Archive for the ‘Short Sales’ Category

Real Estate Market Snapshot

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The San Francisco metro area has once again put up the largest annual home price gain in the U.S., according to the most recent numbers from a prominent real estate index.

Gold coins

The latest S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, which run two months behind, say that single-family home prices in the San Francisco area increased by 9.3 percent in December, the most of any of the 20 major U.S. metro areas included in the report. San Francisco returned to the top of the Case-Shiller index for the first time in 18 months in November, when prices rose by 8.9 percent year over year.

As was the case in the two preceding months, home prices in San Francisco grew at about double the national rate in December. Case-Shiller’s numbers put the U.S. annual rate of home price appreciation at 4.6 percent in the final month of 2014.

Although existing home price growth and sales across the country are at their normal levels, David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said that he believes the housing recovery is “faltering,” a by-product of sluggish construction and new-home-sales activity.

“Before the current business cycle, any time housing starts were at their current level of about one million at annual rates, the economy was in a recession,” Blitzer said. “The softness in housing is despite favorable conditions elsewhere in the economy: strong job growth, a declining unemployment rate, continued low interest rates, and positive consumer confidence.”

According to MLS data, the median single-family home price increased year over year in every one of Pacific Union’s Bay Area regions except the Mid-Peninsula subregion, which saw a slight decline. Home prices topped the $1 million mark in our Contra Costa County, Marin County, Mid-Peninsula, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley regions as 2014 came to a close.

The chart below provides more information on annual Bay Area home price changes. Also, be sure to check out Pacific Union’s fourth-quarter 2014 real estate report for more in-depth sales data and information on how we define our regions.

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(Image: Flickr/Bhautikjoshi)

Source: Pacific Union

What, You’re Missing Documents? Then No Short Sale For You!

REQUIRED READINGThe short sale is undoubtedly preferable to a foreclosure, and properly executing one can be tricky. But a large number of short sales fail, by some estimates up to 60%, and those failed short sales ultimately end up in foreclosure.

There are a variety of reasons why short sales don’t go through, but the existence of a junior lien is often a stumbling block. RealtyTrac reported in July 2012 that nearly 40% of loans entering foreclosure have at least one junior lien attached. The existence of junior liens on these loans certainly does not preclude a short sale, but it does make the transaction more complicated. For starters, the holders of liens, such as second mortgages or home equity lines of credit, need to approve a short sale for the transaction to go through – and that can be a challenge.

Junior lien holders are generally the ones absorbing the loss in a short sale because they recover whatever money remains after all the associated costs are paid. All too frequently, the amount remaining isn’t satisfactory to the junior lien holder. And sometimes, there’s nothing left for junior lien holders at all, so it’s easy to see why they might be reluctant to agree to a short sale.

Even the Federal Housing Finance Agency sees second liens as a stumbling block to short sales. In late August, the regulator announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are issuing new guidelines to mortgage servicers that will align and consolidate existing short sales programs into one standard short sale program. The guidelines, which went into effect Nov. 1, 2012, stipulate that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will offer up to $6,000 to second lien holders to expedite a short sale.

Factor in the more complicated documentation process when there’s more than one lender, and it becomes clear that these transactions – and ensuring that all of the necessary documentation is in place – can become very difficult.

Improper or missing documentation can stall a short sale substantially, particularly when there is more than one lien holder. Whether a lender chooses to perform the function in-house or to outsource it, assembling all the necessary documents and providing for timely and properly conducted lien releases are critical to the success of short sales. Unfortunately, there are a number of ways that improper or missing documents, as well as poorly executed lien releases, can stop a short sale in its tracks.

At the beginning of the process, the seller’s mortgage lender needs to thoroughly review a seller’s short sale request. Collecting and assembling the required documentation can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. It may be difficult to obtain the required paperwork from the seller, who could be uncooperative or otherwise delay submitting the required documents.

Preparing the paperwork and getting the deal accepted by the mortgage lender can also be a lengthy and difficult undertaking. The challenge becomes even greater if there’s more than one lender involved.

A clear title is needed: verification is required that the mortgage is properly recorded with the first lienholder, and that the title policy is accurate. In cases where there are one or more additional lien holders, clearing the property title requires more time and effort.

If the loan was sold to an investor, the investor will have to approve the short sale, and investors have their own set of requirements before they’ll grant approval. When there are mistakes or missing documents, the loan file needs to be returned to the lender, and the process takes place again.

A current owner search needs to be performed to show how any and all liens are recorded to confirm all current lien holders are of record. There are times when an assignment may be missing. When a loan has been sold several times, there is a good probability that at least one of the lien holders isn’t properly recorded. In those cases, an interim assignment or assignments of records is necessary.

Avoiding litigation 

When a short sale is completed, a lien release needs to be performed promptly in order to avoid future problems, including the potential for litigation. Each state has a different timeline for how quickly lien releases need to take place, ranging from 30 to 90 days. Delaying or not properly performing and documenting a lien release will leave the lien holders vulnerable to being sued for an open balance. The potential for this sort of litigation is considerably higher in the case of short sales with subordinate liens.

