Mortgage Problems and the Myth of Foreclosure Help
For a number of reasons, the rate of home foreclosures is rising in the United States. In fact, the rate is up some 70% over a year ago. Part of this is due to rising interest rates that are making payments unaffordable to homeowners who bought their homes three or four years ago with adjustable rate mortgages. Many of these mortgages were set to adjust after three years, and the resulting increases in payments have left the homes unaffordable for their owners. With little recourse, thousands of owners have had to walk away from their homes. This unfortunate situation may be avoidable in some cases, particularly if the owners discuss their troubles with their lenders.
Instead, many owners have answered ads posted by companies offering "foreclosure help", hoping to find a way to keep their houses despite their financial troubles. In many cases, the owners not only fail to get the help they need, but they often end up literally giving their houses away to the companies they thought would help them keep them. The scam is a common one that takes advantage of people in desperate situations. Mortgage companies that intend to foreclose on delinquent customers file notice with the counties in which the homeowner resides. The county posts those notices and investors make note of the addresses.
With a bit of research, they determine the value of the property and the amount owed on the mortgage. The investors seek properties with large amounts of equity. They then approach the owner with an offer to "help" them with their financial troubles. The offers vary, but the deal usually involves an offer to make good on the delinquent amounts while renting the home back to the owner for a set period of time. At the conclusion of that time period, the investors say they will offer the owner-turned-tenant the opportunity to repay and take their home back. For desperate homeowners who want to keep their houses, these offers seem like a Godsend. Unfortunately, the deals rarely work out to the benefit of the owner. More often than not the paperwork provided with the offer includes a quitclaim deed, which, once signed by the owner, essentially gives the property to the investor. The investor, now the owner of the property, then demands an unreasonable amount of rent from the owner-turned-tenant. When he or she cannot pay, the investor evicts the tenant and sells the house, pocketing the profits.
In some cases, investors have pocketed several hundred thousand dollars from a single property, all for the minimum investment of a few months' of delinquent mortgage payments. The former owner is left with nothing. Some states, such as Minnesota, have passed laws that severely restrict this practice, but others, such as Florida, have so far been unable to overcome large opposition from business interests. In the states with few restrictions, flyers offering foreclosure help can be found on telephone poles in just about every city. Unfortunately for homeowners who have financial trouble, the last thing they will receive if they respond to these flyers is help. Homeowners who are in financial trouble should call their lender first. The last thing lenders want to do is foreclose, so buyers would be better off calling their lender rather than trusting their home to a stranger who advertises on telephone poles.