Archive for the ‘foreclosure options’ Category
Friday, November 16th, 2012
Short sales have become part of the real estate landscape, and as one in four homeowners are underwater nationwide, they will likely continue to stay there for some time. Lenders have finally accepted this and have been trying to implement new programs to make them a better choice than foreclosures. For the most part, they are on the right track, but we are still seeing resistance and lots of snares in the road. The new Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac short sale program offers something big to struggling homeowners: the chance to short sale their homes even if they are current on their mortgage payments.
Normally, in order to short sale your home you have to be delinquent on your mortgage payments. Some lenders say they will consider short sales for those not yet delinquent, but the reality is that until you are late with your payments they don’t have the time to tango. Now, if your loan is securitized by Fannie or Freddie, you could be eligible for a short sale even if you are not delinquent, but can prove a hardship.
If you are in this situation you will need to contact your mortgage servicer and ask them to participate in the Fannie/Freddie non-delinquent short sale program. You will want to find a qualified area real estate agent who is experienced in selling short sales, and get your home listed on the market. Once you find a qualified buyer, you will present the contract to your servicer, along with proof of hardship (there is a packet of information you will have to provide – whether your servicer wants it up front or at the time you have an accepted offer will be up to the servicer).
Hardships: There are multiple kinds of hardship that could be acceptable. These may include job loss, injury or disability, major illness, job transfer (there are usually mileage requirements), pay cuts, divorce, and death of a borrower or wage earner, to name a few. If you think you have a hardship, contact your servicer to find out whether you qualify.
Caveats: There are a few things you want to watch out for if you are able to go through a short sale under this new program.
1. Credit implications: As with every short sale, you will need to be aware of potential credit hits. There is no lesser effect for these types of short sales, however, apparently it is in the works. Typically with a short sale you can expect your credit score to drop up to 150 points, but that really depends on where it was before you were approved for a short sale. I have seen some sellers take a big hit, and others barely see any negative effects. If you keep in mind the 150 number, that is most likely the worst case scenario. Hopefully soon there will be an exception with the credit bureaus for these types of short sales.
2. Second liens are another potential snake in the grass with the new program. First lienholders have agreed to pay only up to $6000 to second lienholders upon a successful short sale closing under the program. If you have a large outstanding second lien balance, there is a chance that lienholder may refuse to accept this sum (which is ridiculous, as they would likely get nothing if the home went to foreclosure, but such is the case). Make sure you know exactly how much you owe and what the second lienholder’s policy is – a savvy short sale agent/negotiator will know how to help in this regard.
3. Deficiency states: if you live in a deficiency state (where the state can go after you for the difference between the short sale price and what you owed on your mortgage), you need to beware. The lender may require a cash contribution to cover the difference on the loan balance, or possibly have you sign a promissory note. California is NOT a deficiency state, so selling your home via short sale requires NO contribution from the borrower, and there is no state tax liability on the sale.
As always, I recommend really understanding all the implications of a short sale before embarking on one. Make sure you hire an agent who really knows how to negotiate, as well as all the steps involved throughout the short sale process. If you are informed you will make the best decisions for you and your family. To find out whether your loan(s) is owned by Fannie Mae, visit https://www.knowyouroptions.com/loanlookup. For Freddie Mac loans, go to https://ww3.freddiemac.com/corporate/.
Images courtesy of Dreamstime.
Tuesday, October 16th, 2012
It is almost here: the dreaded end of the federal short sale tax breaks, also known as the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act. Come December 31, sellers who have not yet closed escrow on their short sales will no longer escape the capital gains tax on the difference between the sales price (of their home via a short sale) and the amount owed on their mortgage…UNLESS the tax breaks are extended. Will this happen, and if not, what will happen to short sales?
First of all, I have to say that I think the tax will be extended. It simply does not make sense at this critical economic time to not extend the tax break. Doing so wreaks all kind of havoc, including surges in foreclosures and bankruptcy filings, which neither the government nor the banks want to see.
