If you're facing a foreclosure, you might be able to refinance your loan or take out a reverse mortgage to save your home—although refinancing could be difficult and reverse mortgages are risky.
Refinancing usually isn’t possible if you’ve missed a lot of mortgage payments and have bad credit. While reverse mortgages don't require credit qualification, taking out this kind of loan is usually a bad idea. Reverse mortgage loans are basically designed so that the lender eventually ends up with the home and have many other significant downsides as well.
Read on to learn more about refinances and reverse mortgages, why these options probably aren't ideal ways to prevent a foreclosure, and alternatives to potentially consider.
With a refinance, you to take out a new loan to pay off the existing mortgage, including the delinquent amount, which will stop the foreclosure. You will need to have a stable income and, usually, equity in the home to qualify. By refinancing, you might be able to get a lower interest rate, which would reduce your monthly payment amount.
However, getting a better interest rate—or approved for a refinance at all—can be difficult if you're facing foreclosure because you fell behind in your payments. Once you skip a payment, the lender will start reporting the delinquency to the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Your credit score will then fall. The more payments you’ve missed, the worse your score will be. People with bad credit generally can’t qualify for a mortgage refinance, let alone one with better terms than they already have. (To learn more about what happens after you stop making payments, see The Order of Events When You Stop Making Mortgage Payments.)
If you can’t qualify for a refinance, another option—though not necessarily a good one—to stop a foreclosure is to take out a reverse mortgage to pay off the existing loan. The most widely available reverse mortgage is the FHA Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM).
With a reverse mortgage, people who are 62 and older can get a loan based on their home equity. A reverse mortgage differs from a traditional mortgage in that the borrower doesn’t have to make monthly payments to the lender to repay the debt. Instead, loan proceeds are paid out to the borrower in a lump sum (subject to some limits), as a monthly payment, or as a line of credit. You can also get a combination of monthly installments and a line of credit. The loan amount gets bigger every time the lender sends a payment, until the maximum loan amount has been reached.
If you’re facing a foreclosure and you get a reverse mortgage, the reverse mortgage stops the foreclosure by paying off the existing loan. But reverse mortgages themselves are often foreclosed, and come with many disadvantages, like potentially losing your eligibility for Medicaid and high fees.
If you’re having trouble making your mortgage payments, consider looking into other foreclosure prevention options. A few different options to consider include getting a loan modification, reinstating the loan, working out a repayment plan, or giving up the property in a short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure. You might also consider selling the home and moving to more affordable accommodations.
If you want to learn more about different ways to avoid a foreclosure, including whether you have any defenses, consider talking to a foreclosure lawyer. You might also consider talking to a HUD-approved housing counselor to get information about different loss mitigation (foreclosure avoidance) alternatives.
To get more information about reverse mortgages, check out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s reverse mortgage discussion guide and the AARP website. If you’re considering taking out a reverse mortgage, proceed with caution and speak to a financial planner or real estate attorney before completing the transaction. You should also contact a HUD-approved reverse mortgage counselor.