One of the solutions to foreclosure that we discuss much less often than others is obtaining an equity loan to pay off the arrears and reinstate the mortgage. This is because it is one of the more difficult options to qualify for, possibly more difficult than a standard foreclosure refinance. However, for homeowners in the right situation, a second loan taken out of their equity can allow them to get current on their payments again and end the pain of foreclosure. Although it is certainly not suitable for every foreclosure victim, and should not be relied upon as the the only option to save the home, it is a solution that should be considered by every homeowner facing foreclosure.
The reason most lenders refuse to loan to homeowners in foreclosure is because of the pending judgment. The bank often files a lis pendens with the county courthouse, which shows up against the property. This indicates to other prospective lenders that a lawsuit is ongoing against the owners of the property, and there has been no resolution to the court proceedings yet. Many traditional lenders do not want to loan money on a property when there is such a danger of not being paid back. If the lawsuit ends up in a judgment against the homeowners for more than the home is worth, and the house is sold at a county sheriff sale, a second mortgage would more than likely end up with little or nothing. They will not loan the homeowners $50,000 and expect to be paid back only $5,000 or nothing at all.
In fact, it is most likely that a second mortgage company will refuse to give an equity loan for exactly this reason. They have no reasonable expectation of the total amount of the eventual judgment, so they can not be entirely sure how much equity the homeowners have to begin with. This makes it difficult to provide an equity loan when the amount of equity is in question. With the pending foreclosure, there is also very little reason for the lender to expect their loan to be paid back over time. Second mortgages often lose all or nearly all of their loan amounts once the property is sold at the foreclosure auction. This is due to the fact that few properties sell at auction for anywhere close to their current market value.
One potential use for an equity loan is if the property is behind in payments but the homeowners are not yet in foreclosure. In this case, while the first mortgage company will be adding in late fees and interest, the amount of equity in the property is relatively easy to estimate. There may not be attorneys involved or a lengthy court process at this point, so the homeowners can use some of their equity to secure another loan and pay back the amount they are behind. The further behind they become, however, the more difficult it will be to qualify for the equity loan, as more of the equity will be eaten up by missed payments and extra fees. But homeowners should attempt to qualify for this solution before it is too late and the option is no longer available.
When homeowners are working on a repayment plan to get the mortgage back on track and avoid foreclosure, an equity loan can allow them to quickly pay back the arrears and begin working on other goals. This is especially useful if the mortgage company is no longer reporting the loan as being in foreclosure on the homeowners' credit reports. Of course, if the workout program is still showing as a foreclosure, then this may be more difficult. The family may be current on the payments for the plan, but the bank does not take the property out of foreclosure until the end of the term when all arrears, fees, and interest is paid back in full. But if this is not the case, it may be well worth attempting to pull out some equity to pay off the plan, get the payments more manageable, and put some extra cash in the bank to use as an emergency fund in case of a future financial hardship.
Equity loans can be a fairly quick and relatively painless solution to foreclosure, which means they are difficult to qualify for and cease to be a solution at all the further into the foreclosure process a home falls. However, for homeowners who have just missed a couple of payments and are not yet being sued by the lender, or are working on a forbearance agreement or other arrangement with the bank to get the payments back on track, an equity loan can allow them to get current on the loan once more and put together a more substantial savings plan. Although there may be more hurdles to jump over to qualify for this solution to stop foreclosure, it should not be discounted or forgotten about when homeowners are putting together a plan to save their homes.
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