It was with two grains of salt that I greeted an announcement from Bankrate.com that 53 percent of Americans think home prices will rise in the next 12 months.

I'm not saying that won't happen, at least somewhere. Every day, I am inundated with data showing home-price trends in every nook and cranny of the United States, and the best I can say is that it isn't all good or bad.

A look at the most recent Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors HomExpert Market Report is enough to show that differences abound even in the Philadelphia region.

Of course, 53 percent of Americans is a simple majority, and we have to account for the other 47 percent, of which 8 percent expect prices to drop in the next 12 months.

I'm assuming that the remaining 39 percent have no opinion, and I'm with them. I come by this naturally, because I remember all the economists who predicted in 2010 that 2011 would see an end to home-price declines and a reverse in the trend by 2012.

If I had had a farm, I'd be glad I didn't bet it.

Bankrate reported that "September saw a big divergence on feelings of financial security between men and women" - remember, consumer confidence is a better indicator of real estate market improvement than just about anything.

Men's feelings of financial security improved compared with August's findings, while women's feelings were the exact opposite, Bankrate said.

I'm going to ask you to weigh in on this, since I know you'll want to.

I don't think anyone really can predict the future in the roller-coaster ride we call residential real estate. If that were possible, we would have been able to see back in 2002 that buying overpriced houses we couldn't afford with questionable mortgages we'd never be able to repay would get us into trouble.

Those troubles continue.

I just received a notice from the U.S. Treasury and HUD about a renewed effort to "combat foreclosure, which continues to devastate families and communities across the country," through the federal Making Home Affordable Program, which has been around for at least four years now, if not more.

Treasury officials say that one in 17 homeowners has fallen behind on mortgage payments, and research by the Ad Council shows that "even more homeowners are struggling each month to get by and are juggling their finances in order to pay their mortgages."

Nor has there been any let-up in e-mail and phone calls asking me for advice, although I have to emphasize again that seeking out a HUD-approved mortgage-counseling agency is the best way to try to resolve these problems.

The counseling agencies continue to emphasize that though some issues connected with distressed real estate have gotten easier to handle, lenders and mortgage servicers have introduced new stumbling blocks.

In late September, for example, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau took punitive action against Flagstar, a Michigan-based federal savings bank.

The agency found that Flagstar "took excessive time to process borrowers' applications for foreclosure relief, failed to tell borrowers when their applications were incomplete, denied loan modifications to qualified borrowers, and illegally delayed finalizing permanent loan modifications."

Flagstar was accused of violating mortgage-servicing rules adopted since the financial meltdown of 2008.

New rules, but no guarantees they'll be followed.

215-854-2472 @alheavens