Moving & Stuck in Your Mortgage? There May Be Help For You

There are many families across the country who have purchased homes, and obtained mortgages, only to find that the home values have declined and they now owe more than their house is worth.  There are a variety of programs in place that might be able to help such homeowners, including loan modifications, short sale programs, or temporary forbearances.

In addition, military families who are underwater in a home mortgage may find some relief in a temporary provision of the Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP) offered by the Department of Defense.  The HAP program was originally designed to help homeowners who found themselves in trouble in areas where housing prices were negatively affected by the Base Realignment and Closures, but the program has been temporarily extended to homeowners who face declining home values and are forced to move due to PCS orders.

Eligibility requirements include:

  • Must be active duty military
  • Must have PCS orders requiring a move of at least 50 miles
  • PCS orders must be dated 1 February 2006 to 30 September 2010
  • Must have purchased home prior to 1 July 2006
  • Home prices in local area (county/parish/city) must have declined at least 10%
  • Individual home price must have declined at least 10%
  • Home must be (or have been) primary residence
  • Must sell home after 1 July 2006

The complete information can be found at the Homeowners Assistance Website.  The link for PCS moves is located on the right hand side of the page.

There are also provisions in HAP for military members who are selling their homes due to their status as a wounded warrior, and also for the surviving spouses of fallen warriors.

I would love to hear if anyone has used this program, or tried to use it and been denied.  I know that lots of military families are struggling with this problem right now and I hope that this program can help.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Autumn

    I’ve contacted the HAP (Homeowners Assistance Program) after trying to sell our home for almost 2 years. We didn’t purchase our house until 2007, so they won’t even consider us for the program. My husband joined the military after we purchased the home, and we cannot afford this house on a military pay check. After hearing of this program I was initially hopeful that we might have found our solution, but this is not it. I really believe this program is lacking what is really needed for today’s military family. So many are upside down as we are, and they owe more than the home is now worth. There are currently only three locations listed on their website that are approved for the program. There needs to be some help for anyone who has purchase a home after July of 2006!

  • What about disabled

    What about disabled vets, My husband is a disabled Gulf war vet, also ive been disabled 10 yrs now, We have been trying to get home modification, since program started, are home has dropped 30,000 in 3 yrs his disabilty has gotten, worse yet know one wants to help, we have to live in this home, we have know, place to go, we have a 10 yr old son to raise,also when we bought, this home we had a private inspection done, we found out about 4 months ago as are house falling apart foundation walls roof,apart there was never a building permit issued the the garage and family room which is why were having so much trouble seller realestate, agent hhide this from us, why do they not inforce laws, va said they could do nothing for us, we are living off 1,677 a month after my husband served his country, now all the problems he is facing this is crazy dont bank with wells frgo they are a ripp off,

  • Tammy

    HOW MANY MILITARY FAMILIES ARE STILL IN THE SAME HOUSE THEY WERE IN IN JULY 2006!!!!!! As a military spouse, my question is basically the same as Autumn’s….WHAT ABOUT FAMILIES THAT HAVE HAD TO MOVE SINCE 2006!! My husband was stationed Stateside in 2007, so with 3 small children, I decided to move with him. We proceeded to buy a house in one of the local communities and we are now informed that his orders will end in June of 2011…

  • Tina

    I bought my house in Oct 2006 in NC. My husband and I just came back from a deployment. I returned in March and my husband came back in April. We had PCS orders to report NLT July 1st to 29 Palms, CA. We had to hurry up and get everything ready to move and sell. I need to get rid of my house and have had it up for rent/sell with no luck. This is really putting a strain on my family since we are almost tapped out of our savings. Like it was stated above, I really think that they need to think more about what is going on now and not back in 2006. I just missed the cut off date and do not meet the requirements. I understand that the military needs to send people where they are needed but if we can’t pay our mortgages then we won’t be very effective at our work since that will effect everyone’s family lives, which will effect work especially for thoses who have clearances. We requested to stay but were told that my husband has been in the area too long. I understand that as well, but when there are other people who have been there as long as he has and just got orders to stay there just with a different unit, it’s just not fair.

  • Tina, I have heard a rumor that you should apply anyway, appeal, be denied, appeal again, and continue. Some people are reportedly having luck with this process.

    I wish you the best of luck and would love to hear how things work out for you.

  • Ryan Muller

    I applied years ago right after I heard about this program in 2008 and its 2011 now and I’m still carrying the mortgage on top of my current home since my move. Every time I contact the HAP people I get one of two responses; 1. We haven’t received guidance on how to release the funds? ….or 2. We need to reprocess your paperwork. Please resend the following again…. I meet all the criteria specified in the requirements and still cannot get anyone to answer my questions. I have no choice but to either short sell, or lose the home. Its almost like being told go ask mom for something and she says go ask dad, then dad says go ask mom, and so on…… What use is this program if no one will return phone calls, or assist in any way other than referring you to their website for FAQ’s.

