Facing Foreclosure?

Scammers are targeting people having trouble paying their mortgages. Some claim to be able to “rescue” homeowners from foreclosures, while others promise to modify your loan – for a fee. The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, wants you to know how to avoid scams that could make your housing situation go from bad to worse. Signs of a Foreclosure Rescue Scam If you are in danger of foreclosure, AVOID any individual or company that:

Requires a fee in advance

Don’t pay any business, organization, or person who promises to prevent foreclosure or guarantees you a new mortgage. So-called “foreclosure rescue companies” claim they can help save your home, but they can’t really do that. They’re just out to make a fast buck. Some may ask for hefty fees in advance – and then, once you pay, stop returning your calls. Others may string you along before disclosing their charges. Cut off all dealings if someone insists on a fee in advance.

Promises to find mistakes in your loan documents that will force your lender to cancel or modify your loan

Cancelling your loan won’t allow you to stay in your home, and in most cases, lenders are not required to modify your loan to make it more affordable simply because of mistakes in your loan documents.

Guarantees to stop a foreclosure

Don’t do business with anyone who offers an “easy out” of foreclosure. These kinds of claims are the tell-tale signs of a foreclosure rip-off:

“We can stop your foreclosure!” “97% success rate!” “Guaranteed to save your home!”

 

Advises you to stop paying your mortgage company or stop talking to your mortgage company

Some scammers offer to handle financial arrangements for you, and then pocket your payment instead of sending it to your mortgage company. Send your mortgage payments ONLY to your mortgage company. Scammers may advise you not to communicate with your mortgage company. That’s a bad idea because you may not find out until it’s too late that the scammer has done nothing for you, that your mortgage company was willing to modify your loan, or even that foreclosure is just days away!

Help is Available

Contact your mortgage company as soon as possible if you’re having trouble paying your mortgage or if you get a foreclosure notice. Keeping the lines of communication with your mortgage company open is critical. Call 1-888-995-HOPE for free personalized advice from housing counseling agencies certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This national hotline – open 24/7 – is operated by the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, a nonprofit member of the HOPE NOW Alliance of mortgage industry members and HUD-certified counseling agencies. For free guidance online, visit www.hopenow.com. And for free information about the President’s plan to help financially strapped homeowners in mortgage misery, visit www.makinghomeaffordable.gov   DMCC is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization committed to educating consumers on financial issues and providing personal assistance to consumers who have become overextended with debt.  Education is provided free of charge to consumers, as well as personal counseling to identify the best options for the repayment of their debt. To speak to a certified credit counselor, call toll-free 866-618-3328 or email contact@dmcconline.org. DMCC is located at 3310 N. Federal Highway, Lighthouse Point, FL 33064.

Ref: Federal Trade Commission Public information

Face Your Mortgage Issues Directly and Realistically

Nobody likes to take a call from the collections department. It doesn’t matter if the call is about a credit card, a utility bill, a bounced check or anything else that may be delinquent. Avoiding the issue may seem like a good strategy to those who really hate conflict, but it is usually the worst thing you can do. This is especially true when it comes to a mortgage.

Your lender does not want your house. Yes, they may be very forward in telling you that foreclosure could happen if you do not pay, but they would much rather have a good loan than face the headache of the foreclosure process, reconditioning a property and finding a way to sell it. In the current economic climate, lenders are more desperate than ever to keep you in your house, but they cannot do it unless you talk to them.

Consider this: Freddie Mac has estimated the cost of a foreclosure to the bank to be around $60,000. Officials at HSBC have estimated that the average loss on a foreclosed home is 20 to 25% of the value of the loan. This means that on a $400,000 home, they could lose $80,000 to $100,000. Doesn’t it make sense that the bank would prefer to cut its losses?

In order to work with you, the lender needs to speak to you. The sooner they can speak to you, the better your chances of working a deal with them. In another article, titled “Mortgage Options to Avoid Losing Your Home”, the specifics of what types of deals you may be able to obtain are spelled out. This article will deal only with what you need to do and what you need to be prepared to provide if you want to avoid foreclosure.

• Find out who actually owns your mortgage and deal with them directly. In most cases, you are making your payments to a company that is merely servicing your loan. That company may not be in a position to make the best deal with you. The actual owner of the mortgage has the most to lose if you reach the point of foreclosure and thus has the most to gain by working something out with you.

• Ask to speak with the “Loss Mitigation” department. Almost every lender has such a department. Those that didn’t in the past have created one because the losses from foreclosure have become so extensive. The collections department has one job: get money from you. The loss mitigation department is there to try to help you either keep your house, or at least make the process of losing it less painful, less expensive and less stressful.

• Don’t wait until they have already begun the foreclosure process. Your best deal will come when the bank has not already spent a lot of money with attorneys. Remember, to work something out, you need to make it easier and less expensive for the lender as well as yourself.

• Be prepared to show need and ability. The loss mitigation department usually has many different options to help you keep your home, but they need to see that you can make some sort of payment and you need to show them that there is a legitimate reason for your delinquency. Too many people are simply taking advantage of bad economic times to try to get a better deal. You will need to be able prove your income and explain your circumstances if you expect to get help.

• Understand that you may need to make sacrifices. You are not going to get a lot of sympathy from your lender if you own a 40 foot boat or you drive almost new luxury cars that are paid in full. You may have to consider liquidating some assets and downsizing to items that fulfill needs and not expensive desires.

• Don’t lose your home in order to salvage credit cards and personal loans. You may have to stop paying unsecured debts altogether or at least put them on a Debt Management Plan or even a Debt Settlement Plan. It might be a good idea to consult with a certified credit counselor at a credit counseling agency to find out about your options with your other debts. A reduction in payments on your other debts could make more of your income available to help save your home.

