This is the official time of year for what I’ll call the “financial freak out.” Christmas is in the rear view mirror and the bills are showing up. That Christmas bonus at work (if you got one) is spent, and it will likely be March before you could hold out hope for a tax refund. Reality has set in. It’s time to face the music. The financial grim reaper is at the door. It’s time to pay the piper. With all that potential scariness in mind, I’ve decided the first several posts I write in 2014 are going to help you deal with the stress that comes with handling finances.
Last week I shared a HUGE list of tips for living debt free and in the coming weeks I’ve planned posts on scheduling your time more effectively, handling money with your spouse, plus a summary of the most frequently asked questions I get about money. I want your 2014 to be the best year possible! In this theme, today we’re going to talk about the SERIOUS issue faced by literally millions of Americans – overwhelming mortgage debt.
When I wrote From Debtor to Better, the financial crisis was pretty much the news of the day. The “mortgage meltdown” was in full swing, and I was almost daily getting desperate emails or phone calls asking how to avoid foreclosure or how to get out from under house payments that were too big to handle. The mass media has moved on, mostly ignoring those who are still struggling to find their way. It’s old news nowadays…but I know it is still a major issue for many of you.
Are you wondering where the money to make your next mortgage payment is going to come from? Are you wondering if you’ll have to choose the house payment or the new clothes your kids need? Maybe you have a good friend who is drowning because they made a poor choice with their home purchase or were doing just fine until a job loss, divorce or other financial disaster hit. Foreclosure isn’t the only option. Let’s spend a little time on some alternatives. I want to equip you to be able to help yourself or those you love to deal with this financial nightmare.
Definition: a legal process a mortgage lender can pursue in the event of non-payment to force the sale of a property (usually a home). That’s simple enough and we probably all understand it in layman’s terms: if you don’t pay your house payment, the bank can take your house. Foreclosure does not have to be the answer. There are plenty of alternatives, which we’ll see below. However, you need to understand the process and the impact of foreclosure if you’re considering it as your way out of a mortgage you can’t afford. Learn more about what foreclosure is and how it works
Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure
Definition: an agreement between lender and borrower where borrower conveys all property to lender to satisfy a past due loan to prevent foreclosure. In simpler terms, a deed in lieu of foreclosure is when a borrower gives the property back to the lender (voluntarily) instead of having the lender foreclose on the property. This is very similar to a voluntary repossession in that if you can’t afford your house, you can ask your bank just to take it back and let you walk away. Learn more about Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure
Definition: Selling your home for a price below the amount owed against it. Simply put, if you owe $150,000 but sell your house for $120,000, you’ve completed a short sale. The problem is, the bank is going to want the $30,000 you owe on that house before they’ll let you hand over the deed to the purchaser. Thus, the borrower and lender have to mutually agree to a short sale and an amount at which the bank will accept offers on the sale. Similarly, for a short sale to make sense for you as a borrower, the bank has to agree to “let you off the hook” for the amount lost. This is referred to as “without recourse.” Those are critical words if you are considering a short sale. Learn more about Short Sales
If you’ve looked at any of the articles I linked above, you’ll find several other avenues you should consider if foreclosure seems imminent.
- Call the mortgage company and ask for a “forbearance” or other program to provide some relief (if your financial issue is temporary).
- The government offers the Making Home Affordable Program (MHA), which was a part of President Obama’s answer to the mortgage crisis.
- If you aren’t upside down (owing more than the house is worth) and your house is really more than you can afford, find an awesome realtor and offer a nice bonus if he/she can close the sale of your house within __ days/weeks/months. Just because you can’t afford the payments doesn’t mean your house isn’t a good buy for someone else.
- Solve the math and behavior problem – LIVE ON A BUDGET! If you’re a Stacy Makes Cents subscriber, your daily email has a button in the lower right every day that lets you download a free copy of my guide to budgeting. If you aren’t subscribing, sign up now!
- Live like no one else. Did you read last week’s article on living debt free? Many of the people who wrote those tips have zero debt, or are on their way. Learn from their wisdom.
- Ask for help. Can I be of assistance? Contact me if you have a specific question and I’ll try to help.