Some Facing Repossession Still Think Their Homes Are Worth More

Sometimes it’s best to sell up and walk away or lenders may chase you for 12 years

Today I got a call from a frantic seller who is facing repossession – I’ll call him Mr. B. He owns a house in North London, but in a not so great area where prices have been steadily depressed for some time.

He told me that he has a ‘repossession order’ for next week. The first thing I try to do when someone calls in a panic to tell me about a court possession order on their home is to try an find out exactly which stage the reposession / possession is at. Many people confuse a Court Order for Possession with a Bailiffs Warrant for Possession. The two things are very different.

If you just got the first one, you have some time to sort out your finances and a very good chance to avoid repossession.

However, if you just received the Bailiffs Warrant, then look out. That’s the nasty one, and much harder to deal with simply because time is no longer on your side.

Mr B. told me that his was a bailiffs warrant for early next week. That in itself is not impossible to deal with by any means, but sometimes seller’s own expectations are simply too high.

Mr B. has a house worth £300,000 – his valuation of course, and as a homeowner like all of us, this will be the top valuation. He owes £200,000 to his mortgage lender, sub-prime specialist GMac.

He told me that he would like to sell to avoid the bailiffs coming next week. That’s a pretty tall order, to find someone who is willing to put down cash in today’s climate to buy a house in a couple of days. That would mean exchanging contracts at least and then submitting a form n244 to the court to get the bailiffs warrant suspended.

Unfortunately Mr B. also has arrears of a substantial sum of £22,000. This means that he would have to sell for a minimum of £222,000. Except that he also has a second charge loan with Black Horse Lloyds for £13,000. Once fees and penalties and costs are added to this Mr B. is looking at a minimum of £240,000 just to clear his debts.

Mr B told me that he understood that he time was against him and so he is willing to sell at a discount – but absolutely no less than £280,000.

This represents a discount against the value of the house (his valuation, mind) of approx 6.5%.

Now house prices are falling at a pretty fast rate. Lenders are telling surveyors to downvalue properties, but Mr B. not only wants someone to pay 93.5% of his price, but also wants to buyer to pay cash (no choice if they are going to exchange before the bailiffs arrive) which would almost certainly have to include the arrears of £22,000 as deposit if GMac are going to accept a conditional exchange.

I suggested to Mr B that any cash buyer will be looking at a serious discount in return for doing this in such a short time frame and any buyer is going have difficulty in remortgaging above £250k because of the stamp duty threshold.

There had already been a buyer and Mr B had used this to get the court to suspend the possesion order. Courts usually give a second chance, and the Judge did, but then the buyer pulled out.

Real Cash buyers are few and far between right now and they have the pick of hundreds of properties at fire sale prices. Even an estate agent trying to sell a home to an normal owner occupier will admit that 10-20% is the minimum discount from asking price if you really need to sell right now (and that sale would take at least 8 weeks via the normal process). If Mr B. thinks that he will find one of these normal homebuyers, with cash in hand and who doesn’t know there are bargains to be had, then he really is kidding himself.

When prices were rising, a rise in the valuation of a property of 10-20% over a 2 to 3 year period was considered by many to be a god given right. Now that values are slipping in the reverse direction many owners are clinging to the notion of ‘equity’ in their homes as their ‘money’ but that equity simply no longer exists.

I tried to get Mr B to be realistic and outlined the alternatives to him as I see them.

Reality No 1 : Find the money to pay off the arrears in a reasonable time frame and use an N244 form to apply to the Court for more time to pay GMac. Not definite but in the current climate a strong chance the Court would insist that GMac accept terms and the Court would suspend the bailiff’s warrant.

Reality No 2 : Sell the house to a cash buyer for what he owes and simply walk away from the problem with NO DEBT. Sure, he loses his home, but he keeps control of his future and his future income. With no equity in his house and huge arrears of £22,000 and mounting, what exactly is there to lose?