Failure to extend the act would undermine everything that is improving in the real estate market and cause us to jump many steps backwards. The fact that an extension has not yet been announced makes people nervous, but due to the Presidential election and other important issues on the proverbial table, I think it has been put on the backburner for a short time.
Lets take a look at the main arguments for not extending the tax break:
1. Too costly. There are some who believe that the law will not be extended, as they feel the alleged $2.7 billion it will cost to do so is not justified due to the deficit. To this I would say it will be a lot more costly if millions of homes go into foreclosure again, as people find they have no other solution and cannot afford to stay in their homes. The lenders will be stuck with tons of inventory that they have to sell, many that will be trashed, and the market will drop again, creating another real estate nightmare. Just when we are coming out of the bad market is not a good time to cause it to dive again.
2. Easy escape for homeowners – ? Another argument in favor of not renewing the tax savings is that doing so encourages people to default on their loans. In other words, if people know they can short sale their homes and walk away without financial ramifications, it makes it easier than staying in a home they cannot afford and trying to make it work. I do not agree with this argument, as I think the stress would just lead to more bankruptcy filings and foreclosures, which in the end is even worse for the lending institutions (not to mention for millions of families).
It remains to be seen what will happen come the end of the year. The bottom line is this: if you are contemplating a short sale and your house is not yet listed on the market, or if your home is listed but you have not yet sent any offers over to your short sale lender, it is a good time to discuss your options with both your agent and a financial adviser, CPA and/or attorney. You must understand your options and what could happen if the law is not extended, because it could effect your decision whether to close your short sale.
If you are in the middle of a short sale and you have obtained or are soon to obtain lender approval, you need to make sure that the lender(s) release you in writing from any financial liability once escrow closes, if it is to close after December 31.
[Note that regardless of when your short sale is closing, you should ALWAYS make sure the lender approval letter has language to this effect…most lenders automatically state such in the approval letters, but if not you need to have your agent or negotiator ask that it be included]. You also need to check your state laws to determine state tax liability with short sales, as laws do vary. For more information about short sales you can visit my website.
Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
There have been many changes happening in the short sale arena, so if you are a buyer considering a short sale, or a seller thinking of selling short, here is the latest news:
New rules in June for lenders. Starting this June, most of the big banks will face new requirements that will hopefully change the length of short sale approvals. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have drafted new policies that will require lenders to review and respond to all short sale requests within 30 days of receipt. The lenders will have 60 days after receipt of an offer to make a final decision. If the lender has an offer under review for more than 30 days, it will be required to provide weekly updates. Sounds like good news for short sale buyers and sellers, but will it lead to more short sale rejections if the lenders can’t get it together within the new timelines? Let’s hope not.
End of the year expiration on short sale tax liability still in effect – clock ticking to avoid taxation. I have discussed this in other blogs, but in case you need a reminder the Mortgage Relief Debt Forgiveness Act is set to expire on December 31 of this year. This means that unless it is extended once again all short sales could be subject to federal income taxation after that time. The act, which was created in 2007, allows short sales sellers to avoid federal taxation on the cancelled debt (the difference between the sales price and amount owed on the mortgage). For example, if you have a mortgage of $500,000 and short sell your home for $300,000, you could be liable for federal taxation on the $200,000. If you are considering a short sale, now is the time – contact an experienced short sale agent in your area.
Fastest Short Sale Lenders Report is Out. RealtyTrac recently released a report on which lenders are fastest with short sale timelines. The winner is Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac and FHA. Ally Bank came in second. Bank of America and Wells Fargo were at the bottom of the top 10 list. Read the DS News article to learn more.
Short Sale Surge Predicted for 2012. RealtyTrac released another important report as of late, which outlines the increase in pre-foreclosure sales (namely short sales). The study found a 33% year-over-year increase in these sales; the number in California is higher, at 52%. The downward trend of short sales is no more, and short sales have outnumbered REO (lender-owned property) listings in 12 states, including California. Based on this trend the report, and likely considering the end of the Mortgage Debt Relief Foregiveness Act, 2012 could be a big year for short sales.
