By Christopher C. Carr, Esq., Suburban Philadelphia Bankruptcy Lawyer
Deciding whether to keep your home or not is not always a simple “Rent/bankruptcy vs. “Keep/no bankruptcy” decision: if you have regular income and otherwise are eligible to file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy you should also consider keeping the property in a 13. In a 13 you still have to pay principal and interest and escrows, if any but the 13 Plan, once confirmed by the Court, will allow you to hang on to this most precious of assets and pay the arrears in the plan over a 3-5 year period instead of selling at a loss and in many cases owing the deficiency to the lender.
The decision is not an easy one and there are almost always emotional ties to a home as well. But one thing is for certain: you have to pay taxes and anything that saves you a dollar in taxes is like a dollar in your pocket right?
Some lawyers and others will, in “knee jerk” fashion, tell you that since your house is under water you should short sell and “find another place to rent”. However, any analysis which does not “add back” into the equation the net present value of the tax advantages of home ownership at your marginal tax rate is telling you only half the story. Renting has little or no tax advantage, mortgage payments do. (Same for state and local taxes that you pay or are escrowed by your lender) Let’s say your mortgage is $950 a month you are in the 25% bracket for example and your property taxes are $3,600 a year or $300 a month, then the ownership “savings” is computed as follows: ($950 + $300) x .25 or $312.50. Another way to say it is that the government is subsidizing 25% of your ownership cost under these assumptions (not quite because as I explain below, we also have to consider insurance in the computation).
The pragmatic way to analyze this as they taught us in MBA School, is to compute your net after tax cost of home ownership and ask yourself the question: CAN YOU REALLY FIND EQUIVALENT RENTAL HOUSING FOR A PRICE AS GOOD or BETTER THAN YOU ARE PAYING NOW? Let’s look again at the example I have been exploring above. To get the full cost of ownership you have to add in home insurance (which is not tax deductible). Let’s say that is another $75 a month. So your fully loaded cost (assuming you live in a place with no association fees) is (950 + 300 + 75)-312.50 = $1012.50. Note when you figure in the tax savings in it brings the overall cost of home ownership down to only a few dollars more than the amount of your mortgage payment. So ask yourself, using your actual costs and tax bracket instead, can I find adequate rental housing for that net figure (in my example $1012.50 a month)? If not, you might want to consider a Chapter 13 to allow you to keep your current residence.
Of course, the above analysis while a good starting point, it is just one of the factors to be considered. A couple of examples: if you can strip out your second mortgage in a Chapter 13 because your home is completely under water as to the second (meaning that there is not enough equity coverage for the second and any homestead or other exemptions that are applicable in your jurisdiction), that will further reduce your ownership costs by the amount of the monthly payment you make on the second now. And if you can get rid of your credit card debt to boot, you are that much more ahead (assuming you are still paying on them). In a 13 keep decision, these things also have to be weighed against the rental advantages. Also consider any costs of sale and the effects of the deficiency judgment (see above) that you might incur! See my article in this series called: J is for “Judgment” Lien and its Impact upon Homeowners for more information.
One factor that may seem to favor renting is the negative impact that a decision to go bankrupt will have on your credit. Financial advisers warn that foreclosure will leave a “strong negative” on a credit report for as long as seven years from the date of discharge (which can be longer than 5 years from the date of filing in a Chapter 13), though the impact on a borrower’s rating declines over time. But remember that if you are far behind on you payments and/or your credit cards your credit has already been affected… and, a good bankruptcy lawyer can show you ways to rebuild credit even while in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan period (3-5 years).
Whatever your decision may be, I wish you luck.
If you live in the Suburban Philadelphia area, including the counties of Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, or Montgomery, and are seeking a competent and compassionate bankruptcy lawyer to help you explore your options and find the optimum solution, please call Attorney Christopher C. Carr, MBA (Finance) at 610-380-7969 (Offices in Paoli and Coatesville) for a FREE DEBT RELIEF EVALUATION. Or visit my web site at westchesterbankruptcyattorney.org and fill out the contact sheet.
I also provide Mortgage Modification Services.
Other Attorneys Blogging on the Letter R Include: .
- New York Bankruptcy Lawyer, Jay S. Fleischman on R is for Redemptions.
- Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska Bankruptcy Attorney, Ryan D. Caldwell on R is for Reaffirmation Agreements
- Bay Area Bankruptcy Lawyer Cathy Moran on Retirement.
- Colorado Springs Bankruptcy Lawyer Bob Doig on Repossession.
- Kona Bankruptcy Lawyer, Stuart T. Ing also on Repossession
©Christopher C. Carr, Attorney at Law, 2012, All Rights Reserved. See Disclaimers.
Photo by mag3737.