It's a familiar story. If you google "bank told me to miss a payment" you'll find dozens of posts and articles about folks who say that they were current on their mortgage, and were told by their mortgage company or their mortgage servicer that they would have a better chance of qualifying for various refinancing programs if they are behind on their mortgage.
But instead of getting the assistance that was expected, these folks are shocked to receive a foreclosure notice in the mail.
I know from whence they speak. I've actually had banks tell me this while working on behalf of various homeowners. "There is nothing we can do as long as the borrower is current with their payments." I've heard this from virtually all of the major lenders. "If the borrower is behind, we'll be able to offer programs that are not available for borrowers who are current."
As a real estate agent I've listed homes for sale that were valued well below the balance remaining on the mortgage. These properties are an obvious candidate for a short sale. But when attempting to get a short sale approved by a lender, it's often necessary for the borrower to be behind on their payments. Banks usually won't consider a short sale on a property when the payments are current. There is no incentive to do so.
Whether it's a home that is underwater, or a borrower who has lost a lot of income due to unemployment, and is struggling to stay current, it's highly likely, in my personal experience, that someone at the bank or mortgage company will let them know that they will have a better chance of qualifying for some type of special program if they miss a mortgage payment or two.
WHAT THEY DON'T TELL YOU IS THAT YOU'LL ALSO GET THE ATTENTION OF THE BOYS AT THE FORECLOSURE DESK IN PEORIA
The thing that most home owners do not realize is that while missing payments may make you eligible for some refinancing programs, qualifying for those programs is not automatic, but getting noticed by the folks in the foreclosure department will definitely be automatic. This is why thousands of people feel that they've been betrayed by their bank or loan servicer. Missing payments does in fact help borrowers qualify for assistance, but it also puts them on the short list for foreclosure.
In one such case, a borrower is suing JP Morgan Chase for wrongful death. Her husband died shortly after they received a foreclosure notice in the mail. The suit is still pending but the plaintiff's claim is that they were told by a bank employee at a local branch that they needed to skip a mortgage payment in order to qualify for one of the special government refinance programs.
If you do receive this kind of advice from your lender or loan servicer, the rub is it's probably true, but it may also result in foreclosure. Most folks don't realize that the department talking to you about your loan is not the same department that will handle foreclosing on you. In fact, they may not even be in the same state, and they may even work for different companies. These departments do not communicate closely, and often "the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing" so to speak.
If you have missed mortgage payments, and even if you've been told to miss them, be vigilant and keep in contact with your lender. Be proactive about finding programs that you may qualify for. Do not assume that the bank or lender will be doing this for you. They won't. The mistake here for most borrowers is in assuming that the bank, lender or servicer is actively working on finding you a program that you qualify for. They're not. These companies have offices in multiple states, and multiple locations and the various departments are spread all over the country. One department has no idea what the other one is doing. It's up to the borrower to spearhead the effort to find a new program that will help them get refinanced.
And if you do decide that you need to miss a payment, keep the money and set it aside. Do not spend it on other things. You may need to make that payment later on in order to qualify for the whatever special program may be available for you. Often payments are necessary within a certain time frame as part of the qualifying criteria. This process is never simple, and the bank is not going to have a coordinated approach to your particular case.
Yes it's true that thousands of people have been told to miss a mortgage payment. Sometimes that strategy works out but understand that there are no guarantees. Never assume that the bank is working to help you. At the end of the day they are only trying to collect the money that they are owed under the terms of your mortgage contract.
It's up to you to be vigilant about searching out all of your options and trying to find a program that will work for you. Even when you are working with one of the various non-profit groups set up to help borrowers, it's still in the best interest of the borrower to be very proactive and stay in touch with all the parties involved and track your progress carefully. Otherwise, instead of a new loan with a lower payment, you may get a knock on your door from the local sheriff asking you to leave the property.