How to keep your home safe when money is tight

Things may seem hopeless when money troubles hit, but knowing your options and where to turn can make all the difference in helping you keep your home through difficult financial times.

When life delivers an unexpected financial blow, it’s scary to face the prospect of losing your home. Fortunately, you’re not alone. What many homeowners don’t know is that mortgage default insurance exists not only to protect the lender in case of default, but also to help homeowners find solutions when difficult circumstances make it hard to keep up with mortgage payments. “Our job here is to look outside the box and find some really creative ways to keep families in their homes,” explains Rob Kirby, Vice President of loss mitigation for Genworth Canada.

That’s exactly what Kirby and his team did when a recently divorced father from Halifax turned to Genworth Canada – his mortgage insurance provider – for help. “He couldn’t afford the mortgage payments on his own, so we worked with him to try to understand what the problem was,” Kirby recalls. It was obvious that extra income was needed, but taking on more shifts at work would mean the single father would have to spend time away from his kids. So Genworth Canada found an innovative solution. They worked with the city zoning commission to determine that the man could create a rental unit in his home, and leant him the money to build it. “He managed to get tenants and he hasn’t missed a mortgage payment since,” Kirby says.

Genworth Canada’s Homeowner Assistance Program is designed to help families when a temporary life situation such as job loss, divorce or illness affects their ability to afford their mortgage payments. It’s free to access if you have a Genworth-insured mortgage. However, Kirby says that that most homeowners aren’t aware of their options and don’t reach out to their bank or lender when times get tough.

“The worst thing a homeowner can do is bury their head in the sand when these situations arise. They need to identify that they’ve got a problem and contact their bank or their lender immediately,” Kirby advises, adding that not taking action immediately can negatively impact your credit rating, lead to difficulties obtaining a mortgage later on or can even result in losing your home. Genworth Canada then works with the lender and homeowner to find the best solution. Some of these options could include deferring payments, making modifications such as increasing the amortization period or capitalization of arrears, meaning missed payments will be rolled back into the mortgage to bring it back to current standing.

The first step in finding a solution in a difficult time is to evaluate your financial situation. Kirby recommends figuring out what you can truly afford based on your current income and expenses. Genworth Canada’s Homeowner Assistance Evaluator tool can help you understand your circumstances and the solutions available to you. You can also contact a Homeowner Assistance Specialist directly to work through your financial hardship.

“It’s important for Genworth Canada to be there for the homeowners, not only in the good times, but in the bad times, too. The Homeowner Assistance Program is designed to preserve that dream of homeownership,” Kirby says.

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