Can I Keep My Home After Filing for Bankruptcy?

Most homeowners who declare bankruptcy, seeking debt relief and peace of mind, keep their homes throughout the process. Some, unfortunately, are not as lucky, losing their homes to foreclosure.

Keeping your house may be your biggest worry before filing for bankruptcy. This article will give you helpful information on what to expect in trying to keep your home after bankruptcy.

What Determines Whether I Keep My Home After I File for Bankruptcy?

The decision to declare bankruptcy often comes at an overwhelming time. If you're thinking about declaring bankruptcy, chances are you're worried about how you can manage all your finances now and in the future.

These factors will help the bankruptcy court determine whether you can keep your home in bankruptcy proceedings:

  • The chapter of bankruptcy you file
  • Secured debt (a home mortgage) and unsecured debt (such as credit cards and medical bills)
  • The amount of equity you have paid into your mortgage
  • Your financial situation, such as whether you own any real estate
  • Whether you can afford your monthly mortgage payments while facing debt

Consider the Type of Bankruptcy You File

You can file two types of bankruptcies as a consumer: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. The two have many differences, but the significant difference is the bankruptcy exemptions to which you are entitled.

The federal government assumes that:

  • Everyone must try to pay off their debt
  • If someone has “excessive" property, they should sell it to pay off their debt

However, bankruptcy is designed to give you a fresh start, not to leave you impoverished. Several federal exemptions and state exemptions exist as a result. This means if your property is worth less than a particular dollar amount, you can keep it.

Chapter 7 (liquidation bankruptcy) exemptions are much lower, are stricter, and offer less flexibility than a Chapter 13 plan's exemptions. So if you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you are much more likely to keep your house and remove any potential second mortgages than if you file for Chapter 7. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy lets you catch up on missed payments with a new repayment plan.

Consider the Equity You Have in Your House

Don't worry, Chapter 7 filers: There are still ways you can keep your house. When deciding whether your house is exempt under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the trustee only considers the equity in your house.

Equity is the market value of your house minus the balance on your mortgages or home equity loans. Many bankruptcy filers have little or negative equity in their houses, so they are exempt and need not be sold in bankruptcy.

However, if you have nonexempt equity, you may be forced to sell your house to pay your debt or buy it back by paying the trustee the value of your house.

Consider if You Can Afford Your Mortgage Every Month

If you kept your house throughout the bankruptcy process, you can keep your home after your bankruptcy case comes to a close – as long as you continue to pay the mortgage.

It may be that after you are free of all the rest of your debt, you can afford the mortgage payments easily. If so, you'll be able to keep your house. However, the bank may eventually foreclose on your home if your income does not allow you to make your mortgage payments.

Bankruptcy filers in this situation must carefully consider whether they want to keep their home. Bankruptcy gives them a unique opportunity to walk away from the house and mortgage with no additional consequences in most cases. It may also be easier to get your financial life under control if large monthly mortgage payments do not burden you.

Consider the Homestead Exemption

The Homestead Exemption is a property tax break that homeowners can receive depending on the home's assessed value. In states like Florida, you can protect your house's entire value when you file for bankruptcy. Make sure to check the homestead exemption laws in your state before panicking.

Receive Bankruptcy Help From an Attorney to Keep Your Home

If you're caught in a financial tailspin, a lawyer familiar with the Bankruptcy Code can provide life-changing legal advice, even if you're facing the prospect of losing your home.

Contact a local bankruptcy attorney who is well-versed in your state's bankruptcy laws. They can help answer questions about keeping your home safe in the face of bankruptcy, Chapter 13 payment plans, a bankruptcy trustee, automatic stay, and more.

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