Don’t Fall for These 3 Myths About Refinancing Your Underwater Mortgage

Written by Posted On Friday, 28 August 2015 10:39

The 2012 peak saw some of American history’s worst stats in negative home equity. According to the latest Zillow Negative Equity Report, the percentage is down by almost half. The total number of homeowners with underwater mortgages went from a staggering 31.4 percent in the first quarter of 2012 to 16.9 percent in the third quarter of 2014. The forecasts say negative home equity will continue to fall – but we still have a ways to go.

If you’re a home or property owner, these numbers are all too real. Fortunately, there are strategies in place for refinancing an underwater home. Read on to separate the myths from the facts.


MYTH: Filing for Bankruptcy Will Prevent Foreclosure

Unfortunately, while bankruptcy will ideally help you out of your house debt, it’s not the end-all for foreclosure. Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which is the most common type for individual declarers, can delay foreclosure, but may not prevent it entirely. Often, banks will wait until the end of the case and then proceed with foreclosure after discharge. Bankruptcy should be an absolute last resort.


MYTH: You Can’t Trust Refinancing Lenders

For many homeowners, when the first refinancing programs were put in place, they seemed too good to be true. This was compounded by the fact that the original government deadline for enrolling in the Home Affordable Refinance Plan, or HARP, was in December of 2013. That deadline has now been extended – first to December of 2015, and now to December of 2016. Lenders want to ensure that all eligible parties have the opportunity to enroll if they choose. According to lender Fannie Mae, homeowners saved an average of $250 per month in the early stages of the program.


MYTH: It’s Not Worth Renovating My Home Before I Sell

Actually, it depends. When it comes to a process as potentially complex as this one, it’s worth evaluating all your options. There are a number of reasons why you might opt to renovate prior to selling. It largely depends on what the market looks like in your geographical region. Many mortgage companies offer home improvement loans, so it’s a good idea to take a look at the numbers. Will renovation costs improve prospects, or will they just sink you further? If the value of your home is down 40 percent, a 15 percent increase may not be worth it.

On the other hand, some improvements are simple enough to make a huge difference. For example, removing a large tree or overgrown bushes from the front of the home can make the property look more appealing and help increase its value. Similarly, a dark-colored interior can be repainted to look brighter, which can make the space feel bigger and could prompt potential buyers to pay more. To cut costs on renovating, consider renting instead of buying the equipment you need.

Please note, however, that federal rehab loans for property owners do not cover luxury items such as adding a spa or swimming pool. If you want to go that route, you’ll have to find a private lender.


Is It Time to Refinance?


Ultimately, the choice is up to you. HARP has been available for two years. If you’re considering refinancing your underwater mortgage and want to enroll in HARP, check out the guidelines to get started with the process, which is currently open through December 2016.

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