Archive for the ‘foreclosure problems’ Category

Beware: Secondary Lien Holders Could Sue You…

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

If you are facing foreclosure and have more than one lien (mortgage), there is a new law that could greatly affect you. The California Supreme Court just denied review of a state appeal court ruling that allows second “purchase money” lien holders to sue homeowners for deficiency judgments after a first lien holder has foreclosed. Don’t worry, I’ll break it down in simple terms.

In California the homeowner is protected from lawsuits for the amount of the difference between what is owed on the mortgage, and what the home sells for at foreclosure auction (or even a short sale) – this is called a deficiency judgment. Other states allow lenders to sue homeowners for deficiency judgments, but California is a non-deficiency state. So if you only have one loan and are foreclosed upon, you are safe for now from a lawsuit by your lender.

The new ruling applies to secondary lien holders and foreclosures. Back in the boom of the real estate market many people took out two loans to purchase their homes. The second lienholder almost always loses big when there is a foreclosure, as there is not enough money to cover the debt owed to the first.

NOW, that second lender can sue the homeowner after the foreclosure for the deficiency, BUT only if the second lender is not the same lender as the first. (It is important to remember is that many loans are bought and sold on the secondary market, so even though you may originally have had two loans held by the same lender, one may have been sold. So it is imperative to know who your lienholders are before heading into a foreclosure).

It is very important for any homeowner facing foreclosure to contact an attorney to discuss their particular scenario, to make sure that you understand whether there is a chance you could be sued after foreclosure. Do not wait until the last minute – this could severely effect your options and what you could possibly do to avoid future lawsuits. For more information on this particular case, here is the citing: Cadlerock Joint Venture, L.P. v. Lobel, 206 Cal.App. 4th 1531 (2012); 143 Cal. Rptr. 3rd 96.

 

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What’s in Your Problem-Solving Tool Box?

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

A client told me a few days ago that I have one of the hardest jobs, and she doesn’t know how I do it every day. She was referring to the difficult situations I face daily in regards to short sales, short sale lenders, and getting buyers qualified to buy properties. There are some days, I admit, where I want to just turn off my phone and go sit on the beach, ignore all the problems…but I persist.

In realizing that a solution is only as good as the work put forward to obtain it, I have come to the conclusion that there will always be problems, as in any business. Instead of dreading them, or slacking off, or even throwing in the towel, we need to approach each transgression with not only persistence and a plan, but with the best tool of all: laughter.

How does laughter help, you ask? If you have a stressful day or week, go and watch a funny movie. Aside from exercise, laughter is one of the best ways I know to get through anything. My new pastime is finding and making jokes about lenders, especially those I do not favor (like the ones who Chase off short sale buyers, Chase down bad BPOs, or Chase after foreclosure as a preference). See? I feel better already.

Laughter may not solve your problem, but it will definitely give you renewed energy to go out there and keep fighting. I am ready for a day in the trenches  tomorrow (I am hoping to Chase a big problem away), so tonight I plan on watching a funny movie. How do YOU deal with problems?

 

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Don’t Foreclose Yet…You May Have Options!

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

With the economy in turmoil and people scared to make big purchases, the real estate business is undoubtedly challenged. In difficult times some people panic, and I see that happening amongst distressed borrowers, yet there is a process to the situation that you need to follow in order to have a chance to save your home and your credit. I have blogged on this topic before and it is worth repeating.

If you are in a distressed situation you need to approach it methodically, even if you don’t believe that there are options. Foreclosure should be the last resort. Here are some steps you can take to try and avoid it:

1.  Contact your lender. I know this sounds horrible, but you need to start somewhere. Some lenders, like Bank of America, actually have been stepping up to help people avoid foreclosure. You need to have all pertinent information ready when you call – your loan number, employment information, bank statements, etc. You want to see if you can qualify for a loan modification. This will take some time, but you need to get the ball rolling sooner rather than later, as soon as you discover you are unable to pay your mortgage or if you have a change of circumstance.

2.  Contact a counselor if your bank cannot help you. There is a wonderful free counseling organization called HopeNow that can help you evaluate your situation and see what options may be out there for you to peruse. You can reach them at 888-995-HOPE. You can find them on the web at http://www.HopeNow.com.

