Should I Stay or Should I Go
Surprising advice on facing foreclosure, by a Holmdel attorney
Foreclosure was looming.
My client, a Holmdel mother in her mid-forties whose young husband had suffered a stroke and was now in a nursing home, was in my office for help with a "short sale" contract. She said she felt forced to sell her four-bedroom Colonial for less than what she owed on the mortgage to avoid being kicked out.
She'd still owe the different on the loan. And she admitted she and her children had nowhere else to live. She asked about her options.
My advice startled her. I told her, "Stay put."
"You can either sell your home in the next thirty days and begin paying rent for a small apartment that you probably cannot afford," I told my client.
"Or -- you can take your house off the market and live rent-free in a comfortable home for the next 12 to 18 months until your foreclosure is finalized."
She chose the latter, and enjoyed the remaining benefits of homeownership.
As an attorney with an office in Holmdel, there is no shortage of clients calling my office on an almost-daily basis seeking advice on what to do now that they have fallen behind on their mortgage.
In fact, according to the Monmouth County Clerk's website, two new foreclosure complaints were filed in the past 30 days in Holmdel.
There can be so many legitimate reasons to be facing foreclosure. Illness, job loss, loss of a loved one. Many say they will not be able to pay their mortgage going forward unless they are lucky enough to win the lottery.
For these homeowners, the question is: Should I stay in my home and wait to be thrown out -- or should I sell my home and find another place to live?
I always first advise they call your lender and try to work something out. Most will offer a number of loan modification and re-payment plans -- if you can get qualified.
But what about the homeowner who simply can no longer afford to pay their mortgage?
Ninety-nine percent of the time, I tell them to stay put -- and do nothing.
Most of us were raised to do the “right thing," to pay our bills on time and to become responsible members of society.
But these homeowners have truly run out of options. They have blown through their savings, cashed in retirement accounts and borrowed money from friends and family members. They are not trying to "beat the system.” They are not stashing away money like a squirrel, storing nuts for the winter.
I think we can all agree that we are living in a world right now where everything seems to be upside down, underwater and backwards.
Unfortunately, I do not know the solution to the problem.
What I do know is, as long as it makes more sense for a homeowner to lose their home in foreclosure then to sell their home and move on with life, the local real estate market is not going to get better anytime soon.