This is part of our ongoing series on mortgage relief options and how to handle your loan in a crisis.
When it comes to homeowner fears, falling behind on mortgage payments is pretty high on the list. This is true under normal circumstances, let alone during COVID-19 when millions are out of work due to closures and quarantines.
If your mortgage anxiety is rising, the first thing you can do is take a long, deep breath. It may be difficult, but try not to panic. We’re here to help you through these trying times. We’re hunkered down and taking it day-by-day right along with you.
Below is a list of steps to take and resources available for those who are worried they may soon fall behind on payments, or already have. For an in-depth look at your mortgage options in a crisis, check out our post on mortgage relief options.
Prioritize your mortgage
When it comes to expenses, shelter and food should be the priority. If your finances are getting tight, make a list of your bills and assess what you can live without. Perhaps you don’t need that premium TV channel package or maybe your cell phone can suffice without an additional landline. Has social media advertising lured you into a bunch of clothing and healthcare product subscription services? Those can probably go first, too. (This handy article in The Balance offers additional advice on this topic.) Trimming the fat out of your budget may not be your idea of a fun time, but you’ll feel a lot better when it saves you money to afford your house.
Contact your loan servicer
It’s always better to be preemptive with your loan servicer than to try and mitigate after you’ve already missed payments. (Already fell behind? Don’t freak out. We have advice for that later on in this post, too.)
Note that we keep saying “loan servicer” rather than “lender” – that’s because, in today’s market, it’s common for lenders to sell your loan rights to third-party servicers. You may even have various servicers throughout the life of your loan. A loan servicer issues your monthly mortgage statement, collects and processes your payments and manages your escrow accounts.
So how are you supposed to know who to contact? Your mortgage bill will provide the correct number to call. Here are some tips to help you prepare:
- When you call the number, immediately ask to speak to your loss mitigation officer. They can help you refinance or modify your mortgage payment to make it more affordable. If you already missed payments and are finding yourself buried in late fees and past-due amounts, you may qualify for a temporary (or permanent) solution to help you get back on track.
- Be ready to explain why you fell behind and to provide financial documents related to your income, taxes, mortgage, savings and other assets, along with other loans, and credit card or student loan debt.
- Note that you’ll likely be asked to fill out a Hardship Affidavit to officially document the problems you’re experiencing.
- Demonstrate that you’ve made a good-faith effort to pay, for example by cutting unnecessary expenses.
- Come with an idea of a payment timeline that works for you.
Consult a homeownership advisor
Certified homeownership advisors provide confidential, free advice. They can clarify your rights, explain the options offered by your servicer, help you complete a loss mitigation application, and even negotiate with your servicer on your behalf. Not sure where to find one? Framework Homeownership (our parent company) has a handy lookup page.
Oh, and one more thing! We have collected a few additional resources, in case you want to dive even deeper on these topics:
Ready for some good news? We have some to share in “FHFA Suspends Foreclosures and Evictions! What Does it all Really Mean?“