The proper paperwork needs to be returned to the borrower, depending on whether or not the lender is seeking a deficiency balance. A lender or servicer can either accept the amount recovered in a short sale, or go after the borrower for a deficiency balance.

When a servicer opts to seek a deficiency balance, the note is not returned to the borrower. If the short sale is accepted as paid in full, then the mortgage note and recorded release are sent to the borrower.

With delinquency rates at high levels, there are more chances for mistakes to happen in documentation. Improper documents need to be repaired, and missing documents need to be located. In addition to cost and time, servicers also need to keep in mind that new mandates by regulators, investors and the secondary market agencies are continually changing, particularly for loans that are in a pre-foreclosure status.

When it comes to documentation, tracking of ownership, and lien releases, getting it right the first time will clearly save servicers time, money and headaches. Determining whether those services should be performed in-house or outsourced to a document services vendor will depend on the size and the resources of the servicer.

Ownership tracking, recording of assignments and lien releases are a complicated business, made even more so by the continually changing guidelines. Even one misstep can jeopardize ownership security and ultimately halt a short sale or foreclosure.

A successful short sale is good news for all involved, but missing or improper documents can stall the short sale process or, in some cases, halt it altogether. The bottom line message is clear: Make sure that you have all of your docs in a row!

Source: Mike Wileman,  President and CEO of Orion Financial Group.
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What is a short sale? Five things you need to know.

What is a short sale? Five things you need to know.

Is a foreclosure staring you in the face? For many Americans faced with foreclosure and, possibly, bankruptcy, a better option is often a short sale. Short sales, which are up 10 percent from the same period last year, according to RealtyTrac, are becoming an increasingly popular way to deal with homes and homeowners burdened with too much debt. However, many homeowners still aren’t clear what a short sale is and whether it is the best solution for them. Here are five things you need to know about short sales: 

A brand-new $1.1 million, 5,200 square foot home in Davie, Fla., is offered for short sale in this 2010 file photo. Often, lenders will agree to take a loss on a short sale because they would lose even more in a foreclosure. (J Pat Carter/AP/File)

1. What is a short sale?

Very simply, a short sale is when a lender agrees to take less than what he’s owed and allows homeowners to sell their property because they are facing financial hardship. Typically, the homeowner’s mortgage is worth more than his home and he’s having trouble making payments. So the homeowner sells the home and the bank marks down the value of the mortgage to the sales price, leaving the homeowner free and clear.

Lenders agree to do this because it makes financial sense for them. According to recent statistics, homes offered as short sales are bought for roughly 20 percent below their market value as opposed to 39 percent under market value for foreclosed homes. Lenders also save on costly foreclosure and maintenance procedures. Thus, the short sale is typically a better option for the lender as well as the seller.

2. How do short sales compare to foreclosures?

A foreclosure can be extremely damaging to an individual’s credit report and it can have long-term effects on anyone seeking credit. So, for several years after foreclosure, former homeowners can find themselves denied credit – or paying much higher rates to finance a car and other large items. A borrower would also have to answer yes on an employment application if she ever had a foreclosure. She could be denied employment.

And forget about taking out a mortgage to buy a home. In most cases, a lender won’t even consider you until five to seven years have passed, although lending guidelines are changing every day. A negative credit report can even make it more difficult to rent an apartment.

Short sales, by contrast, do far less damage to your credit report. Also, if a borrower has a home equity line of credit attached to their property, the rights to collect on that do not cease to exist.  They will remain open and sought. If borrowers reside in a recourse state (most Americans do), the lender also has a legal right to seek recourse against them. Foreclosure will sink a credit rating nearly as much as bankruptcy does.

3. How do short sales compare to bankruptcy?

When faced with foreclosure, some individuals turn to bankruptcy instead. In some cases, filing for bankruptcy can be less damaging to your credit profile than having a foreclosure on your record. Filing for bankruptcy will consolidate your debt and can wipe out your liabilities. But it will not prevent an eventual foreclosure if the bank has already started the process. A bankruptcy only delays a foreclosure. The property will eventually foreclose, which will also affect neighboring values by up to 28 percent.

However, if your home is the only debt that is creating your financial hardship, a short sale is probably your best alternative to bankruptcy. That’s because a short sale will be reported as a “settled debt” versus having to go the route of bankruptcy or foreclosure, which is far less damaging on one’s credit report. Although you can conduct a short sale while in bankruptcy, it requires strategy and a plan. It is best to consult with a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney and short sale real estate agent before making any decisions.

4. Are you qualified for a short sale?

One reason homeowners resist short sales is because they don’t understand if they qualify for the process. Though each short sale is unique, homeowners generally must show legitimate hardship. Common reasons include: death, divorce, loss of job, relocation, etc. Anytime a property is inevitably headed towards foreclosure, a borrower qualifies for a short sale.

Short sales are a way to mitigate the lender’s loss. They’re not a consumer bailout. Nevertheless, the consumer participating in a short sale will more than likely be able to walk away from all his debt and start over.

