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Profile picture for mklearl

Pay or Walk?

I bought my house four years ago at the peak of the market for 250k.  My stated income is considerably less than what I actually make, so I only qualified for an interest only mortgage.  Part of the agreement was that I could not refinance for at least 3 years.  Not a problem, since I would pay on time, establish myself with the mortgage company, and refinance when allowed to do so.  Well, obviously over the past 3 years, the market has crashed and my home is now worth 150k.  I have  contacted my mortgage company regarding refinancing through a help for homeowners program or any equivalent.  They responded by saying that I can't afford the home.  Funny they should say that as I have never been late on a payment.  The representative told me that I was within $100 of being accepted, so I filled out the refinance package again crunching numbers, writing my sob story letter etc. and again was told that I can't afford the home. 

So my question is, should I just stop paying and foreclose on this house and start fresh in another 5 years or should I keep paying interest only for the next 3 years when my 7/1 arm matures?  Is there anyway for me to refinance now?  I'm sure all of you experts are tired of hearing this same question being asked 50 different ways, but any input would be greatly appreciated.
  • September 28 2009 - Gloucester
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Answers (29)

complicated question but I think the answer is clear.  If you bail out you lose the house.  Where are you going to go and how much will that payment be?  My guess is that the payment will be comparable but your current house willl be a much nicer place to live.  Also, who knows where the market will be in three years, you may be back to even, and/or your income may increase to a level where you can afford to refi.
If you walk, you ruin your credit (obviously).
  • September 28 2009
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If you continue to pay you will at least still own the home when the market comes back. Its probably equivilant to renting plus you get a tax write off. I say stay!
  • September 28 2009
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Profile picture for mklearl
Am I not just renting it now?  Interest only.
  • September 28 2009
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Nearly 1 out of 5 defaults filed in 4Q08 were "Strategic Default".  If you are looking for validation here, you came to the wrong place. 

That decision is a personal one and you should consult your trusted advisors to hopefully include a real estate attorney, a bankruptcy attorney, a CPA, a financial advisor.

If you decide on Strategic Default, you certainly won't be alone.
  • September 28 2009
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Profile picture for NeedinFHA
You took a house loan KNOWING you couldn't afford the actual payment?  Why?


As others said if you CAN make the current payment I'd say stay, when the market turns around SLIGHTLY in about 4-5 years you might be able to get 200k back outta that house and move on.
  • September 28 2009
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well, a couple more details would be in order:
1. how much would the home rent for? how much more/less is your payment? If your payment is on the order of renting, then, you can easily wait a few more years with no real risk. You are in essence renting.

YOU need to think about your long term goals. If defaulting is the best financial decision, well, mostly the people writing on here couldn't think their way out a wet sack anyways... "hold it till it comes back.... hahaha"
  • September 28 2009
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You do have options, you can look into a loan modification to see if that is an option.  Here is a place to start educating yourself http://www.callalms.com/blog/2009/home-affordable-modification-program-hamp/.  It may not be an option, but you can try it yourself or hire an Attorney to do it for you.
  • September 29 2009
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Profile picture for mklearl
NeedinFHA:  I believe I've stated before that I've made every payment on time for the last four years. You must work for my mortgage company! My problem isn't that I can't afford it, my problem is that I can't refinance 250,000 when the home is only worth 150,000.  Four years ago when I purchased the home, they took my income, subtracted my bills, and they gave me a loan.  Well, the formula they use now is more stringent and that is why they are saying I cannot afford the home...they have tougher guidelines, and understandably so.  But when they approved me for an interest-only mortgage that I wasn't allowed to refinance for 3 years, they did so for two reasons...the first being that they wanted to get at least 3 years of interest from me, which they have.  The second was to establish myself with the company and show them that although I was high risk, I would take the responsibility of making my payments.  The bank knew from the start that I would want to refinance after 3 years...who wouldn't?  I don't think too many people sign on for an inerest only mortgage and plan on paying just interest for 30 years!
Christine, I appreciate your input, but the loan modification is a complete joke.  I've tried doing that, twice, and their answer is that I cannot afford the house.  I guess my pity letter that you have to send in with the mod packet isn't pitiful enough.  The bottom line is that the banks are under no obligation to modify your loan and you are at their mercy. Why would they refinance a home at an affordable rate when they are getting interest only every month.  And the answer is because they don't want to own another home, so should I threaten with walking so they take me seriously?   Believe me I would like nothing more than to stay in my home, I'm just looking for a way to do it!
  • September 29 2009
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I don't try to give the bad advice, I have a friend don't pay the mortgage for his condo for 10 months, which is the value dropped 50% (mortgage $360k, condo's value  is $180k), since the bank don's known what to do with his condo, now the bank gives to him 3 months try with interest rate 2.25% for 7 years (loan modification). I don't knows what happen after 3 months try (he has 2 more months to go).
  • September 29 2009
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Profile picture for Mr Caveat
i'm a very practical person. what it comes down to for me is the numbers. it sounds to me like you WILL NEVER PAY OFF THIS HOME without the bank's assistance. therefore you are a renter. mort, schmort. i cannot speak to your emotional state re: this house. i also cannot say definitively what programs will be availible 3 years from now vs what we have. you are far from being alone in this mess and obama seems likely to swing back to economics after his healthcare bill does whatever.

