Maine Real Estate | Mortgage Modification
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Maine Real Estate News and Notes

Mortgage Modification Alternatives and Option - Buyer Beware
 

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Home loan modification programs currently being offered are designed to save homeownership, but they've also created a new mortgage maze where buyers must pay close attention.

Both government-sanctioned counseling agencies and local community service agencies concede they have been swamped recently by demand for loan modifications. The demand stems from a proliferation of federal, state and local level foreclosure relief and bailout efforts from both government and the private lending industry.

Mortgage modifications have been around for years, but those recent relief efforts have raised the profile of the mortgage workouts as an alternative to foreclosures, short sales, auctions, and bankruptcy. The demand has opened the floodgates of loan modification services now offered by real estate agents, mortgage brokers, attorneys, government agencies, lenders, and other professionals.

No matter where they start, homeowners seeking mortgage modifications are at the mercy of lenders. The workouts are often voluntary and, completed on a case-by-case basis, they frequently come without standardized procedures.

Caught in this vortex, homeowners are finding it tough to know when a modification will work and how to best obtain one. The purpose here is provide some insight and ensure that you protect yourself.

What is a mortgage modification?

A home loan modification, granted only upon the existing lender's approval, permanently reworks some of the terms of an existing mortgage in order to make the loan more affordable to the homeowner. The strategy is typically designed for homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage, not for those who can pay their mortgage or are eligible for a refinanced loan.

NL_PuzzleModifications are generally lender fee-free and involve the lender or loan holder lowering the interest rate and or changing an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) to a fixed rate mortgage (FRM) with a 30-year term. Some form of mandated homeownership counseling generally comes with the deal.

Less common loan modifications include adding missed payments to the loan balance and extending the term of the loan. Least common is getting the lender to reduce the principal or wipe out any second mortgages.

A mortgage modification is not a refinanced mortgage, but rather a brand new loan written to pay off the old home loan.  It is a complex transaction.

Is a loan modification for you?

Some things to consider when evlauating a loan modification include:

The modified loan comes with payments you still can't afford.
  
Your current interest rate is already low and there's no room for the lender to lower it further.
  
You can make the new payments, but the mortgage balance is greater than the value of your home and you don't plan on staying put long enough to reverse the loan-to-value imbalance.
  
You have not already missed payments on your mortgage or can't show financial hardship due, say, to job loss, pay decrease, illness or interest rate increase.
  
You have other properties, investments or assets that could be liquidated to cover your mortgage debt.
  
 A short sale (The lender forgives a portion of the debt owed if you can find a buyer), bankruptcy, auction sale, refinance or other approach, short of a foreclosure, is a better option.

A financial, housing or credit counselor can help you determine your best option. Just be prepared to hold down the fort for the 60 to 90 days or more it could take to complete the modification, due to potential complications and document processing times.

 

 

    
    
  

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