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Options for avoiding foreclosure (there is hope!)

I have heard so many stories. Some real heart breakers. Almost no one was just irresponsible with their money and put their housing on the line, most people just had some bad luck that in the past would mean selling their home and renting until they got back on their feet or buying something smaller. When housing prices go down and the equity position isn’t there to sell it makes things a little harder.

If foreclosure is an issue you may be dealing with, here’s some options for you:

1) Reinstatement – if the reason you missed payments is temporary and since then you’ve gotten back on your feet then this may be a good option. Basically, repay your back payments, late charges and associated fees and then you’ll be reinstated to where you were before. Often I have people tell me that they can keep up with their payments, it’s just digging out of the hole they are unable to do. Sometimes you can borrow from friends or family to make this happen.

2) Forbearance/Repayment plan – Again, if the reason for missed payments is temporary, this may be a good option. You can ask the lender to break up the amount that you are behind to be tacked on to your payments for the next 12 months so that you don’t have to come up with a large amount up front. Be careful to make all 12 payments perfectly or you’re right back where you started.

3) Loan modification – This has some similarities to the repayment plan in that the lender works with the homeowner on their back amount due. A loan modification is different, however, in that the terms can vary. Sometimes the lender will lower the interest rate to make the payment more affordable, sometimes they will forgive some of the debt so that they aren’t underwater and can keep current on payments. Usually the lender gives the home owner a trial period where payments need to be made perfectly. When it works, this is fantastic for the homeowner. The application process can be long and frustrating, so be prepared for this.

4) Sell the property – if there is equity in the property then selling it will cure the foreclosure and hopefully put some money in the pocket of the seller. If there is no equity then the homeowner would need to do a “short sale”. This is a much more involved process because you have to request from the bank for them to release the lien on your home for less than the full amount owed. Banks are doing this all the time as they do not want your home. Their business is lending money, not owning real estate. The trick with this is that you have to show financial need, if you have assets to pay the short amount they will probably pursue you for it.

5) Deed-in-lieu of Foreclosure – sometimes called “friendly foreclosure” where the homeowner signs over the deed to the home, rather than having it taken from them forcibly. Sometimes this is called “cash for keys” because the bank will sometimes pay the homeowner to leave the home in good condition.

6) Bankruptcy – this is not a good option if you want to sell the home as it is almost impossible to sell a home involved in a bankruptcy, however, it does stall a foreclosure.

It can be very confusing to figure out which is the best option in your situation. You should consult an educated real estate agent, an attorney, and your bank to find out all of your options and which is the best for your situation.