Buying after Bankruptcy

Realtor.com quoted me in Buying a House After Bankruptcy? How Long to Wait and What to Do. It opens,

Buying a house after bankruptcy may sound like an impossible feat. Blame it on all those Monopoly games, but bankruptcy has a very bad rap, painting the filer as someone who should never be loaned money. The reality is that of the 800,000 Americans who file for bankruptcy every year, most are well-intentioned, responsible people to whom life threw a curveball that made them struggle to pay off past debts.

Sometimes filing for bankruptcy is the only way out of a crushing financial situation, and taking this step can really help these cash-strapped individuals get back on their feet. And yes, many go on to eventually buy a home. Only how?

Being aware of what a lender expects post-bankruptcy will help you navigate the mortgage application process efficiently and effectively. Here are the steps on buying a house after bankruptcy, and the top things you need to know.

Types of bankruptcy: The best and the worst

There are two ways to file for bankruptcy: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. With Chapter 7, filers are typically released from their obligation to pay back unsecured debt—think credit cards, medical bills, or loans extended without collateral. Chapter 13 filers have to pay back their debt, only it’s reorganized to come up with a new repayment schedule that makes monthly payments more affordable.

Since Chapter 13 filers are still paying back their debts, mortgage lenders generally look more favorably on these consumers than those who file for Chapter 7, says David Carey, vice president and residential lending manager at New York’s Tompkins Mahopac Bank.

How long after bankruptcy should you wait before buying a house?

Most people applying for a loan will need to wait two years after bankruptcy before lenders will consider their application. That said, it could be up to a four-year ban, depending on the individual and type of loan. This is because lenders have different “seasoning” requirements, which is a specified amount of time that needs to pass.

Fannie Mae, for example, has a minimum two-year ban on borrowers who have filed for bankruptcy, says David Reiss, professor of law and academic programs director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School. The FHA, on the other hand, has a minimum one-year ban in place after a bankruptcy. The time is measured starting from the date of discharge or dismissal of the bankruptcy action. Generally the more time that passes, the less risky a once-bankrupt borrower looks in the eyes of a lender.

Mortgage Broker v. Loan Officer

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MagnifyMoney.com quoted me in Mortgage Broker vs. Loan Officer: The Best Way to Shop for a Mortgage (must scroll down). It opens,

When you need to take out a loan to buy a home, you generally have two options. You can work with a lender’s loan officer or hire a mortgage broker. Loan officers and mortgage brokers are not the same thing, although the terms are often used interchangeably.

Loan officers work for a bank or a lender and will only be able to show you mortgage options from that financial institution. In contrast, mortgage brokers are individuals or firms that are licensed by a state to act as middlemen between you and multiple banks or mortgage lenders. Because brokers aren’t beholden to a particular lender, they can shop around and try to find you a loan with terms that best fit your circumstances.

Why should you consider working with a mortgage broker?

One of the biggest benefits to working with a mortgage broker is that they take over the job of shopping for a loan. You might be able to do this on your own, and in some cases, you could find a better loan than the broker, but it can be a time-consuming and complicated process.

A broker can help collect and organize the documents you need to apply for a mortgage, such as your proof of employment and income, tax returns, a list of your assets and debts, and credit reports and scores. The broker can then use the information to look for loans, compare rates and terms, and apply for mortgages on your behalf.

Casey Fleming, a mortgage adviser and author of “The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage,” says one of the big benefits is that brokers are generally “on your side,” while a loan officer represents the lender’s interest. Brokers are also incentivized to find you a loan that meets your needs and see the deal through closing because they don’t get paid until you close on the home.

Additionally, brokers might have access to lenders that don’t work directly with consumers, meaning you wouldn’t be able to get a loan from the lender even if you tried. And in some cases, brokers can leverage their relationship with a lender to get it to waive fees you’d otherwise have to pay.

Are there risks involved with using a mortgage broker?

While working with a broker could be a good idea, there are potential drawbacks to consider. “Not all brokers are created equal,” says Fleming. “Many have only a few sources for loans, and may not be able to find the best pricing.” There are also some mortgage lenders that don’t work with brokers and will only offer loans directly to consumers (through one of the lender’s loan officers).

Using a mortgage broker can also be expensive. Although you may find the services are worth paying for, consider the costs of using a broker:

Mortgage broker fees

Mortgage brokers are often paid in one of two ways. You may be able to choose how you’d like to pay the broker, or opt for both payment methods.