If you should happen to find yourself underwater, owing more on your home than the home is worth, find a proper real estate agent who is knowledgeable about short sales and has a proven track record. They are different than the average transaction, and it is important that you do your own research.

5. Consider all the benefits

One of the major benefits of a short sale is that it ends the financial and emotional nightmare quickly. After the homeowner accepts a contract, it usually takes no more than 120 days (and often much less time) for the sale to close. Losing one’s home is a painful process, but a short sale can help families reduce their frustration and their time in financial limbo. It can also help maintain their credit and allow them to move forward with their lives. As long as the housing crisis continues, short sales will continue to grow in popularity. Homeowners need to become educated and empowered to undertake the process.

Source: Mike Cuevas, a national short sale Realtor trainer and a partner of Exit Realty, a residential real estate firm in Chicago that also specializes in Short Sale nationally.

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“Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

In 1981, English punk rock band The Clash wrote “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” about the rocky personal relationships between members of the band when facing the dilemma of sticking together or breaking up. The lyrics could not be more appropriate for homeowners buried in a mountain of negative equity and wondering what to do. After all “if I go there will be trouble and if I stay it would be double.”

The first step in answering this question is to find out if you qualify for a modification or if you can refinance using the HARP program to take advantage of today’s low interest rates. The process of getting a modification can be very frustrating.  It’s “always tease, tease, tease, you’re happy when I am on my knees.” It not only takes a while to get approved, you must keep in mind that the lender does not have a legal obligation to offer or approve a loan modification. It is important to note that they may dual track your file, which means that while they are considering the modification they are moving forward with the foreclosure. Sometimes they “set you free” and foreclose in the middle of your modification application.

Let’s say you get a modification. I have a Client who was approved for what at first appeared to me to be an unbelievable loan modification. The modification did not lower the principle but did lower the interest rate to just 2 percent and locked that in for 30 years! This reduced their payment to the same amount that they would pay to rent a similar property. As such, it certainly seemed reasonable to stay – they get to keep their credit intact and remain owners, while paying no more than they would in rent anyway. Plus the payment remains fixed for 30 years, while rents would increase. But that analysis is incomplete. The question that remains is their status when they might want or need to sell, and when do they break even given the substantial negative equity that would remain?

Life events like divorce, death, job loss, job transfer, and others happen. Also sometimes folks just want to relocate. Based on our analysis, and assuming long-term home price appreciation rates, these folks would need to stay until 2026 to simply BREAK EVEN vs. paying rent. Worse, unless they use the rent savings to pay down principal, they’ll be stuck upside down in the property, and unable to sell without bank approval of a short sale until 2033. So whether or not it is a good deal for them depends a lot on how long they plan to stay.

For most of my Clients, the best financial decision appears to be to try to short sell their current home, or if necessary let the bank foreclose. If they then rent for 2 to 3 years they should be able to qualify again to buy. Assuming interest rates don’t skyrocket, or some other major change doesn’t occur, this will save them over $100,000, and give them the flexibility to move if needed without being stuck in their current prison of debt until 2033.

Unfortunately, few homeowners facing this decision have the financial skills to really analyze the various scenarios, and few will consult a qualified accountant or other professional to do it for them.

This analysis is different for every homeowner facing this question. How far under water they are, and the terms of the loan modification are clearly important. It also requires some assumptions about price appreciation, rent inflation, and future interest rates. And importantly, it requires some serious thought as to how long they plan to stay, and perhaps some soul searching on the moral implications of walking away.

Bottom line, this question can be answered only by the homeowner based on their current situation and what is best for them. Would you stay or would you go now?

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A Wachovia Short Sale is the New Real Estate Heaven

Wachovia Short Sales Are Far More Superior than Any Other Short Sales

As a Real Estate Broker in the trenches who hears and experiences a lot of short sales horror stories each and everyday, when we closed our first Wachovia short sale, we thought we all had died and gone to Real Estate Heaven. When the manager of the short sale department for Wachovia first came to my office to talk to me about Wachovia’s short sale program. It was hard for me to believe his pitch because it sounded way too good to be true.

The truth is Wachovia takes the pain out of short sales for everyone involved in the transaction. Wacovia is a portfolio lender, meaning it made its own loans and is responsible for deciding whether to approve a short sale. Other banks such as Bank of America, CitiMortgage, Chase or Wells Fargo generally have to submit the file to their investors for approval. Depending on the guidelines those investors follow, the process can be complex, lengthy and or produce ridiculous demands that cause short sales to be rejected. Not so with Wachovia!

How Banks Other than Wachovia Handle Short Sales

First, to truly appreciate a Wachovia short sale, it helps to look at the short sale process adopted by most major banks. Once you realize what hell those banks put a seller and buyer through, you’ll understand why Wachovia is special.