    • KateKashman

      Ryan, I agree that it is a ridiculously managed program, but please be persistent. I do know people who have successfully used this program, sometimes having to reapply numerous times. Don’t let them force you to quit!

  • Ellie

    His new boss actually had the nerve to suggest the “Geographic Bachelor” program to him temporarily — the one that’s been dismantled, mind you for some time — so we wouldn’t be in such a rush to sell our home. That’s no longer an option. Would be nice to see the Army — who touts itself as being “Family Strong” (my behind) — actually allow some input from the soldier and family whose lives are getting ready to be changed. This could very well prove to be quite the financial hardship on us, and although he’s asked for 60 addt’l days on top of the 90, we’ve been told it probably won’t happen. How can someone pay a mortgage on a $275K (that we can comfortably afford) AND pay rent/utilities, etc. at the same time WITHOUT going broke? All because….they said so?! And they wonder where all the great soldiers go…

  • Ellie

    Just got word today that my husband (AGR) with 24 years in is receiving orders any day for a PCS to SC, currently in KY. We transferred here 11/04, built our house and are now being told we have 90 days to sell our house and report — all because he’s been here long enough. We’ve always made very wise financial decisions, and our house is no different. But how on earth are you supposed to sell your house in 90 days (really, 60 days because you need to prepare it to show, line up a realtor, etc.)?

    To be continued below/above.

  • Alice

    We purchased our very first home in 2007. We have PCS orders to FL in July. Can’t seem to find any programs for assistance anywhere. Options are only short sale (damages credit), rent our home out or bankruptcy (extremely damages credit!). We are looking into renting our home out so our credit will not be harmed. My husband has been in the military for 20 years. Military members should enjoy home ownership benefits similar to other Federal employees and career military personnel should have a guaranteed buyout program and reimbursement for settlement costs as do some other federal employees. We have always protected our credit and now are forced to make very hard decisions to keep it protected. Kind of wishing we never purchased a home until retirement.

  • llmcan

    We had been stationed in KY for 13 years and 8 of those years we lived on post but due to bad behavior of the kids living there, and lack of education we decided to purchase a house out in town. We lived there for 5 years and then received orders to be stationed here in Germany and were NOT given a choice! We HAVE to live in housing. So now they yank our BAH from us and we are left to pay our mortgage along with the utilities until it sells. We have had it on the market since last Oct. We thought about renting it, but because it has a pool and a Jacuzzi, the rental agency said that it would be more trouble then what it’s worth. So now we feel that we have no other choice then to do a short sale. Time is running out for us. We don’t have that extra money to keep up on these payments. It’s so much more expensive living here and the COLA is not enough! I wish they would consider these types of situations and continue the BAH until it is sold as long as you have proof that you are doing whatever it takes to sell it. Because of all of this, it has put a big damper on our credit not to mention all the stress we are under just trying to do all we can!

  • Rachel

    What is the reason that the cut off for this program is July 2006, When at the beginning of 2007 was the top of the real estate market? The crash did not actually start until 2007-2008. We began building a home in 2006 and closed on March 2007. We paid $191,400, which was the going rate for all the houses in the subdivision @ that time. We ended up having to PCS Jan 2011, which was exactly 1.5 years from his retirement. Needless to say we are currently renting this home for less than our payments. We are now trying to streamline refinance with nothing but a run around. So much for no out of pocket expenses or no appraisal. It’s all bogus. We just recieved back our appraisal which we had to pay $350 out of pocket for in order to find out that it appraises for $158,000.00 and doesn’t qualify for the amount needed to refinance. So We are living on post, paying out of pocket every month for this home, with slim possibilities of refinancing, no possibilities of selling, and no help from the government programs. I know that there are so many others out there that bought after July 2006 and is in the same boat as me. Is there any relief? This program needs to be reoopened for reexamination !!!!!!!!!

  • jojo

    my husband is retiring next month and right know we’re here in California and renting a house at the same time we have a house in Virgnia that is being rented.We’re paying excess of $500+ on our house so we don’t even get a profit on it.We don’t know if we can still afford the mortgage especially when my husband is retiring and right now i’m unemployed too.What is the best way to do. I want to get rid of my house in Virginia but we don’t know what to do. Please we’re deperately need your help!!!

    • Holly

      jojo,

      A short sale is probably going to be your only option if you can’t afford to keep the home and it is not selling at the current price. Short sales are a big headache though. You have to be behind on your payment before you will even be considered for a short sale and, of course, it will hurt your credit. You should talk to your real estate agent about listing your home as a short sale and they can help walk you through it. Ultimately, it will be up to the lender to approve the short sale and that can take anywhere from 6 months to a 1 year. It’s painful and alot of paperwork because the lenders need all of your financial information in order to show that you can’t afford to make the payments any longer. I hope this helps some.