After Filing for Bankruptcy Can I Buy A House?
The question can be taken on several levels.
To take it literally: Yes, you can buy a house if you pay all-cash so you don’t need a mortgage. Of course, that applies to very, very few individuals who declare bankruptcy under Chapter 7 (or sometimes Chapter 11) of the U.S Bankruptcy Code.
On another level, the answer is: NO. You cannot be considered for any new loan when you are in the process of declaring bankruptcy. You must wait until your bankruptcy is “discharged,” which means that the court rules that the “debtor” no longer is responsible for certain debts and that creditors no longer can try to collect them. After that, you are legally permitted to seek a mortgage.
Here we address what the question really means for the individual who has declared bankruptcy and been successful in having his or her debts discharged; Will you ever be able to get a mortgage with a bankruptcy on your credit record? A mortgage, after all, is the largest loan most individuals ever get in their lives.
Some bankruptcy realities
Start with the post-bankruptcy realities:
- Your credit rating takes a big hit. No question about it. There isn’t much that can go on your credit record more negative than bankruptcy.
- That bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for 10 years after which it must be erased.
- On a positive note, a successful declaration of bankruptcy usually leaves an individual in a much stronger and more promising financial position. All the years of monthly struggle to meet credit card and other payments, often taking more than half of monthly income, are over.
- How you use this new opportunity for building your financial future will determine, in the end, whether or not you regain your credit—including enough credit to qualify for a home mortgage. One thing is certain. You will have to be patient, exercise some discipline, and adopt some new tools for financial planning.
Some necessary steps
Here are some steps:
Become friends with your credit report. Become familiar with your credit report and stay on top of it. Bankruptcies can introduce some confusion into your credit report. For example, be sure that debts that the court has discharged are not still listed on your credit report. Be sure some confusion of names has not introduced someone else’s credit information in your report (yes, it happens). Be sure that credit information about your former husband or wife is not still on your report because of former joint accounts. You have a right to a credit report for each of the “big three” credit agencies (TransUnion serviced the Central U.S., Experian). Here is a tip: get your free credit report from one of the agencies every four months to keep much closer track of your credit.
Build up your credit step by step. How can you do this when you can’t get a credit card or loan? Two frequently recommended initial steps are to 1) get a secured credit card, one tied to your savings account so that if you miss a payment it is taken from your account, and 2) get an installment loan such as a car loan, which is “secured” by the seller’s right to reclaim the car.
Pay your bills on time, every time. Nothing rebuilds your credit so effectively as paying all your bills on time. That new credit card or installment loan can turn into a negative for your credit if you are late with payments. Bankruptcy leaves you in a better position to do this because other debts have been discharged. Now, you have a chance to begin keeping an honest, consistent budget—the bedrock upon which all other financial planning stands. Before you make an expenditure or a commitment to a series of payments, you check your budget to be sure you can handle it. Here’s a tip: Be sure to consider not only immediate or monthly payments but larger annual payments such as taxes. You don’t want them to come along and bust your budget, introducing new financial stress.
Now, you can save again. With your debts discharged, your paycheck is yours, again. An essential step in building toward a major purchase like a home is to save. By far the most effective strategy is to make weekly or monthly savings automatic by one of the many systems for transferred a percentage of your pay to savings. It is less important to make some big deposits than to make them regular. If letting some of your paycheck “go” to savings, rather than things you would like to buy, remind yourself that savings are simply the ability to buy bigger and even more enjoyable things later, like a new home. If you can save enough for a 20 percent down payment on a house, it is very persuasive to a bank. It speaks to your new and consistent financial management. You will definitely want to make those mortgage payments because if default on the mortgage your house is sold by the bank and any equity (such as that created by the down payment) goes first to pay the mortgage.
Shop for both a home and the right mortgage
When the day you can qualify for a mortgage arrives you will deserve a lot of “credit”—and not just financial. It is exciting to shop for a home, but you have learned financial planning and budgeting, so you also will shop for a mortgage. One issue may be the duration of the mortgage. The longer the repayment period (such as 30 years), the smaller the monthly payments but the more you pay, in the end, for your home. A fixed-rate mortgage protects you against rising interest rates; but if interest rates decline, you may have to refinance for the lower rate. The opposite scenario is a variable rate mortgage, with lower payment when interest rates go down—but rising monthly payments when interest rates go up.
Begin the right way
If you reach the day after your bankruptcy when you have rebuilt enough credit to get a mortgage, then the bankruptcy process will have succeeded for you. It all begins with the right outcome of your declaration under Chapter 7 and for that, you want highly experienced lawyers that specialize in individual bankruptcies.
For 35 years, the trusted Philadelphia firm of Cibik Law, P.C., has provided bankruptcy legal services to enable more than 20,000 personal bankruptcies to be completed in a superior, cost-efficient, and personally respectful way. Thousands of clients in Philadelphia and surrounding areas have benefited from the work of bankruptcy attorney Michael A. Cibik, Esq., certified by the American Bankruptcy Certification Board. That provides you with an objective standard when making your choice of counsel on any financial and bankruptcy matters.
Be sure to check back here regularly for information, insights, and update on how the often-stressful, life-altering, but potentially transformative challenge of your bankruptcy can be handled by a law firm that specializes in individual bankruptcies.