Protect Your Home From The Foreclosure Next Door

Foreclosure Sign
Even if your home has been safe from the threat of foreclosure, it’s possible that it has still been affected by those who haven’t been so lucky. Foreclosures, especially those that are starting to look run down, can drag down the property values of an entire neighborhood. If the curb appeal of your neighborhood is lacking, so is the value of your home.

And having a foreclosed home or two (or more) in your neighborhood isn’t just potentially bad for curb appeal. It can also invite crime, which could cause your homeowners insurance to increase.

But there are things you and your neighbors can do to help maintain the value of your home—and your neighborhood.

Read More About: How To Protect Your Home's Value From The Foreclosure Next Door...

Loan Modification Guide for Homeowners

Loan modification is a hot topic and getting a lot of "hype" in the news. Below we have detailed what a loan modification means and who qualifies for the Home Affordable Modification Program which was recently launched by the Obama administration.

What is Loan Modification?

Loan modification programs are typically designed for homeowners who are having difficulty making their mortgage payment, but who can't qualify to refinance their mortgage. A loan modification is different than a refinanced mortgage which trades in one mortgage for another one. It also differs dramatically from foreclosure, a short sale, or a deed in lieu.

A loan modification usually involves reducing the underlying interest rate and in many cases it means converting the mortgage from from an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) to a fixed rate mortgage. Other modifications can also include extending the term of the loan (for example from 30 to 40 years) and/or adding missed payments to the loan balance. The bottom line is that a loan modification is intended to reduce the payments for the borrower, make it more affordable, and reduce the risk that the homeowner will default on the loan.

Obama Loan Modification Plan

President Obama recently announced a $75 billion initiative called the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan (HASP). One of the principal tenants of the plan is called the Making Home Affordable initiative and it is comprised of two parts.

The part of the plan that is focused on loan modification is called The Home Affordable Modification program and is designed to reduce monthly mortgage payments for people who are close to foreclosure by modifying their mortgages and lowering their monthly payments on their loans.

Requirements for The Home Affordable Modification Program

  • Mortgage balance must be no greater than $729,750.
  • Home cannot be vacant or condemned and must be a primary residence—not investor owned.
  • Have a loan that was originated on or before January 1, 2009
  • Have a mortgage payment (including taxes, insurance, and home owners association dues) that is more than 31% of your gross (pre-tax) monthly income
  • Have a mortgage payment that is not affordable, perhaps because of a significant change in income or expenses.

To find out if you are eligible, there is a simple online form at the website. Check it out here:

How does it all work?

Once it is determined that you qualify, service providers will be required to follow a sequence of steps that modify the loan in order to reduce the monthly loan payment to no more than 31% of gross monthly income. For example, the interest rate can be lowered to as low as 2 per cent and the term of the mortgage can be extended to a maximum of 40 years in order to maximize the reduction in loan payment.

Starting the process and required documentation

After you have determined that you are eligible, all you need to do to get the process going is call your loan servicer (the company you pay your mortgage to) and ask to be considered for a Home Affordable Modification. You should be able to find their phone number on your latest bill.

Below is a list of the documentation you will probably be required to provide to your loan servicer. To speed the processing of your application, you should probably get this together before calling them.

  • Most recent income tax return.
  • Information about assets.
  • Information about any second mortgage on the house.
  • Account balances and minimum monthly payments due on all credit cards.
  • Account balances and monthly payments on all other debts such as student loans and car loans.
  • A letter describing why your mortgage is unaffordable (i.e. what caused your income(s) to be reduced or expenses to be increased).

Beware of Loan Modification Scams

There should never be a fee for assistance with or information about the Making Home Affordable Program. If you would like credit counseling before applying for the loan modification program, HUD-approved housing counselors can help you evaluate your income and expenses and understand your options. This service is Free as well! You can find them here: or you can call them at 1-888-995-HOPE (4673).

  • Beware of any person or organization that asks you to pay an upfront fee in exchange for a counseling service or modification of a delinquent loan. Do not pay – walk away!
  • Beware of anyone who says they can “save” your home if you sign or transfer over the deed to your house. Do not sign over the deed to your property to any organization or individual unless you are working directly with your mortgage company to forgive your debt.
  • Never make your mortgage payments to anyone other than your mortgage company without their approval.

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Saving and Managing Your Money During A Recession

During hard times such as a recession, everyone is focused on protecting, preserving, and saving money. Below we have outlined some essential things you can do to protect your money and make it easier to sleep at night when times are tough.

MYMoney.Gov—A Great Place to Start

The Financial Literacy and Education Commission was established by the Federal Government with the purpose of improving financial literacy and education in the United States. They have an excellent website with the title They also have a toll free phone number 1-888-MYMONEY.

The website is broken out into a number areas such as: Budgeting&Taxes, Credit, Financial Planning, Home Ownership, Paying for Education, and Retirement Planning. Probably the most useful section of the site is called Responding To Life Events. This section of the website deals with the financial impact of life changing events such as the birth of a child, death of a family member, disability, foreclosure, marriage and divorce and many other events like these. is an excellent place to start learning how to protect and preserve your finances during hard times.

Know and understand your Protection

Most people have their checking and or savings accounts in either a bank or credit union. The FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Company) and the NCUA (National Credit Union Administration) both insure all of your deposits to certain limits. It used to be that the limit was $100,000 for both the FDIC and NCUA, but in October of 2008 those limits were changed to $250,000 until December of 2009. To check whether your bank is federally insured, visit the FDIC or NCUA website.