3.  Investigate ALL other possible options. If you are in the military, there are options that may be available to you. You may be able to qualify for a deed in lieu of foreclosure, refinancing, postponement, or a reverse mortgage if you are older and have equity in your home. There are stalling tactics you may be able to use while you find a way to get yourself on track. There are government programs that may help you if you are unemployed. Investigate all options, but do not feel overwhelmed. If you speak with your lender or a counselor you can whittle down the available options.

4.  Short sale. When there is no other option a short sale is better than going through foreclosure. You need to speak with an experienced agent if you are considering this option. Make sure you understand all tax and credit consequences – speak with your accountant or an attorney. Many lenders will bless short sales, and it is a good idea to work with someone experienced because they can try to get lender approval at the get-go. Some lenders are even evaluating homes now and telling the homeowners what price they will accept on the short sale BEFORE the home is listed. You may also qualify for programs like HAFA (Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program), which allows you to collect up to $3000 from your lender toward moving expenses.

It is important to understand the foreclosure laws in your state and the consequences they carry. If you are having difficulties with your mortgage please do not just give up – you need to try and find a solution before succumbing to foreclosure. Do not walk away from your home either, as that is a voluntary foreclosure. If you spend a little time you may find a solution that lets you avoid foreclosure, so hang in there.

If there are any distressed property issues you would like to see addressed in this blog, please let me know in the comment section below. If you do not see the comment section, simply click on the title to this blog and then scroll back down.

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Foreclosures: Is the Barrage Over?

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Recent studies indicate that foreclosure filings are down across the nation, but what does that really mean?

Several theories have been discussed in the media about what will happen next. One is that things are improving, albeit slowly, and lenders are embracing foreclosure prevention measures (like loan modifications and short sales) more heartily. The other is that we are witnessing the calm before another storm of foreclosures.

Some lenders, such as Wells Fargo, are taking taking steps toward strengthening home ownership and preventing foreclosures. Wells just announced that it will no longer provide reverse mortgages for elderly homeowners. The lender is also working with the U.S. Mayors council to help homeowners stay in their homes. These proactive solutions will have an effect on the future of home ownership, and hopefully more lenders will follow the example.

Judging from published numbers (RealtyTrac reports foreclosures were down in May 20% from the same time last year) it appears the worst is behind us. But there is still a lot of shadow inventory out there – homes owned by lenders post-foreclosure that have not yet been listed on the market for sale. This inventory will keep housing prices down until it is all sold; if home values go down there will likely be more homeowners underwater, which could lead to more foreclosures – a vicious cycle. The job market will also play into the equation.

Focusing on the big picture I do not believe we will see another foreclosure storm the likes of what we have witnessed in the last several years, and I think improvement is ahead but we will have some hurdles first with shadow inventory and the job market. We do need to focus on selling the distressed properties so that we can start climbing back toward a more normal and stable housing market.

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Throw the Lenders to the Courts

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Over the past several years there have been attempts to let judges take over lender issues, such as those related to foreclosures and bankruptcy. Some states, like California and New York, have allowed judges to intervene in ruling on improper foreclosures, or in cases where lenders assign mortgages for which they have no documented proof of ownership. There is much controversy in allowing the courts to step in and help fix some of these housing-related issues, but I think it is high time we do so.

The courts, although not known for being expeditious in many instances, could revolutionize the housing crisis by appointing judges to focus specifically on these cases. Not only would it protect future homeowners from wrongful foreclosures, but it would send a message to lenders to be more thorough in their processes, and likely lead to more and quicker loan modifications and short sale blessings.

Call me simple, or maybe blame it on my law school education, but I don’t understand why so many problems take so long to remedy, when all it does is create more problems and batter our economy even further. There ARE solutions to problems, but it seems we don’t tend to implement them. Politicians talk about solutions until they are blue in the face, but why not just put one in place and see what happens. Things can’t possibly get any worse. If it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else – but we can’t sit around doing NOTHING!

So I say let the judges look at pre-foreclosure filings. Make the lenders prove ownership. Jumping through these hoops a few times will likely be a hassle, hopefully causing lenders to think twice about NOT looking at loan modifications or short sales as options for distressed sellers. The burden on the legal system and the expense associated with it would likely be temporary, and surely not as great as the current strain on housing and the costs of foreclosure.

What do you think?

 

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Are Mortgage “Walkaways” Coming Back in Style?

Monday, May 16th, 2011

I read an alarming statistic today that “walking away” from one’s mortgage, an option to foreclosure that was popular in 2008, is now no longer viewed as morally reprehensible. In fact, a Fannie Mae survey of underwater homeowners (those with negative equity) found that 27% of them consider walking away – which today is called a strategic default – as a viable option to foreclosure.

