Friday, September 25, 2009

Effects of a Loan Modification, Short Sale, Foreclosure, Bankruptcy and Walking Away/Doing Nothing on Credit Scores

Effects of a Loan Modification, Short Sale, Foreclosure, Bankruptcy and Walking Away/Doing Nothing on Your Credit Score

There seems to be a lot of conflicting information out there regarding the negative effects of a Loan Modification, Short Sale, Foreclosure, Bankruptcy and Walking Away/Doing Nothing on a person's credit score. I would like to try to clear some of that confusion up.

According to this Los Angeles Times article, Mortgage problems are walloping Americans' credit scores, loan modifications, short sales, foreclosures, bankruptcies and walking away/doing nothing effect your credit score differently. Below is a brief summary of the different options.

  • Loan Modification Type 1 - This Loan Modification type rolls late payments and penalties into the principal debt owed. According to the LA Times article, this type of loan modification may modestly increase your credit score.
  • Loan Modification Type 2 - This Loan Modification type is a refinancing of underwater (i.e. negative equity) mortgage(s). This is what is offered under the Obama administration's Making Home Affordable Program through government controlled Fannie and Freddie Mac. According to the LA Times article, this type of Loan Modification "may have little or no negative effect on scores, even though the homeowners might have been tottering on the edge of serious delinquency before refinancing."
  • Short Sale - A short sale is a sale of a property where the net sale proceeds are not sufficient to pay off the mortgage balance(s) and there is no party willing or able to make up the shortage. According to the LA Times article, a short sale may lower your credit score by 120-130 points. I have heard from other people that a short sale lowers a person's credit score by 80-100 points. For sake of simplicity, let's say that a short sale will drop your credit score by about 100 points on average (This does not include the negative effects of any missed mortgage payments. You do not need to miss any mortgage payments in order to successfully complete a short sale). While this seems bad (it certainly is not good), it is much better than foreclosure, or doing nothing. In fact, according Question 7, "If a borrower has completed a short sale and was never delinquent on that mortgage and is now attempting to purchase a new primary residence, will Fannie Mae purchase the loan?", in this this Fannie Mae publication, Announcement 08-16: Bankruptcy, Foreclosure, and Conversion of Principal Residence Policy Changes; and Revised Property Value Representation and Warranty Requirements, "If the borrower is purchasing a new property and the previous mortgage history complies with our excessive prior mortgage delinquency policy and does not have one or more 60-, 90-, 120-, or 150-day delinquencies reported within the 12 months prior to the credit report date, the loan is eligible for delivery to Fannie Mae, provided the lender or servicer who completed the short sale has not entered into any agreement that obligates the borrower to repay any amounts associated with the short sale, including a deficiency judgment." In other words, you can short sell your existing home and immediately buy another home as long you did not have a 60 day or more delinquency and your short sale lender did not require you to pay the shortage (normal loan underwriting criteria applies). This publication clarifies the previous Fannie Mae publication, Announcement 08-16.
  • Foreclosure - Homeowners that allow their home to go to full foreclosure (i.e. be auctioned off by the lender and/or become a bank owned property) should expect their credit scores to decline by 140 to 150 points plus negative marks on their credit bureau files for as long as seven years. Having a foreclosure on your credit report will also make it much more difficult to buy a home. Fannie Mae requires foreclosed home buyers to wait at least 5 years before buying another home and even then Fannie Mae will require larger down payments. Freddie Mac generally requires a waiting period of 7 years. The FHA currently has a waiting period of 3 years, but is expected to increase that waiting requirement.
  • Bankruptcy - The LA Times article states "People who file for bankruptcy protection covering all their debts (mortgage, credit cards, auto loans, etc.) will get hit with an average 355- to 365-point drop in their scores. Bankruptcies remain on borrowers' credit bureau files for 10 years." Having a bankruptcy on your credit report will make it very difficult to buy another home. Fannie Mae requires that people who file a non-Chapter 13 bankruptcy wait a minimum of 4 years from dismissal or discharge before obtaining a new home loan. For Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the waiting requirement is 2 years from discharge and 4 years from dismissal.
  • Walking Away/Doing Nothing - according to the LA Times article the "strategic default" has become common in large foreclosure laden markets such as California (and Florida, Nevada and Arizona). Homeowners who choose this option should expect the same consequences as a Foreclosure (described above).