• Don’t abandon the property or let it deteriorate. Even when there is no way you can keep your home, because of the current difficulties in selling a home, the lender may be willing to offer you some assistance. Some lenders are letting people stay in homes and maintain them for little or even no rent just to keep the value up. Others are offering thousands of dollars in relocation money to people as long as they leave the house in good condition. Be sure you discuss these options with your lender if you are in the worst-case scenario of losing your home. You may find that the lender will make your transition easier or even profitable.

• You don’t have to do it alone. There are HUD approved housing counseling agencies that may be able to help you work something out with your lenders for little or no cost. There are also companies out there that will charge you a fee for their services, but unless the services include a legal challenge to the loan documents, they are unlikely to be able to do more than a HUD approved agency.

If you live in South Florida, DMCC is a HUD Approved Housing Agency that may be able to help you. If you live outside South Florida, you can contact HUD at (800) 569-4287 for a list approved agencies in your local area. For FHA insured loans, if you feel your lender is not being responsive to your requests for help, you can call (800) CALL- FHA.

DMCC is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization committed to educating consumers on financial issues and providing personal assistance to consumers who have become overextended with debt.  Education is provided free of charge to consumers, as well as personal counseling to identify the best options for the repayment of their debt. To speak to a certified credit counselor, call toll-free 866-618-3328 or email contact@dmcconline.org. DMCC is located at 3310 N. Federal Highway, Lighthouse Point, FL 33064.

 


Should You Refinance?

Interest rates have fallen so much, it may seem like a no brainer to refinance your home mortgage.

The decision to refinance your mortgage isn’t one that should be taken lightly. Before deciding, you need to understand all that refinancing involves. Your home may be your most valuable financial asset, so you want to be careful when choosing a lender or broker and specific mortgage terms. Remember that, along with the potential benefits to refinancing, the interest rate isn’t the only thing to consider when shopping for a new loan. Refinancing, after all, isn’t free. There are the bank fees, the bills for a new appraisal and inspection, your lawyer’s fee, etc.

When you refinance, you pay off your existing mortgage and create a new one. You may even decide to combine both a primary mortgage and a second mortgage into a new loan. Refinancing may remind you of what you went through in obtaining your original mortgage, since you may encounter many of the same procedures–and the same types of costs–the second time around. It requires an application, credit check, new survey and title search, as well as an appraisal and inspection fees. As you know, this process can be quite lengthy and expensive.

Age is another consideration. Carrying a mortgage into retirement has traditionally been viewed as a bad idea – ideally, you should be as debt-free as possible when your income stops.

As a rule of thumb, it pays to refinance if you can get an interest rate at least two percentage points lower than what you are currently paying. However, every situation is different. Make sure to carefully weigh the benefits against the costs to make the best choice for your situation.

DMCC is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization committed to educating consumers on financial issues and providing personal assistance to consumers who have become overextended with debt.  Education is provided free of charge to consumers, as well as personal counseling to identify the best options for the repayment of their debt. To speak to a certified credit counselor, call toll-free 866-618-3328 or email contact@dmcconline.org. DMCC is located at 3310 N. Federal Highway, Lighthouse Point, FL 33064.

Saving On Your Homeowners Insurance

As with any insurance purchase, it is important to evaluate coverage and research your options to find the best coverage for your dollar. Here are some tips from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to help you save money on your homeowners insurance.

Shop Around

Homeowners insurance can be costly, but it is necessary. The premiums charged for homeowners insurance can vary widely from company to company, so it pays to take the time and effort to shop around to get the best value for your insurance dollar.  The cost of homeowners insurance depends on a number of factors including location, age and type of building, the use of the building (i.e. residence and/or commercial enterprise), local fire protection, choice of deductibles, application of discounts, and the scope and amount of insurance coverage you purchase.

Stick With the Company That Offers the Best Deal

Once you have considered all of the alternatives and have chosen the company that fits your needs, consider multiple policies with that company.

Change Your Deductible

In choosing the deductible amount, you bear the burden of loss up to the  amount you feel you can afford. Deductibles save money because the first dollars of the insurance are the most expensive to buy. Contact your insurance company to see if they offer higher deductibles, such as $500 or $1,000 on your homeowners insurance coverage.

Pay Attention to Rebuilding Costs Versus Actual Land Value of the Home

Consider the home and its contents when pricing the value of a Homeowners Insurance policy, not the land beneath the home. The property itself is not at risk of theft, fire or other hazards covered under your homeowners policy. Adding the land value could increase your premiums.

Discount Opportunities

You should also check with your insurance company to see if they offer premium discounts for the use of dead-bolt locks, smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, sprinkle systems and security systems.

Build a History with the Same Insurer

If coverage remains with the same insurer for 3-5 years, some companies offer up to a 5% discount plan for these long term consumers. After 6 years of coverage, a consumer may find up to a 10% discount. It is important to periodically compare the price with other policies, but the history benefits may be enough to reduce the premiums.

Actual Cash Value vs. Replacement Cost

Actual cash value coverage, as the name implies, will reimburse you for the cost of the property (less depreciation) at the time of the claim, minus your deductible. This may result in a lower claim payment than you expect. Replacement cost coverage, on the other hand, will reimburse the full value of the property. While the up-front cost is greater, you are more likely to receiveaccurate compensation for your possessions.

DMCC is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization committed to educating consumers on financial issues and providing personal assistance to consumers who have become overextended with debt.  Education is provided free of charge to consumers, as well as personal counseling to identify the best options for the repayment of their debt. To speak to a certified credit counselor, call toll-free 866-618-3328 or email contact@dmcconline.org. DMCC is located at 3310 N. Federal Highway, Lighthouse Point, FL 33064.