Reality No 3 : He waits until the last possible moment to decide on one of the options above and instead the bailiffs arrive, take control of his house and sell it at auction. GMac will sell it right now for whatever they can get (local comparisons on Auction sales sites show similar properties worth £285,000 selling at auction in the last 6 weeks for £152,000!). Mr B. may well think that is the end of the affair, but GMac won’t forget. Nor will Black Horse Loans.

Black Horse actually are quite good at turning secured charges into unsecured loans if they think they will get nothing at auction, but GMac were jsut involved in demanding repayment from Woolworth’s so they are unlikely to care about Mr B’s feelings when they use their legal right to pursue him for up to 12 years for the difference between what he owes them today and what they get for the house at auction.

Which option do you think Mr B will go for?

It’s a shame but my experience tells me it will be No 3. Instead of being honest to himself about his situation I feel he will remain in denial. After all, the whole repossession process actually takes months to get the position that he is now in. Really Mr B. is lucky. Tens of thousand’s of people are now in negative equity and don’t even have the luxury to be able to sell to anyone for enough to cover their debts and walk away debt free.

The moral of the story?

Act Now to stop your repossession!

Like any difficult situation it also helps to deal with it earlier than later. Stay in control of your own future, by either finding the funds to pay the arrears and settle with your lender in Court, or sell your home and pay off your debts. The alternative is too scary to think about.

Alistair Darling to Stop Rent Back Evictions

The Guardian reported an interesting article on sell and rent back and repossession this week:

Owen and Moira Martin are among the many British victims of companies offering controversial sale-and-rent-back deals. Their three-bedroom maisonette in Plymouth was repossessed last month because the company with which they had entered into an agreement never paid the mortgage, even though it had pocketed about £45,000 in fees from them.

Such horror stories have prompted the government to consult on how best to regulate the estimated 2,000 or so companies in the UK offering such schemes.

‘It’s been devastating,’ says Owen Martin, a supermarket worker, who has had to move into a privately rented two-bedroom flat with his wife. ‘We made sure the rent was paid, but we lost our home anyway because the company we sold to never paid the mortgage company.’

The Office of Fair Trading estimated in its recent report into the sector that some 50,000 sale-and-rent-back transactions had taken place. Operators offer to buy the property of someone facing repossession at a discount price, allowing the former mortgagee to remain in the property as a tenant. They usually also charge significant fees.

Read the full story at the Guardian website

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2008/nov/09/rent-back-evictions

Now There’s Even a House Prices Crash Calculator

After years of talking up the property boom and the ‘you can’t lose with property’ articles in the media, the newspapers are now full of doom and gloom about the future of UK house prices.

The reality may be that a housing market depression may be caused by nothing more than the fact that we all start to believe that house prices will fall, we don’t put our houses on the market and we don’t try to move home.

This means that house prices will fall and those affected most will not be those who can ride out the storm and stay put in their homes, but those who are facing repossession.

This Is Money the website arm of the London Evening Standard have even published a price crash calculator so that if you aren’t scared enough already, you can truly frighten yourself into worrying about what your house will be worth if prices fall the same way they did in 1992!

The threat of negative equity however is now a very real one and millions of people will find it impossible to refinance their mortgages and will be forced onto their lenders’ top standard variable rates.

Stop Repossessions Org UK Sees Rise in Negative Equity Repossessions

As 2008 marches on and the global and economic situation looks ever more bleak, so are the tales we are hearing from UK homeowners facing repossession.

Back in 2007 a rough estimate would be that 70% of those people who contacted us by phone or email had some difficulties with their mortgage repayments, were in arrears but were also in a position to:

a) Repay the arrears over a given period either by direct agreement with their mortgage lenders or by a court judgement.

b) Remortgage with a new lender in order to get a fresh start with a new payment record appearing on their credit score

Fast forward and now it is rare that we are hearing from people who have enough extra monthly income to repay their arrears over time and many lenders (especially the sub prime) are refusing to accept repayment plans to pay off morgage arrears.

The majority of people contacting us are now also at the start of the negative equity trap.

