Being a Realtor, I get to see the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. There’s nothing uglier right now than foreclosures. They’re a hot topic among buyers and faux pas amongst owners – and rightfully so. No matter who you are or your situation – a vacation home, a primary home, a speculative investment – I wouldn’t wish a foreclosure on anyone.
It seems the hot topic amongst politicians and the media right now is health care reform . In college, I studied the work of a man named Abraham Maslow who developed a “hierarchy of needs.” Summarizing it, the need for shelter is far more important than the need for security in health care. It seems that we would do a better job of addressing one of the most important aspects of people’s lives.
There are so many opportunities our government and financial institutions should be pursuing to help families in this predicament. Here are a few things our representatives should be actively pursuing:
- IRS Forgiveness – when a struggling family has a short sale on their home or investment (sell it for less than the bank is owed), do not make the forgiven debt income on their tax return to be turned in to the IRS. If you can’t pay your home mortgage, you won’t be able to pay the coming IRS bill. It’s more of an incentive to go into foreclosure than to have IRS problems. Who would you rather have chasing you? A bank or the IRS? It shouldn’t be this way.
- Make secondary market mortgages more flexible – loans that are at community banks and owned by community banks are having much more success in getting modifications to help families. Where the major problem is loans that are sold in the secondary mortgage market (most are) are totally inflexible. 3 months late? Foreclosure. Simple. Stupid. Many families want to keep their home and if they are legitimately striving to pay and/or find jobs and have the prospect of it, they shouldn’t be kicked out. Take the payments they miss or payments they can’t make and put it on the back of the loan. The bank or investor makes more money and families get to keep their home. It’s not rocket science, but rarely can it happen because mortgages are not flexible or take too long to change. It will take a literal act of congress to make the change.
- Time – banks are getting all this money and turning around to use the government loaned money to buy up other banks. So we, the taxpayers, who need help are financing things that do not directly help us. What will help people in foreclosure the most is simply time. People should be able to let their bank know as soon as they see trouble on the horizon and get a modification or other idea that will make the difference between owning their home or losing it. Many banks are trying to do loan modifications, but not fast enough. It can take 30 days for a decision maker at the bank to even look at a loan modification or offer to purchase a short sale! Not only that, they many times claim you must be 2 months or more late before they’ll help. This is not acceptable.
There are so many things our nation’s leaders can do to help us, and it’s important to realize there is no black and white answer for any of it. I’m also not promoting that people who are not paying their mortgage, or intend to, should be able to stay in their home. That’s not right – when you commit to pay back money you borrow to your momma or to a bank, you should make every attempt to do it. What I am promoting is to help people who are in a bad situation and need help. Just throwing TARP money at it will not fix the problem – it will take dedication and work.
In the more than 40 transactions I’ve closed this year, I’m quite thankful to say only a few of them were foreclosures or about to be. Behind every one of them there was a story – a family, and a set of circumstances that no one should have to bear. If our leaders are looking to change our nation one family at a time, here would be a great place to start. Ask your representatives what they’re doing to help – because if they’re doing nothing, they’re not doing a good job.
If you’re in a foreclosure situation or feel one is coming for you, give us or your Realtor a call. Sometimes you feel shamed and embarrassed. It’s tough, but you shouldn’t be. Tackle the situation head on and contact a professional who may be able to help.
Written by: John Poltrock of The POLTROCK TEAM at RE/MAX. You can contact him at JohnP@remax.net or toll free 1-866-687-7496