There are several steps that homeowners can take on their own to deal with a delinquent mortgage payment or an impending foreclosure. People do not always need to rely on the government, solutions offered by their lender or a housing counselor. There are things you can do own your own. However, please always keep in mind that mortgage counselors can often help you, and they offer free or no cost mortgage advice.
Technology has revolutionized the mortgage selection process, making rate comparisons a quick and easy first step. That said, it’s important to look beyond the initial rates and dig deeper into loan terms (the fine print), such as closing costs, hidden fees and down payment requirements. Some lenders will claim to charge “no origination fee,” but their online quote includes a hefty 2% “discount point” in the fine print. Another great resource when evaluating lenders is to read online reviews on Google, Yelp, Zillow or Facebook.
Homeowners are encouraged to explore free HUD foreclosure prevention counseling, which could help you qualify for other programs. Homeowners should also contact their servicer to find out if they qualify for a loan modification or other foreclosure prevention options. Some of these may include transition to other foreclosure alternatives, such as deed-in-lieu of foreclosure or short sale.
The NC Foreclosure Prevention Fund offers a Mortgage Payment Program to North Carolina homeowners who are struggling to make their home mortgage payments due to job loss or unemployment through no fault of their own or other temporary financial hardship such as a divorce, serious illness, death of a co-signor or natural disaster. Services are provided by HUD-approved counseling agencies statewide.
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Mortgage loan repayment works through a process called amortization. When you take out a mortgage loan, you agree to pay back the principal amount (actual loan money) in addition to interest over a specified period of time. Because the interest can add up to more than the principal amount, an amortization schedule (provided by your lender) balances out the interest and principal cost over the course of the loan repayment. A borrower pays off more interest to start, and the ratio gradually reverses to where the borrower pays off more of the principal as the loan nears its end. This way, the payment amount is able to remain stable over the course of the loan. If you're considering refinancing your mortgage, an amortization schedule is an essential tool in learning how much money you can save.
The major downside of taking out a mortgage is that it does put your home at risk if you fail to make payments. You may want to look into other options if you want to consolidate your debt. Some people choose to refinance their original mortgage to cash out their equity and to avoid two mortgage payments. When they refinance, they cash out the equity or take out more than they still owe on the loan. Like a traditional mortgage, refinancing has set monthly payments and a term that shows when you will have the loan paid off.
Why would anyone get a loan with a prepayment penalty? Some lenders offer very low (and therefore tempting) interest rates in exchange. Also, some borrowers agree to loans with penalties if they have bad credit and it’s the only way they can get the loan. Mostly, a prepayment penalty is a financial decision. There are situations where accepting a prepayment penalty on a loan can save you thousands of dollars in interest.
Looking back at the flood of foreclosures since the housing crash, it’s clear that many borrowers didn't fully understand the terms of the mortgages they signed. According to one study, 35 percent of ARM borrowers did not know if there was a cap on how much their interest rate could rise [source: Pence]. This is why it’s essential to understand the terms of your mortgage, particularly the pitfalls of “nontraditional” loans.
Your first action item is to seek pre-approval from a lender. It's important to note that pre-approval and pre-qualification are two different processes. For pre-approval, the lender will check your credit and other financial information to determine what price home you can afford. (You can use an online mortgage calculator to give you a ballpark figure on how much home you can afford.) This will give you a price range to stay within during your home search and lets buyers know that you’re serious when you make an offer. Getting pre-approval for a standard loan should take a couple of days.
Lenders use the information you provide at the time of application for loan approval or denial. If you get approved, don’t change your employment or income status until after the loan process is complete. Changing your employment or income during the process will significantly delay the lending process at best, and at worst, it could cause you to be denied for your loan altogether.
When you're shopping around, don't just check the big national mortgage lenders. Some regional or local banks may offer unique lending programs, especially for first-time homebuyers. For example, the young couple who bought a house from me a few years ago used a 100% financing program from Regions Financial that required no mortgage insurance for first-time buyers with outstanding credit.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are now owned by the federal government, are providing mortgage help to hundreds of thousands of homeowners from a few different programs. Since they are responsible for and service the vast majority of mortgages that are issued by hundreds of banks, many people will qualify for help from them and may not even realize it. Find the various Fannie and Freddie Mac mortgage programs.
In addition to saving for a down payment, you’ll need to budget for the money required to close your mortgage, which can be significant. Closing costs generally run between 2% and 5% of your loan amount. You can shop around and compare prices for certain closing expenses, such as homeowners insurance, home inspections and title searches. You can also defray costs by asking the seller to pay for a portion of your closing costs or negotiating your real estate agent's commission. Calculate your expected closing costs to help you set your budget.
The federal government’s Making Home Affordable program is working with various banks and lenders to ensure that they provide millions of homeowners with loan modifications. In some cases the government may be subsidizing fees and interest rate reductions. Learn about this and other programs, all of which can ensure people get relief from their mispriced mortgage payments. The other option is the Homeowner Affordability and Stability, which is part of Make a Home Affordable.
"I don't know what I would have done without the help of Iowa Mortgage Help. After a long and expensive battle with medical bills, I faced foreclosure of a home that has been in my family for over 100 years. I was finally able to get a successful loan modification and a payment I can afford in order to take care of my home. I'd have lost everything if it wasn't for their assistance."
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To be clear, you don't need a pre-approval to start looking at houses. However, since a pre-approval is essentially the same as a full mortgage approval, just without a specific home in mind, it can be an extremely valuable shopping tool. Specifically, if you submit a pre-approval along with your offer, it tells the seller that you're a serious buyer who is not likely to run into trouble when obtaining financing. One caveat: A pre-approval and pre-qualification are two different things. A pre-qualification is based solely on information you provide and is not a commitment to lend money, therefore it doesn't carry nearly as much weight.
Catholic Charities also runs a number of free foreclosure counseling programs. They have locations across the nation, and case managers at many centers specialize in dealing with housing issues, including mortgage delinquency and providing more general homebuyer assistance. The services also deal with overall credit counseling and repair. All services are free to qualified families, and locations are approved and certified by HUD. Read more on Catholic Charities free housing counseling.