What is a deed in lieu of foreclosure?
With so many individuals unable to afford to keep their homes, many people are looking for ways to walk away from their home.
One option is to do a deed in lieu of foreclosure. When a person signs a deed in lieu of foreclosure, the person is essentially signing the property over to the mortgage without forcing the mortgage company to go through a foreclosure to reclaim the property. When a property is foreclosed upon, the mortgage company must follow state laws which set up a number of steps a mortgage company must complete in order to take over possession of the property. This can be a drawn out process and typically the mortgage company will incur costs such as attorney’s fees when undertaking a foreclosure.
When an individual signs a deed in lieu of foreclosure that person is essentially giving the mortgage company permission to bypass the foreclosure process and take back possession of the property immediately.
Clearly, in this situation the mortgage company benefits by skipping over the expensive step of foreclosure; however, the property more quickly enters onto their books as a foreclosed property. Some mortgage companies have “Cash for Keys” programs that will offer financial compensation for owners willing to vacate their property more quickly.
The benefit for the homeowner in a deed in lieu of foreclosure is not as obvious. Many individuals believe that their credit will be spared by doing a deed in lieu of foreclosure. This is not the case. A deed in lieu of foreclosure can still adversely affect a person’s credit score.
In addition, when a person signs the deed in lieu of foreclosure that person is giving up his or her right to occupy the property during the redemption period. In Minnesota as in many states, a homeowner is allowed a time period after a sheriff sale to try to refinance the property or pay off the entire mortgage in full in order to keep the home. During the redemption period, the homeowner is entitled to keep possession of the home. In Minnesota, this period typically last 6 months. In certain circumstances it can last a full year. Essentially this means that a person can lose their home to a foreclosure and yet remain in the property until the redemption period expires. During this time the homeowner’s name remains on the title of the property and the homeowner is responsible for the property. The homeowner is not required to make mortgage payments on the property during this time and therefore has a chance to save up money that would have been spent on rent.
Signing a deed in lieu of foreclosure ends this right. It can however occasionally be in a homeowner’s best interest to sign a deed in lieu of foreclosure. For example, if an individual has already moved out of the property, having their name remain on the title is a liability for them if the property is not being maintained. For example, if the lawn is not mowed, the city could cite the homeowner for the violation.
Another concern that an individual should have when considering signing a deed in lieu of foreclosure is whether the mortgage company will choose to go after the homeowner for a deficiency balance if the property subsequently sells for less than the homeowner owes the mortgage company. One should be wary about signing an agreement that makes them responsible for the difference.
Not all mortgage companies will willingly allow a homeowner to sign a deed in lieu of foreclosure straight away. Often the mortgage company will force the homeowner to put the property up for sale before considering the option of a deed in lieu of foreclosure. A homeowner may incur unnecessary costs in doing this.
Whether or not signing a deed in lieu of foreclosure is in a person’s best interest depends on a number of factors. Before making such a decision, an individual would be wise to consult with an attorney regarding their options.