Some mortgage brokers will charge you a commission based on the loan you take out, often about 1% of the loan. For example, that’s a $3,000 fee on a $300,000 mortgage loan. You’ll pay this fee as part of your closing costs when you close on the home.

Other brokers may offer you a fee-free mortgage. However, what likely happens in this case is that the mortgage broker arranges a loan with a higher interest rate, leaving room for the lender to give the broker a cut. This route could cost you more over the lifetime of the loan but might be the better option if you want to minimize costs now.

Where to find a good mortgage broker

“Word of mouth is very useful when it comes to finding a good [mortgage broker],” according to Professor David Reiss, a real estate law professor at the Brooklyn Law School in Brooklyn, N.Y. You could ask friends or family members who’ve recently bought a home if they used a mortgage broker, as well as your real estate agent if he or she can recommend a broker.

However, don’t settle for the first recommendation you receive. The Federal Trade Commission recommends interviewing several brokers and trying to find one who’ll be a good fit for your home search.

Ask about their experience with buyers like you in the area, the fees they charge, and how many lenders they work with. “You want to know whether the mortgage broker can find competitive mortgage products, is well organized so that loans close in a timely manner, and whether it keeps away from bait-and-switch tactics that can be so difficult to deal with when buying a home,” says Reiss.

The Mortgage After a Spouse’s Death

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BeSmartee.com quoted me in What Happens to My Mortgage When My Spouse Dies? It opens,

We would like to help by answering the question of what happens to your mortgage when your spouse dies, and we’ve asked several experts to chime in.

It’s bad enough when your spouse dies, but to also worry about what will happen with your mortgage only adds to the turmoil. We would like to help by answering the question of what happens to your mortgage when your spouse dies, and we’ve asked several experts to chime in.

When You Are on the Deed

If you and your spouse took out a mortgage loan together, you would then be responsible for paying the mortgage by yourself if your spouse dies. ”If the surviving spouses’ name is on the mortgage, they are now responsible for the entire mortgage,” says Randall R. Saxton, a Madison, MS, attorney. But you have inherited your spouses’ half of the home, which typically means you don’t need to change the title.

Your partner’s passing doesn’t disqualify the mortgage or let the lender call it in immediately, using a ”due-on-sale” clause. Such clauses let mortgage lenders demand the entire mortgage be paid if a new owner assumes the mortgage, or they take the house back. But the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982 prohibits lenders from using the due-on-sale clause when your spouse dies. But you would need to be able to handle the mortgage payments on your own to keep the house. ”While the lender cannot automatically foreclose due to the death of the mortgagee, they will be able to foreclose if the surviving spouse is unable to pay,” says Saxton.

Saxton has a suggestion: ”I always recommend life insurance policies, which would enable the surviving spouse to either pay off or maintain the payments of the mortgage.”

When You Are Not on the Deed

If you are not on the mortgage deed and your partner dies, your partner’s will should determine whether you get the house. If your partner didn’t have a will, your spouses’ assets will be distributed according to your state’s intestate laws.

Typically you, as the surviving spouse, will get your spouses’ assets after all expenses, such as funeral expenses and other debts, are paid. If there are enough assets in the estate, the mortgage will be paid. ”The estate will pay off the mortgage during probate,” says Aviva S. Pinto, CDFA, a wealth advisor at Bronfman E. L. Rothschild in New York City. ”If there are not sufficient assets to cover all debts, the house will have to be sold to pay off the debt,” says Pinto.

If you have children, your share is split with them. ”For example, if there is only one child of the deceased, the surviving spouse will own 50 percent of the property, and the child will own 50 percent of the property,” says Saxton. ”If neither [of you] pay the mortgage, the lender will be able to foreclose.”

Your Mortgage Lender Should Offer Help

No matter your particular situation, if your partner dies, you should contact your mortgage lender as soon as possible. They can help guide you on what will happen and your options. ”The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has recently issued a rule to provide more protections to the survivors of a homeowner,” says David Reiss, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School. ”The rule gives widowed spouses some help in dealing with mortgage issues at a difficult time.”

Here are some specifics on how your mortgage lender can help, according to Reiss:

1. Mortgage servicers have to tell the widowed spouse about the documents that are necessary to confirm his or her status as a successor in interest to the deceased spouse.

2. Servicers are also required to provide many of the same notices and documents to the surviving spouse who is a successor in interest that the deceased spouse would have received.