A commercial property that was headed toward foreclosure was sold, instead, Meinhold says. "We don't see anything [bad] on the horizon."

It's good to be reminded, in this summer of recession, that America has quiet, stable places that provide some shelter from the economic storms.
– Improve your horizon and Twitter us.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.