No one wants to lose their home. Unfortunately, with the current state of the economy, debt is a very real reality for many people. According to a recent National Foundation for Credit Counseling study, more than 60% of Americans are in debt. And of those people in debt, 30% say they are “extremely stressed“ about their financial situation.
If you’re one of the millions of Americans struggling with debt, it’s essential to know that you’re not alone. And more importantly, there are things you can do to avoid losing your home to foreclosure.
What is Foreclosure?
Before we dive into how to avoid foreclosure, let’s first take a step back and understand precisely what foreclosure is. When a homeowner fails to make their mortgage payments on time, the lender has the right to seize the property and sell it to recoup the outstanding debt.
The process begins when the lender files a notice of default with the county recorder’s office. The homeowner then has a set period—usually 90 days—to catch up on their payments. If they fail to do so, the lender can then move forward with foreclosure proceedings.
How to Avoid Foreclosure
1. Avoid incurring additional debt.
First, you must stay current on all of your other bills. This may seem common sense, but people who are struggling to make their mortgage payments will often fall behind on other bills as well—utilities, credit cards, etc. This can snowball and make it even more difficult to get caught up.
To avoid this, make sure you’re prioritizing your bills and only spending money on essentials. If possible, try to put any extra money you have towards your mortgage payment each month. You can also set up automatic payments for your other bills, so you don’t have to worry about missing a payment.
2. Communicate with your lender.
If you’re struggling, you need to be proactive and reach out to your lender as soon as you realize that you’re going to have trouble making a payment. Reliable mortgage lenders are willing to work with homeowners who are struggling financially, but they need to know that there’s an issue for them to help. They may be less inclined to work with you if you wait until you’re already behind on payments.
Always be honest with your lender about your financial situation and what you can afford. They may be able to work out a new payment plan with you or even put you on a forbearance plan, which would allow you to make lower payments temporarily. If you’re unsure what to say or how to start the conversation, consider reaching out to a housing counselor for help.
3. Try to refinance.
Some homeowners struggling to make their mortgage payments may be able to refinance to a lower interest rate or extend their loan term. This can make your monthly payments more affordable. However, keep in mind that you’ll likely need good credit to be approved for refinancing, and it may not be an option if you’re already behind on payments.
Ask your lender if refinancing is an option for you. You can also contact a housing counselor to see if any other programs could help you keep your home. You may also want to consider a government-backed loan modification, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
4. Get a loan modification.
A loan modification is when your lender agrees to change the terms of your loan to make it more affordable. This could involve reducing your interest rate, extending your loan term, or even forbearing some of the outstanding principal balance.
You’ll need to submit a hardship letter and other financial documentation to your lender to apply for a loan modification. If you’re approved, they’ll send you a modification agreement outlining the new terms of your loan.
5. Sell your home.
Finally, selling your home may be the best option if you cannot make your mortgage payments. This will allow you to pay off your debt and avoid foreclosure. You will still lose money on the sale, but it will be less than what you would owe if your home went through foreclosure.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to sell your home quickly to avoid foreclosure, so you may not be able to get the full market value. You may also want to consider a short sale, which is when you sell your home for less than what you owe on the mortgage. This will require approval from your lender, but it may be the best option if you’re unable to sell your home for enough to cover the mortgage.
No one wants to lose their home, but sometimes financial hardships are out of our control. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to remember that there are things that you can do to avoid foreclosure. By being proactive and reaching out for help when needed, you can improve your chances of keeping your home and avoiding any further damage to your credit score.