Here are some of the problems with other short sale banks:

  • The worst problem is it takes too long. Buyers get tired of waiting for short sale approval and cancel their purchase because banks can’t process their short sales fast enough. It can take a minimum of 6 weeks to 6 months or longer to get short sale approval.
  • Banks require a ton of paperwork from the sellers. They generally want their last 2 years of tax returns, W2s, payroll stubs, completed financial statement, bank statements, hardship letter, in addition to a slew of documentation from the listing agent.
  • Some banks demand seller contributions, even on California purchase-money loans. Purchase money loans in California are typically exempt from a deficiency judgment in the event of a foreclosure, but to grant a short sale, the banks may demand money from the seller.
  • Often, when there are two short sale loans, the two banks fight over how much the second bank will receive. Some second lenders try to push sellers to commit short sale mortgage fraud. It’s a nasty situation all the way around!
  • By the time the short sale finally closes, the sellers often feel broken down, beat up and battered. They wonder why they even tried to do the right thing by choosing a short sale over a foreclosure. And even after closing, sometimes the bank’s departments are so confused that the short sale department forgets to notify the foreclosure department that the transaction has closed, and the bank files foreclosure anyway.

How Wachovia Handles a Short Sale

With Wachovia, it’s like opening the door at the train station in Venice and discovering the Grand Canal is at your feet, looking just like a picture postcard. Like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, leaving her black-and-white world and entering the colorful Land of Oz. It’s like eating chocolate for breakfast.

Before rendering an opinion on the short sale, Wachovia asks for basically 3 things:

  • The buyer’s and seller’s signed purchase offer.
  • The buyer’s preapproval letter and proof of funds.
  • The seller’s listing agreement.

A representative from Wachovia will either call or visit the seller at home to discuss the seller’s financial situation and appraise the home. If there are two short sale lenders, Wachovia knows how much the second lender is likely to accept and offers that sum to the lender. A HUD statement is then delivered to Wachovia by the Title Company, and a decision is rendered, generally within a few weeks.

In certain situations, Wachovia will offer the seller a cash bonus to assist with moving expenses. All short sale banks should approve short sales like Wachovia and when they do the entire Real Estate Community will all feel like they have all died and gone to Real Estate Heaven! 🙂

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Top 10 Deal Breakers & How To Avoid Them

Your have found the home of your dreams, started packing all your things and have mentally moved in when suddenly a challenge arises that could put a serious wrench in the home buying process. In today’s market, finding the home is only the start of a transaction that can have many stumbling blocks along the way.

Here are the top 10 deal breakers buyers and sellers encounter that can impact the sale of a home:

1. Fixtures and Personal Property Pitfalls

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen deals fall apart because of disagreements over silly stuff like who gets the fireplace screen, the wall sconces or the appliances. For some buyers and sellers it can be difficult to distinguish between personal property and fixtures that come with the house. I once had a seller try to take a dish washer, like the buyer wouldn’t notice?

How to avoid it- Disputes over fixtures and personal property are common. It is important to educate yourself about the difference between attached appliances and personal property but there are times when the lines get blurred. Wall mounted flat screen TVs are frequently an issue. If something is really special to a homeowner, my recommendation to the sellers is to remove the item before you put the house on the market. Have a beloved chandelier? Replace it before you start showing the home with an acceptable alternative. If this isn’t possible, exclude it in MLS listing along with frequently confused items like that flat screen TV, and make sure it is excluded at the time the offer is written as well. Buyers should have their Agent investigate and include any items in the offer that are important to them.

2. The dreaded ex-wife/husband

There may be many reasons to dread an ex, but when it comes to selling a property, it can impact the sale of a home. Over the last 25 years I often see situations where the owners got divorced but he/she didn’t sign off. Finding this out late in the process can be problematic, especially when one of the parties no longer has a financial interest in selling the home. This scenario along with other clouds on the title can take time to clear. Bank owned properties often come with title issues such as unpaid garbage fines or back HOA dues that can impact your closing.

How to avoid it: Get a preliminary title report as soon as possible and if you are a seller be sure to disclose to your Agent up front if there are any potential claims on the title.

3. Buyers Buying “Stuff”

Your are a first time home buyers and you are moving into your new home. You don’t have a washer and dryer of your own and the local appliance store is offering a smoking deal – get a store credit card, and save 15% on the purchase of your new appliances! Sound like a steal? It might just kill your deal.

Time and again I counsel buyers not to make any major purchases before close of escrow such as a new car or major appliances, and time and again, some appliance store has a great “deal” that kills the deal. Any major purchase can impact your credit, and it can also impact your loan being funded too.

How to avoid it: If you are a buyers wait on appliance purchases, new car purchases, furniture and more until the loan has been funded and the escrow is closed. Put all  those credit cards away until the paperwork is recorded.

4. Failure To Disclose

“But Greg, I didn’t know I had to disclose that the hill behind the house next door came down last spring. It didn’t impact my part of the hill.” I have had to fight with sellers to get them to disclose certain facts about their home, but it is almost always better to over share when it comes to disclosure. Inevitably, a neighbor is going to tell the prospective buyer about the sliding hill, the formerly moldy basement or about the meth lab around the corner.

