Why no one says 'Yes!' to free money

Man holding out bills

You can’t go a week without hearing about the failure of another new program that was supposed to help financially troubled homeowners -- and didn’t.

The latest is a Bank of America program that offered 20,000 homeowners in Florida up to $20,000 if they’d help sell their homes via short sales.

So far, just 60 people have collected incentive checks.

In a short sale, the bank agrees to let the homeowner sell the home for less than what’s owed on the mortgage.

Why would you say no to walking away from owing more than your home is worth?

With some free money in your pocket?

Particularly if you don’t have a prayer of making your mortgage payments?

Maybe you don’t believe a bank will really give you $20,000 to sell your home and move on.

Maybe you believe the bank will give you money for leaving without a fight, but you think the check ought to be for $40,000 instead of $20,000.

Maybe you’re too exhausted from filling out all the forms from prior foreclosure avoidance programs you’ve tried.

Maybe you think you should get to live in your house free forever.

If you live in a state where your lender has to go before a judge to foreclose, you’re going to have a long time to think about your choices.

In the two dozen or so states where a judge decides foreclosure cases, about half of the homeowners facing foreclosure haven’t made a payment in two years, according to CoreLogic, a data analytics firm that tracks these things.

That’s a long time for a bank to go without a payment.

Banks really are willing to send incentive checks to homeowners who cooperate in selling their homes so the bank doesn’t have to pay an attorney to argue the case in foreclosure court, a sheriff to serve the foreclosure paperwork, someone to mow the lawn while the home is for sale and other expenses.

So here you sit, one of millions of people living in a home you can no longer afford.

You’re unemployed, or your spouse left, or your mortgage payment skyrocketed.

Your credit is already wrecked because you haven’t paid your mortgage, so what’s the benefit to you to move out?

You’ve got your own program right there -- two years of no-cost housing.

You know who would be able to talk people into taking the Bank of America short-sale offer?

The people who market foreclosure scams -- the crooks who fast-talk financially troubled homeowners into writing checks for thousands of dollars for nonexistent foreclosure assistance.

Plenty of them are in prison these days.

I say we put some of them to work marketing the real foreclosure avoidance programs. They can’t do any worse at convincing homeowners to try the programs than the banks.

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