Selling or Refinancing Your Home After a Natural Disaster

Photo courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey

You were just starting to think about selling your house, or maybe you wanted to take advantage of the low interest rates soon in order to refinance your mortgage. But before you could do either, a natural disaster caused great damage to your dwelling. Whether your home was defaced, flooded, impaled, or completely destroyed, do you know what the protocol is for handling a sale or refinance after a natural disaster?

First things first: you’re going to need to find out how much of the damage will be covered by your home owner’s insurance policy.  You do have coverage, we hope! Under these types of circumstances, the damage caused by a natural disaster is deemed an “Act of God” and is predicted to happen only once in a lifetime to the average person, so most insurance companies will handle a great deal of the damage costs.

It’s important that you bring in a structural expert to ensure that your home is structurally sound after such an event.  Since huge natural disasters are newsmakers, any potential buyers are bound to ask a lot of questions about the remodeling and the stability of the home and any other buildings on the property.  A structural engineer can give you peace of mind knowing that all of your buyers’ questions can be answered honestly and with positive responses that will make selling your home that much easier!

It is extremely important that you are able to restore your home to the same, or possibly even better condition than it was in before the disaster struck. As you know, it is currently a buyer’s market, so any potential buyer will be looking to make sure that you have completely renovated and that you have properly documented all of the renovations.  Buyers want to know that the work was completed by a qualified contractor. Since each state has different laws about what you must disclose to a potential buyer, it is a good idea to have an experienced real estate attorney guiding you through the renovations.

If you were just about to refinance your home mortgage prior to a natural disaster, you will have to follow all of the above steps in order to ensure that your refi goes off without a hitch.  A step in the home refinance process is to have an appraisal completed to assess the value of your home. If your home was in the path of a recent natural disaster, appraisers will be looking very closely at the renovations that were completed as they assess your home prior to a lender granting you a refinance opportunity.

The good news is that you’ve survived whatever disaster has struck your town, and even if your home took a significant hit, it is still possible for you to sell it or refinance your current mortgage as long as you make the proper renovations. Take heed of your real estate attorney’s advice in order to make sure everything is done legally so that you don’t hit any unexpected speedbumps along the way.  Selling and/or refinancing is a long enough process already! By taking the time to make sure that your home is fixed properly and according to state law, you’ll prevent any further delays.

How to Avoid Mortgage Refinance Scams

Photo courtesy of Brande Jackson

You’ve heard about the record low mortgage rates. You know that you could be saving money each month on your house payments. You’ve dared to dream about making this a reality in a time when talking about the potential for an economic windfall is only slightly less taboo than hoarding thousands of pigs in your small apartment.

It’s true that we have started to become afraid of talking about the possibility of an economic turnaround in this country, for fear of jinxing it. However, the time is upon us wherein mortgage rates really are down and lenders really are working with borrowers to increase the terms of their loans.  Now is the time where most people begin to wonder what the catch is.

Unfortunately, we simply cannot claim that there is no catch.  There definitely is a catch, and in this case the catch is that you have a real chance of being scammed if you’re not careful.  Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you find a mortgage broker, lender, or bank with a sterling reputation to handle your refinance.  Plenty of less than desirable people have taken notice that thousands of other people just like you are interested in refinancing your loan. These are people who understand the potential for their own gain through your loss’s , and you would be best to view these people as wolves in sheep’s clothing.  In one word: BEWARE.

An easy way to ensure that you are indeed working with a very reputable and honest mortgage broker or lender is to make the savvy decision to hire an experienced attorney to work with you throughout the entire refinancing process.  Your attorney will be your virtual attack dog, scaring away any potential scammers before they even have a chance to try to scam you. Look for an attorney who has experience dealing with loan refinances and bankruptcies. Another good idea is to find an attorney or a firm who has developed a reputation with their former clients as aggressive when dealing with financial professionals, guaranteeing even further that you will not be taken advantage of.

Some people feel that hiring an attorney to look over their loan documents is a waste of the money that they are working hard to save, however, oftentimes that faulty line of thinking couldn’t be further from the truth. By hiring a real estate attorney now, the entire loan refinance process will be a much more relaxed  situation for you and your family. The end result will be a guaranteed success, and you will be taking no risks when it comes to to choosing the right mortgage broker and/or lender. Don’t become one of the many who have been scammed by the criminals who are taking advantage of distressed homeowners.

Your real estate attorney can guarantee that you will not be taken advantage of by false promises made by scammers pretending to be brokers or lenders.  Avoid becoming a statistic, especially when it comes to your money and your credit.

Bankruptcy and Divorce: Which Comes First?

If you have filed for divorce and your spouse suddenly files for bankruptcy, you may be wondering how this is going to affect you, if at all. In order to understand exactly what is going to happen in the situation, you must first have a handle on some basic family law terms.

A Final Judgment of Divorce, or Divorce Decree, is issued by a family law judge in order to completely dissolve the marriage.  The Divorce Decree becomes finalized when it is signed by both you and your spouse and in some cases, your respective attorneys.

The Property Settlement Agreement, sometimes known as the PSA, is a document that accompanies the Divorce Decree.  The PSA sets out the terms of your divorce and all of your assets and liabilities. This is the document wherein you and your spouse determine which portion of the marital debt will be paid by each party.  You and your spouse will come to an agreement that has you responsible for certain debts and your spouse responsible for another portion of the marital debts.

With all of that being said, your creditors have absolutely no interest in whether or not you and your spouse have decided to get divorced, regardless of the reasons.  The Property Settlement Agreement sets out a payment agreement between you and the other party for all debts acquired during the marriage, however, this is simply an agreement between you and your spouse, and in no way does this lift your legal liability for these debts.