How to avoid it: When in doubt, disclose, disclose, disclose. Did I forge to mention disclose? Problems always seem much bigger when they are uncovered by a buyer after they are in contract.

5. Appraisal Nightmares

We went through a period of time when appraisals always magically came in at the offer price. For the most part, those good old times are gone. Appraisals are common deal breakers, and in many transactions, you don’t just have one. Review appraisals of the first appraisal are commonplace these days.

How to avoid it: Make sure the lender has a qualified appraiser. When possible, have your Agent accompany the appraiser on the inspection. Be prepared in advance that the purchase price may have to be renegotiated or a higher down payment may need to be brought in if the appraisal comes in low.

6. Who Owns What?

You as a buyer think you are getting a 10,000 square foot lot, only to find out that the fence is built on the next door neighbor’s property. Or the seller think they own the driveway, but it is really an easement on property owned by the cranky old neighbor next door. Lot lines, shared driveways, and fences are common stumbling blocks in a transaction.

How to avoid it: Review the preliminary title report with your Agent carefully. Legal descriptions aren’t always easy to read, but take the time and effort to do so carefully. Have a title officer walk you through the title report to explain anything unusual. If needed you should go to the city/county authorities to review the items on file. If you are concerned about the lot boundaries, hire a Civil Engineer or a Surveyor to perform a survey. While surveys can be costly, not knowing the actual boundaries can be costlier. If you are only concerned about one side of the property have the Surveyor perform a partial survey for just the side in question.

7. No permits

In many areas, unpermitted additions or remodels have become serious deal killers. Many cities and towns have implemented pre-sale inspections to fill their dwindling coffers.

How to avoid it: If city/town inspections are required, get them in advance, correct any required issues, and get your clearance. Some municipalities don’t operate on the swiftest timeline, so start as early as you can.

8. Unexpected inspection findings

I have worked with an inspector that other agents called the deal killer and honestly, he was. But he was also a lawsuit saver. When you are paying hundreds of thousands if not multiple millions of dollars for a house, you should know what you are buying. I call inspection periods the second negotiation phase of the deal. Inspections are common deal breakers when agreement cannot be reached over repairs. I remember I once almost lost a deal when the home inspection uncovered numerous foundation cracks in the crawl space. Amazingly enough, I was able to hold it together, the price was renegotiated and we were able to close the deal.

How to avoid it: If you are a seller get inspections before the property is actively on the market. Buyers will probably still get their own, but at least you can resolve serious problems that may send a buyer running in advance. Repairs almost always cost a seller less if the buyer knows about it before they write their offer.

9. The lender changed the rules

This may be hard to imagine, but sometimes you are ready to rock and roll, you got your loan pre-approved, not just pre-qualified, you are in contract and everything looks great until- poof- the lender changes the rules. Suddenly you can’t meet the lender documentation requirements. This would have been helpful to know in advance.

How to avoid it: Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to avoid it other than working with a reputable mortgage broker or lender with a solid record of closing transactions. If you are the buyer, I highly recommend that you leave your loan contingency in place until the loan is funded. If market conditions don’t permit this, make sure you are aware of the ramifications if the loan doesn’t fund.

10. The bank doesn’t care

If the property being purchased is a short sale, the bank is pretty much in charge and they simply don’t care about your timeline. I have heard of people celebrating two and three year anniversaries of working on a short sale. Although most banks have made tremendous efforts to improve and streamline the short sale process when it comes to short sale timelines, anything goes, or better yet- who knows?!

How to avoid it:The best way to save a deal when a bank is involved is to make sure you as the buyer have appropriate expectations about the process. Work with an Agent who has experience with short sale transactions and learn about all the pitfalls of working with a bank. You might also want to read my other blog that I posted 3 weeks ago 5 Most Common Complaints of Short Sale and REO Buyers ( and How To Avoid them ).

One of the best ways to avoid killing a deal- Work with an experienced and reputable agent to help guide you through the process of the entire home buying/selling process to make sure you are properly prepped goes a long way to holding deals together.

Happy Buying and Selling in 2011!

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The 5 Most Common Complaints of Short Sale and REO Buyers (and How to Avoid Them)

Roughly forty percent of the homes for sale on today’s market are short sales and foreclosures! Distressed properties are well known for their value (a reputation which is sometimes accurate, and sometimes not), but they also have a reputation for causing buyers to become distressed, too!
Transactional snafus, last-minute surprises and long, drawn-out escrows that never close seem to be par for the course.

Instead of avoiding these properties altogether, get educated about the most common dramas that go down in these deals, and how you can avoid falling victim.

1.  Run-on (and on, and on) escrows. When you’re buying a home (or selling one, for that matter), time is absolutely of the essence.  And buyers reasonably expect that the big time suck in real estate is in the house hunting process itself; seems like once you find a home you want to buy and the seller agrees to your price and terms, things should move pretty quickly, right?

