Posts Tagged ‘Foreclosure’

Mortgage Payments Too High? Here is What You Need to Do

Friday, September 8th, 2017

Believe it or not, there are MANY homeowners who are underwater, still, years after the mortgage meltdown. According to Core Logic, 6.1% – 3.1 millions homes – of all mortgaged CA homes have negative equity, as of the first quarter of 2017. Short sales are also increasing recently as many variable mortgages that were obtained back in the heyday before the crash recently reset.

If you are underwater, delinquent with your mortgage payments, or about to be, or if you are making payment on a loan(s) that reset and the increased payments or rates are a struggle, you need to be proactive, and act sooner rather than later.

Here are some options to help you start thinking and researching:

1. Call your lender(s). If you are late on payments or are about to be, you need to call your lender asap. They can help you figure out a plan. They likely will start with the possibility of a loan modification, where your payments can be reduced if you qualify.

Note here that depending on how much your payments are and how deeply underwater you may be, a loan modification may not make sense, but it is still important to go through the motions as a first step to try options.

2. Refinance. This is great in theory but if you are underwater and there is no equity in your home it is not possible. If there is at least 10% equity in your home then definitely find a good mortgage professional (call me if you need a referral) and go this route.

3. Sell the house if you have enough equity. This will allow you to move on and make a smart purchase that fits into your budget, or rent. Of course if you are underwater chances are you do not have equity in your home so this would not be an option for you. But if you can sell your home and make a little money to pay down some debt and get into a rental or inexpensive replacement property, it is best to do that sooner rather than later.

4. Short sale. This is a great option if you are underwater and the loan modification does not work or provide enough financial relief. It will effect your credit but not as badly as a foreclosure. Make sure you speak with a real estate agent who is familiar with short sales and knows how to negotiate with the bank(s), and that you really understand the process and consequences – click here for more information on short sales. There is a timeline for short sales that can help you figure out how long it might take before you would have to move out – click here to access the timeline for California.

4. Other options. If a short sale is not right for you for whatever reason, there may be other options (such as a deed in lieu of foreclosure and possible lender or government programs – there are also specific programs for military members and possibly others so you need to do thorough research) that could work depending on your circumstances. Again, it is important to find an expert who can provide appropriate counsel that will allow you to make informed decisions.

4. Foreclosure. This is a final option if you have exhausted others and there is no relief in sight for getting out of your mortgage obligations. Make sure that before you go down this road you have investigated other options that may apply to you. Foreclosures can seriously affect your credit scores for years.

6. Credit counseling. If your debt issues extend to other areas or credit, such as high credit card balances or trouble paying bills, you should seek counseling to help you get back on track so you can pay down your debt and move on. Don’t focus on the trouble you have, but on improving it so you can be sure not to make the same mistakes again down the road. There are some amazing credit counseling programs and helpers out there – I know of a wonderful attorney who handles this so let me know if you need the referral.

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The bottom line is that if you are in trouble with your mortgage and other debt, do not wait until it is too late. The door for other options could close on you, forcing you to foreclose on your home. If you act early you can usually come to a better solution that will allow you to move on without taking such a hard hit to your credit score.

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Get Ready for A California Foreclosure Wave

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

There is a big wave coming to Southern California and it will not be found in the ocean. Foreclosures have hit their highest level in two years and should begin to affect real estate inventory soon, at least for a short period of time.dreamstime_5042227

According to new data released this month by RealtyTrac, one of the largest real estate data firms, the number of homes repossessed by banks in California in December reached the highest levels since December 2012 – nearly triple.

California’s Homeowner Bill of Rights, which is about a year old, has prolonged the foreclosure process for banks, who must now abide by the many protections provided homeowners under the bill, and now that the banks have had time to adjust to the new rules they are going after repossessions.

Notices of default, the first indication that a home is about to enter the foreclosure process, are currently at the same level they have been for the last six months, but will soon rise if all indications are correct.

Real estate agents and homebuyers will soon start to see more foreclosures and short sales popping up, just in time for the Spring selling season. But keep in mind that these sales are not the bargains they once were – even though banks want these properties off their books, they want to sell the homes for value as well. (click here for more information on the changing value of short sales).

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There is NO Such Thing as Shadow Inventory

Friday, February 1st, 2013

You have heard the term “shadow inventory.” It was initially coined to refer to the housing inventory that lenders owned, post-foreclosure, but had not yet placed on the market for sale. It has been feared for years and is the subject of much speculation – how much are those lenders really holding back? Since the inception of the term years back, it has been used broadly, as has included inventory that has not yet gone into foreclosure but may. The media has blown the term out of proportion, and the average American thinks it is something to really worry about…but it is NOT.