Back in 2008 when I wrote my book, “Mortgage Walkaway Options,” the key focus was on options to foreclosure, with walking away as a last resort. My co-author and I urged homeowners to get educated and learn about other possible options before they walked away. At that time companies promising a bright future to homeowners who paid a fee to walk away were gaining deep pockets. They did not tell troubled borrowers that walking away was actually an intentional foreclosure, and many unknowing borrowers ended up with a foreclosure on their credit record when they may have been able to salvage it.

Most homeowners used to feel walking away was morally reprehensible, irresponsible. But even though strategic defaults have gone down the new study shows that this may no longer be the case. It is worrisome for several reasons, but what effect might it have on the housing market and on your property values?

The housing market will not come into a complete recovery until we clear out all the distressed property. If homeowners start walking away in large numbers this will take even longer. Obviously this will effect property values for a longer period of time.

More importantly, we need to find alternative ways to help struggling homeowners. People should not feel it is ok to turn their backs on an obligation to which they have committed. States are doing their part to help, organizations are fighting to get government help. We all need to seek the assistance available and try to find other ways to stay in our homes before resorting to walking away.

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Will Lenders Start Approving Short Sales Faster?

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Amidst all the news of double-dipping in the housing market, falling prices and an increase in lender-owned properties, there is one thing that may be a silver lining in the doom and gloom news these days: lenders will likely start to approve short sales much sooner and more often.

As housing prices drop across the nation lenders have realized that in order to prevent an inundation of foreclosures they will need to stop the delay of short sale acceptances. This I feel is necessary if we are ever going to improve the housing market.

The current state of the market indicates that with the depletion of home values there will be more homeowners finding themselves underwater with their mortgages. If you are planning on staying in your home for a long time this doesn’t mean you should run out and short sale your property. On the contrary, as long as you can pay your mortgage you should stay put. As with any market, things will eventually rebound and you will be happy you didn’t damage your credit and let your lower real estate taxes (in most cases, if you have owned for some time) go by the wayside.

It is also important to look at your hyper-local market when taking into consideration all the gloomy news. For example, here in North San Diego the default rate has been DOWN for the 17th consecutive month. According to ForeclosureRadar this computes to 1.7 per 1000 defaults, a low number compared to other parts of California and the nation.

Foreclosures are also down in North San Diego. ForeclosureRadar states that only 1 of 1000 homes were foreclosed upon in April.

But have lenders truly embraced the short sale option? Some seem to think so, and one economist was quoted as saying exactly this. However, as an agent currently waiting for approval on two short sales I will believe it when I see it. I must say that in general response time is quicker than it used to be, but we still are waiting long periods in most cases (a few months at least).

Another factor that comes into play with getting short sales approved more quickly is the skills of the listing agent or his/her negotiator. This can make a big difference in approval time, so if you are considering selling your home as a short sale, the most important question you need to ask your agent is how she plans to negotiate with the lender(s) once an offer(s) is received.

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Could Elimination of Housing Counseling Programs Hurt YOU?

Monday, April 18th, 2011

In what I personally think is a big mistake, Congress announced that it is eliminating $88 million in funds for housing counseling programs. These are the programs that allow struggling homeowners and others with questions to call in and get counseling advice. It is often the first step in pre-foreclosure, or even in avoiding foreclosure altogether.

One of my favorite counseling hotlines, HopeNow, stated that it is not being shut down, but will be effected by the cuts. I have referred people to HopeNow for years. It is approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the people who work the phone lines actually know what they are talking about. The biggest complaint I have heard is that sometimes one has to hold for help for some time, but the advice is real and they really do go over specific situations and crunch numbers with callers.

Why would the government want to cut these programs? Well, I think that the government is busy trying to come up with ways to prevent foreclosures and help the housing mess by implementing new programs (of course, we have not seen these as of yet, but the most promising seem to be on the way, stemming from the robo-signing lender punishment saga). At the same time they are trying to trim our exorbitant budget, so these goals may conflict.

Many states are creating their own programs to cover the slack the federal programs have left behind after being canceled, but there are only a handful that have such programs in operation already.

So what is a troubled homeowner to do now? Some federal programs have been eliminated, not all states have yet implemented programs to help, and the mandated lender reforms (currently in the works as punishment for the robo-signing scandal) are not yet finalized. People need to know their options.

