Archive for the ‘Help for homeowners’ Category

Do You Really Know What Your Home is Worth?

Monday, March 18th, 2013

If you are thinking of selling, refinancing, or just want to get an idea of what your home is worth, you have many options. Most people these days like to do things themselves, since there is so much information available at our fingertips online. There are also some great real estate sites and many local brokerage sites, so there are multiple ways to access the information. But you need to be careful, as what you get on some of those sites may be inaccurate, especially in today’s market.

Sites like Zillow and Trulia provide easy access to recent sales, and even provide estimates for the value of your home. Some things they may not take into consideration are:

1. The condition of your home and comparable sold properties

2. Upgrades

3. Additions – sometimes these take a long time to show up in the public records, which could alter the valuation of your home

4. Very recent sales (closed in the last few days)

5. Pending sales that are about to close escrow (as they will have an affect on your sales price should you decide to sell)

6. Whether or not your property is distressed or other recent sales were distressed

7. Inside knowledge about other homes that may have just gone into escrow or appraised

8. Other factors. There may be other factors that can affect your sales price, such as information displayed in the confidential remarks on sold properties (that only licensed agents can see) that provide details – for example, commissions may have been reduced, sellers may have reduced the sales price due to expensive necessary repairs, or other factors could have affected the sales price. Also, there may be information about construction in the surrounding area that can affect sales prices in the future (freeway extensions, plans for new shopping centers, Or there could be issues with the condition of the home that sold.

All of these details are important in analyzing your home and making sure you get the correct information. Thus it is very important that you consult a local area real estate broker or agent to provide you with a specific and detailed market analysis.

There are many things we can do ourselves these days online, but if you are considering selling make sure you get the right information so that you can make an informed decision. Real estate agents are there to help you, and I do not know of any who charge for a detailed market analysis. So find a skilled agent to assist you, and make sure you have all the pertinent information before making any major decisions.

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Free Homeowner Short Sale Seminar Wednesday in Carlsbad

Monday, March 12th, 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 next one is this Wednesday, March 14, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Carlsbad Dove Library.

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, 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. Come learn, ask questions and get informed. You can sign up here:  http://shortsaleopedia.com/events/event-san-diego-shortsaleopedia-seminar/ The Carlsbad Dove (main) library is located at 1775 Dove Lane, Carlsbad, just off El Camino Real North of Aviara Parkway.  If you are investigating options for distressed property, this event will be valuable.

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Rent Your Home and Avoid Foreclosure: Too Good to be True?

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?

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Real Estate News REcap

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.

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Can Underwater Homeowners Refinance?

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

One of the biggest problems with the state of housing ownership is that one in four homeowners in the U.S. are underwater, meaning that they owe more on their mortgage than the current market value of their homes. In many situations this leads to foreclosure or other options like short sales or deeds in lieu of foreclosure. But what about the homeowners who are not delinquent, have been making their payments, maintaining their credit and doing the right thing, despite the drastic drop in value of their homes? Help is on the way…

The new HARP2 (Home Affordable Refinance Program, version 2) debuts March 15. This new revised version of the program hints at helping those who could not qualify under the original program because they were not delinquent. Here are the differences:

Proposed program: The new HARP guidelines, which will be released next month and have been extended until December 31, 2013, will enable underwater homeowners who are not delinquent to refinance their homes. This program will allow refinances, like HARP,  for underwater homeowner regardless of whether your loan is with Fannie or Freddie. Here are the requirements:

1. Loans must be current, with a good 12 month payment history – no late payments in the last 6 months and only one is allowed in the last 12 months

2. Loan to value limits will be eliminated, so homeowners will be able to refinance regardless of how far the values of their homes have dropped (under the current HARP, the loan to value limit was set at 125%, so many homeowners did not qualify).

3.  No appraisals or underwriting will be required, making the refinancing process easier. There will likely be a home inspection, just to make sure the home is in decent condition, but not a formal appraisal.

4.  The loan must be backed by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. To find out if your loan qualifies, you can visit http://www.fanniemae.com/loanlookup/ and http://www.freddiemac.com/corporate/.

There has been some talk of a similar program to HARP that will help those who do not have loans backed by Fannie or Freddie. Hopefully in the future we will see such a program.

The new HARP will undoubtedly help many people stuck in that gray area – where they are not delinquent but feel trapped under a mortgage that exceeds current value and an interest rate that is much higher than current rates. Contact your mortgage broker to discuss whether you can qualify for the new HARP. For more information on HARP, go to http://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov or call (888) 995-HOPE (the number for HopeNow, a government-sponsored counseling organization that is a wonderful resource).

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Free San Diego Homeowner Short Sale Seminar

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.

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Get Paid to Short Sale Your Home

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.

 

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Will Homeowners Really Be Helped by New HARP Changes?

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?

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Banks May Pay You to Short Sell Your Home

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Cash for keys programs – where the banks pay money to the homeowners if they walk away from their homes and leave them in good condition – have been common in the foreclosure arena for some time. Now the banks want to apply this principle to the short sale industry. I have been hearing tidbits about this for about a month now, but a weekend article in the San Diego Union Tribune confirms that this is now official.

Major lenders, like Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and others, have apparently begun offering cash to distressed borrowers in order to get them to agree to short sale their homes – up to $35,000 in some cases. Before you get all excited and pick up the phone to call your lender, you need to be aware of how this process works. As with any bank program, the bank controls the process, and you cannot simply call and opt into the program. Apparently the bank reviews distressed situations and contacts the homeowner. The money is paid at the close of escrow of the short sale.

How this system makes sense at all to the banks, who choose the lucky homeowners, is baffling. I find it hard to believe, as I am in the middle of a battle right now with one of these big lenders, just to get them to accept a buyer’s offer on my short sale listing that is perfectly in line with the comparables. But of course, some bank decisions remain and will always remain a big mystery.

My hope is that these lenders are finally realizing that it is up to them to fix the housing crisis, and that they need to get rid of all their distressed inventory to do so. Maybe some angel descended down and landed on the shoulders of the bank CEOs. Ah, but I know better: with the banks, it is all about how much they can make. They must be finally realizing that foreclosure costs them too much money, so giving away a few thousand dollars and blessing more short sales will save them in the long run. Banks don’t do anything because they care about people.

It will be interesting to watch this one, to see how many people actually get “chosen” to be involved with these programs. If you are one, please let me know. I will protect your privacy, but would love to know how the process goes, and whether it is as smooth as the banks say it will be. The proof will be in the pudding, so I am looking forward to seeing how many homeowners are truly helped by this latest lender brainstorm, and truly hope it helps.

 

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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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