The tides of the real estate market have really turned in the past year. Lenders have created their own programs, along with federal and state programs, that have actually kept the foreclosure numbers down. Lenders are accepting more short sales and moving forward with less foreclosures, precisely because the lenders do not want to sit on inventory that they have to rehabilitate and sell. They are in the business of lending money, not selling homes.

I’ll put it another way: lenders do not want distressed inventory. In fact, Alex Charfen, founder and CEO of the Charfen Institute and regular commentator for MSNBC and Fox News, agrees that shadow inventory does not exist. He points to the actual bank holdings (which he has seen), and bases this assumption on actual communication with those at the highest levels within the lending institutions. He states flat out that “banks are not holding properties off the market.”

The bottom line is that “shadow inventory” is not a concern. In fact, if you want to be afraid of something real estate related, chew on this:

– It is less expensive to purchase a home then to rent. The last time in history that such was the case was in 1973.

– Housing is more affordable than it has ever been…BUT inventory is very low. Statistics say that inventory will take 3-5 years to shift. In that time, it is safe to say that interest rates will likely rise.

Standards of getting a loan, while offering more protection for buyers than ever before, have shifted and it is now harder to qualify for a loan.

Meanwhile, due to the lack of inventory and the greater demand in the housing market, prices continue to rise and competition is fierce – cash investors purchased 30% of homes in 2011 (and that number will likely be higher for 2012).

If you have been considering buying a home, now is the time. I don’t say this because I want to sell more homes, but because it is simply the truth. Many people waited back in 2006/2007 to sell – they saw prices rising like crazy and thought they would wait until they got just a tad higher, so they they could sell and reap bigger profits. Many of those people went into foreclosure or had to short sell their homes after the market plummeted. Don’t get left in the cold.

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Bank of America Issues Notice that May Affect Short Sales

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Bank of America issued a notice recently to agents about the possibility of selling off loans in the middle of a short sale, which could drastically affect your short sale (and even cancel it last minute). It is very important that both homeowners and their agents understand what is happening, before listing a property for short sale.

As is customary, many lenders sell loans, even those that are delinquent – this is nothing new. But the fact that B of A sent out a notice about it is concerning, because of the timing that is mentioned for possible sales. The notice states that while in the midst of a short sale, borrowers’ loans may be sold to other servicers. If that happens, there is no guarantee that the pending short sale will close. Here are the steps by which this may happen (as spelled out in the notice):

•  Bank of America will send the homeowner a letter 15 days before the servicing transfer date.

•  Bank of America may call the agent to advise of the impacts to the short sale.

•  The new servicer will send a letter or statement advising the homeowner where to send payments.

•  If an offer has already been accepted on your short sale, a closing has been set and an approval letter issued, the new servicer will determine if the short sale will continue. (Yikes – a little too much discretion here!).

The scary part is that B of A is giving itself an out – why would a lender approve a short sale, only to then sell the loan while the property is in escrow? This makes not sense whatsoever. B of A states, “Real estate professionals should advise homeowners that, similar to foreclosure, a servicing transfer is a risk that may occur at any time during the short sale process. This is why it is important to move as quickly as possible to facilitate the short sale.” Wow – if I have to tell this to potential short sellers, why would they want to risk a short sale? Why would a buyer want to risk making an offer, with the very real prospect of losing money and not closing? And why would I, as an agent, want to risk spending marketing dollars and time in selling the property? NO ONE WINS!

It seems to me here that B of A is trying to cover it’s behind, but this warning and the described act is contradictory to short sale approvals.

The solution here is this: if you have a B of A loan and are considering a short sale, you need to have your agent or negotiator discuss this with B of A before listing your home. I would ask to get something in writing that B of A will not sell the loan after the short sale has been approved and during the escrow period, up until the deadline that is provided in the approval letter. This applies whether you have a first or second loan with the bank. If B of A is not willing to do this, you can either take a risk or look into other options.

This move is a step in the wrong direction by B of A, and thus they remain on the top of my “lenders who are not cooperative” list. What a shame that this bank – Bank of AMERICA, for goodness sake, is not willing to truly help American homeowners. Maybe they ought to think about a name change.

 

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Will the Short Sale Tax Break Be Extended?

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.

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California Passes Homeowner Bill of Rights

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

It is official – today California passed the controversial Homeowner Bill of Rights. The controversial bill, which actually consists of a series of bills, was created to protect the rights of mortgage borrowers and those caught in the foreclosure process. The law will take effect January 1, 2013, and focuses on the following:

Single point of contact with lenders: The bill will ease borrower access to their lenders by guaranteeing them a single point of contact in their communications throughout the pre-foreclosure process. Oftentimes borrowers (and agents alike) get the runaround and speak with a different person every time they communicate with the lender. One person may provide information, but on the next call a different person may say something opposite. A single point of contact with the lender could be beneficial.

