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Facing Foreclosure: What to Do Right Now

by Teamworks

Published: February 05, 2010
By: Jerry DeMuth

If you’re facing foreclosure, don’t panic: Take steps right now to save your home or at least lessen the blow of its loss.



TeamWorks at Elite Realtors of GeorgiaA record high 2.8 million properties were hit with foreclosure notices in 2009. That’s the bad news. The good news: About two-thirds of notices don’t result in actual foreclosures, says Doug Robinson of NeighborWorks, a nonprofit group that offers foreclosure counseling.

Many homeowners find alternatives to foreclosure by negotiating with lenders, often with the help of foreclosure counselors. If you’re facing foreclosure, call your lender right now to determine your options, which can include loan modification, forbearance, or a short sale.


Foreclosure process takes time

The entire foreclosure process can take anywhere from two to 12 months, depending on how fast your lender acts and where you live. Some states allow a nonjudicial process that’s speedier, while others require time-consuming judicial proceedings.

Once you miss at least one mortgage payment, the steps leading up to an actual foreclosure sale can include demand letters, notices of default, a recorded notice of foreclosure, publication of the debt, and the scheduling of a foreclosure auction. Even when an auction is scheduled, however, it may never occur, or it may occur but a qualified buyer doesn’t materialize.

Bottom line: Foreclosure can be a long slog, which gives you enough time to come up with an alternative. Meantime, if your goal is to salvage your home, think about keeping up with payments for homeowners insurance and property taxes. Otherwise, you could compound your problems by getting hit with an uncovered casualty loss or liability suit, or tax liens.


Read the fine print

Start by reviewing all correspondence you’ve received from your lender. The letters—and phone calls—probably began once you were 30 days past due. Also review your mortgage documents, which should outline what steps your lender can take. For instance, is there a “power of sale” clause that authorizes the sale of your home to pay off a mortgage after you miss payments?

Determine the specific foreclosure laws for your state. What’s the timeline? Do you have “right of redemption,” essentially a grace period in which you can reverse a foreclosure? Are deficiency judgments that hold you responsible for the difference between what your home sells for and your loan’s outstanding balance allowed? Get answers.


Pick up the phone

Don’t give up because you missed a mortgage payment or two and received a notice of default. Foreclosure isn’t a foregone conclusion, but it’s heading in that direction if you don’t call your lender. Dial the number on your mortgage statement, and ask for the Loss Mitigation Department. You might stay on hold for a while, but don’t hang up. Once you do get someone on the line, take notes and record names.

The next call should be to a foreclosure avoidance counselor approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. One of these counselors can, free of charge, explain your state’s foreclosure laws, discuss alternatives to foreclosure, help you organize financial documents, and even represent you in negotiations with your lender. Be wary of unsolicited offers of help, since foreclosure rescue scams are common.

Be sure to let your lender know that you’re working with a counselor. Not only does it demonstrate your resolve, but according to NeighborWorks, homeowners who receive foreclosure counseling are 1.6 times more likely to avoid losing their homes than those who don’t. Homeowners who receive loan modifications with the help of a counselor also reduce monthly mortgage payments by $454 more than homeowners who receive a modification without the aid of a counselor.


Lender alternatives to foreclosure

Hope Now, an alliance of mortgage companies and housing counselors, can aid homeowners facing foreclosure. A self-assessment tool will give you an idea whether you might be eligible for help from your lender, and there are direct links to HUD-approved counseling agencies and lenders’ foreclosure-prevention programs.

There are alternatives to foreclosure that your lender might accept. The most attractive option that’ll allow you to keep your home is a loan modification that reduces your monthly payment. A modification can entail lowering the interest rate, changing a loan from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate, extending the term of a loan, or eliminating past-due balances. Another option, forbearance, can temporarily suspend payments, though the amount will likely be tacked on to the end of the loan.

If you’re unable to make even reduced payments, and assuming a conventional sale isn’t possible, then it may be best to turn your home over to your lender before a foreclosure is completed. A completed foreclosure can decimate a credit score, which will make it hard not only to purchase another home someday, but not impossible: The foreclosure disappears within 7 years or even less, especially if there are extenuating circumstances.

