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California Debt Consolidation

I have high debts everywhere! Student loans, two mortgage, and other bills. How do I avoid foreclosure and consolidate my debt?

Between mortgages, 2nd mortgage, credit cards, student loans and how we have had to purchase the land behind us or keep going through court because of an easement dispute. We are like most Americans having problems paying everyone. HELP! We seem to have a house that today according to CYBERHOMES is worth $300,000 less than when we bought it 5 years ago. The property we had to buy was only 77,500 with a 5% interest only payment but with this payment and taxes it added another 400 a month to our stretched budget. But this addition and the economy is causing stress and us to drown in our bills. Is there anything we can do to lower our mortgage payments since our home is worth less now? How can we get Sallie Mae to lower student loans? We've lost our income property and in so doing so have trashed our credit. But we would like to dig our way out and be able to enjoy our lives again.

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Highlights

  • Review your options for consolidating various types of debt.
  • Look into the programs available for avoiding foreclosure.

It appears you have a mortgage for one home and then purchased additional land because of an easement issue. Also, it seems you had another property that was a rental and went into foreclosure. You indicate you have student loans, and most likely credit card debt.

My answer touches on the following issues:

  • Student loans
  • Federal mortgage foreclosure programs
  • Debt resolution alternatives
  • Bankruptcy

Student Loans Basics

Bills.com has a plethora of information on student loans, including a glossary of terms and various types of student loans to the differences of federal and private loans.

Student Loan Forgiveness

You may be able to qualify for student loan forgiveness plan. To apply for the student loan forgiveness program you need to contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center by calling (800) 433-3243, or visit the Dept. of Education Student Aid Web site regarding discharge and cancellation of a student loan.

Making Home Affordable Program (MHA)

In 2009, the Obama Administration created the Making Home Affordable (MHA) program. A 17-page document titled Modification Program Guidelines outlines the 2009 provisions for trial loan modifications. An eligibility MHA questionnaire helps homeowners determine if they may qualify. This program has two components: 1) mortgage refinancing through Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP); and 2) mortgage modification through Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). There are provisions that also include homeowners with second mortgages (liens) or even third mortgages. HAMP Borrower FAQs and HAMP Factsheet answer basic questions on the program. The Making Home Affordable Program Web site provides eligibility information, how to request a modification, and additional facts.

Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP)

The HAMP overview page is describes succinctly the requirements that borrowers must meet to be eligible. In a nutshell, HAMP is designed to help homeowners and servicers avoid foreclosure by modifying the terms of the loan to make the mortgage payments affordable for the long-term.

The HAMP qualifying criteria include:

  1. Borrower is delinquent on their mortgage or faces imminent risk of default
  2. Property is occupied as borrower's primary residence
  3. Mortgage was originated on or before Jan. 1, 2009 and unpaid principal balance must be no greater than $729,750 for one-unit properties.

The HAMP overview page contains information about eligibility, program availability, and steps to take to process a HAMP request, including links to a request form, IRS 4506 form, and  verification of income checklist.

Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA)

HAFA alternatives are available to all HAMP-eligible borrowers who: 1) do not qualify for a Trial Period Plan; 2) do not successfully complete a Trial Period Plan; 3) miss at least two consecutive payment during a HAMP modification; or, 4) request a short sale or deed-in-lieu.

HAFA is complex with numerous guidelines set by the Treasury Dept. These new guidelines do not apply to loans by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA or VA because these programs have their own short-sale programs that vary from HAFA.

HAFA provides incentives to mortgage lenders (servicers), seller, and other lien holders. There are deadlines that the mortgage lender and subsequent lien holder have to follow to provide timely progression on the sale of the property. HAFA simplifies and streamlines the short sale and deed in lieu process by providing a standard process flow, minimum performance timeframes, and standard documentation.

Debt Resolution or Consolidation

The four primary concerns for most consumers are: i) monthly payment, ii) time to debt freedom, iii) total cost, and iv) the credit rating impact of the resolution program. Be sure to evaluate each program relative to your prioritization of these factors.

Since there are a variety of debt resolution options, including credit counseling, debt negotiation/debt settlement, a debt consolidation loan, bankruptcy, and other debt resolution options, it is important to fully understand each option and then pick the solution that is right for you.