if you do want to keep the home, i suggest you ignore the bank and amortize the loan yourself. for every dollar you pay today, you will save yourself 2 dollars over the life of the loan. if you bought for 250k your total cost is close to 500k over 30 years +/-. if its worth 150k, then you are 200,000 behind. thats okay because 30 years from now it will probably be a million plus home. but in addition every dollar you pay today wont be amortized in 3 years. meaning that if you pay off an extra 30,000 (in addition to proving you can pay an amortizing payment) you will owe 220k on your home. 180/month less in interest and principal.

now on the flip side, 3 years from now, even 5 years from now, you will be able to afford the full mortgage payment. you will be able to qualify for the loan. you will be able to save half of your mort payment for movies now and retirement later.

if you can rent the home for the mtg now, i highly doubt rent stays there over the next several years. on the same token if you have a choice between dinging your credit now or doing it later, i would take your lumps now and try to buy again in 2012-2014 if you really want to own a home. waiting 3 years and then filing for foreclosure seems like its risking your time-line a little bit(even though i don't know your time-line)

I guess my pity letter that you have to send in with the mod packet isn't pitiful enough.

just a note, but on average they want you to point to a reason in YOUR life that caused you to need a modification. "i need a modification because YOUR bank put me in a loan that we both knew was a short term loan" is a valid concern, but not one that they want to hear.

so to sum up, i think the wise move is to default and wait, BUT if you want to own this home, i would start paying extra on the mortgage(or just save an extra portion of my check). there is no good reason to just wait for foreclosure unless it is cheaper than the alternative, which i do not believe it is.
  • September 29 2009
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Profile picture for Mr Caveat
one more thing to consider. wait 6months to 1 year. banks are way behind on the whole foreclosure process and many many more defaults will show up next year. join into that crowd and you may get a year or two rent free out of the deal. by that time you could buy the home for cash! well maybe not, but you could certainly scrape together 50k+. take this opportunity to make lemonade.
  • September 29 2009
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Profile picture for asugradinwa

Can you not get a second job?  Rent out a room? 

Those would give some added money and after you've done those for a while the bank can count them as income for when you try to refinance.  Or you can stop making payments until the bank is willing to work with you.  Even if they don't want to change your loan it will take forever for them to forclose.

If you are going to lose the house you might as well live in it 10 months to a year rent free.

  • September 29 2009
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I would just like to comment to asugrad.

What?  Obviously you skipped the ethics courses at asu.  "stop making payments until the bank is willing to work with you" is assinine.  You might as well wait until the armed guard leaves the brinks truck door open and take the rest of the cash; fake a broken leg because the insurance company has a lot of money or pull a Madoff.

When you buy a house or make any investment there is always an element of risk.  Don't screw the next guy because you can, be a man.

  • September 29 2009
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Profile picture for Mr Caveat
hey, its not like the bank had no idea. when it comes down to it the bank had every reason(and every advantage) to make sure they were covered. if he walks, the bank gets the securitized asset. that should be enough. if its not, they should have asked for money down. if that weren't enough, the bank is essentially refusing to renew a loan that they already have on the books. there is no imposition on the bank to rewrite this loan at 5% instead of 6, they would get paid again. i liken it less to madoff and more to detroit. still criminal, but you play the game in a language the other side understands.

next time, when its your fault entirely, then you can clean up your own mess.
  • September 29 2009
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Profile picture for mklearl
Whoa now everyone!  Just calm down!  I never thought I would be the mediator in this conversation, but I'm glad I pushed some buttons and am able to get various points of view.  First of all, let me state that I'm not looking to screw anyone.  I have no problem paying off my mortgage which is considerably higher than what the home is worth.  I understand that I have a responsibility to pay off exactly what I signed up for.  My problem is that my mortgage company is not allowing me to do so.  They want me to keep paying interest only if I want to stay in the house and pay nothing toward the principle.  I get the feeling that they're trying to keep me paying interest only for as long as they can because that is the best way for them to make money.  I'm sorry, but I don't find that acceptable. 

