ARE YOU BEHIND IN YOUR MORTGAGE PAYMENTS?
DO YOU NEED TO SELL YOUR HOME?
DO YOU OWE THE BANK MORE THAN YOU CAN GET FOR YOUR HOME?
What are your OPTIONS?
Many people are not aware that they have a few options to explore when they are facing these situations. Some people just give up and abandon the house for the bank to take it over. Before you do this, it is important to explore other options that may affect your credit and personal finances less than foreclosure.
The first thing you have to find out is who owns your loan note (it may be different from the lender who sold you the loan and/or different from the company who services the loan). Once you find out who is holding your loan, you may want to call their LOSS MITIGATION DEPARTMENT, which specializes in dealing with these matters.
Notes: I am assuming that when you took the loan you were properly informed of the conditions, and that your lender performed all required disclosures as required by the Truth In Lending Act (if you feel you were not informed properly, or believe there was fraud involved in your loan, you have legal recourses you can pursue). Also, some of these options may have tax implications for you. If the lender accepts a short sale, the amount of principal they "forgive" may be counted as income for your tax return. It is essential to consult with your CPA and attorney before taking final action.
Option 1: LOAN FORBEARANCE Depending on your circumstances, a "temporary fix" option you might wish to consider as a way to prevent foreclosure is mortgage forbearance. This option is commonly used for temporary financial hardship situations such as short periods of unemployment or poor health. Mortgage forbearance enables you to temporarily stop making your mortgage payments. However, interest on your loan continues to accumulate and is added to the remaining principal balance of the loan. You are generally also asked to sign a forbearance agreement that states when the lender will require you to pay the amount you owe. Once the forbearance period comes to an end, you are once again obliged to make full payments on your home loan.
Option 2: LOAN MODIFICATION If your mortgage interest has readjusted upward (as in an ARM) and you cannot afford the new payment, or you are having trouble paying your mortgage and you are in a high-interest loan and cannot refinance, your lender may consider changing the terms of your loan to help you. Some of the factors that your lender will consider are: Nature of the hardship that is causing your mortgage payment problems; the amount of equity you have in the property; your ability to pay the mortgage; the amount owed on the mortgage; and mainly, what is financially better for them - whether to foreclose or pursue a loan workout with you or modify your loan.
Option 3: DEED EN LIEU OF FORECLOSURE This option basically provides a "free out of jail card" for the homeowner, who agrees to give the property back to the lender if the lender agrees to forgive the debt that was secured with the real estate. Deed-en-lieu-of-foreclosure is only approved by lenders in certain hardship circumstances (conditions vary according to each lender). Both sides have to enter the transaction voluntarily and in good faith. The property needs to be transferred at a fair market value.
Option 4: SHORT SALE In a declining real estate market, it is quite common for homeowners to owe more on their home than what they can net from sale at a "fair market price", especially if they haven't lived long in their home. In many cases you can still sell your home, provided that the lender(s) and other lienholders approve a short sale, where they are paid less than they are owed. Any other liens affecting the property (including mechanics' liens, tax liens and any judgments against you, the owner) will have to be cleared to be able to "short-sell" the property.
Option 5: RE-FINANCE If you are in a situation where your loan is at a high interest rate, you may wish to consider re-financing (with the same or with a different lender) to lower your monthly payments. However, in the last two years the guidelines for re-financing have changed, making it impossible for some homeowners to re-finance their mortgage. The main recent changes affecting your ability to re-finance are: Declining home values; reduced loan-to-value and debt-to-income ratios; your payment capability and your credit score.
Option 6: FORECLOSURE Foreclosure is a legal process whereby the lender(s) exercise their right to take possession of your home and kick you out for not honoring your commitment to pay the loan(s). This is a slow process (in SC it can take from 6+ months) and it is expensive for the lender. It also affects the homeowner's credit substantially and for a long period of time. If you fail to pay your loan on time, you will first receive written notices that you are in default and warning you to pay or face foreclosure. After a few months (depending on the lender), they will issue a notice of their intention to foreclose. The case will be handed over to an attorney, who will file suit to foreclose and will file a lis pendens notice at the County Courthouse. Once the court rules the property will be sold to the highest bidder at public auction on the courthouse steps. If you are still living in the house, the new owner will file a motion to evict you.
Option 7: BANKRUPTCY In some particular cases, the only option that may make sense to you will be to file bankruptcy. The latest changes to the bankruptcy law make it a bit harder for some to file bankruptcy. Some filers with higher incomes won't be allowed to use Chapter 7, but will instead have to repay some of their debt under Chapter 13. You will have to get credit counseling before you can file a bankruptcy case. And, because the law imposes new requirements on lawyers, it may be tougher to find a bankruptcy attorney.
Alan Donald is a bilingual REALTOR® with Keller Williams Realty in Charleston, SC.You can ask him questions by sending him an email to email@example.com or by visiting his website at www.BuyHomesInCharleston.com .