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For most of us, foreclosure seems like an abstraction –– like the Boogie Man, or Tooth Fairy.  And yet, foreclosure is a reality that many American families deal with every single day. With a rapidly changing economy and the uncertainty of guaranteed employment or good health, foreclosure can creep up on you at the most inopportune time. Here’s how to deal with it if it does:

1. Have an honest conversation about your financial situation.

There’s really no way around it: financial conversations are uncomfortable. But, now is not the time to be squeamish. Whether you’re discussing your financial future with your partner or doing some tough self-reflection, honesty is key. Be practical when assessing your income and budget so you can come up with a number that you can afford to pay each month in an attempt to maintain ownership of your place.

2. Review the appropriate documents.

Look over any correspondence or documentation between you and your lender. Letters, notices, and mortgage documents can hold important clues about how your lender might proceed with the foreclosure, including special clauses that allow them to sell your home to settle your overdue mortgage payments. Understanding your rights is the best way to arm yourself for the tough months ahead.

3. Contact your lender.

Reaching out to your lender is the first step. No matter how terrified you might feel, remember to reference the number you came up with during your financial meeting. You’ll seem confident and organized to the agent on the phone as you attempt to renegotiate your mortgage rate.

4. Contact your lender again. And again.

We’re certainly not advocating for harassment, but diligence in communicating with your lender is essential. Each time you call, reiterate that you’re checking in to see if there’s any update on your mortgage rate negotiation. Note the time, date, and the person you spoke with. Ask the associate to make the same notes in your file. Taking initiative is great, but persistence is what will show your lender that you mean business.

5. Get some free advice.

Want to show your lender you’re even more serious about retaining ownership of your home? Contact an agent at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. These counselors can advise you on all the possible outcomes of foreclosure, and in some cases, represent you during the loan negotiation process. Bringing information from these conversations back to your lender will show them you’ve done your homework. Better still, people who seek this kind of counseling are more likely to keep their homes than those who don’t.

6. Talk to a real estate agent.

This may seem counterproductive when facing the possibility of losing your home. While you may not want to sell, talking to a realtor that specializes in foreclosures and short sales will put you ahead of the game. Remember, foreclosures are long processes that can be drawn out for a year or more. If push comes to shove, it’s better to sell than to have the bank take it away.

7. Look for more income.

Remember that calligraphy, dog-walking, or graphic design side-hustle you’ve been talking about forever? Now might be a good time to put your freelance work ideas into action. Drive for a ridesharing service, become an Instacart Shopper, etc. Any amount of additional income you can use to supplement your monthly fees will go a long way toward getting where you need to be financially.

8. Exhaust all options.

You’ve had some difficult conversations about your finances, explored alternate avenues of income, and researched foreclosure laws for your state. It seems like you’ve done everything you’re supposed to, but to no avail. Before officially throwing in the towel, get scrappy: do some deeper research on rent-free living or talk to others who have gone through foreclosure themselves. Make sure you’ve exhausted all possible options so you don’t spend any time wishing you could’ve done more.

9. Plan for the future.

The silver lining of going through foreclosure is a new and improved financial education. Use it! Set financial goals, start putting away money anywhere you can and addressing your credit score. And, while it might seem like buying a house after facing foreclosure is impossible, don’t give up hope. With hard work, persistence, and time, you’ll be back on your feet and on your way toward achieving your goal of homeownership.

If you’re concerned about your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get a free credit score updated every 14 days.

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