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Foreclosure is the legal means by which a lender can take a property due to default on the mortgage payments. Real-estate tax collectors can also foreclose on a property for nonpayment of taxes.

The foreclosure process can take 18 months or longer, but in the end, the owner is forced to move out and the property is sold to pay the remainder of a debt. If the property is worth less than the amount owed, the owner may be forced to pay the difference.

Any foreclosure damages your credit, making it harder and more costly to borrow money later. Even your ability to rent an apartment may be compromised, since landlords frequently check the credit reports of prospective tenants. As a result, the foreclosure victim may even risk becoming homeless.

Many factors contribute to foreclosure, most commonly job loss or a health crisis. Other factors include a death in the family, disability, overspending and other costs or debts, including those stemming from separation or divorce.

Creative financing also may lead homeowners down the path to foreclosure, causing them to buy more house than they can truly afford. Adjustable rate mortgages, interest-only loans, "3-1 buydowns" and "2/28 products" can be risky, especially if the borrower does not fully understand the terms of the agreement.

With an adjustable rate mortgage, the homeowner may find that the mortgage payment quickly becomes unaffordable when interest rates begin to rise. Interest-only loans mean that the homeowner can pay for years and never get any closer to "owning" the home. In a 3-1 buydown, the developer of a new home includes the first few years of mortgage interest into the purchase price of the home. That inflates the purchase price and the commissions paid. It also can hold down the monthly payments at artificially low levels for a while, before they balloon beyond what the owner can afford to pay. The 2/28 product features interest-only terms for two years, followed by 28 years of full payments (principal and interest). When the increase kicks in, family budgets may be stretched to the breaking point.

In addition to being able to afford the monthly mortgage payment, one also must be able to afford the property taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance costs that are necessary to keep up the property. Buyers should be especially careful to understand and budget for real-estate taxes. Taxes will jump considerably once a brand new home is fully constructed and you move in.

Don't be talked into buying more home than you are sure you will be able to afford.

If you are in the market to become a homeowner, getting a pre-qualification through a bank or mortgage company will help determine how much house you really can afford. Educate yourself; after all, owning a home is one of the largest investments and biggest responsibilities most of us will take on in our lifetimes.

Consider a homebuyer education program. These programs give you a more complete understanding of the mortgage programs available and the expectations and responsibilities of owning a home. They are free of charge.

The classes are excellent even if you already own a home. They assist with:

  • Budgeting and money management
  • Possible down payment assistance programs
  • Home maintenance and repair
  • Understanding real-estate taxes and insurance
  • Post-purchase and foreclosure prevention

They're available through:

         Community Development Corporation: 614-275-4663