Forty-one states allow lenders to sue for mortgage debt if a home fetches less than the mortgage in a foreclosure sale. It always will. Such lawsuits are one of the reasons I have consistently advised people to consult an attorney before walking away.
Joseph Reilly lost his vacation home here last year when he was out of work and stopped paying his mortgage. The bank took the house and sold it. Mr. Reilly thought that was the end of it.
In June, he learned otherwise. A phone call informed him of a court judgment against him for $192,576.71. It turned out that at a foreclosure sale, his former house fetched less than a quarter of what Mr. Reilly owed on it. His bank sued him for the rest.
The result was a foreclosure hangover that homeowners rarely anticipate but increasingly face: a “deficiency judgment.”
Until recently, “there was a false sense of calm” among borrowers who went through foreclosure, Mr. Englett says. “That’s changing,” he adds, as borrowers learn they may be financially on the hook even after the house is gone.
Some close observers of the housing scene are convinced this is just the beginning of a surge in deficiency judgments. Sharon Bock, clerk and comptroller of Palm Beach County, Fla., expects “a massive wave of these cases as banks start selling the judgments to debt collectors.”
Because most targets have scant savings, the judgments sell for only about two cents on the dollar, versus seven cents for credit-card debt, according to debt-industry brokers.
Silverleaf Advisors LLC, a Miami private-equity firm, is one investor in battered mortgage debt. Instead of buying ready-made deficiency judgments, it buys banks’ soured mortgages and goes to court itself to get judgments for debt that remains after foreclosure sales.
Silverleaf says its collection efforts are limited. “We are waiting for the economy to somewhat heal so that it’s a better time to go after people,” says Douglas Hannah, managing director of Silverleaf.
Investors know that most states allow up to 20 years to try to collect the debts, ample time for the borrowers to get back on their feet. Meanwhile, the debts grow at about an 8% interest rate, depending on the state.
Laws vary from state to state and things may depend on whether or not the loan is a recourse loan or not. Once again, before walking away, and before considering a short-sale or bankruptcy, please consult an attorney who knows real estate laws for your state.
Given the economic turbulence of the past several years, the greatest asset that many Americans have is their home. With interest rates still near historical lows, now might be the time to tap into your home equity to help consolidate debt, embark on a home improvement project, start an emergency savings fund or even help pay for college.
Home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) are two of the most common ways for homeowners to borrow money by leveraging the equity they have in their home. Each offers its own unique benefits and both can offer considerable tax benefits, according to Thrivent Financial Bank.
The first step in determining which home equity product is right for you is to answer one simple question: How will I use the money?
“Many people are aware that now might be a good time to borrow against the equity in their home,” said Jill Aleshire, executive vice president of Thrivent Financial Bank. “However, slowing down and taking a closer look at how to best use that equity is the best thing you can do to start the process. “
Thrivent Financial Bank offers the following tips to help you decide if tapping your home equity is the right choice for you.
Home equity loans and HELOCS are meant to improve your long-term financial well-being, so think about how best to use the equity toward assets that will increase in value (appreciating assets). Ask yourself, “Will this earn value in the long run?” A college education or a home improvement project can be justified as appreciating investments if they result in a higher lifetime income or property value.
Emergency reserve savings
Home equity loans and lines of credit can be a good option if you are in need of protection against job loss, medical emergencies or home and vehicle repair.
One of the most common uses for home equity loans and lines of credit is debt consolidation. Because the interest paid may be tax-deductible and the interest rates can be lower than many creditors’ rates, some homeowners borrow against the value of their home to pay off debt.
Needs, not wants
Using your hard-earned equity for extraneous purchases is not a good use of your loan. If you don’t need the funds now, consider waiting to take out a home equity loan until you have a specific need. Borrowing once against the equity in your home can be a great way to strengthen your finances if used wisely, but be careful not to make a habit of borrowing. Limiting your loan spending to needs, not wants, is a good way to keep yourself in check.
Who says that just because you’re dead you can’t keep on working? In what is certainly the most blatant case of robo-signing I’ve seen to date, one company had a woman signing hundreds of documents- for thirteen years after her death. [Hat tip Freedoms Phoenix.]
How, may you ask, can a woman who has been dead since 1995 sign documents more than a decade later? Normally, one would hazard to guess that stamps with her signature on them were still in use (this is more common than you would think in foreclosure land). That would be plenty troubling.
But this little account comes from the debt collection realm, a cesspool of bad practices. Here, the credit card company Providian (acquired by WaMu in 2005) had employees signing affidavits in the name of Martha Kunkle for over a decade. Debt collection agencies continued to use these bogus affidavits.
According to the Wall St. Journal:
Questions about Martha Kunkle first popped up in 2008 after her name appeared in thousands of affidavits generated by a unit of Providian National Corp. The credit-card issuer sold an undisclosed number of delinquent account balances to Portfolio Recovery Associates and other debt collectors, which then sued the borrowers to collect the debt…..
Concerns about Ms. Kunkle’s affidavits were raised in 2008 by lawyers for Jeanie Cole, one of thousands of Montana residents sued by Portfolio Recovery Associates to collect debts. After failing to locate Ms. Kunkle, lawyers for Ms. Cole interviewed her daughter, who worked at Providian in a document-processing division.
The daughter testified in a deposition that other Providian employees used the name Martha Kunkle when signing affidavits. Along with other employees, the daughter was responsible for signing affidavits. After countersuing Portfolio Recovery Associates for alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Ms. Cole was the lead plaintiff in a 2008 federal-court suit in Montana alleging the company targeted 16,000 borrowers using “false and misleading” affidavits.
These dodgy documents were for debt collections, not foreclosures. However, this does show how sloppy and overly automated the lending industry has become.
Some judges say robo-signing, in which affidavits are signed without fully reviewing underlying documentation, is more common in debt-collection cases than foreclosures. In July, the Federal Trade Commission recommended that state regulators require the disclosure of “more information” by debt collectors and buyers, concluding that they might be relying on erroneous or incomplete paperwork when suing to recover money.
“I’ve watched and wanted to tell defendants in these suits to demand proof of the underlying debt because that proof is so often flimsy,” said Jeffrey Lipman, a magistrate judge in Polk County, Iowa, which includes Des Moines, the state’s capital. Court rules give him little leeway to instruct borrowers in court.