The true and actual cost of their borrowings, (which consists not just of the amount borrowed but also the huge penalties, legal and court fees and Early Redemption Penalties), have risen dramatically, whilst the value of their homes is in many cases starting to stagnate, if not fall.

A homeowner who previously remortgaged their £200,000 home with a 90% mortgage (£180,000) and who has either added a secured loan (say £10,000 – new total £190,000) or had a County Court Judgement for unpaid credit card bills of a similar amount, and who has an early redemption penalty of say £7,000, may be mortgaged to £197,000.

One missed mortgage payment and not only can the interest rate rise dramatically so that monthly costs are hugely increased, but legal fees and punishing penalty fees will be also be added.

Suddenly we could be looking at redemption costs of over £200,000.

Sell the house?

Not always possible.

Estate agents will charge a minimum of 1%, more if you go with multiple agents. That’s at lease £2000. Legal fees and the Government’s ridiculous HIPs pack will add another £1500.

It’s now going to cost £3,500 to sell the home and get nothing in return.

But it doesn’t stop there.

If you remortgaged before the Northern Rock crisis hit in September 2007, then the chances are that your lender was giving signals to surveyors to over value properties.

The market is always rising so why not let them over value your home and then lend you more money in return for more profit?

By the time you may be in trouble house prices should have risen by enough to bring down your mortgage level to less than 100% – just in case they need to repossess.

But the reality is that homes are now only selling if the price is right.

Now it’s a buyer’s market again.

Houses which comfortably sold for £200,000 back in 2007 are now sticking in agent’s windows at £189,000.

Suddenly it could cost you as much as £10-20,000 to buy your way out of repossession.

But who is going to lend you the money to pay the costs?

It is not going to happen.

If you do have equity in your home then you do have options to avoid repossession find out here

Does Alistair Darling Want You To Be Repossessed?

Maybe the Government, along with the usual middle class do gooders at the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and Shelter actually want you to be repossessed and lose your home?

Surely, that can’t be right?

Yet the Scottish newspaper the Sunday Herald Reports today the following:

“Prompted by concerns raised by Citizens Advice, Shelter and the Council of Mortgage Lenders, chancellor Alistair Darling announced last week that he has asked the Office of Fair Trading to investigate potential consumer detriment in the sale-and-leaseback market.

A spokeswoman for the Council of Mortgage Lenders said: “While we welcome the review, it is disappointing that no immediate action will be taken to regulate sale-and-leaseback schemes.

“Homeowners in difficulty may currently be considering selling their property through these schemes at a discounted value, without an independent valuation of their home, and with no real security of tenure.”

Whilst it is true that there are some rogue rent back traders out there (especially those offering to pay 100% of market value who in reality keep at least 40% back for many years), this Government is expert in knee jerk politics.

So many of the laws that have been passed since Labour came into power seem to be a reaction to scare stories in the tabloids.

The reality of the sell and rent back scenario is that it gives homeowners a last resort to keep their homes when all else has failed.

If the Government legislate against that last resort because a powerful lobby of middle class people feel that that they need to legislate against other people having the right to sell their homes for less than market value in order to stay in them, the outcome (like that of many of their policies) will be exactly the opposite.

CAB and Shelter may talk the talk but they won’t offer you a home when you are repossessed and evicted.

As for the CML (Council of Mortgage Lenders) – well who do you think supplies the financing and re-mortgaging for sell and rent back companies?

Is Alistair Darling (or any other of the wealthy Islington-ite Labour Government) going to provide you with a nice Council House or put you to the top of the housing list when you are repossessed?

I think we all know the answer to that one.

If you are thinking of selling and renting back make sure that you do the research and ask for references from other sellers when dealing with a rent back buyer.

Facing Repossession? Don’t Borrow More Money!!

There are many websites out there that promise to help you avoid repossession byborrowing more money!

If you truly are facing repossesion then borrowing your way out of trouble is the recipe for disaster.