Monday, March 5th, 2012
These days it is frustrating to figure out options to avoiding foreclosure. Many homeowners who call me to discuss short selling have similar questions: what are my options. Of course, there are options out there – like refinancing (HARP2 will be able to help some underwater borrowers starting in a few weeks – see previous blog) and short selling.
Lately you may have heard talk about banks selling underwater homes to third parties, allowing the sellers to remain in the home as tenants. This idea is not new, but it has been considered lately as one solution to preventing foreclosures. There are positive and negative elements to establishing a program of this nature.
The positive side: If you are a homeowner the ideal situation for you, if you are underwater and will no longer be able to pay your mortgage, would be to stay in your home. The government agrees, and it wants the banks to sell your home to an investor, keeping you in the property as a long term renter (you still have to qualify as a renter, of course, so no unemployment). Your payments would likely drop substantially, and although you would not longer “own” the home, you would be able to stay there. Sounds good, right?
The not-so-pretty fine print: The problem with the above scenario is twofold: first, we have to consider the effect it may have on the housing market. At what discount will all these homes be sold to the third party investors? It would have to be a big discount, to make sense from an investment perspective. This will devastate neighborhoods, bringing the comparable sold properties down even lower.
But so do short sales and foreclosure, you argue, right? My second point demonstrates another issue…
Allowing homeowners to stay in their homes as renters will make things even worse for housing, because what kind of message does it send? Hey, if you can’t afford your home, you can still live there and just rent it! I can see this becoming a problem, and some homeowners will undoubtedly try to take advantage of it, hurting local markets and neighborhoods even further.
A smarter solution to the housing nightmare is to make the banks approve short sales faster. Although it is so difficult for homeowners to have to short sale their homes, they have an opportunity to start over and get back on their feet, make smart decisions and be homeowners again in the future. I do think that turning the vacant bank-owned inventory into rentals could be a positive spin on things, but I DO NOT think the government should be in the business of renting homes, so for this option to work an investor would have to come in and buy the bank-owned property and rent it out. But of course, this brings us back to the issue of deteriorating prices.
Trying to figure out the best ways to help both distressed owners AND the housing market is tough. I say the banks should bless the short sales and make the process more streamlined, so at least we can get more inventory on and off the market quickly, and get people on their way to healing. What do you think?
Monday, February 13th, 2012
If you have ever considered a short sale, or would like to learn more about how they work, I have the seminar for you…and it’s free! Shortsaleopedia and I have collaborated to hold monthly seminars to help homeowners in San Diego, and the first one is this Wednesday, February 15, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Encinitas Community Center in Encinitas.
I have put together a phenomenal panel of experts – from real estate and credit attorneys to a CPA, short sale bank negotiator, mortgage professional, escrow and title professionals and of course Realtors who specialize and are trained in short sales. We will teach you all about the intricacies and ramifications (legal, credit and tax) of short sales, programs that may be available to help you, and how current and upcoming laws could make your sale easier or more challenging.
Please join me and my wonderful expert panel this Wednesday. You can sign up here: http://shortsaleopedia.com/events/event/event-expert-panel-san-diego-az-2012-02-15/. The Community Center is located at 1140 Oakcrest Park Drive in Encinitas. If you are investigating options for distressed property, this event will be valuable.
Friday, January 6th, 2012
Could it be that lenders are starting to cooperate more with short sales? And if so, what does that mean to sellers and buyers? Might short sales get easier and speedier, thereby ridding many markets of distressed inventory and putting them on the road to recovery? This may sound too good to be true, but there are signs that it may in fact be happening.
According to HopeNow, short sales increased last year by 26,000 and foreclosures decreased by 255,000. Both had increased in 2010.
Some major lenders have adopted systems by which to better handle foreclosures, and others have indicated they will be doing the same.
Short sales have always been a mixed bag of emotions. They can be emotionally draining, dragging out the inevitable: loss of a home and all the memories that go with it. But on the flip side, distressed homeowners can avoid the ramifications and stigma of a foreclosure through a short sale. Short sales can usually save something for all parties involved – money, credit, and hopefully sanity.
