Can I buy a home by taking over someone's mortgage?

Posted by  on Oct 19, 2011

I found a company that will sell me a list of homes that can be bought by taking over someone's mortgage. I have some credit and income issues so this would be very helpful to me. Is this a legitimate way to buy a home? Do mortgage lenders let buyers take over the payments if the seller is behind on the payments?

Taking over mortgage payments: the due-on-sale clause

Most mortgages funded in the last 10 years or so contain what's called an acceleration or due-on-sale clause. That means if the property changes hands, the entire mortgage becomes due immediately. Lenders don't want to find themselves in business with someone who may not meet their underwriting standards. While some government home loans like FHA mortgages may be assumed, unless the mortgage is over 20 years old, the buyer must qualify for the loan like anyone else.

How some people get around the due-on-sale clause

Some sellers will advertise an assumable mortgage with no qualifying, or that they'll allow the buyer to take over their mortgage payments. They try to circumvent the clause by transferring the property but not "selling" it. That dodge might mean calling the transfer a lease option, an installent sale, a land contract, a land trust or a wrap-around mortgage. These schemes are not illegal or fraudulent unless you conceal the transfer from the lender.

Could you get away with this? Maybe

If you take over payments from someone who is in default (and bring the account current) on an underwater home, the lender may breathe a sigh or relief and let you continue. But what if (when) property values or mortgage rates increase? In that case, you'd be in what's called "technical default" and the lender could choose to enforce the due-on-sale clause, meaning you'd have to pay off the entire balance immediately or lose the home. Unless you can get the lender to approve the transfer of the property and the obligation to you, you're taking a risk.

Concealing the transfer is a felony

If you try to avoid the technical default scenario by concealing the transfer, you're begging for trouble. A wrap-around mortgage, for example, involves the seller continuing to pay the old mortgage lender while you pay the seller. No transfer documents are recorded with the county.

The list is probably bogus

Unfortunately, the list being advertised is likely just a list of homes with FHA financing. You'd still have to apply and qualify with the current lender to take over such a loan, so don't waste your money.


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