The LA Times article goes on to state that Americans overall credit scores have declined significantly over the last couple of years. The article refers to the Vantage credit score, the main competitor to the well known FICO credit score, which "rates borrowers on a scale range of 501 (subprime, the highest risk) to 990 (super-prime, the lowest risk). Unlike Fair Isaac Corp.'s FICO scoring system, whose scores can vary by 50 to 100 points based on which bureau supplied the underlying credit data, Vantage scores are about the same for each consumer."

Regarding the negative effects of this financial mess on people's credit scores, the article states "For example, roughly 36.6 million of the 213 million consumers tracked by the three national credit bureaus in the first quarter of 2008 had Vantage scores above 900 -- the super-prime credit rung. That select group represented 17.2% of the country's consumers.But by the end of the second quarter of this year, just 15.4% -- 33.3 million out of 216.9 million individuals' files -- were left among the elite. By credit industry standards, that's huge. More Americans' scores are slipping into the worst credit category as well. In the third quarter of 2006, 34.4 million consumers were in the lowest segment -- 16.6% of 206.9 million individuals. But by the second quarter of this year, 18.3% of all files were in that category -- 39.8 million consumers out of 216.9 million. Most of these changes -- fewer people with excellent credit, more people in the lowest brackets -- have been caused by late payments on home mortgages, serious delinquencies, short sales and foreclosures, according to VantageScore researchers."

The article does offer a glimmer of good news - the same information I have been saying for months. That is "the bottom-line good news about scores is that homeowners facing financial stress can experience minimal dings to their credit if they contact their loan servicer or lender early in the game -- when they first discover that they may have trouble making their monthly payments -- and take the first steps toward a loan modification or refinancing." In other words, doing nothing is the worst thing you can do. The article cautions financially distressed homeowners not to "wait and fall several payments behind before seeking a modification". The article quotes Barrett Burns, a former lender and now chief executive of VantageScore, as saying "Start that conversation early. You can lose 240 points on your score" and damage your ability to obtain credit for years.

Based on the above, if you are a home owner who is experiencing difficult financial times and cannot afford to pay your mortgage, you should try to get a loan modification first. If a loan modification is not approved, or you cannot pay your mortgage even after a loan modification, then a short sale is your next best option.

Due to the declines in people's credit scores as described above, the large number of homeowners in financial distress (due to a loss of income, unemployment, etc.), the large number of homeowners underwater (see my previous blog post, SCARY STUFF: About half of U.S. mortgages seen underwater by 2011), the relative attractiveness of short sales and the large numbers of homeowners who do nothing/walk away (this is a terrible decision) there will be a lot of short sales and foreclosures over the next several years.

If you are a homeowner who cannot pay your mortgage (due to losing your job, having your income reduced, illness, health problems, etc.), or your home is already in foreclosure, or you owe more than your home is worth you should contact a real estate and/or bankruptcy attorney to discuss your legal options. You should also contact your mortgage company to inquire about a loan modification. If you a homeowner in Middle Tennessee and would like help and assistance with a loan modification please contact me for free no obligation assistance. If a loan modification will not work for you, or is not granted by your mortgage company, I can help you with a short sale of your property. I am a Middle Tennessee distressed real estate, short sale, pre-foreclosure (preforeclosure) and foreclosure REALTOR and Expert. I serve real estate owners, homeowners and investment property owners in Rutherford County TN, Williamson County TN, Davidson County TN, Murfreesboro TN, Smyrna TN, La Vergne TN, Eagleville TN, Lascassas TN, Rockvale TN, Christiana TN, Brentwood TN, Franklin TN, Nashville TN and Belle Meade TN. If you do need to short sell your home (a real estate short sale occurs when the sale proceeds are not sufficient to pay off all the mortgages and liens on the property/home), or you need a quick sale due to being in foreclosure, you can request short sale and foreclosure help and assistance on my website at Get Short Sale and Foreclosure Help and Assistance from a Middle Tennessee Short Sale and Foreclosure REALTOR and Real Estate Expert.

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