How to Avoid Foreclosure
One of the most terrifying things you can face as a homeowner is the prospect of foreclosure. Although foreclosure is frightening to think about, in some cases it can be prevented. If your financial circumstances have led you to believe you might have to foreclose on your home, don’t panic—but don’t waste any time.
As always, we recommend that you consult a qualified financial professional before making any major financial decisions.
Stay in touch and on top of deadlines
When you miss a payment, you risk having your lender report the missed payment to the credit bureaus, which then causes your credit score to drop. And a foreclosure, if you do have to go through with it, will stay on your credit report for 10 years. Not to mention any late fees you’ll be responsible for. If you’re getting phone calls and letters from the mortgage company, respond to them. Some experts advise writing a letter explaining your situation to your lender and asking for suggestions about finding a mutually agreeable resolution. Be sure to document everything.
Then get your finances in order: list expenses, income, etc. Send it to the bank. You might not hear back from the bank, but stay in contact.
Look for advice and help with negotiating from an uninvolved third party
You might be able to find low-cost housing counselors who can advise you. When you do communicate with your lender, make sure you’re talking to the right people before you sign or commit to anything.
Sell if you can
If you can't afford your mortgage, consider selling your home. If you owe much more on your home than its current value, you might convince the lender to accept less than you owe on it with a short sale.
In a short sale, you sell the house and the lender agrees to accept the purchase price. Sometimes the deficit is forgiven, but in other cases you may have to sign an unsecured loan for the amount. You generally have to write a hardship letter indicating why you can't make the mortgage payments. The bank usually controls the negotiations. It can take 4 to 5 months from the first time you submit your package.
Get a deed in lieu of foreclosure
In a deed-in-lieu transaction, the lender takes the deed to your house and in exchange, releases you from your mortgage. This would typically release you from having to pay any deficit owed on the property.
The lender benefits from this arrangement by avoiding legal costs associated with foreclosure. However, you can’t force a lender to accept a deed. In some cases, you may be required to have already tried a short sale and failed.
If your bank does agree to a deed in lieu, make sure your responsibility to pay is discharged.
Above all, remember that you have options. By taking action now, you’ll feel empowered and have more control over the situation. Because of the high rate of foreclosures, lenders might be more willing to negotiate with you than you might think. Foreclosures mean a lot of expense and trouble for lenders, too, and they may be almost as anxious to avoid them as you are.
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