Archive for the ‘foreclosure prevention’ 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.
Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012
Bank of America announced this week it’s plan to eliminate debt accrued on second lien mortgages for some lucky borrowers – approximately 150,000 lienholders across the country. This is big news for those who are underwater and would like to be able to stay in their homes. The lender says the goal behind the program is to help homeowners stay in their homes and build equity.
If you have a second mortgage that is serviced by B of A, you may soon receive a letter in the mail telling you your second lien can be extinguished. But don’t get too excited – the 150,000 letters are being sent out only to pre-qualified borrowers, and you cannot elect to be in the program. Apparently if you receive a letter your debt will be released within 30 days if you do not opt out of the program.
There is no data on which specific parts of the country may benefit the most, although one article mentioned the inland empire may see quite a few of these releases, as there were many second mortgages in that area and a substantial number of those loans that were issued by Countrywide (which was acquired by Bank of America). There is also no word on how credit may be effected, but if the bank is agreeing to release the debt in full there is a chance there may not be a credit ding…that remains to be seen.
While this is not a solution to preventing foreclosure, it could be a very powerful tool in it’s prevention, and those who are included in the program could really be receiving a life preserver. It is a new start and the chance to stay in a home that otherwise may not have been possible for much longer.
If you are the lucky recipient of one of these letters from B of A, please let me know. I would love to read the letter and understand the terms. You can email it to me at Rachel@LaMarRealEstate.org.
Saturday, August 25th, 2012
Beginning November 1 there will be some significant changes to how short sales are handled, and the new guidelines could be a big benefit to those sellers who otherwise may not have been able to short sell their homes. A short sale is when a home is sold for less than the amount owed on the mortgage(s), allowing the borrower to escape some of the harsher ramifications from a foreclosure.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is changing the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac short sale guidelines, which will allow borrowers to be qualified by their servicers for short sales in a more timely manner, and will apparently streamline the short sale process, making it smoother and, dare I hope, quicker. How are they planning to do this? Here are the changes that are anticipated:
• A single short sale process will be created for Fannie and Freddie short sale programs. This will allow for smoother and streamlined processing time, which will enable agents and homeowners to determine timeframes for approval and closing. Servicers must respond to short sales within 30 days, with a final decision for the borrower by 60 days after submission.
• Borrowers who are current on their mortgages will be able to qualify for short sales (subject to showing they have a hardship), without waiting for short sale approval from Fannie and Freddie, and instead of waiting until payments are missed, thus eliminating further damage to credit scores and helping to clear short sale inventory much quicker. Most importantly, the guidelines for proving hardship will be loosened.
•Provides special treatment for military personnel who have received permanent change of station (PCS) orders. Personnel who are being relocated will automatically be eligible for short sales, even if they are current on their mortgages.
• May provide up to $3000 in relocation assistance to those borrowers who qualify.
• Allows and standardizes foreclosure suspensions on approved short sale properties. This one is big – it will prevent servicers from foreclosing on your property if your short sale has been approved, so no more worrying during the short sale process that the home will be sold at auction during that time.
• Payment to secondary lien holders by Fannie and Freddie of $6,000. Although this happens frequently already, it will be nice to have a guarantee that Fannie and Freddie will offer these subordinate lien holders money, which makes getting their approval on short sales a bit easier.
The potential downside of these changes is that there may be large supplies of short sale inventory in some areas, which could have a negative effect on area home sale prices, at least until the supply is sold.
The upside to this new process is that it will clear the market of distressed property, which will allow a return to “normal” growth cycles in the future, and instill higher levels of consumer confidence in the markets. It will also be positive news for those home sellers who would have headed toward foreclosure, providing an easier way out from under a mortgage that was literally sinking them.
These new guidelines are a step in the right direction, as we need to clear out this inventory and make the process easier and not so mysterious. The proof will be in the pudding, however, so I am definitely looking forward to November 1, and streamlined short sales. If you have questions about short selling your home, please feel free to contact me.
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 20th, 2012
In case you haven’t been following the news lately, there is a lot of real estate-related news making headlines right now. Here are some of the big stories:
1. Underwater homeowner refinancing to include non-Fannie and Freddie backed loans? Many people are aware that the new version of HARP will reach out to help homeowners who are underwater (see the previous blog), but still many more have been asking whether they will be able to seek similar refinancing possibilities if they do NOT have a loan backed by Fannie and Freddie. There have been rumblings about this, and last week I saw a few articles on this topic. HARP2, which is expected to roll out in a few weeks, is expected to open up the refinancing option to many homeowners who are underwater. Once that ball gets rolling, look for more information on applying similar relief to those who are underwater but do not have loans backed by Fannie and Freddie. This could change the housing situation and prevent many future foreclosures.
2. Home purchasing is the most affordable in decades. According to an article published last week by CNN, the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index, housing price declines and low mortgage rates have created a rare opportunity for those who earn national median salaries – 75.9% of all new and existing homes for sale fell within that affordability range during the last quarter of 2011. The number has not been this high in the 20 year history of the index. Of course, whether one can afford a home versus whether one can actually buy one are not one and the same – obtaining loans are still tricky for many borrowers.
3. Distressed inventory is keeping California home prices low. Despite the increase in housing inventory last month, prices in California remain low due to the number of distressed inventory on the market, according to the California Association of Realtors. The Association reported that the median price of a single family detached home dropped 6.7% in January from December, and that compared to January of 2011, the median dropped 3.9%. With inventory rising and heading into the Spring sales season, it will be interesting to see what happens to prices, as some areas seem to be on the upswing.
4. Delinquency rate is dropping (but is that telling?). The rate of delinquencies has been dropping, as reported by the Mortgage Bankers Association, and is currently at only 7.6% of all mortgages. Still, about 44% of all homes in the U.S. are currently in foreclosure proceedings, which doesn’t really make the first figure sound too promising. Although California is ahead in clearing it’s backlog of distressed inventory quicker than many other states, now that the robo signing lawsuits have been settled we may see more properties go into foreclosure – a large percentage of these were waiting in the wings while the settlements were being negotiated. Also, we need to factor in HARP2, which will come into play in a few weeks – this could also have a big effect on preventing foreclosures, especially if the administration extends it to non-Fannie and Freddie backed loans, as planned. So, stay tuned – it will be an interesting year for distressed inventory.
5. Property valuation fraud increases. The recently released Mortgage Fraud Risk Report indicated that property valuation fraud increased 8% in the fourth quarter of 2011. Arizona was ranked the riskiest state for fraud, with Nevada in close second. California ranked fourth. The report studies four specific types of fraud risk: property valuation, occupancy, identity and employment/income.
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.
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.