Here are some benefits of short sales over foreclosures:
For the seller:
1. Less of an impact on credit
2. Can purchase a home again in several years, vs. 7-10 years with a foreclosure
Benefits for buyers:
1. Prices are often lower
2. Buyers usually get all the disclosures and can conduct property inspections (when buying foreclosure properties at auction, buyers often must do so without the ability to view the home and conduct inspections…not to mention all the competition from experienced auction buyers).
Benefits for lenders:
1. Short sales cost less
2. Short sales typically sell for higher prices than foreclosures (they lose money on the subsequent sale)
Benefits for neighborhoods:
1. Short sales tend to sell quicker and for prices more in line with comparable sold properties, protecting values more
2. Lower vacancy rates with short sales, thus less chance for vandalism and maintenance issues (which effect surrounding property values)
So, it appears that lenders, at least some of them, are making efforts to increase cooperation with short sales – we will see going forward if it becomes a reality. I sure hope so.
Saturday, December 10th, 2011
We have heard news of deed for lease programs rumbling for some time, but Bank of America announced this week that it will begin making them a reality. What this means is that struggling homeowners will be able to turn their deeds over the the bank, and then sign a lease to stay in their homes as renters. There is a lot of controversy over these programs, but lenders are attempting to find ways to avoid more foreclosures and feel this may be one way to do so.
Here’s how the plan would work: the bank would approach troubled homeowners before a foreclosure to see if they would be interested in staying in the home as tenants. The bank would then short sell the home to investors, who would handle the leases. The owners would have less of a credit impact because they would have a short sale instead of a foreclosure, but they would also be able to build up their credit because they would be instant tenants.
Those who are against these programs argue that homeowners, who cannot afford their mortgages any longer, are being rewarded by not having to go through foreclosure and then being able to stay in their homes as renters. [In typical short sales most lenders forbid homeowners to rent back the homes after a short sale because they do not want the homeowner to benefit in any way from the sale.] They are afraid it will encourage many others to do the same.
Those in favor of these programs say that it will prevent so many foreclosures and will help to build the market back up – with less foreclosed properties and vacant properties, values will stop falling. Plus, the lack of vacant homes will strengthen those neighborhoods hard hit by foreclosure.
No matter what side you are on, this is one program that may actually help build the market back up over time, if enough homes can make the cut. It will be interesting to watch and see what happens.
Tuesday, November 29th, 2011
Short sales are a big part of our real estate reality, and they are not going anywhere anytime soon. Although the relief of getting out of a mortgage that can no longer be maintained is usually a blessing for sellers, there is also an added benefit in some cases, of getting a check from the bank at closing.
There are several current programs that offer to pay sellers at the close of escrow on a short sale:
HAFA. The Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program (HAFA) gives qualified sellers up to $3000 at closing. This program applies to both short sales and deeds in lieu of foreclosure. Click here for more information on HAFA and to see the requirements.
Transition Assistance Program (TAP). This is a Calfornia program that nets qualified state homeowners up to $5000 at completion of a short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure. Click here to check eligibility and get information.
Bank of America Cooperative Short Sale Program. This program is available to any B of A loan holders who are doing a short sale, and provides up to $2500 to those who qualify. The difference between this program and HAFA is that B of A preapproves the home for short sale, including the list price (which could be an issue). A 4 month time frame is given in which the agent must sell the home, and at the end of that time if the home has not sold B of A will issue an automatic deed in lieu of foreclosure (which could be a problem). Speak with your agent if you are not sure about how this program compares to HAFA, as the market time restrictions could be an issue. Contact B of A to get more information on the program.
Chase and Citi Short Sale Programs. Both of these lenders have initiated aggressive programs that pay up to $20,000-35,000. But don’t get too excited just yet…in order to partake of this program you need to receive a letter from one of these banks. This program is not owner-initiated. The banks find those homeowners whom they feel meet standards to successfully qualify. I know of one case here in La Jolla where a homeowner did receive such a letter.
Other bank programs. Some other banks are jumping on the bandwagon and offering their own short sale versions. Wachovia Bank sends letters to sellers asking them to participate in short sales, with a financial incentive at closing (between $3000-5000). Other banks have their own programs and more are sure to follow.
