Foreclosure begins when a Homeowner fails to make their mortgage payments at the appointed time. When a Homeowner cannot repay the debt on the property, “foreclosure” is the legal action the Lender takes to repossess (take back) the property in order to repay the loan.
If you’ve fallen behind on your mortgage payments and your Lender has been unsuccessful at collecting your outstanding balance, the Lender will start the foreclosure process with a formal demand for payment letter. This letter is referred to as a Notice of Default (NOD). This notice is a threat to sell your property, terminate all your rights in that property and evict you from the premises. If you allow your property to go into foreclosure, you’ll be forced to move out of your house. Furthermore, If your property is worth less than the total amount you owe on your mortgage, a “deficiency judgment” could be pursued, meaning you would not only lose your home, you also would owe your Lender additional money!
There are many life-altering circumstances that cause a person to fall behind on their mortgage payments such as unemployment, divorce, medical bills, terms of the loan, loss of a loved one, etc.
There are few things more disheartening than losing a home to foreclosure. Unfortunately, right now there are millions of Homeowners all across the country just like you who are facing foreclosure. But you must understand you DO HAVE OPTIONS to avoid having a foreclosure on your credit record and losing any of that hard earned equity. You can stop your foreclosure and get on with your life. To help you avoid a foreclosure situation, we’ve designed this guide to arm you with the knowledge to make the best decisions possible concerning your property.
Bring Your Mortgage Current
If you are able to make up all of the back payments as well, as any fees that have been added as a result of the foreclosure filing, to bring your mortgage balance current the foreclosure proceedings will immediately be stopped! Bringing your loan current is the best way to stop the foreclosure process. From the time the Notice of Default is served, you are entitled to 90 days to fully reinstate your loan and stop the foreclosure.
If you can’t gather the entire amount due to completely pay off your outstanding mortgage balance, but you have been able to “right the ship” and are now able to make your mortgage payments in full and on time moving forward, you can negotiate a re-payment plan directly with your Lender that will allow you to bring you mortgage current by paying off your past due balance (arrearage) over time. Often you’ll find that your Lender may be willing to arrange an increase in your monthly payments, so that you will pay your normal mortgage payment plus an additional set amount to be put toward your overdue balance until your outstanding balance is completely repaid.
Your Lender may be able to arrange a “Forbearance Plan,” a formal written agreement between you and the bank that may reduce, suspend, or pause some of your monthly payments based upon your financial situation. For this period of time you would either pay just a portion of your normal mortgage payments or not make any payments at all. At the end of the agreed upon Forbearance period, you would be responsible for resuming your regular monthly mortgage payments as well as pay addition amounts to make up for the past due amount. You may qualify for this if you have recently experienced an involuntary reduction in income or an increase in living expenses. You will be required to provide information to your Lender to show that you would be able to meet the requirements of the new payment plan.
Re-Finance Your Loan
If you have a good deal of equity in your home, good credit, and you are not too far behind on your mortgage payments – refinancing may be a viable option. Your Lender will need to assess your financial situation to determine if refinancing is possible. If your Lender determines you can re-finance, they usually would combine your existing loan and any late payments and fees, to refinance that sum into one mortgage. If it is feasible, refinancing to a fixed rate, lower cost loan can really benefit you. However, for most Homeowners who have very little equity in their home, it becomes very difficult to refinance.
Sell Your House To A Cash Buyer
If you have equity available in the property (if your property is worth more than the amount owed on the mortgage), selling your home to a Cash Buyer could help you avoid losing valuable equity to a pending foreclosure.
If you aren’t able to bring your mortgage current, a Cash Buyer can quickly help you stop the foreclosure and avoid all the hassles and fees that build up if you allow the foreclosure proceedings to continue.
Generally, a local Real Estate Investor is the optimal Cash Buyer because an investor will buy the property “as-is” and can also close very quickly OR on your timeline, whatever you prefer. There are no hefty Realtor fees and selling to an Investor can help you keep the stress normally associated with the selling process to a minimum.
