Many clients have been asking lately about how filing bankruptcy will affect their options with regard to obtaining a mortgage or refinance. The short answer is that "it depends." What does it depend on? 3 things...
(1) whether your case was filed as a Ch. 7 Bankruptcy or as a Ch. 13 Bankruptcy;
(2) whether your case was "dismissed" or "discharged"; and
(3) what type of mortgage loan you are applying for.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) governs FHA mortgages and the approval process. HUD has specific guidelines for borrowers applying for a mortgage after a bankruptcy filing. Most of the requirements for this program can be found within HUD Handbook 4000.1, also known as the Single Family Housing Policy Handbook.
According to the Handbook, 2 years must have passed from the date the Bankruptcy Court entered the discharge in a Ch. 7 filing. If the bankruptcy was discharged less than 2 years from the mortgage application date, then the application will be downgraded and likely denied.
With a Ch. 13 Bankruptcy case filing, the waiting period is 1 year from the date when filing the case happened (if you have made all of your Ch. 13 payments on time and your case is in good standing). However, it is important to note that the Ch. 13 Trustee and/or Bankruptcy Court must approve a mortgage application while your Ch. 13 case and payment plan are still pending.
With a Ch. 7 Bankruptcy fling, you must wait 4 years from the date of filing your bankruptcy case before you will be under consideration for a conventional or standard mortgage or refinance. With a Ch. 13 Bankruptcy filing, you must wait 2 years from the date of your Ch. 13 Bankruptcy Discharge. Or, 4 years from the date your Ch. 13 Bankruptcy case receives dismissal.
This is according to the Fannie Mae Selling Guide. However, if you can demonstrate extenuating circumstances and provide supporting documentation, this waiting period can be shortened to just 2 years for both Ch. 7 and Ch. 13. Extenuating circumstances are defined by Fannie Mae as "nonrecurring events that are beyond the borrower’s control that result in a sudden, significant, and prolonged reduction in income or a catastrophic increase in financial obligations." On the other hand, if you have filed multiple bankruptcy cases, then the waiting period may be extended to 5 years from your latest bankruptcy case dismissal or bankruptcy discharge.
Interestingly, the waiting period for a mortgage approval under these Fannie Mae guidelines after a Foreclosure is 7 years; eclipsing the waiting requirement compared to bankruptcy by an additional 3 years. Fannie Mae does state in these guidelines that in the event "both a bankruptcy and foreclosure are disclosed on the loan application, the lender may apply the bankruptcy waiting period if the lender obtains the appropriate documentation to verify that the mortgage loan in question was discharged in the bankruptcy."
With that, it is often advisable for borrowers to file bankruptcy after foreclosure. They must do this in order to discharge any remaining unsecured debt AND to shorten the waiting period.
Now that you know the applicable waiting periods, it's important to set yourself up for success. Just waiting the required periods after the bankruptcy filing, discharge, or dismissal are not enough. You must work on improving your credit score. Also, remain current on all of your open accounts, establish stable and satisfactory income. And, organize your bank and tax documents.
If you have any questions about applying for a mortgage or other loan before, during, or after bankruptcy, please feel free to contact my office.