If you are behind on your mortgage payments, there are resources that may help you get back on track financially and prevent you from losing your home.
Notify Your Lender Immediately
At the first indication that financial troubles may be looming on the horizon, go ahead and notify your lender whether or not you have actually missed a payment. During the initial discussion, inquire about any refinancing or loan modifications that may be available. In addition, suggest that they allow you to exercise the "skip pay" option for at least one month to get caught up on other pressing obligations.
If you are already behind on mortgage payments, be sure to open and respond to all correspondence from your lender. In many instances, being proactive demonstrates your willingness to make strides toward resolving the issue at hand.
Most lenders prefer that you keep your home so they will not have to go through expensive foreclosure proceedings and potentially take a loss on the sale. However, failing to take action may force them to seize the property since the further behind you get on payments, the more difficult it is to reinstate the loan.
Evaluate Your Financial Situation
Once you have notified your lender, allocate some time to review where you stand financially. Counselors approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are available to assist with this process free of charge, and can be located online or by calling 1-800-569-4287. They can also provide you with an array of resources, help you understand your rights and negotiate with lenders on your behalf in some instances.
If you discover that changes in your spending habits may enable you to get caught up on past due payments and save your home, develop a practical spending plan. It should be devoid of unnecessary variable expenses, such as eating out, entertainment and cable television, as these items can be major budget busters. Also reach out to creditors of unsecured debts to make payment arrangements.
Generate Extra Income
Debtors can also pick up an additional job or sell any unnecessary assets to generate additional income for the household. The lender should be notified about these efforts.
Programs that Offer Assistance
If you lender is unwilling to assist and you cannot locate a financial institution that will refinance your loan, other programs are available.
The Making Home Affordable Program, offered by the Department of the Treasury and HUD, enables homeowners to lock in lower interest rates which subsequently decrease the amount of the monthly mortgage payment. Those who are unable to meet mortgage obligations may also be able to avoid foreclosure through this program.
This program offers assistance to those who have:
- "Underwater" mortgages
- Unaffordable payments
- Financial hardships as a result of unemployment
- Those looking to walk away from their home
- FHA Borrowers
Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP)
HARP offers refinancing options to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac homeowners who are unable to exercise this option elsewhere due to the steep decline in the value of their property.
Principal Reduction Alternative (PRA)
The PRA program is designed to assist those homeowners not affiliated with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac who are experiencing a financial hardship. HUD counselors negotiate with investors and loan servicers in an effort to reduce the outstanding balance of the mortgage.
Treasury/FHA Second Lien Program (FHA2LP)
The FHA2LP program may enable you to modify your second loan if the first lender agrees to participate in the FHA Short Refinance program.
Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP)
HAMP is available to homeowners who secured their mortgage on or prior to January 2009. It reduces the monthly mortgage payment to 31 percent of the debtor's pre-tax gross income.
Second Lien Modification Program (2MP)
The Second Lien Modification Program helps individuals who have received assistance under HAMP secure the same modifications for their second mortgage.
Home Affordable Unemployment Program (UP)
The UP allows unemployed homeowners who collect benefits to skip mortgage payments for 12 months or more, depending on the circumstances. In some instances, mortgage payments must be made, but are reduced to 31% of the homeowner's income.
Emergency Homeowners' Loan Program (EHLP)
Residents of Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Maryland and Pennsylvania can apply for EHLP assistance through their respective states.
Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA)
HAFA grants you the ability to transition from your current residence to more affordable housing via a Deed-in-Lieu or Short Sale.
If you have lost possession of your property as a result of foreclosure, it may be possible to reclaim it during the redemption period.
National Servicing Center Loss Mitigation (NSC)
Please visit HUD online to learn more about each of these programs.
Assistance for Military Personnel
Homeowners who are ordered to return to active military duty can receive special assistance as a result of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act if they were homeowners prior to receiving orders or being enlisted. Active duty personnel can send a written statement to their lender requesting a lower interest rate. The document must include:
- Proof of summons to active duty
- Activation orders from the military
- Documentation showing that the debt existed prior to the activation date
This act also protects active military personnel from foreclosure for up to three months in the event that the loan becomes delinquent.
You may quality for mortgage payment relief and a delay in foreclosure proceedings if your home is located in an area affected by a natural disaster. Contact your lender for more information on available options.
Some companies claim that they can shield homeowners from foreclosure proceedings if they are granted the ability to act on the debtor's behalf. Loan modification scams make it easy for you to lose ownership of your property through:
- Deed theft scams when the agency supposedly refinances your home in their name and promises that you will be able to buy back the property in two years when conditions improve. A few months after the initial transactions, occupants are usually evicted.
- Mortgage consultant scams that charge homeowners a hefty fee to negotiate with lenders on their behalf.
Avoid any agency that offers assistance if they:
- Request an upfront fee
- Guarantee that the foreclosure process will come to a halt once they begin to handle your account
- Demand that you must pay them the monthly mortgage amount and cease all contact with the lender
Facing foreclosure can be very stressful on any given household, but it is important to seek assistance from reputable organizations to avoid even greater financial issues in the future.