Unfortunately, if you agreed to get (and added your name to) that credit card that your spouse maxed out, creditors do not care who did all of the shopping.  The only thing they are concerned with is that they get paid, and they are not concerned with who pays them – regardless of any PSA that you and your spouse may have agreed to.

Perhaps your spouse is filing for bankruptcy now because he or she has learned that once a divorce is finalized, any marital debt he or she has agreed to pay cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy. By filing before the Divorce Decree, or Final Judgment of Divorce is signed, your spouse may be attempting to eliminate as much debt as possible.

What this means for you is that you could potentially end up with some of the debt that your husband or wife may no longer be liable for thanks to the bankruptcy filing. Creditors may come after you, expecting you to pay for your spouse’s portion of the debt that has been “magically” lifted from his/her responsibilities through bankruptcy.

You may also be forced into bankruptcy yourself if this happens, so it is important to be fully aware of your spouse’s actions and intentions regarding the agreed-upon marital debts, so that you don’t end up squeezed into a corner that you can’t get out of.  There are solutions for you if you find yourself divorced with creditors breathing down your neck for debts that your spouse agreed to be responsible for.  In order to keep yourself above water, you need to retain the services of a high-quality bankruptcy attorney immediately.

Photo credit: Brian Ambrozy

Keep Your Business Out of Bankruptcy with These Tips

Photo courtesy of F33

All entrepreneurs who have ever started a business share at least one common motivator: money.  While there are, of course, other reasons to get a business off the ground, a significant profit is definitely high on the list for many, if not all, business owners.  Therefore, when the money stops rolling in, what’s the next step?

Is it your only option to file for bankruptcy?  Don’t be too quick to rush into filing, if that is your present line of thinking.  After all, you’ve put a lot of effort into making your business successful! Financial problems do not have to immediately signal the end of your company.

First and foremost, you will need the help of a bankruptcy attorney who is ready to be aggressive in order to keep you out of the red.  Savvy business owners know that they should have an attorney on retainer before any sign of trouble, but if you haven’t already done so, call one now. Look for an attorney who also specializes in credit repair and loan modifications. These attorneys will be most able to help you avoid bankruptcy.

Working with your attorney, it is important that you act fast.  Many business owners end up waiting to take action until it is simply too late, and bankruptcy is their only option.  An experienced attorney has connections with lenders and can make important deals that may lower the amount of money you owe them, because lenders know that if you file for bankruptcy, they won’t get anything at all.

Your attorney will be able to advise you about many other methods you can use to lessen your chance of needing to file for bankruptcy and giving your business another chance at success. You will probably be advised on some less than ideal company restructuring that may be quite difficult for you to deal with.  Also, be prepared to let go of some of your assets if you really want to make a last ditch effort to save your company.

It is also possible that your attorney will be able to find you new private or higher cost lenders that will essentially bail you out – at the very least, buying you enough time to get your plans in order to keep the business afloat.

Most importantly, contact a qualified bankruptcy attorney today in order to move forward with salvaging your company.  There are many effective steps that can be taken, but you must take action now for them to work.

Avoiding Bankruptcy: Find out if it’s Possible for You

Photo courtesy of Davi Sommerfeld

If you’re at the point where bankruptcy appears to be the only option you have left – be sure that you have truly exhausted all other options and made all attempts to settle your debts through alternative means.  Many times, people filing for bankruptcy don’t realize that they have options.  Seeking the help of a qualified bankruptcy attorney is one way to find out what all of your options really are.

Did you know that a bankruptcy attorney can often negotiate debt settlement deals with your creditors, enabling you to stay out of bankruptcy?  It’s also possible to re-negotiate the terms of your mortgage with your bank or mortgage company with a mortgage refinance.  If you aren’t sure how to go about doing this, or who to contact, once again, a bankruptcy, or credit repair attorney, can be your best friend in this situation.

Prioritize your debts.  Make sure you are paying your mortgage and car payments first, rather than doling out money to credit card companies every month.  Even though credit card companies can be quite aggressive when it comes to collecting their money, it’s much more important that you stay up to date on your home loan and vehicle payments than on your credit card debt. In order to keep yourself from filing bankruptcy, you need transportation so that you can go to work and keep getting a paycheck, and you also need somewhere to live.

In those moments when bankruptcy seems like a good idea, remember that it is going to destroy your credit score for at least seven years and will have lingering effects for ten years or more.  Although many of your debts will be erased, it will be very difficult and sometimes impossible for you to obtain any sort of loans or make any large purchases during that seven to ten years after your bankruptcy discharge is issued. Even getting a bank account or a credit card will be a huge challenge.  You will likely lose your car and possibly even your home.

After bankruptcy, buying or renting a place to live is also very difficult because lenders and even landlords now are very choosy about their debtors and renters.  Credit scores are checked by everyone these days, and the effects of filing for bankruptcy may even reach your employer or a future potential employer if you are looking for work.

Financial advisors and credit repair attorneys are usually of the opinion that filing for bankruptcy should literally be your absolute last option, a ‘Hail Mary pass’, so to speak, because bankruptcy presents so many problems of its own.

Many talented financial advisors and credit repair attorneys can help you find your way around filing for bankruptcy, even if you think there is absolutely no way anyone could help you out of the financial mess you are currently in.  Perhaps you’re thinking that you couldn’t even afford to pay a professional to help you, so why bother?  The good news is that the best advisors and attorneys who deal with these matters want to help people like you, and they will find a way to help you that stays within your budget.

If you’re on the verge of filing for bankruptcy, think twice.  It may very well not be your only way out.