Basically there are three options, and some of them have multiple sub-options:

1. Stay in your home. To do so you may need to look into a loan modification, change of job, or a complete reevaluation of your finances so that you can eliminate or lower other expenses. You may need to get creative, consider getting a second job, renting a room or putting your young children to work (just a hint of black humor/sarcasm–of course I don’t recommend this).

2. Sell your home. If you cannot make number one work and you need to sell it will either be a traditional sale or a short sale. Either way, make sure to work with a Realtor who is experienced in your area, and if you are doing a short sale make sure that person is experienced in this regard. You also should look into the HAFA program if you are considering a short sale–at least you can get money to help with moving expenses (up to $3000–see previous posts. To find them go to the categories list to the right of my blog and click on short sales).

3. Foreclosure. This is the last resort, or course. But many times there may be no other option if you are in over your head financially, have a job loss, illness, changed circumstances, divorce, etc. Just make sure you speak with your financial planner, attorney or accountant (or all 3, in my opinion) before doing so. You need to understand all options so you can make the right choice.

As we continue to see cuts to vital programs options may dwindle, at least for a while. I have discussed multiple times how I feel states will start to jump in to help residents with their own programs, much like California has done with Keep Your Home California. If you do not yet have a program in your state I would still advise contacting HopeNow or La Raza. Your lender may have counselors available to help you as well. But do not wait until it is too late. If you are not yet delinquent on your payments you need to start researching now. Best of luck.

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Judges May Assist With Foreclosure Prevention

Friday, April 1st, 2011

In the latest attempt to speed up the foreclosure process, judges may soon become intimately involved with homeowners and lenders. Yesterday the Senate Judiciary committee approved the Limiting Investor and Homeowner Loss in Foreclosure bill, which will give judges authority to meet with homeowners and their lenders in foreclosure mediation proceedings. The bill will now go before the full Senate.

This act, while not as broad as past proposals to allow judges to modify mortgages, will basically give judges the authority to open lines of communication between lenders and distressed property owners. The goal is to help the homeowner avoid foreclosure and get the ball rolling on possible options.

The state of Rhode Island already has a similar program that has been successful. While this bill will not prevent foreclosures it may be a positive step in helping many homeowners, as many know too well that just starting a conversation with someone in the loss mitigation department can be beyond difficult.

Requiring lenders and homeowners to meet face to face adds a human element and prevents the homeowners from being seen as mere pieces of paper in a file on top of a crowded desk.

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Lenders Need to “Take it Like a Man” So We Can Move On

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Mortgage servicers and House Republicans are complaining about proposed punishments for the robo-signing scandal. Surely the servicers didn’t expect a slap on the wrist for the role in initiating foreclosures illegally? Is it not enough that they are the only ones making money on foreclosures, that people are suffering all across this nation because they will not grant loan modifications or bless short sales? Have we not had enough already? I say take your punishment and let us all move on.

The proposed punishments are mostly twofold: First, the servicers will be required to pay fines. The lenders claim that this is a form of bullying and that the federal government should not be able to tell them how to choose which borrowers will qualify for loan modification programs–doing so will increase the rate of defaults in the future. Plus, they say, it is not fair to those homeowners seeking loan modifications who HAVE kept up with mortgage payments despite the hardship.

Republicans say forcing these payments–which could include writing down up to $20 billion in loan balances for borrowers who owe more on their homes than they are worth–is basically rewarding parties who have not been harmed by the robo-signing scandal, therefore they make no sense. Proponents say this is the least servicers can do to help jump-start the housing problems, which they were primarily responsible for in the first place.

Second, the punishment will require lenders to reduce principal balances on defaulted loans and in bankruptcy cases. The banks claim this is unfair because they need to carefully screen each case to reduce the risk of re-defaults down the road. They say that a program that is too generous may encourage home owners to walk away from their homes.

Many Republicans agree that forcing these procedures is like micromanaging the industry and will have a detrimental effect on the financial system. Proponents say that the banks, although most DO have programs in place to evaluate distressed home owners for loan modifications, are just too strict in granting them and take too long to decide whether or not to do so. This perpetuates the vicious cycle in the housing industry and prevents recovery.

This lender mess is so big that most people cannot even grasp the implications. Those effected–from the home owner to the economy to other economies–have been hit hard and will continue to suffer unless these lenders stand up and do things to improve this terrible situation. We need change and we need it NOW. We need regulation and accountability, we need choices for struggling home owners. This can’t be done without the help of the lenders.

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