While mortgage companies continue to refuse lower payments to borrowers who can no longer afford their loans, millions are facing delinquency, foreclosure and the loss of their homes. But just because you’re facing tough odds doesn't mean that you can't plan ahead to minimize the possibility of foreclosure or mitigate the damage if you find yourself moving toward it. Homeowners just like you can take immediate action, armed with the tools necessary to make the best financial decisions for your future.
In this six-part series we’ll explore how you might stay in your home, the ins and outs of working with your mortgage lender, the pros and cons of a short sale, and various bankruptcy options and alternatives pending foreclosure.
Part I – How to Stay In Your Home
Don't give up on your home without considering your options. Foreclosure can leave you homeless, hurt your credit rating and make it difficult, if not impossible, to buy another house anytime soon. Your best options if you're having trouble making mortgage payments include:
Negotiating with your lender
When attempting to stay in your home by working with your lender, it’s important to act quickly. As soon as you realize you’re having trouble paying your home loan, and before you've missed any payments, contact your mortgage lender. Now, more than ever, lenders are willing to negotiate with their clients, if only to reduce the record numbers of foreclosures they're dealing with during this lingering recession.
Filing for bankruptcy
What about if you’re already behind on your mortgage payments? Filing for bankruptcy may help you keep your home, or at least get you out from under looming mortgage debt. With a few exceptions, Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings force creditors to end their collection activities and delay impending foreclosure sales. Each of these bankruptcy options will be explored in part three and four of this series.
When you file for bankruptcy, the foreclosure process is legally stopped (called an "automatic stay"). Foreclosure proceedings cannot be reinstated until your bankruptcy case closes or the lender gets permission by the court to proceed, thereby "lifting the stay" on the foreclosure process. So, if your plan is to stay in your home payment-free, for as long as possible, bankruptcy can delay the foreclosure auction, and your ultimate move-out date, saving you time (and money) to figure out your next move.
Other options include:
Selling your home yourself
If you simply can't afford the home you own, you still have power to take control of your financial destiny. If your home has appreciated in value since you bought it, you may be able to sell it yourself. Again, contact your lender, who may let you stop making payments, and stay in your home, until the house is sold. If the proceeds from the sale don’t cover your mortgage and related costs, you might be in a short sale situation. A short sale can be a good option in certain circumstances, but in most cases, it's best to simply surrender your home in a bankruptcy. The short sale option will be discussed a length later in the series.
Giving your deed to the lender
What happens if no one buys your house? Don’t lose hope. Your lender may agree to a “deed in lieu of foreclosure,” taking on the deed and canceling your debt. Like a foreclosure, the bank can then sell your home. A deed in lieu, like a short sale, is unlikely to erase your personal liability. In this regard, bankruptcy is usually a better option.
For more detailed information on how to stay put in your home pending foreclosure or bankruptcy contact The Law Offices of John T. Orcutt.