Not so much, when it comes to some distressed property sales. I’ve heard tell of the occasional, swiftly-moving escrow on an REO (real estate owned – by the bank). But for the most part, these transactions take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks longer than “regular” sales, because of the extra signatures, supervisor-level approvals and even investor involvement required to seal the deal.  Banks don’t have the same sense of urgency individual home sellers do, and it’s not uncommon for the people who need to sign on the dotted line to be on vacation or scattered across the country, adding days’ or weeks’ worth of time to the escrow.

And short sales are also an entirely different animal when it comes to escrow timelines. While a standard sale from an individual seller to an individual buyer might take 45 days from contract to closing, a short sale can take anywhere from 45 days to 6 or 8 months (!) to get the deal closed, after the seller has accepted the contract.

Avoid the drama by: expecting your escrow to run long, and being pleasantly surprised if it doesn’t.  Expectation management is everything. Make sure you take these extended timelines into account when you’re working with your mortgage broker on the issue of when to lock your interest rate, and how long your rate locks will last. You might even need to plan on and/or set aside an allowance for the cost of extending your low interest rate, if rates are rising rapidly during the time you’re waiting for the deal to be done.

2.  Bank won’t take lowball offer. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve received a question from an outraged reader to the effect that a buyer has had their short sale or REO offer rejected on grounds that it was too low, even though the bank has no other offers, I could buy a foreclosure myself (admittedly, it’d be one of those $150 foreclosures in some blighted town with tax liens and no plumbing, but still).

Banks owe their shareholders and investors a duty to get as much as they can for these properties. Just because you see it’s on the market and listed as a short sale or a foreclosure doesn’t mean they’re going to give it to you for a fraction of its worth. The bank’s goal is to get a purchase price as close as possible to the home’s fair market value, as determined by the recent sales prices of similar, nearby homes, with some adjustments made for the property’s condition.  Fact is, many banks would rather see the listing agent reduce the price by a moderate amount, and wait to see what offers come in, than to accept an offer 30 percent below the asking price just because there are no other offers on the table.

Avoid the drama by: working with your agent to make a realistic offer, based on recent comparable sales in the neighborhood, not just on what you think you can get away with.  You can waste a lot of time, spin a lot of wheels and lose out on a lot of properties making lowball offer after lowball offer on distressed homes. Sit down with your broker or agent, review the ‘comps’ and make a smart offer that reflects a good value for you, is within your budget and is not bizarrely out of the realm of the fair market value of the property.

3.  Last minute postponements/cancellations. These transactions have an uncanny way of being delayed at the last minute – or never going through at all, through no fault of the wanna-be buyer. You signed docs yesterday, put your dog in the crate this morning and just hopped in the moving truck, only to get a text from your broker that the deal didn’t close because the escrow company which was selected by the bank flubbed the checkboxes on a single sheet of paper (it happens). Or, you’ve been in contract (with the seller) on a short sale for four months, and the bank refuses the sale entirely because the seller refuses to kick even $1 of their own cash into the deal, despite having a flush savings account.

Avoid the drama by: staying as flexible as possible with your moving plans as long as possible.  Best practice is to plan on some overlap between the time you can be in your last place and your scheduled move-in date.  Also, if you’re in contract on a short sale, you should take the point of view that you don’t have a firm deal until you get the bank’s approval of the transaction. So don’t even think about starting to make moving plans or paying for home inspections and appraisals until you know the bank has greenlit the deal and that the purchase price and terms they’ve approved work for both you and the seller.

4.  The bank’s black box. Make an offer on a normal home and you’re likely to know what the outcome will be within a few hours or a few days, at the outside. If things take longer because the seller is out of town or some such, the listing agent tells you that, and you at least know what’s going on.

Make an offer on a bank-owned property or a short sale?  It’s a crap shoot – could be days, but could also, easily, be weeks or months before you know what’s going on.  And no amount of calling, pleading, prodding or nudging is likely to get you much information on how your offer or the seller’s short sale application is being handled or what (if any) progress is being made.  And that “black box” into which your offer disappears at the benk level is very frustrating.

Avoid the drama by: continuing your house hunt until you have an answer back.  Maniacally pestering the listing agent for answers or harrassing your buyer’s broker into spending hours on hold with the bank is highly unlikely to get you any insight. (With that said, it does make sense for your agent to check in regularly – sometimes even daily –  with a short sale or REO listing agent to stay updated on any developments with the property and to make sure your offer/transaction stays in the front of their mind.)

Most of the angst in these situations arises when a buyer feels they passed on properties that would have really worked for them when they pinned their hopes on a distressed home.  You can only control your efforts and activities, not the bank’s.  So, consult with your own broker or agent about staying proactive in viewing and even pursuing other properties until you have a firm “yes” from the bank on your short sale or REO offer.  Until that time, and usually for a short time after you get the bank’s approval, you have the right to back out of the transaction if you need to (make sure your broker briefs you on precisely when your right to rescind your offer or exercise contingencies – i.e., bail – will expire).

