Homeowners who are in default or at-risk of defaulting should contact a reputable credit counseling agency to discuss possible options other than foreclosure. When calling a credit counseling agency, the homeowner should have their loan number, most recent mortgage statement, bank statements and a letter demonstrating financial hardship.
Homeowners should contact their loan servicer as soon as possible to try to work out potential solutions. According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), some borrowers who do not meet the requirements for an existing mortgage modification program may still be considered for a loan adjustment based on personal circumstances.
If a mortgage modification is not possible, homeowners may want to consider a short sale — sell the home for less than the amount of the mortgage. Although a short sale enables a homeowner to avoid foreclosure and often causes less damage to the homeowner’s credit score than a foreclosure, the lender must agree to accept the loss and in some cases the homeowner may have to pay taxes on the difference. Also, many lenders are overwhelmed by the large number of short sales being submitted by homeowners, so it could take longer than usual to receive a short-sale acceptance from the lender.
If a homeowner cannot qualify for a mortgage modification or a short sale, some lenders will consider a deed in lieu of foreclosure, where the homeowner transfers the title to the lender in exchange for debt forgiveness. Properties that have additional debt, such as home equity lines of credit or additional mortgages, may not qualify for a deed in lieu of foreclosure. Homeowners who have additional debt tied to the property must share this information with their lender for consideration when applying for a short sale.