Credit Counseling

Credit counseling, or signing up for a debt management plan, is a very common form of debt consolidation. There are many companies offering credit counseling, which is essentially a way to make one payment directly to the credit counseling agency, which then distributes that payment to your creditors. Most times, a credit counseling agency will be able to lower your monthly payments by getting interest rate concessions from your lenders or creditors.

It is important to understand that in a credit counseling program, you are still repaying 100% of your debts -- but with lower monthly payments. On average, most credit counseling programs take around five years. While most credit counseling programs do not impact your FICO score, being enrolled in a credit counseling debt management plan does show up on your credit report, and, unfortunately, many lenders look at enrollment in credit counseling akin to filing for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy -- or using a third party to re-organize your debts.

Debt Settlement

Debt settlement, also called debt negotiation, is a form of debt consolidation that cuts your total debt, sometimes over 50%, with lower monthly payments. Debt settlement programs typically run around three years. It is important to keep in mind, however, that during the life of your debt settlement program, you are not paying your creditors. This means that a debt settlement solution of debt consolidation will negatively impact your credit rating. Your credit rating will not be good, at a minimum, for the term of your debt settlement program. However, debt settlement is usually the fastest and cheapest way to debt freedom, with a low monthly payment, while avoiding Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. The trade-off here is a negative credit rating versus saving money.

Debt Consolidation Loan

Many people think first of a debt consolidation loan when seeking debt consolidation. This option typically means a second home loan (or home equity line of credit) or refinancing your primary mortgage. In a debt consolidation loan, you exchange one loan for another. The most frequent form is taking out a mortgage loan, which carries a lower interest rate and is tax deductible, to pay off high interest rate credit card debt.

It is important to be aware that shifting unsecured debt to secured debt can create a volatile situation, if there is ever a chance that you cannot afford the new mortgage payment you are now putting yourself at risk of foreclosure! In the case of a debt consolidation loan, most mortgages are 30-year loan, which means that the total cost and the time to debt freedom could be very high, but the monthly payment will be lower than other options and there is no credit rating impact.

Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy may also solve your debt problems. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a traditional liquidation of assets and liabilities, and is usually considered a last resort. Since bankruptcy reform went into effect, it is much harder to file for bankruptcy. If you are considering bankruptcy, I encourage you to consult with a qualified bankruptcy attorney in your area.

Default

You may be curious what may happen if you do nothing. If you stop paying your unsecured debts, creditors have the right to collect the debt. First, you will likely receive collection calls and letters from the creditor directly. If you are still unable to pay the debt after several months, the creditor is likely to refer the account to a third-party collection agency.

Third-party collectors are known to be much more aggressive in their collection tactics than original creditors, so do not be surprised if the calls become more persistent, or even threatening. Thankfully, the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act has rules governing the behavior of collection agents. However, unscrupulous debt collection agents do not follow these rules.

In some cases, when all other collection efforts fail, a creditor will decide to file a lawsuit against the debtor. This is not a frequent occurrence, but it is within a creditor's rights and a possibility about which you should be aware. If one of your creditors sues you, the court will likely issue a judgment in the creditor's favor. Depending on your state's laws regarding the enforcement of judgments, the creditor may be able to garnish your wages, levy your bank accounts, place a lien on your property, or take other action to enforce its judgment.

Regarding a credit report, default damages a credit score severely. In addition, default is a warning flag for many lenders, who will refuse to deal with a potential customer with a default on their record. As a result doing nothing and allowing default is a poor option for most consumers.

Summary

Although there are many forms of debt consolidation, many people with good to perfect credit who own homes should look into debt consolidation loans, while consumers with high credit card debt and poor credit may want to explore debt settlement or debt negotiation. However, each consumer is different, so find the debt consolidation option that fits for you.

Lastly, here are some fast tips for your own quick Debt Consolidation Evaluator:

  1. If you have perfect credit and have equity in your home -- consider a Mortgage Refinance.
  2. If you can afford a healthy monthly payment (about 3 percent of your total debt each month) and you want to protect yourself from collection and from going delinquent -- consider Credit Counseling.
  3. If you want the lowest monthly payment and want to get debt free for a low cost and short amount of time, AND you are willing to deal with adverse credit impacts and collections -- then evaluate Debt Settlement.
  4. If you cannot afford anything in a monthly payment (less than 1.5 percent of your total debt each month) -- consider Bankruptcy to see if Chapter 7 might be right for you.

Bills.com makes it easy for you to apply for traditional forms of debt relief.

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.

Best,

Bill

Bills.com

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