California has had some decent growth in property values lately with the lowering of interest rates, investors buying homes, and some people trying to get into a hot market before interest rates go up. This has been somewhat a good thing for housing prices. If you are considering filing bankruptcy for other debt related issues you may want to jump in before the market continues to rise. I have had two clients in the last month who have come to me from Cathedral city and haven’t paid there mortgage in over a year. One wanted to file a chapter 7 as he was divorced, the ex-wife was living in the house and he just had too much debt to manage. Amazingly he didn’t realize that his house was an asset. Last year the house was probably worth 150 and his not was about 160. Since he had no intention of saving his house and couldn’t pay the arrears with a now split family I decided to recommend a realtor to him before we filed. He was able to put 20k in his pocket within a month and we have delayed the filing of the bk for him. Once the money is out of escrow and in his account I can file using the 703 exemptions and protect the money with the wild card. So without the bankruptcy and a good lawyer spotting the value in the house he could of either lost the house and let the bank capitalize on that or we could have just filed the bankruptcy quickly and the trustee might have sold the house and paid the 20k to unsecured creditors. Having someone on your side with your interests and not a person who is just trying to file a million cases allows these kinds of insights to manifest into truly starting over with a fresh start.
My other client is in the same boat but wants to try to save the house as the mortgage is reasonable and renting would be just as expensive. We will pay back her arrears through a chapter 13 and if when she decides we can sell the house with court approval during the process. This might allow her to capitalize even more if the housing prices start to go up.
The other thing an experienced bankruptcy lawyer will look out for and make motions should he need to is that when you file a case your house might be worth what you owe and you use the 703 exemptions with the wild card to protect cash, cars, toys etc. You feel that is the better route since the property doesn’t really have equity. The thing is the trustee could keep the case open and even though you get a discharge he doesn’t file the no asset report and the case is not closed. If in 6 months the property has gained 5 % and its got 20k in equity the trustee could make a motion to sell and meanwhile you and bankruptcy attorney were asleep at the wheel thinking you got the discharge case closed. If a no asset report is not filed at the time of a discharge I will make a motion to the court to abandon assets. You don’t want the trustee buying the benefit of time and potentially selling one of your assets. In this market its something you have to be aware of.