Dos and don’ts to fight foreclosure
Homeowners have several options for saving money, their credit rating or their home -- but should beware of scams.
In the beginning of the foreclosure process, homeowners can still save money, their credit or their house if they act quickly. Even when declaring bankruptcy, avoiding a foreclosure on your credit report can salvage your ability to rebuild credit and buy another house, which makes the struggle against a possible foreclosure well worthwhile.
6 possible dos when foreclosure looms:
1. Sell the property: If you can find a buyer before the house is auctioned, you can sell it and keep whatever equity still exists.
2. Work out a deal: Your lender may be willing to work with you, rather than lose money at a foreclosure sale.
3. File Chapter 7 bankruptcy: If you can’t get caught up in time, you will not be able to keep the house — but you’ll generally be able to delay the foreclosure sale a month or even several months. Any remaining debt to the lender will be wiped out.
4. File Chapter 13 bankruptcy: If you can afford to make the future mortgage payments and the delinquent payments, too, file Chapter 13 bankruptcy. This is different from Chapter 7, in which assets are liquidated but debts are wiped clean. With Chapter 13, you keep your assets and, under court supervision, you repay your debts under a three- to five-year plan.
5. Short sale/deed in lieu of foreclosure: A short sale takes place when the bank allows you to sell your property even though their mortgage won’t be paid. Be careful — the bank may allow the sale to go through, but only on the condition that you repay the deficiency. In a deed in lieu of foreclosure, the property is signed over to the bank in exchange for the bank giving up its rights against you. Why might a bank agree to either of these? Lenders spend $30,000 or more to foreclose on a property. Most lenders will consider these options to avoid foreclosure costs.
6. Walk away from the house: Pack your things and leave. The only issue remaining is whether your lender can sue you for any deficiency still owed after the sale, and that depends on the state you live in and the type of mortgage you have. You’d be wise to speak to an attorney before taking this step.
Any sale or transfer of property has tax consequences, including a foreclosure sale or a deed in lieu of foreclosure. Seeing an accountant is probably a good idea, as well.
Here are two options NOT to consider. In other words, they’re scams.
2 don’ts when foreclosure looms:
1. Signing over your property title to another company: Some companies say that after the mortgage is current they will re-sign the property back over to you. This rarely happens. Instead, the company is likely to pull out equity, not make any mortgage payments and allow the property to be foreclosed. You will not be able to save the property from future foreclosures because the property is no longer in your name.
2. High-interest second mortgage: When a property has equity, there are companies that will give you a second mortgage, in an amount as high as 70% of the equity available. The interest rate could be as high as 18% and the fees can be exorbitant. They are hoping that you’ll blow the money and default — which allows them to take the property from you.
When facing foreclosure, you have options, but you need to avoid the scams and act quickly if you want to have the best outcome. Delaying only makes foreclosure inevitable.