This is because if you have mortgage arrears or a possession order against your home from your mortgage lender or a second charge loan company, no one is going to lend you money at a lower interest rate than you are currently paying. If they do, it will be for a limited time before massive interest rates kick in.

This means that you will almost certainly lose your home. If not today, then in the coming months as you struggle to make even higher payments.

Most of the loans available to people in your position are on  a variable interest rate. The Bank of England rate may go down, but these companies are not linked to the Bank of England interest rate, so you will probably find their rates going only one way – UP!

Any solution to stop repossession of your home MUST also help to get you out of debt, not further into debt.

For repossession solutions and help in reducing your liabilities with credit cards and other unsecured debts contact us via our website Stop Repossession Org UK

Manchester is Britain’s Debt Capital

According to ITV’s documentary Repossession Repossession Repossession (to be shown tonight at 10.35pm on ITV1) the northern city is where the highest percentage of those with serious debts and facing repossession, can be found.ITV Programme Repossession Repossession Repossession

The programme will claim that 29% of households in Manchester are facing serious financial problems and possibly home repossession.

Fuelled by easy credit access in the last 10 years, many of those in trouble are under 30. They have grown into adulthood being able to constantly re-finance their credit card debts until at some point the only option may have appeared to be consolidating their loans and securing them against their homes.

Now the credit crunch has forced lenders to be ultra cautious as to who they lend to (or the less reputable to be able to charge ever more disproportionate interest rates) most of those with high Loan to Value mortgages (85% and above) also have secured debts that in some case can mean they are more than 110% mortgaged.

In this case even the sale of the property would not realise enough equity to repay all the loans.

Lenders are increasingly using the repossession process to recover their money, some of them on the basis that in the current financial climate the money is better off with them than being risked as a total loss if another of the homeowner’s creditor decided to repossess.

The programme can be seen 5th Feb 2008 at 10.35pm on ITV1

Is Sell and Rent Back The Right Option For Me

When Sell and Rent Back is not an option

One of the questions we get asked most is ‘Is Sell and Rent Back and Option For Me’?

bigkeyrepossession.jpg
The answer really depends on a number of circumstances and every situation is different, but generally speaking sell and rent back options are not feasible for those whose properties are worth £300,000 or more.

We have seen a massive rise in those seeking help to stop repossession whose properties are valued at over £300k.

For sell and rent back options to work, the buyer must be able to charge a rent that covers the cost of financing their mortgage.

With interest rates currently at around 6% for Buy to Let mortgages, this means that for every £100,000 that the buyer needs to mortgage, he or she must pay £600 pcm in mortgage interest. For a property over £200,000 this already equates to a rental figure of over £1200pcm.

Even if you might be prepared to pay £1200pcm now (and it may seem attractive if you are currently paying a lot more in servicing your debts), but the problem is that market rents in most areas of the UK are nothing like that amount. The average UK 3 bed semi may be worth £200k on the open market, but rental averages are probably more like £650 pcm.

This means that market rents are out of sync with property values. No investor can afford to buy a property and rent it back to the previous owner unless the rent covers the cost of their buy to let mortgage. No lender will lend against a property for a buy to let mortgage unless it believes the rent will cover the cost of the buyer’s interest payments comfortably.

For most lenders this means 125% coverage. For example is the interest was £1000pcm, the market rent must be at least £1250pcm otherwise they will not lend against the property.

For those who are facing financial difficulties with properties over £300k the obvious option is to sell on the open market and realise the best price.

Sometimes it might be possible to enter into a sell and rent back option providing the seller has enough equity in the property to allow a sale at a much lower figure, with an option to buy it back at a discount at a later stage.

BBC Puts HSBC in Spotlight Over Aggressive Loan Tactics

From BBC News today

Banks ‘prey on customers in debt’

Some people are agreeing to make payments they cannot afford
Banks are being accused of pressurising customers who have financial problems to take out expensive loans to try to ease their debts, the BBC has learned.

Some banks are repeatedly telephoning customers to try to get them to take out costly loans, against the advice of debt charities.

Citizens Advice said it has received many complaints about the increasingly aggressive tactics being used.

