About three months ago, as the unemployment rate began to really spike, it became all the corporate rage to offer “peace of mind” should you lose your job. That came in the form of various insurance-esque guarantees.
Certain car companies would let you give the keys back, no questions asked, while others would make a few monthly payments for you should you find yourself on the unemployment line. Then the home builders jumped in.
Two home builders, Lennar and Toll Brothers offered mortgage protection plans, wherein should you lose your job, the companies would, through other insurers, pay your mortgage for you for up to six months.
One condo developer in Atlanta, Georiga—Cousins Properties —said it would guarantee that if you buy a condo today, it would appraise at the same value or above three years from now, and if not, you can hand back the keys. The same if you lose your job or miss out on an expected bonus.
So given the numbers from online foreclosure sale site, RealtyTrac today, that in just the past three months one million households received a foreclosure filing, it occurred to me I should check in with some of these plans. I called Toll Brothers and was surprised to learn that their much-touted “Mortgage Protection Plan” had been, “phased out,” according to the representative. “It just wasn’t a dial mover,” she said, “not the thing people wanted from us.”
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Then I called over to Lennar. They still have the program in place in certain markets, but agreed, “in some markets it’s been effective, in other markets it hasn’t been.” The folks at Lennar say the mortgage rate is a much bigger deal to today’s buyers (no kidding), and programs that buy down the mortgage rate are far more enticing.
As for the mortgage protection, “this is just one tool in the marketing tool box to interest buyers to come back to the marketplace,” the Lennar rep said.
I have to admit from the start, the whole idea of the job-loss protection sounded more like marketing than substance. I mean, maybe it works for a car, but not for a house. The plans only covered you for six months anyway, and in today’s job market, I don’t know that you’d be able to get yourself back into a similar-paying job in that amount of time.
They were nice commercials though.
Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.com