Behind in Your Mortgage: A Few Principles to Guide You

There are some rather complicated areas involving who is in front of whom in terms of real estate transactions, and you need to know these, especially if your mortgage payments are in arrears. Most of us have at least a first mortgage, and many of you have second mortgages, as well. If those are the only encumbrance on your home, it is reasonably simple to keep track of where you stand on these security instruments. The first mortgage comes first; the second mortgage has equity only if the principal balance of the first mortgage is less than the outstanding balance on the first mortgage.

These days, many first mortgages are “under water”. That means that the value of the dwelling is less than the principal balance of the mortgage note. It has been estimated that as many as one in four homes in America is in this position. I bring this up because some homeowners are trying to get a “short sale” approved to sell their home, move into a rental facility, and stop the noise of dunning calls from their mortgage Lender. The fact that there are so many homes “under water” and there is a high presence of second mortgages clouding resolution of the difficulties facing the home owner is a fact of our times. Many times the first mortgage lender will say “yes” to a diminished mortgage payoff, but the second mortgage lender will say no. The second mortgage lender, with no equity, has little to lose. Therefore, it is often the second mortgage lender who will prove the greatest obstacle in getting a short sale approved.

There are a few other “wrinkles” which you may wish to know about. The first is real estate taxes. Real estate taxes take priority over mortgages. Without this framework, few cities and towns would be able to survive. Many of you may be aware of the situation in Milton where a homeowner has accrued several hundred thousand dollars in back taxes, and faces a tax sale which will obliterate much of the equity which a mortgage lender has in the property. This is a unique situation, and, perhaps, one which could have been avoided by a more aggressive course of action by the Town. Normally, if a Town or other municipality brings a serious real estate tax deficiency to the attention of the mortgage Lender, the mortgage Lender pays the taxes to maintain its secured position. I am not familiar with all of the facts in the current delinquency. All I can say is if you are a person behind in mortgage payment and taxes, it may be in your interest to have your mortgage Lender pay the taxes, rather than be left in the situation which appears to currently obtain. The interest rate on delinquent taxes is Fourteen (14%)per cent per annum.

The last area which may be of interest is common area delinquencies for condominiums. A recent statute has made these items prioritized and Condominium Trustees can hold auction sales which knock out the secured position of Lenders. Again, if you are falling behind in this area, I urge you to contact your Lender, who may be willing to make these payments, too, to protect the Lender’s equity in your Unit.

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