One of the most important things that home owners who have mortgage payment difficulties is that there is free foreclosure help. If anyone tries to charge you in advance for help or guarantees that they can stop your foreclosure, they’re not legitimate.
If you’re behind on your mortgage, or having a hard time making payments, we want to get you in touch with a HUD-approved housing counselor – they’ve been sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Your counselor can develop a tailored plan of action for your situation and help you work with your mortgage company. They’re experienced in all of the available programs and a variety of financial situations. They can help you organize your finances, understand your mortgage options, and find a solution that works for you.
If you are having trouble making your payments, contact your loan servicer to discuss your options as early as you can. The longer you wait to call, the fewer options you will have.
Many loan servicers are expanding the options available to borrowers – it’s worth calling your servicer even if your request has been turned down before. Servicers are getting lots of calls: Be patient, and be persistent if you don’t reach your servicer on the first try.
You may qualify for a loan modification under the Making Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) if:
your home is your primary residence;
you owe less than $729,750 on your first mortgage;
you got your mortgage before January 1, 2009;
your payment on your first mortgage (including principal, interest, taxes, insurance and homeowner’s association dues, if applicable) is more than 31 percent of your current gross income; and
you can’t afford your mortgage payment because of a financial hardship, like a job loss or medical bills.
If you meet these qualifications, contact your servicer. You will need to provide documentation that may include:
information about the monthly gross (before tax) income of your household, including recent pay stubs.
your most recent income tax return.
information about your savings and other assets.
your monthly mortgage statement.
information about any second mortgage or home equity line of credit on your home.
account balances and minimum monthly payments due on your credit cards.
account balances and monthly payments on your other debts, like student loans or car loans.
a completed Hardship Affidavit describing the circumstances responsible for the decrease in your income or the increase in your expenses.
For more information, visit Making Home Affordable.
If you’re interested in refinancing to take advantage of lower mortgage rates, but are afraid you won’t qualify because your home value has decreased, you may want to ask if you qualify for the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) or the HOPE for Homeowners (H4H) program. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Avoiding Default and Foreclosure
If you have fallen behind on your payments, consider discussing the following foreclosure prevention options with your loan servicer:
Reinstatement: You pay the loan servicer the entire past-due amount, plus any late fees or penalties, by a date you both agree to. This option may be appropriate if your problem paying your mortgage is temporary.
Repayment plan: Your servicer gives you a fixed amount of time to repay the amount you are behind by adding a portion of what is past due to your regular payment. This option may be appropriate if you’ve missed a small number of payments.
Forbearance: Your mortgage payments are reduced or suspended for a period you and your servicer agree to. At the end of that time, you resume making your regular payments as well as a lump sum payment or additional partial payments for a number of months to bring the loan current. Forbearance may be an option if your income is reduced temporarily (for example, you are on disability leave from a job, and you expect to go back to your full time position shortly). Forbearance isn’t going to help you if you’re in a home you can’t afford.
Loan modification: You and your loan servicer agree to permanently change one or more of the terms of the mortgage contract to make your payments more manageable for you. Modifications may include reducing the interest rate, extending the term of the loan, or adding missed payments to the loan balance. A modification also may involve reducing the amount of money you owe on your primary residence by forgiving, or cancelling, a portion of the mortgage debt. Under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, the forgiven debt may be excluded from income when calculating the federal taxes you owe, but it still must be reported on your federal tax return. For more information, see www.irs.gov. A loan modification may be necessary if you are facing a long-term reduction in your income or increased payments on an ARM.
Before you ask for forbearance or a loan modification, be prepared to show that you are making a good-faith effort to pay your mortgage. For example, if you can show that you’ve reduced other expenses, your loan servicer may be more likely to negotiate with you.
Selling your home: Depending on the real estate market in your area, selling your home may provide the funds you need to pay off your current mortgage debt in full.
Bankruptcy: Personal bankruptcy generally is considered the debt management option of last resort because the results are long-lasting and far-reaching. A bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years, and can make it difficult to get credit, buy another home, get life insurance, or sometimes, get a job. Still, it is a legal procedure that can offer a fresh start for people who can’t satisfy their debts.
If you and your loan servicer cannot agree on a repayment plan or other remedy, you may want to investigate filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you have a regular income, Chapter 13 may allow you to keep property, like a mortgaged house or car, that you might otherwise lose. In Chapter 13, the court approves a repayment plan that allows you to use your future income toward payment of your debts during a three-to-five-year period, rather than surrender the property. After you have made all the payments under the plan, you receive a discharge of certain debts.
To learn more about Chapter 13, visit the U.S. Trustee Program, the organization within the U.S. Department of Justice that oversees bankruptcy cases and trustees.
If you have a mortgage through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or Veterans Administration (VA), you may have other foreclosure alternatives.