There’s not much that sends you into a panic like losing your job. If you’ve recently been fired or let go, your monthly mortgage payment doesn’t just stop. It might be difficult to keep up with your mortgage payment, even if you have unemployment benefits. Unemployment usually barely covers a mortgage much less anything else and if your benefits run out before you find another job, you could start to feel desperate. It’s at these times that you need to stop, gather your thoughts, and understand your options. Here are a few steps to take to prevent mortgage default if you lose your job.
#1. Take a look at your insurance.
Some insurance policies will cover your mortgage payments if you become unemployed. If you can plan in advance you might have ensured yourself against this type of issue through an unemployment or mortgage protection insurance program. If you lose your job within a specified time after buying your house, usually in about two years, the mortgage protection insurance can cover you for the full amount of your mortgage payments, taxes, and hazard insurance.
#2. Look into savings.
This is probably one of the first steps you’ve already taken. You might have to dip into your savings and figure out how long the finances you have will last. Calculate your available funds as well as counting any severance package, unemployment benefits, and emergency savings and then the list prioritizing things that need to be paid first and foremost.
#3. Contact your lender.
If it truly looks like you’ll be unable to make your mortgage payment you must contact your lender as quickly as possible. The people on the other end of the line are not like those at a credit card answering facility. These people truly want you to keep their home. Lenders and underwriters, banks and mortgage providers are not in the business of real estate and they really don’t want to have to take your home, so the more you work with them, the higher the chance of you keeping your house. The quicker you take this step the more time you’ll be able to work with them on a way to keep your property.
#4. Consider forbearance.
After you’ve talked to your lender or submitted a hardship letter, the lender may offer you the opportunity for a forbearance program. This could potentially lower your mortgage payments or suspend them for a time. The Home Affordable Unemployment Program is one of these temporary programs that can either suspend or reduce them to know more than 31% of your gross income during your job search. There are eligibility requirements and you must live in your home and be eligible to collect unemployment benefits and all less than $729,250.
#5. Seek advice and assistance from FHA or government agencies.
If your mortgage is insured through FHA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, a USDA loan or VA loan, there could be several programs to help unemployed homeowners with their mortgages. You may qualify for a partial claim arrangement with the FHA, which provides an interest-free loan from the government. You won’t need to repay this loan until you sell the house or pay off the mortgage. It’s important to speak to one of these professionals right away.
#6. Look into a loan modification or a short sale.
If you’d like to keep the home and don’t qualify for a forbearance program you could ask your lender about a mortgage modification. This could be a permanent change to your mortgage adding overdue payments to your loan balance or extending the number of years you have to pay off your mortgage. They may even change your interest rate to lower your monthly payment.
If you don’t feel you can keep the home, a short sale might be the best option, meaning that they will sell the home for you for less than you owe. In today’s hot real estate market you probably won’t need to go for a short sale unless you’ve recently purchased the home at 100% financing.
#7. Consider filing bankruptcy.
As an alternative to foreclosure and once you’ve exhausted all other avenues to prevent defaulting on your mortgage, you might want to consider bankruptcy. This is typically a last resort because it stays on your credit report for 10 years. If you qualify and have some sort of regular income, a chapter 13 bankruptcy may be able to delay or stop foreclosure proceedings altogether. A chapter 7 bankruptcy will stall your foreclosure proceedings and buy you some time to work out a deal with your lender.
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There are a lot of options when it comes to your mortgage, making the payment, and staying in your home after losing your job. However, you need to act quickly regardless of what you do. Not making your mortgage payment and not communicating with your lender is actually the worst thing you can do. They will do everything possible to help you stay in your home and present a default but you must contact them immediately.