Miller has asked Iowa Mediation Service to act as an intermediary between buyers and lenders. Professional mediators from the West Des Moines company arranged 33,000 sessions between lenders and farmers who had fallen on tough economic times as farmland prices collapsed.
Many farmers were able to modify loans
and stay on their land and in their homes. However, he said in some instances that wasn't possible, and he worked on ways where the family could leave the property in a fair and equitable way.
Homeowners' current woes differ in several key respects from farmers' troubles. Many lenders to farmers were local banks, while now many companies that own the loans are out of state, and it's hard to judge how willing they might be to rework a loan.
Miller said that lenders should show "enlightened self interest" in working with home buyers to reform loans rather than foreclose.
Mary Coffin, an executive vice president of loan servicing at West Des Moines-based Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, said she would welcome the aid of a third party.
"We've worked with many foundations to establish counseling programs," Coffin said.
A complication for both Wells Fargo and Miller is the ownership of the mortgages. Coffin said a vast majority of the $1.4 trillion worth of loans on which it collects payments is actually owned by outside investors. They control how far servicing companies such can go in modifying terms.
Coffin agreed that the goal should be to leave as many people in homes as is possible.
"Foreclosure is not good for anyone," she said.