Foreclosure is just a one-time event—with discipline and perseverance, you can get a mortgage and become a homeowner again.
It won’t be easy to obtain a mortgage after foreclosure. But with enough time, discipline, and desire, you can own your own home again. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Stick with a job after foreclosure
Did you fall into foreclosure because of the lack of a steady job? If you did, the first step toward homeownership after foreclosure is finding and holding one. And if you already have one—stick with it, unless you can move to a better one. Note that potential lenders will require stable employment before they’ll give you a new mortgage loan after a foreclosure. Even if it means taking a lower-paying job, it’s worth it.
2. Rebuild your nest egg after foreclosure
Establish a safety net. Financial planners generally recommend three to six months of living expenses in a liquid account, but since you’re coming out of foreclosure, six is a minimum to show stability and that you’re able to pay your bills—including your mortgage—for an extended period if you lose your job.
3. Raise your credit score after foreclosure
This is the hardest and most time-consuming part. After foreclosure, your credit score, according to myFICO, probably dropped by about 150 points. You’ll need to raise it back up with perseverance.
Pay bills on time and keep your credit card balances below maximum levels. The foreclosure will stay on your credit report for seven years, but if you prove your money management skills have matured, it will become less of a red mark as years go by.
Tip: Consult a housing counselor. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers free housing counseling for distressed homeowners with a foreclosure in their past. A counselor can help you with money management and budgeting. Counseling works—an evaluation of a program in Indianapolis discovered that credit scores greatly improved because of education and counseling, and increased average borrowing power by $4,500 per family.
4. Reduce your waiting time for a mortgage after foreclosure
Normally, you would have to wait three years after foreclosure before you can apply for a new mortgage under Fannie Mae rules.
However, you might wait only two years if you can show extenuating circumstances for your foreclosure, which are defined as “events that are beyond the borrower’s control that result in a sudden, significant, and prolonged reduction in income or a catastrophic increase in financial obligations.” These include:
Losing a job
Having unexpected medical expenses
There’s one last alternative if waiting isn’t your thing—you can obtain seller financing, essentially bypassing the traditional mortgage. If both parties are amenable, you can enter into a lease with an option to buy, or take a mortgage directly from the seller. You’ll most likely have to show some hefty reserve funds, but if you’ve turned around your financial situation quickly after your foreclosure, it’s worth a shot to deal directly with the seller.
Keep in mind that sellers may be motivated to agree to this if they need to sell and the potential buyers they’ve met with can’t obtain a conventional mortgage—perhaps because they’ve been through foreclosures, too.
5. Be honest about your foreclosure
When you’re ready to apply for your new mortgage, don’t try to hide your foreclosure. On the contrary, be proactive and reveal the steps you’ve taken to remedy the problems that led to your foreclosure.
Tip: Try a mortgage broker, who can work with a variety of lenders to find you a loan. When you work directly with a retail lender, like a bank, they have a limited pool of loans to offer you. But a good mortgage broker—one with a vast network of lendersóhas many options, and may be able to find a mortgage solution if the foreclosure in your past is creating challenges in obtaining one.
If you stay disciplined and positive, the American dream—obtaining a mortgage and owning a home of your own—can, indeed, be yours again. Even after foreclosure.
Barbara Eisner HouseLogic.com July 8, 2010