I have considered leaving the house and renting it out, but for what my mortgage payments are, why would someone rent my house for 1500/month when they can now buy the same house or a better house for less money?

"When you buy a house or make any investment there is always an element of risk.  Don't screw the next guy because you can, be a man."

True, but the risk is at the hands of the bank as well as the borrower.  Yes I agreed to pay my mortgage, but the bank also agreed to the terms that if I didn't pay, they could come and take the house.  Unfortunately, that's what many people are opting for! 
Strategic forclosures are part of the reason for all this mess.  People won't "man-up" and take responsibility for the loans they signed up for.  I am trying to take responsibilty, but how do I get the bank to work with me and realize that I want to stay in my home, I will pay my mortgage, but I want to renegotiate my loan so I can pay toward the principal.  I am turning 40 this year, so as it turns out, if I refinance this year, I'll be working till I'm 70...I'm ok with that, as it is my responsibility.  I'm just trying to get the bank to realize that.

Thanks again for all of your input.  I know I am not alone and appreciate any input.

  • September 29 2009
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On complex mortgage situations you can look at the 10,000 pages of text here on the web or sit down one on one with a local mortgage professional. 

Best wishes!

  • September 29 2009
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earl -

It is highly unlikley that the bank will not allow you to pay towards the balance.  Your loan likely contains an Interest Only Rider which will state you have that option on your loan for the first 3/5/7/10 years.  This means the loan servicer will send statements to show the interest due.

If you want to pay more, you mark on the payment coupon the amount of principal you wish to pay, and add that amount to your check.  Your loan has an Interest Only OPTION.  You decide how much to pay each month.

  • September 29 2009
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Profile picture for mklearl
Yeah, thanks justin.  I could just pay 10,000/month for the next 25 months and it'll be all mine.  I'm trying to get a realistic mortgage, though.  Steve, I appreciate your input, but "mortgage professionals" are the ones who got me into this mess to begin with...."it's ok all you have to do is get in the door, then just refinance when you're allowed to!" I'm sure this sounds familiar to most of you as you were telling this to your clients 4 years ago when the market was peaking. 

Anyone else want to take me for a fool?
  • September 29 2009
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Earl - I was only commenting on the portion where you said you mortgage company will not allow you to pay balance, and that they WANT you to pay interest only.  I can assure you they will be thrilled if you pay towards the balance as it will lower their potential loss in the event of default.

I am sorry you have a sour view of this industry and I can understand why you might have that perspective.  I am certain that blame will not help you one iota in your current situation.
  • September 29 2009
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Profile picture for asugradinwa
Greg Knox:  It is well known that many banks will not do a loan mod unless the person owning the home is behind on payments.

I'm in the process of trying to purchase a short sale and the bank didn't even start reviewing my offer until the owner stoped making payments on his house.  As long as the bank is getting it's money IT DOES NOT CARE.  When it stops getting money, it starts paying attention.

Also, from the sounds of it mklear wants to make payments and stay in his home, he is not asking for a bailout, he just wants to be able to have a fixed rate loan with a monthly payment he can afford.

If the bank can't work with him to get that done then he'll be forclosed on anyways.  Might stop making payments and see if the bank will play ball and then if it goes south he'll have enough money saved to start over.
  • September 29 2009
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Profile picture for mklearl
"I am sorry you have a sour view of this industry and I can understand why you might have that perspective.  I am certain that blame will not help you one iota in your current situation."

I am done blaming.  I take responsibility, and am just asking the bank to do the same.
  • September 29 2009
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Profile picture for mklearl
asugradinwa:  Exactly...you couldn't have said it any better...thanks!
  • September 29 2009
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mk,
My post was not directed at you.  You have my sympathy along with a million others out there, it simply sucks.  I was responding to someone who advised you to not only blame it all on, and leave it all in, the lap of the bank, but to ruin your credit at the same time.   Yes, the banks put out a bad product in stated income, but it takes two to tango, no loan closes without the borrower signing and attesting that everything on their application is true.   On a brighter note, I agree with Justin, I have never heard of a bank that would not allow you to pay down your balance, what sense would that possibly make?  Every cent above interest only which you pay them is also getting them farther out of the hole.