If you have a brokerage account for your investments such as stocks and bonds or your 401K or IRA, brokerage firms also insure these accounts just like the Banks and Credit Unions. The current insurance limits are $500,000 for securities accounts and include $100,000 in cash claims when a securities or brokerage firm fails. To get more information about these protections, visit the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Securities Investor Protection Corp websites.

Take Advantage of Federal Incentive Programs

In hard times such as a recession, the Federal Government typically creates many incentives for consumers to spend money and save on their taxes. For example, the 2009 Economic Stimulus plan authorized the first-time homebuyer tax credit, which expires on December 31, 2009. For first-time homebuyers, who do not have enough money saved (or gifted) to qualify for a loan, this newly enacted legislation, provides a tax credit of as much as $8,000. For more information, see this article: $8,000 Tax Credit for First Time Homebuyers or this article: A Guide for First Time Homebuyers

Another tax break that was changed in 2008 pertains to widows and widowers. In the past, a single person could only exclude up to $250,000 from capital gains tax after the sale of a primary residence. Effective in 2008, a surviving spouse can now exclude up to $500,000 after selling their primary residence (same as a couple), as long as the sale is within two years of the other spouse's death.

The above are just two examples of the kinds things that the Federal Government will provide and that you should take advantage of during hard times. The recently enacted 2009 Economic Stimulus Package provides many other tax credits and incentives. See this article for information on the Stimulus Plan 2009-What's In it For You.

Keep Track of Your Credit Score and Protect Against Identity Theft

There are lots of companies and websites that will help you keep track of your credit score and help you monitor credit activity on your accounts. Many of these websites advertise that their services are free, but most of them try to get you to pay for something.

There is however, one real free credit report service with no "gotchas" and it is actually provided by the Credit Reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). These credit reporting companies are required by law to provide you with at least one free credit report per year and they have setup a joint website for this purpose. You can get that free credit report by visiting:

Also, for information on how to improve your credit score, view these two articles 5 Tips For Improving Your Credit Score or this article How to Improve Your Credit Score. Finally, this article goes into detail about: What is s Credit Score?

Avoid Foreclosure

If you think you might have trouble making your mortgage or home equity loan payments contact a counselor at or by calling them directly at 888-995-4673. HopeNow is an alliance between counselors, servicers, investors, and other mortgage market participants to maximize outreach efforts to homeowners who are in financial trouble and help them stay in their homes. Also, for more information on avoiding foreclosure, see these articles: How to Avoid Foreclosure, Obama's Loan Modification Plan Explained, and Obama Mortgage Rescue Plan FAQ

Avoid Canceling Insurance to save Costs

Insurance is just that, it is designed to protect you against large medical expenses or from incurring losses on your personal property like your car or home. Canceling your insurance can just make a bad situation worse. Instead look for ways to save money on your insurance. To save on your homeowners insurance, take a look at these two articles: 12 Ways to Save on Your Homeowners Insurance and How to Shop for Homeowners and Flood Insurance

Avoid Easy Money Scams

During tough economic times its easy to succumb to easy money/get rich quick scams. One of the most prevalent scams these days is the "Work-At-Home" scam. One thing to watch out for is any work at home job offer that requires you to pay money upfront for training. Also, be wary of any offer that requires you to make a decision today-no legitimate company will work that way.

Always research the company that is offering the work and they should be happy to give you legitimate references. There are legitimate companies that do offer real work-at-home jobs, (typically cellphone and outsourced billing companies) however, they are few and far between.

Other typical scams regard referral fees for government jobs. Federal jobs are listed at and there are no "top secret" channels or referrals for these jobs. Thus, don't pay a fee for a job referral for a government job!

Finally, the old adage, "if it sounds too be good to be true then it is", holds true most often. For more tips on avoiding scams, see this article: How to Avoid Scams

Look for Ways to Save Money on Utility Bills

Saving money on your utility bills such as your Cable bill or your Cellphone bill is not as hard as you think. A quick call to your provider might save you money without changing your service. Most of the large Cable, Satellite, and Cellphone firms have trained customer services representatives to respond to the customer question "I'm looking to cut back my monthly expenses, how can you help?" They sometimes have surprising options that are not generally advertised that allow for excellent savings on monthly charges. For more information on saving money on your Cable or Satellite TV bill see this article: Saving Money On Your TV Bill and for saving money on your cellphone bill, see this article: Save Money on Your Cell Phone Bill.

Save Money on Your Home Technology

Just like a business, during tough times, a family should look at all their expenditures and see where they can save money. Most families can reduce what they spend on technology without giving up any of the technological benefits that they currently enjoy. All it takes is some good decision making, some phone calls, and a little planning. See this article to learn how to: Save Money On Your Family Technology Needs. Also, this article will show you how to: Renegotiate Your Technology Services in a Recession.

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Help in Avoiding Foreclosure

In an effort to educate homeowners on how to avoid foreclosure, the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office along with the Massachusetts Association of Realtors have collaborated on a brochure to help educate consumers on financing a home and avoiding foreclosure.

The brochure titled, Protecting Your Investment: Understanding Home Financing and Avoiding Foreclosure offers guidance to consumers who are considering purchasing or refinancing a home and offers tips to homebuyers who are having trouble paying their mortgage. The brochure also outlines remedies to avoid foreclosure and details the devastating impact foreclosures have on the economy.

It is an excellent short brochure that details many of the key points in avoiding foreclosure. Although it was developed by the state of Massachusetts, all of the information is relevant to anyone who is considering buying or re-financing a home or who is dealing with the possibility of foreclosure.

You can get it here or vist their general information page on Foreclosure and Mortgage Lending