How to deal with your home loan when you get retrenched

Your home loan quickly becomes your biggest worry when you are retrenched. Here’s what you need to know.

 “Dealing with your home loan should be considered in the context of your overall debt profile and the size of the retrenchment pay out you will be receiving. If your retrenchment package after tax is a lot bigger than the outstanding home loan, settling the loan becomes an option,” says Craig Gradidge, executive director of Gradidge-Mahura Investments. However, he notes that if you try to settle your home loan, you may end up with little to no cash available for other critical expenses.  

Andrew van der Hoven, head of home loans at Standard Bank, says that unfortunately many people fear telling their bank that they can’t make a payment on a loan. “However, the more cooperative customers are, the more likely they are to keep their homes. Remember it is not in the bank’s interest to repossess properties. Our aim is rather to try to help customers keep their properties wherever we can,” he says.

The banks offer different options to help financially distressed consumers. The option chosen will depend on your personal credit profile, your history with the bank and your personal circumstances.  Geoffrey Lee, managing executive of home loans at Absa, says the bank offers both short-term and long-term solutions. Thozama Mochadibane, head of customer delight at Nedbank Home Loans strongly advises you to contact your bank immediately, noting your credit profile is likely to be impacted negatively if you start skipping payments or short-paying without making prior arrangements with your bank.

What are your options?

1. A payment holiday – during this time you may be allowed to skip payments entirely or you may be allowed to make partial payments. If you have been retrenched, Absa offers you reduced repayments for six to 12 months. These payments may be as low as 25% of your original monthly repayment, depending on your affordability. Nedbank clients can suspend their bond repayments while awaiting a retrenchment pay-out. If you are planning to settle the bond with your retrenchment pay-out, cancellation figures will be issued, and the bank will initiate the bond cancellation process.

2. An extended repayment plan – this has the effect of reducing your monthly payments until you are financially stable again. When you do this, your repayments are offset against the interest owing so the overall debt does not grow rapidly due to compound interest. Lee says Absa allows you to extend your home loan term up to a maximum of 360 months or 30 years.

3. Selling the property – this is the worst-case scenario and usually the last resort. Van der Hoven says Standard Bank’s EasySell process helps ensure that the best possible price is obtained for the property, the bond is settled and gets the customer’s credit record back on track. “To date EasySell has assisted more than 4 000 customers via this programme,” he says.

Buyisile Maseko, FNB’s growth head for the gold home finance divisions says you are strongly advised to use the FNB QuickSell programme to maximise on the selling price of your property as well as mitigate any potential shortfalls that may arise as a result of legal action.  

Mochadibane says the price you get for your home from the Nedbank Assisted Sales Programme is likely to be far better than the price you would get from a sale-in-execution. “Nedbank also forgoes a portion of the shortfall or residual balance after the assisted sale,” she says.

Is it a good idea to access equity in your home loan?

Gradidge cautions against the idea of accessing equity in your home loan. “It is an option for those who have equity available and the funds can be added to your retrenchment package until you are able to get a new job. However, it is not a good idea to increase your debt going into a new job, especially as you may need to access that equity in future if the economy remains flat,” he says.

Van den Hoven says a major advantage of engaging honestly with your bank at the first hint of financial difficulty is that it can help you avoid blacklisting, which can have a longer-term impact on your financial future. He agrees with Gradidge that it is inadvisable to try to access money out of your home loan when you are retrenched. “First, the NCA requires an affordability assessment to be carried out and you are no longer earning an income. Secondly, unless you are positive that your job situation is temporary, we do not recommend this option,” he says.

How many homes have been repossessed since January this year?

The banks were reluctant to provide hard figures on repossessions with Standard Bank saying that repossessions accounted for less than 0.05% of their bonded properties. FNB was unable to provide exact numbers but confirmed that there has been an increase in the number of repossessed homes where customers have been retrenched.

However, the graph below from a Lightstone report, clearly shows that the number of sales-in-execution have declined steadily in the last four years. Mochidibane says more than 40% of the sales-in-executions are cancelled in cases where  clients have made payments to cancel the sale and/or concluded a payment arrangement with their bank.

Source: Lightstone Property

*This article was first published on Moneyweb.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.


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