The more quickly you get steady employment and repair your credit score, the more quickly you’ll be eligible to buy a home again. It also may be difficult to rent a home in the short term, but your HUD counselor may be able to offer help.


But you’re better off if your lender can approve a short sale, in which the proceeds are less than what’s still owed on your mortgage. A deed in lieu of foreclosure, which amounts to handing over your keys to your lender, is another good possibility.

Although a deed in lieu of foreclosure or short sale will have virtually the same effect on your credit score as a foreclosure, you will likely be able to buy another home more quickly than if you go through a foreclosure. The earlier you begin talks with your lender, the more likelihood of success.


Explore government programs

The federal government’s Making Home Affordable program offers two options: loan modification and refinancing. A self-assessment will indicate which option might be right for you, but you need to apply for the program through your lender. A Making Home Affordable loan modification requires a three-month trial period before it can become permanent.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have their own foreclosure-prevention programs as well. Check to determine if either Fannie or Freddie owns your mortgage. Present this information to your lender and your counselor. Fannie and Freddie also have rental programs under which former owners can remain in recently foreclosed homes on a month-to-month basis.

The federal Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program, which takes full effect in April 2010, offers lenders financial incentives to approve short sales and deeds in lieu of foreclosure. It also provides $3,000 in relocation assistance to borrowers. Again, talk to your lender and counselor or call us at (478) 335-4030.


 

 

7 Tips for Short Sale Success

by Teamworks

By: G. M. Filisko

Published: March 19, 2010

Have to sell your home for less than it’s worth? Our seven tips will help you get the best price.


Know who you owe

A short sale has to be approved by any company that has a mortgage or lien against your home. That includes your first, second, or even third mortgage lender, your home equity line lender; your homeowners or condominium association; and any contractors who’ve placed a lien on your home. Make a list and start talking to everyone early in the process. Ask what documents they’ll need from you.

Pick your short sale team

You’ll need to work with a team of short sale experts, including a real estate agent, real estate attorney, and your accountant. Look for agents and attorneys who advertise themselves as short sale experts. Interview at least three, and listen carefully for signs that they understand the complexities of the short sale process.

Agents should explain how they’ll arrive at a suggested price for your home. Ask them to show you a sample short-sale package or for an example of a prior short-sale success.

Get your documents ready

Gather the paperwork your creditors and mortgage lenders asked to see, like your listing agreement and a hardship letter explaining why you need to do a short sale. You’ll also need proof of what you earn and what you owe as well as copies of your federal income tax returns for the past two years.

Expect delays

Despite a federal rule saying banks participating in the federal government’s Making Home Affordable loan modification program must respond to short-sale offers within 10 days, it may take weeks or months for your lender to decide whether to allow you to sell your home in a short sale--and even longer if you must negotiate with more than one lender or lienholder.

Your lender and lienholders don’t have to agree to your proposed short sale. They can reject your terms or make a counteroffer, which can create further delays.

Anticipate demands

Discuss with your short-sale team how you should respond to common short-sale demands from lenders. For example, are you willing to sign a promissory note agreeing to pay outstanding amounts after the sale is complete?

Know the tax implications

Any unpaid amount of your mortgage “forgiven” by your lender through a short sale may be considered income to you under federal tax rules. Ask your attorney or accountant whether you qualify to exclude that amount as income on your tax returns under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and Debt Cancellation Act. Also ask if you’ll be required to report amounts “forgiven” by other lienholders, if applicable.

Consider how the short sale will affect your credit and what you must pay

Ask whether your lender will report the short sale to credit-reporting agencies. Having a portion of your debt forgiven may negatively affect your credit score, but a short sale typically damages your score less than a foreclosure or bankruptcy.

Ask your lawyer whether you'll be responsible for paying back the lenders' loss. If the lender says it will forgive any losses on the sale of your home, get that promise in writing.