Banks say interest rate charges are up to them.

HSBC bombard customers with loan offers

Continually telephoned

People find that even after they have been dealing with us they have found that they have been continued to be written to. They get aggressive letters and phone calls from their lenders
Peter Tutton, Citizens Advice

The BBC’s Breakfast programme has discovered some customers who have an agreed debt repayment plan with a debt advice charity are being put under pressure to take out loans, sometimes at a higher interest rate than they are already paying.

One HSBC customer, Simon Chandler, said that even though he had declined the bank’s offer of a “managed loan”, they had continually telephoned him to try and make him change his mind

The interest rate on the managed loan is 13% – double what he is paying at the moment.

He said: “I have had multiple letters from HSBC saying they want to help people in financial difficulty – when clearly they don’t.

For the rest of this story click here

Citizens Advice Bureau Claims Repossessions Lender’s Fault But Is CAB To Blame Too?

Reuters reported a couple of days ago that the Citizens Advice Bureau are claiming that UK home repossessions are dramatically rising due to the lender’s aggressive arrears recovery policies and brokers’ misselling.

Whilst both of these statements are undoubtedly true, and we have accused lenders of such practices on this very blog, the Citizens Advice Bureau also plays its part in homeowners being repossessed.

How so?

Well in a number of cases that have come to our attention, including ones we have been involved in, the CAB has advised homeowners facing repossession that they must surrender to their fate and let the bank take their home, rather than pursue alternatives such as a cash property sale or that bete noir of NGOs and the press, the sell and rent back.

Our fictional Mr & Mrs Smith have 4 months’ mortgage arrears, a court possession order, and bailiffs due to evict them in 10 days. Where to turn?

The Citizens Advice Bureau promotes itself as the place to go for impartial debt related advice. Mr Smith mentions that they are thinking about selling and renting back.

The CAB advisor warns them against this. They will be losing money. Their home is worth at least 20% more than the Smiths have been offered.

The Smiths are relieved to benefit from the wisdom of the CAB.

However, the logic of this advice is somewhat strange.

If a homeowner allows a lender to repossess they immediately lose all control over the sale price of the home, whereas with a cash property buyer, the owner is free to decide whether or not to sell at a discount in order to pay off his/her debts, once the property is in the hands of the lender the property will be sold (usually at auction) to cover only the mortgage debt of the first charge.

Most repossessions involve second and third charges for secured loans. These high interest rate sub prime lenders are not going to shrug and walk away.

The will chase their debts aggressively for up to 12 years.

Of course selling your home for a discount is not something to be happy about. But what are the real options? Homelessness and another 12 years of being pursued by your lender with interest and charges racking up?

With so many properties now being repossessed prices for repossessions at auction are once more becoming bargains. However, if the lender sells the property below the mortgage debt redemption figure, then the lender can pursue the previous owner for the balance of the debt.

If you compare this with the owner selling for a price to cover their debts and recover at least some of the equity in their home then the CAB’s blanket condemnation of cash property buyers makes little common sense.

We have come across a number of people who have taken the CAB advice to allow themselves to be repossessed rather than accept a cash offer. Once repossessed, the person taking the advice is then not only homeless (and depending on their situation) with little chance of the local council rehousing them, but without any funds with which to rent in the open market.

Selling to cash buyers and sell to rent schemes may not be the answer to everyone facing repossession, but the attitude of the CAB seems to be a very middle class and patronising hair shirt ‘you’ve made your financial bed now lie in it a while’ coupled with sheer horror that a third party might make money out of somebody’s repossession situation.

Well, the banks, especially the sub prime lenders are making a lot of money out of repossessions with massive fees and penalties, the victims are ending up homeless when the options of selling at a discount and moving on or renting back their homes and getting their lives back together are simply not open for discussion by CAB advisors.

But at least the staff at the CAB can sleep well knowing that no property investors have made a penny from our Mr & Mrs Smith (who tonight may be sleeping in a council run B&B on the wrong side of town…)