If you are a homeowner who is having trouble making your mortgage payments, you most likely want to do whatever you can to stay in your home and to avoid a foreclosure. The first thing you should keep in mind is to stay in close contact with your lender. If you are going to miss a mortgage payment, inform your lender, keep good records of all your correspondence and use registered mail to send documents and letters so you can verify that they were received. Most lenders will work with you, as foreclosing on homes carries heavy costs for them. The following are options to keep you in your home, while you get back on your feet.
One way to work things out with your lender, if you are delinquent on your payments, is to negotiate a reinstatement of your mortgage loan agreement. A reinstatement agreement requires you to stay current on all of your future payments and to commit to agreed on payment terms for all your missed mortgage payments. Missed payments may be required in a lump sum or it’s possible you can pay the arrears in supplementary monthly payments to your regular mortgage payment over a period of 12 to 24 months. Reinstatement is really only an option if you were having serious financial problems but are over them, as it requires substantial monthly payments moving forward. If you can receive help from a family member or sell a valuable asset, reinstatement is a worthwhile option to pursue.
It may be impossible for you to stop making your payments, temporarily. Forbearance is an agreement between you and your lender, where your lender agrees to not pursue foreclosure and to accept no mortgage payments or a reduced mortgage payment for a defined period. If you have a temporary disability or can show that you expect money from an insurance pay-out or tax refund, you may qualify for forbearance. You need to have a positive payment history to be eligible. Forbearance is only granted if your lender is confident that you will be able to resume making your normal payments plus pay back the any arrears accumulated while in forbearance. In most cases the length of the forbearance plan will not exceed 18 months. Most forbearance plans stipulate that foreclosure will proceed, if the borrower defaults on the agreement.
An important option for you to consider is a loan modification. A loan modification is a permanent change to one or more terms of your loan. Your lender can modify your loan by reducing your interest rate and the size of your monthly payment, by extending the repayment term of your loan, or by agreeing to reduce the principal balance of your loan. A principal balance reduction is negotiated when the value of the property has dropped. Balance reductions became relatively common starting in 2008, in reaction to the dramatic decline in home prices in many areas. As a borrower in distress, you must meet certain guidelines in order to qualify for a loan modification. The lender will examine the size of your loan compared to the fair market value of the property, your debt-to-income ratio, and your credit history.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
A last resort option that allows you to remain in your home is for you to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Once you are under the supervision of the bankruptcy court, your lender cannot proceed with a foreclosure. The goal of filing bankruptcy, in these circumstances, is to allow you to retain possession of your residence while you participate in a structured repayment of your debts. Consult with an attorney who has experience in bankruptcy to discuss whether bankruptcy will allow you to keep your home.
It makes sense to take every step possible to stay to stay in your home. If you are having problems making your mortgage payments, it is crucial for you to know what steps you can take to avoid losing your home to foreclosure.