Submitted by Jen Jones on Sat, 09/26/2009 - 8:17pm
One of the greatest benefits of filing for bankruptcy protection is that it allows struggling homeowners a second chance to catch up on missed mortgage payments. For many people, the fear of losing a beloved family home is one of the most stressful parts of their struggle with debt. But is your house really worth saving?
If you find yourself living in an "upside down house,"Â it may be worthwhile to consider simply letting the house go. "UpsideÂ down" refers to a property where you owe more money than the house is worth. Back when the housingÂ market was still booming, this situation was almost unthinkable, but now that the bubble has burst, short selling-•selling a home for less than what is owed-•is all too common. Unfortunately, a short sale leads to all kinds of nasty repercussions: Unless your mortgage lender agrees otherwise, you will still be responsible for the difference between the sale price and amount owed. Second, even if your lender agrees to forgive the debt, you'll still be hit with the tax consequences.
If you're a homeowner and considering bankruptcy, now is the time to take an objective look at the big financial picture and make some tough choices. Your equity situation is a great place to start this assessment. If you don't have any equity in the home, holding on to that upside down house can't even be justified on the basis that home ownership is a good investment. Just a few years ago a house was a sterling investment-•but if you're continuing to sink in negative equity, you don't own a good investment, just a bunch of debt. And if you are living in an upside down house, how bad is your situation? In other words, how much more money do you owe the bank than the house is worth? If the difference is only a few thousand dollars, it may be OK to hold on to the house if you can really afford the payments. But if the difference is huge, you may want to consider the idea of surrendering the property in bankruptcy.
Second, take a look at your budget. Why did you get behind on your payments? Were you always struggling to make the payments, always one emergency away from getting behind? If getting rid of your credit card debt doesn't free up enough money to comfortably make the mortgage payment, bankruptcy won't help you save the home in the long term. If, on the other hand, you got behind because of a temporary drop in income that has since rebounded, bankruptcy can get you back on track with your mortgage and put your in a better financial position by dumping your unsecured debt.
The costs associated with home ownership go beyond the monthly mortgage payments. Can you afford property taxes? Your homeowner's insurance? Does the house require a lot of maintenance? What are your utility payments like? These are all good questions to consider as you assess whether it makes sense to hold on to your home. Another thing to keep in mind is the structure of the loan. If you were one of the many unfortunate borrowers who signed on to an adjustable rate or interest only loan, your loan terms will never allow you to get ahead.
The good news is that the depressed housing market means that a lot of places that can't sell are being offered for rent. Renting can be a good solution for someone seeking to rebuild their financial health, especially in the short term. If you are trying to keep your kids at the same school or are reluctant to leave the comforts of a familiar neighborhood, you may be able to find a good rental in the same area as your house.
Make sure to ask your bankruptcy attorney for advice on this issue. Letting a foreclosure proceed unchecked is not a good way of dealing with the situation. If the property sells for less than the outstanding loan balance, you will still owe the difference.. Surrendering the home in bankruptcy shields you by eliminating any personal liability after the foreclosure sale. If you are facing foreclosure now, contact a bankruptcy attorney immediately to ensure that you remain in control. Your attorney can help you assess your financial outlook rationally and help you make the right decision.
From: The Law Offices of John T. Orcutt. We always offer a free initial one on one consultation. Call today to set up your appointment. If you are in North Carolina, call +1-919-646-2654, or visit www.billsbills.com to fill out our free and confidential debt questionnaire.
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