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Avoiding Foreclosure

If you fall behind in your mortgage payments, you face the threat of foreclosure.

Foreclosure means your lender can take over your home, and you must move out. If your house is worth less than the amount you owe on your mortgage loan, your lender may even seek a deficiency judgment. If this happens, you not only lose your home, you may owe the mortgage holder an additional amount of money. For example, if your house is worth, say, $180,000 and you owe $190,000, you could be hit with a judgment for $10,000 that you would have to pay out of your pocket. Both foreclosures and deficiency judgments will have a very negative effect on your credit record, which makes it harder for you to get credit in the future.

Do not ignore any letters you receive from your mortgage company. Contact the company immediately. Explain why you are having trouble meeting your payments. Be prepared to provide financial information showing your monthly income and expenses. If you can show your mortgage company that the problem is short term and that you have a plan for resolving it, the company may be more willing to work with you.

If you have a FHA-insured loan, contact a HUD-approved housing counseling agency. Call 800-569-4287 to get the address and phone number of the counseling agency nearest you. A housing counseling agency is a valuable resource as it will have information on services and programs offered by the U.S. Government, and by private and community organizations that may be able to help you. The agency may even offer credit counseling. And its services are usually free.

What are your alternatives?

Special Forbearance.

If you are honest with your lender and have legitimate reasons for having missed mortgage payments, your lender may be willing to arrange a repayment plan based on your financial situation. The company may even offer a temporary reduction or suspension of your payments. This is especially true of you have recently experienced a reduction in your income, the loss of a job or an increase in living expenses. In this case, you must be able to furnish your lender with financial information showing that you can meet the requirements of the new payment plan.

Mortgage Modification

A second alternative is to refinance your debt or extend the term (length) of your mortgage loan. This can help you catch up by reducing your monthly payments to a more affordable level. You may qualify for a refinance or an extension. if you can show that you have recovered from your financial problems and can afford the new payment amount.

A third alternative is a pre-foreclosure sale. This allows you to avoid foreclosure by selling your house for an amount less than the amount you need to pay off your mortgage loan. To qualify for a pre-foreclosure sale, you must be at least two months delinquent in your payments, you are able to sell your house in three to five months, and a new appraisal of your home's value shows that it is worth less than the amount owed on the mortgage loan.

As a last resort, you maybe be able to voluntarily "give back" the house to your lender. Obviously, this won't save your house but is not as damaging to your credit rating as foreclosure. This is called deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. To qualify:

1. You are in default and do not qualify for any of the other options;

2. You tried to sell the house before foreclosure but were unsuccessful; and

3. You don't have another FHA mortgage in default.

How do you know if you qualify for any of these alternatives? Your lender will help you determine this. If you have an FHA loan and use a housing counseling agency, the agency can help you determine which, if any, of these options might meet your needs, and will also help you with your lender.

Foreclosure is always bad news. The good news is that you can avoid foreclosure. All it takes it honesty and a lender who will work with you.

For FREE help with debt and credit, subscribe today to Douglas Hanna's free email newsletter "8 Simple Steps to Debt Relief" at

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