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I'm terrified for my 71-year-old mother's immediate future. She owns 12 residential rentals. We desperately need an exit strategy but she owes as much as or more than market value, and cannot afford the repairs or closing costs, etc. necessary to sell them. The rental income from a duplex pays her personal bills; the remaining rental income just pays for repairs and maintenance of the rentals. She is trapped for the foreseeable future and we cannot find a way out. She should be relaxing and living a comfortable retirement, not anxiously stressing that every phone call could be a huge expense, leaving her no monetary cushion. She needs your help now. Thank you for your time.

  • She carries a note on all 12 properties? – AbraCadaver Aug 12 '14 at 19:12
  • all the rentals are bank mortgages @AbraCadaver – user19639 Aug 29 '14 at 2:36
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I debated whether to put this in an answer or a comment, because I'm not sure that this can be answered usefully without a lot more information, which actually would then probably make it a candidate for closing as "too localized". At the very least we would need to know where (which jurisdiction) she is located in.

So, speaking in a generic way, the options available as I see them are:

  1. Contact the mortgage companies and explain she can't continue to make payments. They will likely foreclose on the properties and if she still ends up owing money after that (if you are in the US this also depends on whether you are in a "non-recourse" state) then she could be declared bankrupt. This is rather the "nuclear option" and definitely not something to be undertaken lightly, but would at least wipe the slate clean and give her some degree of certainty about her situation.

  2. Look very carefully at the portfolio of properties and get some proper valuations done on them (depending on where she is located this may be free). Also do a careful analysis of the property sales and rental markets, to see whether property prices / rental rates are going up or down. Then decide on an individual basis whether each property is better kept or sold. You may be able to get discounts on fees if you sell multiple properties in one transaction. This option would require some cold hard analysis and decision making without letting yourselves get emotionally invested in the situation (difficult, I know).

  3. Depending on how long she has had the properties for and how she came to own them, it MIGHT be an option to pursue action against whoever advised her to acquire them. Clearly a large portfolio of decaying rental properties is not a suitable investment for a relatively elderly lady and if she only came by them relatively recently, on advice from an investment consultant or similar, you might have some redress there.

  4. Another option: could she live in one of the properties herself to reduce costs? If she owns her own home as well then she could sell that, live in the one of the rentals and use the money saved to finance the sale of the other rentals.

Aside from these thoughts, one final piece of advice: don't get your own finances tangled up in hers (so don't take out a mortgage against your own property, for example). Obviously if you have the leeway to help her out of your budget then that is great, but I would restrict that to doing things like paying for grocery shopping or whatever. If she is heading for bankruptcy or other financial difficulties, it won't help if you are entangled too.

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    The rentals are in OK. As each lease comes up, experienced property manager/realtor is raising rents as high as possible. As well, prop mgr is evaluating whether a sale is possible based on what she owes v. current market value. She acquired most of them about 15 years ago, and no one to go after on that. She could probably live in one side of the duplex to reduce costs, and selling her own house + what she is saving by living in the duplex might get her out of at least some of the rentals. I really appreciate your time and advice-thank you. – user19639 Aug 29 '14 at 3:27

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