The first thing that you need to do is disregard all of the horror stories you have heard about failed loan modifications or failed short sales. Obviously, several mortgage companies have made mistakes, or more correctly, the people that work for them have made mistakes. The people that work in the loss mitigation department are overwhelmed with cases that are similar to yours. If not followed up on, some will fall through the cracks. The key is follow up and persistence. Remember, the person that you are working with is not facing foreclosure, you are. They are doing their job. I am not saying they don’t care, but they don’t care as much as you do. Plus, many of the horror stories are from a time when the mortgage companies were less efficient in the processes. The foreclosure crisis caught the mortgage companies flat footed as well.
The second thing you need to do is CALL the mortgage company. This is especially true if you are going to get to more than two months behind. Denial is not a strategy to avoid foreclosure. In fact, it is a way to almost guarantee it. The mortgage company will have many options to help you stay in the house. Depending on your need, they can defer payments, they can lower your payments for a specific period, or you can apply for a loan modification. If you cannot find a way to keep the home, they can help you with the short sale process.
The mortgage company will ask you whether you are trying to stay in the property or not. This will tell them how they should initially try to work with you. If you are trying to keep the property, they may give a small time period deferment, or they may do a full loan modification. If you don’t want to keep the house, then the mortgage company will talk to you about selling your home. By the way, if you haven’t had contact with an appraiser or an agent, don’t assume this will be a short sale. The mortgage company may also mention a deed in lieu. This is simply turning the property over to the mortgage company without the actual foreclosure process. You will typically be asked to at least try to sell the home for a period of time before the mortgage company will consider a deed in lieu.
There are many companies out there that offer assistance. While I hesitate to call “all” of them scams, the money they charge would be better placed going towards your mortgage.
So, let’s talk about a mortgage modification. If you are looking to stay in the home, but can’t quite afford the payment, then a modification will be a great option for you. There is no ‘standard’ modification. Typically, the mortgage company will not discuss a modification with you until you are two months late.
If you have not been late, and can still afford the property and have good credit…. DO NOT get behind just to get a modification for a lower rate. Especially, not without first seeing if you can get a streamline refinance for VA and FHA or a HARP Refinance for a conventional loan. There is no reason to wreck your credit to try and get a modification just to lower your payment.
Also, if you are planning on claiming bankruptcy, please note that this can eliminate the mortgage modification that you have in place. If you are claiming bankruptcy, then talk with your attorney about the best way to proceed with a modification. In many cases, it will be best to finish the bankruptcy, then pursue a mortgage modification.
The key to any modification is going to be documentation. They will want to know what is causing you to get behind. They will want to know if you have any prospects of increasing your income in the near future. They will want documentation of your income. And, they will want a breakdown of your expenses. This is not intended to be a down to the penny budget. It is a reasonable estimate of what you spend money on in a given month. Modification paperwork can vary, but they will obviously cover debt payments, food, auto, utilities, etc. It is a great idea to put this together before you call. That way, you can have all that in front of you.
A modification will usually take at least a month to approve. But, call your mortgage company once a week to check on it. There are times that you file is reassigned to a different counselor and they have no idea where you are at in the process. Do not wait for them to call you. You need to call them.
Once you are approved for a modification, you will have to pay two or three trial payments on time to have the modification become permanent. Attention to detail on these payments is imperative. If you under pay by a single cent, you could lose the modification and have to start all over.
A true loan modification is permanent and will stay that way for the remainder of the loan. If you are facing a temporary financial hardship, the mortgage company may give you a temporary modification, including deferment, etc. to allow you to get back on your feet.
The old adage that your mortgage company does not want to get your home back is still true. So, they will work with you in most cases if you give them an opportunity to. The first step is to call them.
The next blog will cover the short sale process. What it is, and some key points to help you have a successful short sale.