Dear Liz: I’m 59 and have been unemployed for more than three years. My retirement is gone, my unemployment insurance has expired and my family resources are maxed out. I own one rental property that I’m trying to sell because it has a negative cash flow. The comparable market is glutted now. I’ve missed the last four payments on my home of 32 years, although I’ve applied for help through the Making Homes Affordable program. I am overwhelmed and unsure how to handle this. Do I just walk away? I am actively seeking employment, working with Goodwill’s Job Connection, but don’t have much hope at this stage. I’m too young for a reverse mortgage and too old for doing physically demanding work.
Answer: Talk to a housing counselor approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development about your situation, including the rental property. (You can get a referral to this free or low-cost help at http://www.hud.gov.)
You don’t need the financial drag of this property adding to your woes. Ideally you’d be able to slash the price for a quick sale, or if you owe more than the property is worth, to arrange for a short sale. That’s when the lender agrees to accept the proceeds of the sale in lieu of the larger amount you owe. Otherwise, you may need to let the property go into foreclosure.
You may not be able to save your primary residence either. If you don’t have any income, you’re unlikely to get a refinance or a modification, but the HUD counselor can apprise you of your options. If you have any equity in the property, it probably makes sense to sell it while you can rather than let the bank take over and lose a small fortune in foreclosure-related fees. For more information, read attorney Stephen Elias’ book, “The Foreclosure Survival Guide.”