Knowing when you can or can't afford your mortgage

The expenses and fees you need to be aware of
Posted at 11:49 AM, Jun 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-21 11:58:48-04

When it comes to paying a mortgage, just because someone tells you can afford the monthly payments doesn't necessarily mean you can.

The unexpected costs of owning a home sent one local woman into foreclosure.  

"I was devastated, and losing your home after doing work to it, painting and fixing the way I wanted it... Giving it up to somebody was hard," Linda Van Doren said.

Several years ago, refinancing became a nightmare for Van Doren when a loan officer recommended she take out a loan that didn't have a fixed rate, and she claims the taxes and insurance fees were overwhelming. It ended up forcing her into foreclosure.

"You put your trust in people you think would tell you the truth, and I'm speaking about loan officers," said Van Doren.

Loan officers work with realtors to approve you for a loan. They look at your income and your debts and decide what you can afford.

She feels this process set her up for failure.

"The old joke was if you could breathe on a mirror, we could get a loan for you," Ron Morris, of The Mortgage Firm, said.

Morris works as loan officer for the Tampa based firm – and while, to an extent, that joke may have been true in the past, times have changed.

For example, proving your income is a much more thorough process than it was even five years ago.

But after talking with Van Doren, there's one key question we wanted to ask him. Are there times when loan officers can give bad advice?

"Absolutely," Morris said. "They're going to tell a client, to a degree, what they want to hear. [However,] I'm going to tell a client the way it is," he said.

And Morris believes the majority of loan officers in the area are trustworthy, and said that cases like Van Doren's are rare.

"I've been in the business over 30 years, and that's never happened," said Morris.

Yet the foreclosure rates in the Tampa area aren't just some of the worst in the state -- They're some of the worst in the nation.

"I think they may end of getting approved for something that they are not aware of the additional expenses," Gina Rosato said.

Rosato is a bankruptcy attorney that deals with these cases constantly, and she points to things other than the mortgage you may have to worry about. Things like HOA fees, property taxes and property insurance need to be considered.

These are expenses you need to make sure a loan officer is including in your monthly payments if they apply. It's exactly what got Van Doren in trouble.

Now, Van Doren is a homeowner again and actually works with the Housing and Education Alliance, who offer the same homebuyer classes she says helped her get back on her feet.

"When you actually go to apply for a loan, you are armed with that knowledge," she said. "You can fight back, and if somebody says this is a good loan, you can say it is not."