Saving Your Home: Alternatives to Avoid Foreclosure

foreclosure help.jpgHugo V. Alvarez will be a speaking at a Foreclosure Clinic sponsored by the Florida Bar’s Consumer Protection Law Committee, in conjunction with the Legal Aid of Palm Beach County. The clinic is scheduled to take place on June 24th from 6pm to 8pm at the Boca Raton Community Center.

Mr. Alvarez will be speaking on alternatives to foreclosure, and specifically discussing (a) options to retain one’s home, while avoiding foreclosure, and (b) options to dispose of one’s home, and avoid foreclosure.

Options to Retain Your Home

1. Payment or Repayment Plan – the quickest method of avoiding foreclosure is to come up with the necessary money to bring the delinquent loan current. In some instances, banks are willing to provide the delinquent borrower with a repayment plan in an effort to bring the mortgage current. This will typically involve an agreed upon time frame in which to make the regular payments, plus a little extra, to repay in the delinquent amount in full over time.

2. Refinance – in the event that you actually have equity in your home today, you may be in a position to refinance your mortgage. Refinancing your mortgage may actually provide you with a lower interest rate, and a lower monthly payment. If you do not qualify for a government-sponsored loan modification, you may also be eligible for a government-sponsored re-financing plan (HARP – Home Affordable Refinance Program).

3. Forbearance – some banks may offer you a forbearance plan. This option typically provides for a temporary reduction or a suspension of monthly payments for a specified length of time, and with an agreement that the amount that was forgiven will be paid back at a later date.

4. Loan Modification – a loan modification is a permanent change in one or more of the terms of the mortgage. It also allows the mortgage to be reinstated, and results in a payment that the borrower can afford. This can include anything from a reduction in interest, adding years to the mortgage (from say a 30 year mortgage to a 40 year mortgage), reduction in the principal amount owed, or any combination of the aforementioned. It should be noted that many financial institutions are provided with financial incentives from the government to modify loans. Additionally, the current loan modification program is not designed to save every home, but only geared toward saving the homes of individuals that can still afford to be in that home.

Options to Dispose of Your Home

1. Sell the Home – if there is sufficient equity in your home, you may be able to sell your home in today’s market for more than the amount you currently owe on your mortgage. If you can do this, you will actually reap a profit.

2. Short Sale – if your home is “underwater”, i.e. you owe more than the home is worth, then you will have to pursue a short sale if you are interested in selling the home. A short sale is when a bank allows you to sell the home for a contract price that is less than the amount owed on the mortgage. In many instances, however, banks may reserve the right to pursue the difference between the short sale contract price, and the amount owed on the mortgage, from the borrower directly. This is commonly known as a “deficiency”, or “deficiency judgment”. So when trying to sell a home via short sale, it is important to understand whether the bank will continue to pursue the borrower, for monies owed, even after the transaction is completed, especially if the home was “underwater” at the time of the short sale. Don’t assume that just because the bank approved the short sale that they won’t pursue you for the difference after the deal is done.

3. Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure – this is accomplished when the property owner voluntarily gives the property back to the bank in exchange for the bank canceling the mortgage. In other words, the deed is transferred from the borrower to the bank in an effort to shorten the length and costly process of foreclosing on the property. As with a short sale, the bank may reserve the right to pursue any deficiency against the borrower directly even after the deal is done.

4. Tax Issues – all tax issues should be consulted in great detail with a certified public accountant. However, if you lose your home to foreclosure or short sale, where you sell your home for less than you owe, the IRS won’t add insult to injury by counting the difference as income. At least until 2012.

However, there are four major exceptions to the rule:

A. You did a cash-out refinance and splurged.
B. You have a home-equity line of credit.
C. You lost your vacation home or investment property.
D. You owned a multi-million-dollar home.

But again, these are issues to be covered in greater detail with an accountant.

If you are on the brink of foreclosure, and need to assess your legal rights, please contact our office today.