When we have a consultation with a prospective client we do everything we can to explore every option that the client may have. Then, the client decides which direction they would like to head. One of the frequent questions we get is what happens if instead of filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy they just give up the house and walk away. The answer to that question really depends upon whether or not you have any equity in your house. Equity is the difference between the value of the house and how much you owe.
Substantial Equity. If you have substantial equity in your house then you may be okay just walking away. Typically what happens is the bank will foreclose on the home after you walk away and sell. According to a MSN Money article. John T. Reed, the Editor of Real Estate Investor’s Monthly, a foreclosed home will sale about 5% below the market average but may be up to 30% or 40% below market value.
If the mortgage company is able to recover the full amount that you owe on the property then you are not likely to owe any more money for the foreclosed home. However, you will still have a foreclosure that appears on your credit report.
Little to No Equity. If you have little to no equity in
your home and the bank is unable to recover the amount you owe then you will be responsible for the unpaid balance which is called the deficiency balance. In other words, if your foreclosed house sold for $100,000 but you owe $150,000 on the house, then you would still owe the bank $50,000. It is unlikely that you will have $50,000 to pay out of pocket so the bank has the ability to file a lawsuit against you and obtain a judgment. That judgment could eventually lead to a lien on your different types of property. Liens are bad news – you don’t want one!
Typically speaking, foreclosed properties will not recover the full amount owed to the bank for the mortgage. Therefore, they will look to you to pay the deficiency balance. A bankruptcy has the ability to potentially wipe out this entire balance.
The bottom line. if you still owe money for the mortgage even after the foreclosure sale of your home then you will be liable for those costs. Bankruptcy can usually wipe out that left over balance. If you do nothing they will file suit against you and have a judgment that may attach to your property. Ideally, you don’t want a foreclose to appear on your credit. Bankruptcy gives you the ability to keep the foreclosure off your credit and wipe out the deficiency balance.