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Alternatives to Foreclosure


Facing Foreclosure? Here Are Do's and Don'ts

It's a situation facing hundreds of thousands of people - and the numbers are growing rapidly.

Foreclosures aren't just happening to people who over-leveraged themselves and got into risky loans. They are happening to homeowners who are getting divorced, facing health issues, needing to relocate for a job, and numerous other reasons. Regardless of how you may end up falling behind on your mortgage, knowing what to do next is critically important.

The Douglin Group and Foundation gives free seminars and workbooks to the public for homeowners facing foreclosure. Carla Douglin is the founder and CEO. Here's a Q-and-A with her.

Q: There's a lot of information out there about foreclosures, but one thing the news media tend to tout as being the first action step should actually be postponed. Why?

A: "A lot of the news media are talking about the first thing you need to do is contact your lender. However, if [homeowners who are] facing foreclosures contact their lender first, the first person they interact with is the customer service agent, who may threaten them and tell them 'We're going to foreclose on your home right away' and scare them into not taking action. If they get to a loan mitigation person and they are talking to them, they may agree to a workout that they cannot afford just to get the phone calls to stop. However, if they agree to a workout they cannot afford and they miss a payment, [the homeowners] have essentially lied to their loan agency. And that's not something good."

Q: Homeowners generally fall into a panic mode shortly after they realize the severity of their foreclosure circumstances. What do you recommend they do first?

A: "People need to back up, really stop panicking. … [They need to] look at their finances, look at their income, look at their expenses, and any liquid cash and then call their lender with that information so that they can work out something that's really going to help them and not break them."

Q: What can homeowners say to their lenders to help influence them to work out a mutually beneficial arrangement?

A: "If you have gone through the steps of understanding what your deadlines are and then facing your finances and you still see that you're short, that's where you do need to communicate with your lender and say, 'I need to work out some other agreement with you because right now I don't have it.'"

Q: How receptive are lenders when homeowners say they can't pay their mortgage?

A: "What people are finding is that lenders are willing to work with them. It will take a whole lot of persistence on the part of homeowners. They really need to make sure that they're not intimidated by the conversation they need to have with their lender. But they need to step up and say, 'I am not going to be able to make this. What can we do to suspend the payment, lessen the payment or modify the payment until I get back on my feet?'"

Q: Homeowners should also look for other sources of money. Where can they find this help?

A: "There are some employers who have a $5,000 loan that they are able to give their employees with low interest. They can pay it back through their pay over time; that's one. Two, there are grant programs through housing counselors like HUD; there are grant programs that are available to people who are going through foreclosure. [Homeowners] can reach out and be able to get some money that way."

Q: You advise homeowners to also think outside the box to help come up with money; what are those creative strategies?

A: "A lot of people are taking in boarders and renting out rooms. Some people are renting out their entire house and they are staying with family so that they can make the mortgage payment. These are all things that homeowners need to do - think a little bit outside the box when it comes to a solution.

"There are plenty of other alternatives, and people just need to look for them and apply them as quickly as possible."

Looking for solutions to an emotionally and financially draining situation such as a foreclosure is fatiguing and frustrating. However, if you realize there are options, you can begin to build momentum to rectify your situation.

Ultimately, it's critical to consult with experts on this matter, to be open about your financial dilemma, and to seek help immediately. For instance, real estate agents can either help you sell your home in a short sale, if necessary, or rent it out to help you pay your mortgage. Trying to do it alone can be a painfully disastrous experience - seek the help you need.

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