Is Debt Negotiation for You? – Debt Settlement Advice

Written by admin on November 26th, 2010

Debt negotiation is a relatively new form of debt relief that is gaining popularity for its results in reducing credit card and consumer debt and because the process can also help homeowners avoid foreclosure by making home loan modifications more likely to be approved. There are two schools of thought on the subject; one that focuses on broken settlements, credit scores and direct negotiations while the other centers on the short and long term benefits of the practice. First, the arguments against debt negotiations:

* Broken settlements – A settlement can be broken by either the party executing the negotiation or the customer. True, there have been instances were companies didn’t follow through on their promises to see the negotiation from beginning to end. The percentage of customers involved in those situations has been small and could have been prevented with some due diligence. Many companies have been drawn into the debt relief industry by the sheer numbers of borrowers and their escalating debt starting in the late 90’s. What had started as debt counseling run by a few non-profits mushroomed into an industry populated with thousands of new and inexperienced companies offering services far beyond the scope of the original mandate of assisting indebted customers with their debts Within those thousands of companies were those that didn’t deliver on debt negotiations, counseling, or consolidation.  Customers can also break a settlement by not making enough payments to settle the negotiation. Whether by circumstance or intention, some will stop making payments during the 18 to 48 months of the settlement process.  

* Credit scores – A debt negotiation will likely decrease the credit score of a borrower that enters a debt negotiation, but it depends on what that score is at the time the process starts. A vast majority of borrowers that start a debt negotiation are already behind on payments and are consequently taking hits on credit scores so the negotiation won’t have as much of an effect. The second issue on credit scores is that the negotiation stays on the report for up to seven years. While that can be true, doing nothing will leave charge-offs and open balances on the report indefinitely. Finalized, settled, and closed accounts are ultimately a much better reflection on a credit report than accounts that appear intended and/or neglected.

* Direct negotiation – Borrowers can initiate direct negotiations and, in fact, may be contacted by their lenders to do so. One problem with going direct is that there are normally several accounts to be negotiated, all of which will need to be done independently. A second issue is that the offers in direct negotiations are usually for lump sums or for payoffs within a few months of agreement. Those types of payments are often unworkable for the borrower, especially if there is more than one lump sum agreement at a time.  

The benefits of debt negotiations are as follows:

* Immediate relief – Upon initiation of the debt negotiation, the borrower will immediately experience an approximate reduction of 50% on payment obligations for all accounts involved in the negotiation. Reductions can vary, depending on the borrower’s ability to pay. By making payments in excess of the 50% reduction the borrower may be able to pay off the negotiated balances faster.

* Debt balances cut by 40 to 60% – Depending on the creditor, balances can be negotiated down by 60% or more. For a negotiation covering multiple accounts the average reduction for the total is 50%. Once the negotiated balances have been settled the accounts are considered to be paid in full with no further obligation by the borrower to the lender.

* A wide spectrum of accounts which can be negotiated – A debt negotiation can include credit cards, signature loans, department store debt, unpaid medical bills, unpaid utility bills, and more. This effectively gives the borrower a chance to wipe the slate clean without the disadvantages of filing bankruptcy.

* Paying off all debts within four years – As credit card balances have accumulated for consumers over time, making payments that materially reduce the principle balance has become difficult, if not impossible. For those that can only afford to make minimum payments, a full payoff could take twenty five years or more. Calculated out over that time a borrower would pay many times the actual balance in interest alone. Contrast that scenario with a full payoff of debts over four years or less at approximately half the balance amount and the merits of debt negotiation become very apparent.

* Increased odds of approval for home loan modifications – A debt settlement can enhance an application for a home loan modification by showing a reduction of consumer debt payments which allows for a greater availability of a homeowner’s income toward mortgage payments. In fact, a debt negotiation could be the difference between a successful loan modification and foreclosure.

You will continue to hear pro and con arguments regarding debt negotiations. One thing to keep in mind is that credit counselors have been and still are backed by credit card issuers. When listening or hearing about debt negotiations, always consider the source. If you are contemplating a debt negotiation, be sure to conduct some due diligence before selecting a firm to act on your behalf. Visit the firm and ask enough questions to get comfortable with the partnership. Insist on a law firm experienced in debt negotiations and, if applicable, home loan modifications. Getting back on your feet will take partnering with the right firm and a commitment to seeing the process through to its completion. Take care of those issues, and you’re on your way to financial freedom.

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