Many lenders are creating their own programs to bypass the HAFA program, as it limits the liability of the banks to collect money. With their own programs, controlling many of the terms of the short sale (like price and time frames), but if you are going to use any bank programs you need to understand these programs. Your agent needs to explain the differences between the bank program and HAFA, so that you can make an informed decision as to which one to choose. As I always say, knowledge is power.
Thursday, November 10th, 2011
Keep Your Home California, a state program that was designed to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, has broadened criteria and may now help you keep your home. The program, which debuted just over a year ago with four ways to help distressed homeowners, will now offer mortgage relief to more state residents.
The original program offered help via payment subsidies, mortgage reinstatements, negative equity reductions and financial assistance to those who must move (cannot afford to stay). Last Spring the program announced it was expanding to include home equity lines of credit, or for those took equity out from a refinance. The program has helped close to 8,000 moderate and low income homeowners who were heading toward loan default.
The new changes include the following:
– Allowing cash-out borrowers to be assisted under all four aspects of the program (this part of the program was proposed last Spring)
– Allowing multiple property borrowers to apply to the program. Those with second homes or those who are on title to another home will not be excluded from the program any longer.
– Extending the mortgage aid for unemployed borrowers to nine months instead of the original six. As defined under the original guidelines, borrowers receiving unemployment benefits are eligible to receive up to $3000 in aid per month.
– Increased reinstatement amount. Under the original program, if you missed one or more mortgage payment you could be eligible to obtain up to $15,000 or 50% of the delinquent amount, whichever is less, in order to reinstate your mortgage and avoid foreclosure. That amount has now been increased to $20,000.
There are still restrictions and qualifications to participate in this program. For more information and to find out if you qualify, visit http://www.keepyourhomecalifornia.org/ or call (888) 954-5337.
Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
Recently the Obama administration announced changes to the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) that are aimed at helping homeowners refinance mortgages, even when there is no equity in their homes. Their goal is to help the millions of homeowners and prevent more foreclosures, but what is involved and will it really work?
Some of the changes to HARP include the following:
1. Fee reduction. Many of the fees associated with refinancing will be reduced.
2. Current loan to value cap on fixed rate home loans will disappear. This was the reason many homeowners could not take advantage of HARP initially, since the value of their homes had decreased significantly.
3. Reduced underwriting guidelines. Some of the changes almost hint at a stated income situation, with a verbal income verification…but we will have to wait and see the specifics when they are announced.
4. Appraisal changes. The new plan will have a valuation system for appraisals, called “automated valuation,” which will do away with the need for new appraisals, and hopefully avoid appraisal issues that have plagued refinancing in the past.
There are a few caveats, most importantly that the homeowner has to be current on their mortgage. The home also must be a primary residence, and borrowers will be able to shop rates with other lenders, not just the lender who currently holds their loan. More details will be revealed next month. Some of these changes sound promising, and I do believe that more homeowners will get to take advantage of the lower rates without these restrictions, but the big question is:
Will the new HARP really help the housing market?
I have to say no to this. While this is a nice plan to help some more people get into lower mortgages, the fact is that it does not shine the light on the bigger problem in real estate – homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgages. The new HARP offers no help to these people, and their homes will likely turn into a big future foreclosure wave. The negative equity in these homes is so great that neighborhoods will continue to be effected by their foreclosures, with comparables continuing to drop.
The other big problem I see with the new program is that it has to be implemented by the banks. Although some banks, like Bank of America, claim to embrace the new program, chances are we will still face many hurdles from the banks with implementation. Banks are simply too scared to refinance many mortgages, and the re-default rate is high, making them risky.
While I think the new HARP plan can help some homeowners, I think it is just the beginning. I stand by my opinion that housing must be fixed if we ever want to see the economy improve. We need MUCH more than what HARP can do. We need to help the millions of people who are unable to pay their mortgages, prevent the wave of foreclosures down the road, and find ways to deal with the heavy inventory currently owned by the lenders that is not yet on the market. To do this, we need the cooperation of the major lenders in formulating plans to help these people.
What do you think?