Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ways You Can Lose Your Property

There are times and ways that people lose their homes through foreclosure or possession. The way many rags-to-riches seekers pursue the quick buck is through the foreclosure sales. Nevertheless, there are several other ways homeowners or investors can lose property. Below are at least six ways a homeowner can lose their property to the auction block.

Don't pay your mortgage. Generally, quit paying your mortgage and you'll end up getting past due notices, followed by foreclosure proceedings notices and then a visit from the sheriff's office to "assist" you in removing all your property from the household.

While there may appear to be a lot of foreclosures out there, the Mortgage Bankers Association reports that less than 1 percent of mortgages in 2005 went into foreclosure (down 12 basis points from the year before.) However, the number of mortgagees in default rose the last reporting quarter to 4.70 percent.

The increase comes as no surprise to the group's chief economist, Doug Duncan. "We have been expecting an up-tick in delinquencies due to a number of factors: the seasoning of the loan portfolio, the increased shares of the portfolio that are ARMs and subprime mortgages, as well as the elevated level of energy prices and rising interest rates," he said on the group's website.

Don't pay your taxes. For homeowners who pay their own taxes, (not paid through a mortgage service provider), a tax sale could be in their future if they fail to pay taxes on the property. Though most tax sales are through local governments, both state and federal revenue agencies can confiscate real estate for not paying taxes.

If this happens, it's not as simple as just paying the back taxes and getting your property back. For some, it includes also paying penalties and interest, which many times can bypass the actual amount of the back taxes balance.

If your local taxing jurisdiction is anything like mine here in good old Fairfax County, Virginia, then the confiscation of your home is a last resort -- first they will have tried various other methods of tax collection, such as garnishing wages, confiscated money from your bank, booting and towing your car, then of course, selling your house on the auction block.

File bankruptcy. In the past, filing bankruptcy usually gave the homeowner some protection from losing his home to creditors. With the revamped bankruptcy laws passed last year, creditors may now have the upper hand in bankruptcy situations, according to Herbert Addison, co-author of "How to Save Your Home" and a certified housing counselor. He contends on that while the new law allows for 180 days for the consumer to work out payment plans with the creditor, it does not stop the foreclosure process, which could be a shorter period of time than the payment workout plan.

Surety for other debts besides mortgage. Creditors are in business for one thing -- to make money off consumers through interest and fees collected during payback of loans. If the consumer fails to pay off those loans, the creditors can go after assets to satisfy the debts. Your house could be one of those assets.

Failure to pay homeowners dues. If you get into an argument with your homeowners association, withholding the homeowners dues paid each month should not be one of your strategies. HOAs can also auction your house to satisfy past due homeowners HOA fees.
Illegal activity. The American Civil Liberties Union contends that 80 percent of homeowners who have had property forfeited by the federal, state or local government have never been convicted of a crime, rather law enforcement officials only need to prove probable cause that the homeowner either used the property in committing a crime or purchased the house through funds created through illicit behavior.

Published: March 24, 2006

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