Avoid Foreclosure Rescue Scams

by Teamworks

By: Donna Fuscaldo

Published: January 15, 2010

With foreclosure rescue scams widespread as more homeowners fall behind on mortgage payments, be smart if you seek help


Avoid Foreclosure in Warner Robins, GAForeclosure rescue scams run rampant

Homeowners facing foreclosure are prime targets for scam artists. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission identified 71 companies running suspicious foreclosure rescue ads, and the Better Business Bureau counts foreclosure rescue rip-offs among its top 10 scams. Understanding how these scams work can help you avoid becoming a victim.

The variations are seemingly endless, but one popular foreclosure scam involves a representative of a so-called foreclosure rescue company promising to negotiate a deal with your lender. The rep, vowing to take care of everything, will instruct you not to contact your lender, lawyer, or credit counselor during the supposed negotiations. The more brazen ones will even tell you to pay your mortgage directly to them.

Once you pay an upfront fee or hand over a few months' worth of mortgage payments, the scam artist will disappear. You'll be left with an emptier wallet and a mortgage that's in even deeper trouble because no deal was cut and no payments were made on your behalf. According to John Riggins, chief executive of the Fort Worth, Texas, office of the Better Business Bureau, upfront fees can range from $500 to $5,000.

 

Rip-offs come in many forms

A bankruptcy foreclosure scam can involve a promise to fend off foreclosure in exchange for an upfront fee. Instead of getting you legitimate relief, the fraudster will pocket the fee and secretly file a bankruptcy case in your name. The scam may seem to work initially, because a bankruptcy filing will stop foreclosure proceedings temporarily, but they'll resume. Compounding your problems, a bankruptcy can mar your credit report for 10 years.

Another common scam, called the bait-and-switch, results in a scam artist taking ownership of your home. You sign documents supposedly for a new loan that will make your mortgage current. What's really happening is you're signing over the deed of your house. In this scenario you would still owe on your mortgage but no longer own the home.

In a rent-to-own scheme, you're told to surrender a home's deed as part of a deal that lets you stay put as a renter. The scam artist, perhaps claiming to be able to refinance at a better rate with you off the title, promises to sell the house back to you in the future. However, terms of the deal may make it all but impossible for you to repurchase the home, or the scammer may get you evicted by raising the rent beyond your means. Either way, you end up losing the home while remaining on the hook for the unpaid mortgage.

 

Look out for red flags

Being aware of the warnings signs can protect you from foreclosure rescue scams. Red flags include:

  • Demands for high upfront fees.
  • Guarantees to stop a foreclosure.
  • Instructions to make mortgage payments to someone other than your lender.
  • Pressure to sign over a deed.

Legitimate foreclosure counselors won't put on a full-court press, nor will they guarantee that you won't lose your home to foreclosure. What they will do is review your financial situation and offer up options. Foreclosure counselors approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development won't charge you a fee either.

 

Legitimate ways to get foreclosure help

There are a number of legitimate ways to contend with foreclosure. If you've missed mortgage payments, start by getting in touch with your lender. Ask to speak with someone in the Loss Mitigation Department and explain your situation.

Your lender may be able to arrange a repayment plan, called a special forbearance, based on your current economic circumstances. The lender could even give you a temporary reduction in your monthly payment or suspend payments for a period of time.

With a principal forbearance, the lender will reduce the amount of your mortgage, thus reducing your monthly payments. However, the amount of the principal reduction doesn't disappear. Rather, it's tacked on to the end of the loan, effectively creating a balloon payment.

A federally facilitated mortgage modification could also help. The Making Home Affordable modification program pays lenders to re-work loan terms and lower monthly payments. Be prepared to gather lots of paperwork and undergo a trial modification.

If all else fails, you may need to give up your home. If so, look into the federal Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program. HAFA offers lenders financial incentives to opt for a short sale or deed-in-lieu rather than a foreclosure. In a short sale, a lender agrees for a home to be sold for less than the outstanding mortgage, and then considers the debt paid off. In a deed-in-lieu, a homeowner turns over the home to the lender, and the mortgage is closed.

Displaying blog entries 1-3 of 3

The Teamworks Group of Southern Classic Realtors, 402 Ga Hwy 247 South, Suite 1500, Bonaire GA 31005 478-929-8065