5.  Double standards. In a “regular” equity sale with no bank involvement, both buyer and seller are obligated to meet various timelines.  Seller has to provide disclosures by X date, open the property to inspections – with utilities on – by Y, and close and move out by Z.  REO and short sale buyers, on the other hand, are often dismayed to find that  even though the bank might take weeks or months to sign or handle its deliverables, the bank will insist that the buyer show up, sign or send a check quick-like.

Avoid the drama by: chalking it up to the (admittedly irritating) way things are – the price you pay to buy from the bank.  Realize that working with the bank on the bank’s terms is unavoidable when you buy a distressed property. Then, go into the deal with realistic expectations – including the expectation that the bank will drag its feet, despite expecting you to keep every deadline – and you’ll be less frustrated, and less likely to make poor decisions out of frustration.

Also, make sure you do respond in a timely manner to the bank’s requests and your obligations under the contract.  I’ve seen banks capitalize on buyer delays in returning signatures and removing contingencies to accept higher offers they received in the interim.  Don’t lose your home on a technicality because you assume that the bank’s lackadaisacal timelines apply to you as well.

Source: Tara-Nicholle Nelson, staff writer of Trulia

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The Consequences of Walking Away

Have you had a conversation with someone in the last 30 days about the consequences of walking away from your mortgage?

If the answer is yes, you are not alone.

With an estimated 11 million people underwater on their mortgage, (owing more on their mortgage than their home is worth), even the most credit-worthy consumers are considering walking away from their mortgage.

“Walking away from a mortgage,” or what’s known as a strategic default, usually results in either a short sale or foreclosure and many people in this position are asking one simple question:

What are the consequences of walking away from a mortgage?

Walking Away from a Mortgage: The Consequences

Generally speaking, if you are considering walking away from a mortgage the major consequences will include:

  • Impaired credit
  • Deficiency risks
  • Tax consequences
  • Moving costs
  • Professional implications

Impaired Credit

Most people are aware that walking away from a mortgage will mean their credit score will take a hit. What most people may not be aware of is between short selling and foreclosure, there is very little difference in how much your credit score is impacted.  The main difference between a short sale and foreclosure is how soon you can qualify to buy a home again after the event, not how many points your credit score went down.

In addition to your credit score taking damage points, it is also common for credit card companies to cancel credit cards or lower your credit limit as a result of missing mortgage payments.  It is also common that it will become more difficult to obtain financing for larger ticket items such as autos or furniture — or any other type of revolving account after walking away from a mortgage.

Deficiency Risks

Depending on which state you live in, there are varying deficiency risks associated with walking away from your mortgage. (See anti-deficiency laws by state)

Translation: Your lender may sue you for the difference between what you owe and what your short sale or foreclosure proceeds were.

Anti-deficiency protection is limited to a minority of states and for most states in the U.S., there is no protection for homeowners from a lender pursuing the difference between what they owe and what the home sells for in foreclosure.

Further, even if your state has anti-deficiency laws in place, don’t think you are free from deficiency risk.  Whether you have deficiency risk or not, depends on factors such as: whether you have a second mortgage; did you refinance and take cash out; is your mortgage the one you got when you originally bought the house, and more.

Which is why when it comes to managing your deficiency risk, keep this saying in mind:

Nothing is more expensive than cheap legal advice.

If you are concerned that you may have deficiency risk, you should speak with a real estate lawyer who can provide legal advice for your particular situation.  Only a real estate attorney can accurately provide you the specific advice for your situation. Don’t rely on your neighbor’s advice or your brother-in-law who just short-sold his house and recommends that you should be okay by just walking away.

Tax Consequences

If you are considering walking away from a mortgage on your primary residence, there is a chance that you may have some tax liability.  If you are considering walking away from a mortgage on a second home or investment property, there can be a significant tax liability and you should consult your tax accountant.

Moving Costs

One of the commonly under-estimated consequences of walking away from a mortgage is the expense and process of moving.  Some of the common concerns related to moving include:

  • Moving into a rental — perhaps after decades of being a homeowner.
  • Possibly explaining to the landlord any credit report concerns as a result of missed mortgage payments.
  • Paying for moving expenses. Utilities, deposits, moving trucks and other expenses can add up fast.
  • Moving family members school, work or community activities they have gotten used to.

Many of the people I have talked with who have went through the process of walking away from a mortgage cited “moving” as the one consequence they hadn’t fully considered before actually doing it.

Professional Implications

Depending on what you do for a living, you may have professional consequences as a result from walking away from a mortgage.  The number of professions where your credit profile matters has grown over the last decade and if you are in a situation where your credit profile matters, you should know what the professional implications are before you walk. After all, you don’t want to lose your house and your job at the same time.

Walking Away from a Mortgage: The Single Biggest Mistake You Can Make

When making the decision to walk away from a mortgage, the consequences are certainly something to consider as part of the decision process.  And in my our experience of handling many short sales for our Clients we discovered that  there is one big mistake that you can make in the process:

Not being fully informed of what the consequences are of walking away from a mortgage.

Once you have educated yourself about the consequences and researched all of the possible options…

… the choice is still yours.

Source: Justin McHood of Academy Mortgage.

