If you're feeling the pinch of a rising mortgage payment, you're hardly alone. By one estimate, about $1.3 trillion in existing mortgages will face an interest-rate reset by the end of 2008. And these days, reset is just a euphemism for increase. Anyone who took out an adjustable-rate mortgage in recent years, or was enticed by a mortgage with a too-good-to-be-true initial rate, will get hit with a reset that goes up, not down.
We've all seen the scary headlines about how the mortgage squeeze has caused a spike in foreclosures. But if you're facing an adjustment—or have already fallen behind on payments—take a deep breath and think clearly. Although losing your home is the worst-case scenario, there's plenty you can do to ensure that never happens.
First, let's do the math. If you took out a $200,000, 30-year adjustable-rate mortgage in 2004, then your initial rate (good for three years) might have been 4.5 percent. When the initial-rate period expires, that rate will probably jump two percentage points (the typical annual maximum) to 6.5 percent, and your monthly payment will increase from $1,013 to $1,264 (not including taxes, insurance, or fees). So, you'll need to come up with an extra $251 each month.
Don't panic. If you're like most Americans, there's enough "hidden cash" around your home to more than make up the difference. You just need to uncover it. The following tips will help you do so. And, by the way, these ideas are so good at fattening your wallet that even those of you without mortgage woes should keep reading.