The economy has put a strain on thousands of households across the nation. In these tough times, many homeowners are struggling in the face of foreclosure. What are the consequences of defaulting on your loan? And what can you do to prevent this loss?

One of the most startling impacts of a foreclosure appears on one’s credit report. Your credit score may plummet by 200 to 300 points. In this economic climate, where credit lending standards are already tightened, you may then find it difficult to do everything from buying a car to renting an apartment. What’s worse is that the notation of foreclosure stays on your report for up to seven years.

Next, you may owe the lender money. They backed a loan on a home worth X amount. If they sell your home at foreclosure for less than that amount, you may be responsible for the difference. Many states have laws protecting you against this action, but speak with an attorney to find out for what you may be liable.

Lately, after the sudden drop in property values in certain markets, investors have been guilty of strategic defaults. This is when an investor purposely defaults on a property, because the time it will take for them to recoup their money is perceived as too great. A word to the wise: courts are now ordering deficiency judgements in some cases, where the investor must pay the lender back their losses.

There really is no winner in a foreclosure. With homeownership comes increased family stability. The loss of a home can be a trying time on all members of the family. Beyond your own family, a foreclosure can mean lowered property values for your entire neighborhood.

Avoiding default and foreclosure is not always possible. If you are not able to make your payments, be sure to be honest with your lender. They may be able to present you with an alternative. In addition, here are a few tips to get you thinking.

1. Short Sale. A short sale occurs when a borrower is unable to pay their mortgage loan. Both the homeowner and lender consent to a short sale, which means selling the home at a moderate loss, avoiding foreclosure and its associated frees and havoc on credit reports.

2. Talk to your lender. They may be able to offer you programs, refinancing, or counseling that can help you avoid losing your home. Most banks don’t want you to foreclose, as it would mean they take a loss.

3. Selling if not underwater. If you are not underwater on your home loan, meaning you don’t owe more than you can sell for and owe, then now is the time to employ a real estate agent and get your home sold. Downsizing or even renting is a better option than ruining your credit for the next seven years.

4. Budgeting. There are non-necessities that can be cut out of your expenses. Cut down and live as simply as possibly. You may have more money than you realized!

5. Financial counseling. Defaulting is serious business. You would be wise to meet with a financial counselor to see if they can help you avoid losing your home.

6. Refinancing or loan modification. Your bank or lender may be willing to allow you to refinance. This can translate into lower monthly payments.

The bottom line is this. Defaulting on your mortgage has severe consequences. Try your best to balance finances before your mortgage becomes an issue. And be honest and upfront with your lender in the event that a default is likely.

Courtesy of Realty Times