Tips for Underwater Military Homeowners

Underwater homeowners

Military homeowners face unique challenges like deployment (and re-deployment) and permanent change of station (PCS) orders. Many face obstacles selling their homes in a tough market or keeping up with payments on more than one residence. If you find yourself in a similar situation and are struggling to hold on to your home, here are a few tips to help protect you and your family:

Know your options: There are a number of government-initiated assistance programs available to veterans and servicemembers facing foreclosure. Understanding your options and the alternatives to foreclosure and what requirements are needed to qualify for each program is the first step in taking control of your situation. Following are a few financial aid and counseling programs for distressed homeowners that are worth exploring:

  • Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) – Intended to postpone or suspend certain civil obligations, including mortgage payments in some instances, to enable servicemembers to devote full attention to duty and relieve stress on the family members of those deployed servicemembers
  • Military Homeowners Assistance Program – Provides some monetary relief to eligible servicemember homeowners who suffer financial loss on the sale of their primary residences when a base closure or realignment announcement causes a decline in the residential real estate market and they are not able to sell their homes under reasonable terms or conditions
  • Making Home Affordable Programs – A federal government program designed to help homeowners struggling to make their mortgage payments.

    Protect what you have: If you're facing foreclosure, you may still be able to keep your home. Here are some suggestions on how to be proactive:

  • Reach out to your lender or servicer
  • Write a hardship letter
  • Complete the necessary homeowner assistance forms
  • Work with your lender or servicer to determine an affordable workout option
  • Keep copies of your communication and documents
  • Stay in touch

    Be wary of scam artists who may try to take advantage of you and your circumstances. You should be on the lookout for people or companies who contact you and require a fee or mortgage payment directly to them before helping you. These people usually refer to themselves as “mortgage consultants” or “foreclosure services” and usually contact homeowners because they learned their home is listed for foreclosure.  Here are additional suggestions for how to protect yourself:

    Watch out for mortgage scams: 

  • Don't give your Social Security number, account number or other personal information to “strangers” on the phone, online or door-to-door.
  • Wait to talk with a trusted professional to help determine if an offer is legitimate.
  • Be a little skeptical — if it seems "too good to be true," it probably is too good to be true.

    Keep an eye out for mortgage assistance events in your area:  Look for free mortgage assistance events in your area. For example, as part of their Military Road to Recovery Tour, CitiMortgage hosts homeowner-support events near military bases around the country for current and former members of the armed forces. At these events, a Homeowner Support Travel Team of mortgage experts and HUD-approved housing counselors hold one-on-one discussions with current and former members of the military in need of assistance with their mortgages. Borrowers do not have to be CitiMortgage customers to attend.  For information on upcoming Citi Military Road to Recovery Tour dates, click here.  

    -- Christopher Perkins is the managing director and founder of Citi Military Veterans Network in New York City.
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