  • September 29 2009
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Profile picture for mklearl
Sweet.  So pay them every nickle I have on top of what they want even though they could renegotiate a loan that we would both be happy with?  I still don't find that acceptable!
  • September 29 2009
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mk,
Maybe my post was directed at you.  Please re read your post #21, first paragraph where you say you have no problem paying off what you signed up for.  Which is it?  In your initial post you say that you inflated your income to get into the house, then you say the bank won't let you pay them back even though you want to, now you say you want the bank to take less than you originally agreed to because they can afford it.
  • September 29 2009
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Profile picture for mklearl
EXCUSE ME?  Please direct me to where I stated that I inflated my income to get the house.  I am in a business where I make cash, probably doubling my income.  I got the loan through stated income, considerably less than what I make.  High risk mortgages, which is what stated income mortgages were considered, were charged many percentage points above what traditional mortgages were. I was fine with that, thinking that I would refinance after the alloted 3 years. Why would I consider paying 7.75% on my mortgage when a conventional 30 yr fixed can be refinanced at under 5%?  Not to mention that in another 2 years my mortgage goes to a variable rate at 9+%.  There are many people that are refinancing at their current home's value through government programs...I don't want to do that...I'll refinance what I signed up for, I just want a reasonable, FAIR rate...fixed so I can pay off my principal.  Don't put words in to my mouth greg.  Pretend that you are half of a professional and use your brain to understand what I want.  Read my post and get all the facts before you slam me!
  • September 29 2009
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Wouldn't it be interesting if we allowed lenders to enjoy part of the gains when a house is sold. I mean...if a lender has to lose 30 - 40% of the principle, why not stipulate that they get 30 % of the net gain?

MK...the situation you're in certainly isn't good. And obviously you're not alone. But I remember the early '90's when 100's of lenders were taken over by the RTC. Property values had fallen then, and there were two options: keep paying and wait until the property regains its value, or walk away and ruin your credit. Today, borrowers get "Loan mods" etc which is just another way of flushing the excess capital (a la a foreclosure) off the books without having to do the foreclosure part.

But lenders are in a bind...to modify the loan...they need to prove you qualify, and since you shield your true income from the gov't., the lender can't prove you're "worthy" of a new loan.

In hindsight you blame the lenders for providing a mortgage when you couldn't prove enough income. And if you're still "making more than you show" then you're already getting some major financial assistance courtesy of the tax laws, right?

Would you rather show your true income and pay the full taxes due Uncle Sam?...at least you could prove enough to modify the loan.
  • September 30 2009
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Profile picture for sunnyview
You are not the only one that has had to make this decision. I don't think it needs to be about blame. Deciding whether to walk or not should be based on your financial goals and how long it will take for your house to have positive equity. It will likely take the market a long time to regain the 100K that you lost. I can understand the banks concern about doing a loan modification based on your income. That is a financial decision on their part about your ability to keep paying. You need to make the same emotionless decision for yourself based on dollar and sense about whether to let the house go. 

I do not think that it is worth "renting" the house from the bank for another 3 years interest only until the ARM resets. Chances are that you will not be able to refinance when the ARM resets without paying off the negative equity out of pocket. I would talk to the bank about doing a short sale to try to reduce the financial loss for them. A negotiated short sale may also help you by avoiding a deficiency judgement for the shortfall on the house. A short sale is not perfect and it will negatively affect your credit, but still should affect it less than a foreclosure. However, it my be worth considering to get the best outcome in a bad situation. 
  • September 30 2009
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Profile picture for mklearl
Great points Doug.  However, I don't know why you are directing this at me.  I think I have posted repeatedly that I don't want to pay anything less than what I borrowed.  I know it's my responsibility and I'm willing to take it.  But as far as your points go, wouldn't it be interesting if we gave all that money to homeowners rather than to the banks?  Seems to me the banks were crying to uncle sam saying that if they don't get money, they'll go bankrupt and can't help the poor homeowner anymore...really, is anyone being helped?  I've given the bank $75456 over the past 4 years without a dime going toward my principle. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal...for them.  All on time, never late.  So don't tell me that I'm not "worthy" of a new loan.  Their not in a bind, they are just doing what is the most profitable for them.

I appreciate the fact that you think you can justify my financial situation because of the "major financial assistance courtesy of the tax laws."  You wouldn't even begin to understand my situation, ie 2 months away from my family, moving every 6 months, working 120 hrs/week and unclaimed expenses associated with my job.  I'm sure you would like to group me in with large corporations who screw uncle sam and everyone else out of thousands... but that's not my situation.  Uncle sam gets his from me and what I do, not that it's any of your business, is all legal.  So please, Doug, don't drag my name around on a public forum and imply that I'm getting "major financial assistance courtesy of the tax laws."  You obviously can't even begin to comprehend my situation.
  • September 30 2009
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