Dual track foreclosures prohibited: Banks will not be allowed to foreclose on a property while the borrower is attempting to seek a loan modification.  Oftentimes, borrowers who have been attempting loan modifications find their home is sold at auction while they are waiting to see if they will qualify. This is due in part to the lack of communication between the different bank departments – the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Many see this as unfair to the homeowner, who is trying to do the right thing to avoid foreclosure.

Homeowner right to sue banks: The bill will allow homeowners to sue their banks under certain circumstances for wrongful foreclosure. This is the most controversial part of the legislation. Many feel it will create frivolous lawsuits, which will lengthen the foreclosure crisis and in turn prevent the housing market from recovering.

Rescue money for blighted neighborhoods: The bill also will provide money to local governments and receivers to fight blight, which resulted from numerous foreclosures and abandoned homes. This is meant to increase property values in these neighborhoods, which in turn will improve local real estate markets.

Protection for renters: The bill will offer protection to renters who live in homes that have been foreclosed upon. Purchasers of these rented homes will be required to honor existing leases, and will be required to give renters 90 days to find a new rental property. Under the current law buyers of tenant-occupied foreclosed homes can refuse to honor leases and even kick out the tenants.

Extension of National Mortgage Settlement provisions: The new bills will extend coverage beyond the 5 lender servicers who were named in the National Mortgage Settlement – if your loan is not covered under the settlement because it is not serviced by one of these 5, the new law will ensure that many of the main provisions of the settlement will apply to your loan.

Despite the controversy, the Homeowner Bill of Rights has noble goals and may actually benefit many borrowers. The lawsuit provision could be disastrous, and it remains to be seen how effective it would be even if used appropriately. All eyes will be on California after January 1 to see how these new laws play out.

 

Photos courtesy of Dreamstime

 

 

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Another Way to Avoid Federal Taxation on Short Sales

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Are you thinking about short selling your home, but worry about possible tax consequences if it does not close by December 31 (the end of homeowner tax relief under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act)? You may be in luck, even if the Act is not extended.

The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act (MFDRA), which prevents the federal government from taxing the difference between the sales price and amount owed on a mortgage in short sale and foreclosure situations, expires on December 31 of this year. Many agents are advising their clients to make decisions quickly if they are planning to short sale their homes, so that there is time enough for marketing and obtaining lender approval before the deadline – and since we are already at the halfway point in the year, time is ticking. But there is another way to protect yourself from the federal taxation even if the act expires and you want to short sale your home.

Little  known to many, the Internal Revenue Code, section 108, provides a “moment of insolvency” document that could save you from taxation should the act not be extended.

Section 108 has an “insolvency” exclusion, which allows you to avoid taxation if you can show you are insolvent. To figure out whether you qualify, you need to take your total liabilities immediately before the discharge of debt, minus the fair market value (this includes exempt assets like retirement accounts and pension plan interest) of your total assets before the discharge. The resulting number will give you the extent to which you are insolvent. This amount cannot be taxed federally.

It is important to note that many people who are short selling or foreclosed upon do not have assets to cover their responsibilities, thus the reason they are in this position. So if the MFDRA is repealed and you didn’t have time to short sale your home before, you may still be in luck. I highly advise you to consult with your CPA or tax professional to see if you are insolvent.

 

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Short Sale and Foreclosure News Brief

Monday, March 19th, 2012

There is a lot going on in the short sale and foreclosure arenas, and much of it may effect buyers, sellers and underwater borrowers. Here is the latest news:

Short Sales: Will They Soon be Shorter? There has been talk about making short sales shorter – not a new topic of course but this time the talk comes down from the Feds. The latest is that they want to make short sales more reliable as far as timing. The guidelines will only apply to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans, and the full plan will be announced September 30.

Here are some of the highlights, according to the California Association of Realtors (CAR):

Second liens: The plan entails better standardized rules between Fannie and Freddie regarding second liens and how they are to be dealt with (of course, there is no elaboration here). There is also a plan to set fixed amounts so that banks will know in advance how much they can expect to collect in a short sale. If there is no guessing and haggling with the first lender and/or the buyers and sellers to come up with an agreeable number, the second lender will be more likely to acquiesce to the short sale.

Mortgage Insurers: The idea here is to prevent mortgage insurers from dragging out short sales. Rules will be introduced that prevent their ability to do so (via timelines), which is one of the causes of breakdowns in short sale negotiations.

Mandatory Timelines: While there has been no information on what these might be or how they will be enforced, this is the crux of the short sale approval problem – if we can establish timelines in which a lender must respond, short sales definitely will become shorter.

