insurance

Free job-loss mortgage insurance?

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Highlights
  • Unemployment today is at its highest in 25 years.
  • Buyers of lower priced homes get peace of mind from the coverage.
  • Caveat: Payment made for you may be considered taxable income.

Job-loss mortgage insurance -- which pays all or part of your mortgage payment if you lose your job -- can bring peace of mind to homeowners and would-be homebuyers alike.

And it's often available at no cost to the homebuyer.

With the unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent -- the highest in more than 25 years -- it's not surprising people are hesitant to buy a home, even in a low-rate, low-priced market. And countless current homeowners no doubt lose sleep worrying how to keep a roof over their heads if they join the ranks of the unemployed.

Once hard to find, job-loss mortgage insurance is now available not only from traditional insurers but from new-home builders, banks and other lenders, real estate agents, realty groups, and state and local housing agencies as well.

"The only reason people may not be buying (homes) now is fear of losing their jobs," says George Akers, executive vice president of First Mortgage Company, whose mortgage customers get the Worry-Free Mortgage Protection program free. In his experience, mortgage protection plans have become increasingly common in the past year or so.

Policies vary

As with any insurance product, policies vary. For example:
  • The California Association of Realtors', or CARs', Mortgage Protection Program is free for first-time homebuyers, who can get up to $1,500 per month for six months to help make their mortgage payments. The CARs' Housing Affordability Fund has committed $1 million to the program.
  • Genworth Financial's Job Loss Protection is available at no charge to buyers purchasing Genworth mortgage insurance. It covers PITI (principal, interest, taxes and insurance) for up to a certain amount, also up to six months.
  • Prudential Georgia Realty's Mortgage Protection Program is funded by the seller at closing for $500. One of many throughout the country affiliated with The Rainy Day Foundation's Homeowner Education and Loan Protection service, the program covers the lesser of the PITI or $1,800 per month, up to a maximum of six payments during the 24-month coverage term.

 

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"Job loss protection plans in real estate are gaining in momentum," says Dan Forsman, president and CEO of Prudential Georgia Realty, which began offering the program this year. "It's a bit early to quantify at this point, but I can tell you our 1,200 agents love having this as an option." Forsman says it can differentiate a house from similar ones in the same market, especially in a market in which the greatest activity is in homes that have a lower price. Buyers of these homes -- often first-time homebuyers -- tend to gravitate toward the peace of mind offered by these plans the most, he adds.

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