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Short Sale Today..Buy A Home Tomorrow | How-To Get A Loan After A Short Sale Or Foreclosure

What are the absolute bare-minimum guidelines to obtain a mortgage?

….and perhaps more interesting…how to obtain a mortgage immediately after a Short Sale..read on…


By far the easiest mortgage to obtain is a FHA loan:

1) 3.5 percent down payment, based on the purchase price of the home (e.g., $7,000 on a $200,000 home), or a gift of that same amount;

2) 3 percent to 6 percent of the purchase price, on top of the down payment, for closing costs, or a credit from the seller of the same amount; and

3) 640 FICO credit score — the middle score of those generated by the three credit bureaus (some banks will lend to borrowers with middle scores lower than 640, but will require more than the minimum down payment).

Lenders will want you to document income, asset and job history documentation, current paycheck stubs, two months’ bank statements and two years of W-2 forms or tax returns, and:

  • a minimum of two years have passed since the discharge of a bankruptcy;
  • a minimum of three years have passed since a foreclosure;
  • anywhere from zero to three years have passed since a short sale, depending on the circumstances surrounding the short sale.

Source: Real Estate Insiders News By: Tim and Julie of Harris Real Estate University.

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5 Ways to Stop the Foreclosure Process

Not ready to walk away from your mortgage, but looking for an alternative to the foreclosure process?

As a Short Sale Specialist, I help families in the San Jose Bay Area navigate their underwater mortgages and find suitable solutions to their loan issues. In some situations it’s too late to do anything, but wait for the bank to take their home. But when a client comes to me early enough in the process, we can usually find an alternative that doesn’t leave them out in the cold.

Here is a list of Foreclosure alternatives that are available to you in the early stages of the process:

1. Foreclosure Workout

Up until the time your home is scheduled for auction, most lenders would rather work out a compromise that would allow you to get back on track with your mortgage than take your home in a foreclosure.

2. Short Sale

After your lender files an NOD (Notice of Default) but before they schedule an auction date, if you get an offer from a buyer, you lender must consider it. If they foreclose on your home, the lender is going to simply turn around and try to resell it; if you present them with a reasonable short sale offer, they may see it as saving them the time, effort and trouble of finding a qualified buyer in a soft market.

So, if your home is on the market, continue to aggressively seek a buyer for it, even after your lender initiates the foreclosure process.

3. Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy stops foreclosure dead in its tracks. Once you file a bankruptcy petition, federal law prohibits any debt collectors, including your mortgage lender, from continuing collection activities. Foreclosure is considered a collection activity, and so the day your lender becomes aware that you have filed for bankruptcy, the foreclosure process will effectively be frozen. But here’s the rub; once you get to court, the bankruptcy trustee’s role is simply to play referee or mediator between you and your creditors.

Bankruptcy really just buys you more time to replace your lost job or recover financially from a temporary disability; it doesn’t let you off the hook for your debts. The law requires your mortgage company and other creditors to work in good faith with you to formulate a reasonable repayment plan so you can get back on track. Consult with a bankruptcy attorney regarding whether filing for bankruptcy is a good strategy for you.

4. Assumption/Lease-Option

Most loans these days are no longer assumable. The average mortgage now contains a “due on sale” clause by which the borrower agrees to pay the loan off entirely if and when they transfer the property. However, if you are facing foreclosure, you might be able to persuade your lender to modify your loan, delete this clause and allow another buyer to assume your loan. The lender may want to assess the new buyer’s qualifications, but it can be a win-win-win option for all. You might be able to negotiate a down payment from the buyer which you can use to pay off your outstanding past due mortgage balance.

In a lease-option scenario, the buyer becomes your tenant, and you continue owning the property until the buyer has saved enough down payment money, improved their credit sufficiently or sold their other home. In some situations, the buyer will make a one-time, lump option payment upfront, paying you to obtain the option to purchase your home. You can apply the option payment to bringing your mortgage current. Then, the buyer will make lease payments monthly which you, the seller, then apply to your mortgage.

To successfully use a lease-option to stop the foreclosure process, you must negotiate lease payments that cover most or all of your mortgage payment, property tax and insurance obligations — enough that you can make up any difference and still pay to live somewhere else.

5. Deed in Lieu

A deed in lieu of foreclosure is exactly what it sounds like. The homeowner facing foreclosure signs the deed to the home back over to the bank — voluntarily. This sound like it would be a great option, but actually has the same impact on a homeowner’s credit that foreclosure does.

Lenders are very reluctant to agree to take a home back through a deed in lieu of foreclosure for a number of reasons: They fear the homeowner will sue later alleging they didn’t understand what was happening, the lender must pay any second or third mortgages or home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) off before executing a deed in lieu, and the lender wants to be certain that the borrower’s financial distress is real. Allowing the foreclosure process to proceed is one way the lender can be sure the borrower is not faking poverty.

If you’re not sure where to start or what to do about the foreclosure process, feel free to call me for a FREE consultation and I’ll help you go over your options and get you started on the path that’s right for you.

 

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