Valuation Problems: Another big problem in getting short sales accepted is valuation – there is a push to get lenders to take steps to get better property valuations, and to disclose the lowest price they will accept on a short sale property. I for one feel that lenders should eliminate agent BPOs and rely on local appraisers to come up with these numbers – I have had bad BPOs and bad appraisals almost ruin transactions.

Changes in Settlement Structure for First and Secondary Lien Holders: Second lien holders tend to get the short end of the stick when negotiating short sales, and usually walk away with very little money toward the debt that was owed. First lien holders, on the other hand, have more power in negotiations with the seller and tend to far far better, thus creating problems where subsequent lien holders refuse to settle, which of course can cause short sale approval to take a very long time or not happen at all. A new plan proposes the first and second lien holders share equally in the losses through the short sale settlement.

Banks are Overvaluing Homes, Making Foreclosures Worse: A recent article in the Huffington Post last week stated that banks are not making proper valuations on distressed properties, which in turn makes it less likely homeowners can get loan modifications, sending more properties to foreclosure. Using proper valuation methods to come up with correct numbers could prevent more foreclosures, allow more short sales and auction sales to third parties, and also allow for the possibility of more loan modifications.

Foreclosures are Down from a Year Ago, but on the Rise: Foreclosures are down from the same time last year, but are up from the previous month. Typically foreclosures slow down during the holiday season, and combined with the robo-signing settlement this could be why their numbers went down at the end of the year and into 2012. However, some say the declining numbers show progress in the mortgage industry…hmmm, what do you think? For statistics on specific states and more information on foreclosure numbers you can read this article from DSNews.

 

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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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How Do I Buy a Foreclosure?

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

I have had several clients recently ask how to purchase a foreclosure property, and it is a great question. Oftentimes buyers do not differentiate between the purchase of a foreclosure, a pre-foreclosure, and a post-foreclosure. Let’s take a look at the different ways to purchase property in various stages of foreclosure:

1. Auction (the one true way to “buy a foreclosure”). If you want to buy a foreclosure this is the typical way to do so. Auctions are definitely tricky and you need to understand the process and what you may be getting into. There are several things you really need to understand before going to auction – for explanation read this article. I usually do not recommend auctions to my clients, as there are some caveats (oftentimes you cannot inspect the property first, you do not receive any disclosures, you may be bidding against experienced auction-goers, etc.) If you do decide to go to an auction make sure you are well prepared.

2. Short sales (aka pre-foreclosures). A large percentage of foreclosure-related sales are sold via short sales or lender owned listings. Purchasing a short sale can be a good way to get a better price on a home, but the buyer has to have no aversion to waiting to close escrow – sometimes as long as 3-6 months. The good thing about a short sale is that you will get to inspect the property, and usually you will be provided with disclosures from the owner. For more information on short sales and how they work, you can visit the short sale information tab on my website. I have also written numerous blogs about short sales.

3. Lender-owned/REO (aka post-foreclosures). REO (real estate owned) properties are those that are owned by the lenders who hold the note. They have already gone through the foreclosure process and are now active in the market. Most often, these properties are priced below comparable sold homes, and often the price is reduced every so often if the property has not sold. Post foreclosure properties can also be owned by “flippers,” who purchased the property at auction, did some work, and are reselling it for profit.

The good news then is that many of these homes can be purchased at a savings. The not so good news is that buyers will not likely receive disclosures, as the bank obviously never lived in the property. However, the purchase process is like that of a normal sale – buyers are able to view the property, obtain inspections and reports, and exercise due diligence to their satisfaction with the property condition.

What about all those foreclosure websites? Foreclosure websites can be helpful, but honestly if you have an experienced agent s/he can do the research for you, saving you money in subscriptions. If you are focusing on a particular neighborhood, your agent can research the neighborhood via the public records, and find out who is delinquent, and which properties have notices of default or auction dates filed. If the property is not yet listed as a short sale your agent can see if the owner is open to doing so, allowing you to write an offer and have it presented to the bank. You can also find out auction dates (which often get postponed – the new dates do not necessarily list on the public records, but your agent can do further research). If you are a skilled auction attendee and purchase a lot of foreclosed properties this way, subscribing to one of these sites is a good idea.

There is no magic bullet that will get you a screaming deal on any of these properties. But if you do your homework you can likely acquire nice home at a savings. If you are not afraid of the challenge these can all be great ways to buy your next home. Make sure you have an experienced agent to help you if you are buying a short sale or REO property. If you have any questions about foreclosure please do not hesitate to post them in the comment section below, or email me at Rachel@LaMarRealEstate.org.

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