In today’s real estate marketing many Homeowners are overleveraged (the amount they owe on their mortgage is more then the home is worth), making it very difficult to sell the property. During a short sale, the Lender agrees to discount the balance due on the loan as a result of economic or financial hardship on the part of the borrower. In other words, you sell your property to a third party Buyer for less than what you currently owe on the loan, the proceeds are turned over to the Lender. The Lender has agreed to accept this amount from the Homeowner as payment in full and “forgive” the remainder still owed to stop the foreclosure.
Potential short sales are processed through the Lenders Loss Mitigation department. Typically, Lenders do not accept short sale offers until after a Notice of Default has been in issued on the property (the borrower must be significantly behind on their payments). The Lender has the right to accept or reject any proposed short sale. There are many circumstances that effect whether or not banks will discount a loan including the Homeowners’ ability to continue their mortgage payments, the current market value of the property and the amount the Buyer is offering. Often a bank will choose to allow a short sale if they believe that it will result in a smaller financial loss than foreclosing on the property.
Bankruptcy should be the last alternative or option and should not be used to stop foreclosure unless you have no other option or you need the protection of a bankruptcy due to other circumstances or situations you are currently up against. Financial stress can leave a Homeowner facing foreclosure feeling overwhelmed and looking for a “quick fix.” But it’s imperative to understand that filing Bankruptcy will merely put a Band-Aid on your problem, it will not stop the bleeding. It is a temporary solution that should be used as the last possible resort.
Most Homeowners have the possibility of filing two different chapters (types) of Bankruptcy – a Chapter 13 or a Chapter 7. Under both Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the Homeowner is entitled to an automatic stay – or pause – in foreclosure proceedings. An automatic stay forces all of your assets and debts to “stay put” and pauses all creditor proceedings.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy provides for the total discharge and liquidation of debts. All of your assets are frozen. The debtor can’t buy anything, sell anything or give anything away. Even if the house is not included in a chapter 7 bankruptcy, the stay granted by the filing of the bankruptcy will apply to the mortgage and the foreclosure action. If the Homeowner can then bring the mortgage current, then the foreclosure action goes away. If the mortgage is not brought current, usually banks will then ask the bankruptcy court to release the property from the automatic stay so they may continue with the foreclosure process. Once the property has been released from the bankruptcy, the foreclosure process starts right where it left off. Typically you have anywhere from 3-5 weeks until the foreclosure process begins again.
Many people think that if they can discharge their other debts, then that will free up enough money to get caught up on their house payments and stay current. More often than not, they are wrong.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is designed to reorganize debts in an effort to repay all debt. It’s basically a Court-supervised and Court-monitored repayment plan where the debtor provides the Court with a listing of all of their debts and a budget for their monthly needs. The court reviews the debt, essentially consolidates it, and determines the amount that you’ll have to pay to the court every month for the next 3-5 years to pay off the debts. As long as the Homeowner stays current with the mortgage payments and pays the amount agreed upon to the court, the arrangement continues as scheduled. If at any time payments are missed, the trustee overseeing the bankruptcy will dismiss the bankruptcy and the foreclosure process will begin again. Fact is, less than 10% of all people who file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy ever successfully make it through to the end of the Bankruptcy.
Most people who file Bankruptcy to save their home from Foreclosure wish they had not because in most cases they are in a worse position that when they started. Filing a Bankruptcy is the only adverse event that lasts longer on an individual’s credit report than a foreclosure action.
Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure
A “Deed-in-Lieu” is also known as a “friendly foreclosure.” It’s a process by which the Homeowner, failing to make the mortgage payments, hands over their property to the Lender. By voluntarily transferring ownership to your Lender most or all of your debt or deficiency is forgiven. This will not save your home, but it will help you with your chances of getting another mortgage loan in the future and it will help you avoid the lengthy legal process of foreclosure. Although the loan default would be entered on your credit record it may not do the damage that a full foreclosure would. Foreclosures usually stay on your credit file for at least 7 years.