Housing - Avoiding Foreclosure
If you miss your mortgage payments, you may lose your home through foreclosure. Your lender can use foreclosure as a legal means to repossess your home. If you owe more than your property is worth, a deficiency judgment is pursued. Both foreclosures and deficiency judgments have a negative impact on your future credit. You should avoid foreclosure if at all possible.
These steps can help:
- Do not ignore the letters from your lender. If you're having problems making your payments, call or write to your lender's loss mitigation department immediately. Explain your situation. Be prepared to provide them with financial information, such as your monthly income and expenses, loan documents/ type of mortgage, tax returns, the amount of equity in your home. Without this information, they may not be able to help.
- Stay in your home for now. You may not qualify for assistance if you abandon your property.For example, the Hope for Homeowners program only offers 30-year fixed-rate mortgages to owner occupiers.
- Contact a HUD-approved housing counseling agency. Call 1-800-569-4287 or TDD 1-800-877-8339 for the housing counseling agency nearest you. These agencies are valuable resources.
HUD counselors frequently have information on services and programs offered by government agencies as well as private and community organizations that could help you. The housing counseling agency may also offer credit counseling. These services are usually free of charge.
Mortgage and Foreclosure Scams
Most mortgage professionals are trustworthy and provide a valuable service by allowing families to own a home without saving enough money to buy it outright. But dishonest or "predatory" lenders do exist and engage in lending practices that increase the chances that a borrower will lose a home to foreclosure. Some abusive practices include:
- Lease-back or rent-to-buy scams: You are asked to transfer the title to your home "temporarily" to the scam artist who promises to obtain better financing for your mortgage and allow you to stay in your home as a renter with the option to purchase the home back. However, if you do not comply with the terms of the rent-to-buy agreement, you will lose your money and be evicted like any other tenant.
- Fake "government" modification programs: These scams claim to be affiliated with the government or require that you pay high fees in order to benefit from government modification programs. Remember that you do not have to pay any fees to participate in government-approved programs. Some frauds may even use words like "federal" or "government-approved" or acquire website names that make consumers think they are associated with the government.
- Refinance fraud: The scam artist offers to be an intermediary between you and your mortgage lender to negotiate a loan modification. The scam artist may even instruct you to make payments directly to him or her, which the scammer will send to the lender. However, the scam artist will not forward the payments to your lender and you could still lose your home.
- "Eliminate your debt" claims: Some companies may make false legal claims that you are not required to repay your mortgage or that they know of "secret laws" that can eliminate your debt. Do not believe these claims.
- Refinance scams: You are encouraged to sign "foreclosure rescue" loan documents to refinance your loan. In reality, you have surrendered ownership of your home because the loan documents are actually deed transfer documents. You may falsely believe that your home has been saved from foreclosure until you receive an eviction notice months or even years later.
Beware of Foreclosure Rescue Scams-Help is Free
- Beware of anyone who asks you to pay a fee in exchange for a counseling service or modification of a delinquent loan.
- Scam artists often target homeowners who are struggling to meet their mortgage commitment or are anxious to sell their homes. Recognize and avoid common scams.
- Beware of people who pressure you to sign papers immediately or who try to convince you that they can save your home if you sign or transfer the deed to your house over to them.
- Do not sign over the deed to your property to any organization or individual unless you are working directly with your mortgage company to forgive your debt.
Making Home Affordable
The Making Home Affordable Program offers opportunities to modify or refinance your mortgage to make your monthly payments more affordable. It also includes the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program for homeowners who are interested in a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. Go to makinghomeaffordable.gov or call the Homeowner's HOPE Hotline, 1-888-995-HOPE (4673).