The 'walk Away' Phenomenon
As troubles in the housing market continue, homeowners owe much more on their mortgages than their houses are worth. Being upside down means that homeowners have stopped accruing any equity and that they're essentially sinking their funds into a money pit.
One solution that has become popular around the country is for a homeowner to stop making payments, mail their house keys to the lender (known as "jingle mail"), and simply walk away.
On the Internet, walking away from a mortgage has become a hot topic for real estate bloggers. Many people writing about the phenomenon are quick to condemn 'walk away homeowners' as irresponsible, selfish, and wrong. They feel that despite the fact that walking away from a mortgage won't land a person in jail; they have a moral obligation to satisfy their end of the contract.
In the past, missing a mortgage payment was considered a serious mismanagement of funds, and earned homeowners a poor reputation. Struggling homeowners back them were much quicker to miss payments on their car loans or credit cars, rather than put their mortgages on the line. Now however, the stigma surrounding foreclosure has greatly decreased, and homeowners are weighing the pros and cons of defaulting on their home loan versus getting behind on other types of payments. Homeowners these days are much more likely to put their mortgages on the chopping block before anything else.
There are experts in the industry who recommend homeowners to walk away from their houses the moment they become upside down on their mortgages. They advise struggling homeowners to keep their credit cards and car payments up to date because these offer more tangible rewards than homeownership that's not building any equity.
There are even companies springing up around the country that offer assistance to buyers who are in over their heads and considering walking away from their homes. Prices for services with these companies tend to range between $600 and $1000. These firms claim to be able to stop lenders from harassing you, and inform you about the legal and financial details you must take into consideration before defaulting on your loan.
While some of these 'walk away' companies focus primarily on helping owners get out of their mortgage, others see walking away as a last resort. Their goal is to help people stay in their homes, renegotiate their loans, or find some other reasonable option. The companies that focus more on helping the homeowner keep their home tend to charge less for their services.
Housing counselors generally see these types of organizations as a rip-off to customers. Although they can provide some moral support and offer advice, the information they provide is not worth their cost. Your rights and obligations in terms of your mortgage payments can be found out online, through a free housing counselor, or through your lender. If homeowners do some research on their own, they don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on an outside service.
If you're in a situation where you owe more than your property is worth, or you simply can't afford to make your payments anymore, talk to your lender. Try to speak with the loss mitigation department, and explain your situation. It may take a while to get an appointment, and in many cases lenders brush off homeowners who are still current in their payments. They tend to wait until the mortgage is a few months behind before they're willing to work with homeowners. However, it's important to try. A foreclosure is costly and mentally taxing for everyone involved, so it's in your lender's best interest to try to renegotiate the terms of your loan.
If you can't get their attention, see a housing counselor or perhaps a lawyer who can advise you on bankruptcy. While bankruptcy is not an ideal solution, it could offer a temporary reprieve. The important thing is to show your lender that you're serious about trying to keep your house. Have a plan ready to present to the bank that demonstrates how you plan to catch up on your payments in a way that will be beneficial to you both.
Some say that it makes smart financial sense to walk away from a losing investment, but it's important to try all of your options before taking the drastic step of walking away. Defaulting will leave a black mark on your credit for many years to come, and only exacerbate the nation's economic woes.
Related Tags: mortgages, home loans, foreclosures, real estate investments, sub prime, home loan defaults
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