6 Short Sale Questions You Really Should Know

I usually let my real Real Estate life give me the inspiration for the article that I write each week. It makes me so excited when I find out that someone actually benefits from it so I hope that this one hits the mark as well. Lately there are more questions than answers so I thought I would take a minute to answer some questions that I get from customers in this ever changing market. These are actually questions from actual wonderful customers.

Q: Do you have to be a resident of Florida to do a short sale in Florida?
A: That is an easy one, and the quick answer is NO. Where you live is not important in whether you qualify, what is important is if you have a hardship or not. The thing that may be relevant to you is that if you are trying to short sale a property that is not homesteaded then there can be consequences. A lending institution can give you a 1099 on the discounted amount of the sale. I would suggest that you talk to an accountant about your unique situation. Many times you are already in such duress that the 1099 may or may not effect you much but again that is a question for your accountant.

Q: How long does a short sale take?
A:
When I give you the answer you will wonder why in the world they call it short because the average time is 3-4 months from beginning to end. Patience and Persistance is the key during this long process.

Q: What in the world is that AS IS contract that so many short sales require?
A:
Quite simply an AS IS contract is not like the old used car you drive off the lot and hope the engine does not fall out before you get home. An “AS IS with right to inspect is a contract that gives you the right to inspect the property to see if it will fit your needs without breaking the bank. There is a time limit which you specify in the contract but in Florida any buyer has the right to get out of the contract and get his earnest money back if the inspection is not acceptable to the buyer. MOST foreclosures and Short sales require an “AS IS” contract. Be sure to check the laws of your state because contracts do vary from state to state.

Q: What happens to my credit when I do a short sale or a foreclosure?
A: A credit bureau is the only true source of information for determining how a short sale and a foreclosure is going to affect a homeowner’s credit. It is my experience which is not to be taken as any form of legal advice, foreclosures usually show up as “FORECLOSURE” and can stay on a credit report for seven years. If a homeowner applies for a new loan or has their credit run, the foreclosure could show up. It is also a common disclosure many employers require on most job applications. A short sale is commonly listed as “SETTLED DEBT”, and can be much less harmful to credit. Please consult a credit bureau for how a short sale and a foreclosure will actually affect a homeowner’s credit. Most people are in financial straights by the time they consider a short sale so their credit is usually the last of their worries.

Q: Why would a bank even consider a short sale?
A: Time is Money. Foreclosure action is expensive and lengthy. During the 12 month or longer foreclosure process, the property is a non-producing possession that is declining in value every day. If the property becomes vacant and/or vandalized, it will cost the lender(s) even more in repairs, maintenance and security. When a foreclosure is complete, the lender(s) must still hire a local Broker to list and sell the property. The lender(s) will compare the cost of the Foreclosure vs the cost of Short Sale. If there is little or no equity in the property, the lender(s) will have to conclude that its better off accepting a short and immediate sale. Lender(s) would rather help you find ways to come current on your home mortgage or approve of a short sale than foreclosure.

Q: When should you make the decision to start a short sale?
A: AS soon as you are no longer able to make your payments due to a job loss, illness, change in financial status, divorce or an adjustable rate mortgage that has risen to unmanageable limit you should consider a short sale. I know many people that are just frozen and just want to let the cards fall where they may and just wait for the foreclosure process. Doing nothing assures that a foreclosure is pending which could be the worst possible solution for you.

Bottom line: trust your friends for dating, hair cut opinions and just plain old fun but for Real Estate go to your trusted Realtor and see what she has to say on the subject. If she does not know the answer I bet she can help you find out. Thanks to all of you who keep calling me with your questions and thanks to all my Real Estate croanies for all your great answers.

No Real Mortgage Relief Despite Government Efforts

To say 2008 has been a bad year for real estate is just a wee bit of an understatement. Property values have plunged by some 35% nationwide and foreclosures are expected to exceed 2.2 million for the year. Nearly 4% of all outstanding mortgages are currently delinquent and in Florida the rate of delinquent mortgages leads the nation at 7.82%.

The impacts of the sub-prime fallout, resulting credit crunch and global recession are all taking a serious toll on homeowners who often find themselves unable to sell or refinance as they owe more than their homes are currently worth. The Federal Government has made several impotent attempts to bring relief to homeowners and stem the tide of foreclosure and it seems more plans are bandied about almost daily.

So what options are available to struggling homeowners?

Early this year, the President announced an informal plan that brought together a coalition of banks, mortgage-servicers, credit counselors and investors to provide loan work-out solutions to borrowers facing foreclosure. The Hope Now Alliance, as it was called, was a non-governmental effort and since its inception has helped some 1.7 million homeowners through loan restructuring and modification. Unfortunately, the Comptroller of the Currency reported this week that, of all those helped in the first six months of the year, more than half were already back in default.

In July, The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 became law creating, among other things, the Hope for Homeowners program to be administered through HUD and offer a vehicle for borrowers who were upside down in the homes to refinance to a lower, more affordable interest rate. The plan, intended to help hundreds of thousands of homeowners relied on the current lien-holders of the properties willingness to write down the principal balance of the mortgage to 90% of the current market value. Second lien holders would have to also agree to re-subordinating their liens to the new first making them basically worthless.

As one might imagine, most lenders were reluctant and chose to pursue their own work-outs with borrowers on a case by case basis. As a result, only a handful of borrowers were helped by the plan. HUD has since revised the principal write down requirement to 96.5% of market value but still requires the borrower’s new payment be no more than 31% of their gross monthly income.

So what is on the horizon? Is there any real relief in sight for homeowners facing foreclosure? Several plans have been presented from a variety of governmental agencies but none yet have the full support of Congress and the White House. One plan offered by Sheila Bair, Chairwoman of the FDIC, would lower borrower’s rates to as low as 3%, extend the amortization period to as much as 40 years and defer a portion of principal to some future time.

Another plan proposed would have Fannie and Freddie offer a low fixed rate to both homeowners and buyers to not only help those with unaffordable payments but also generate demand for housing as buyers would presumably be drawn into the market – attracted by the lower rates. This would help stabilize home prices that ultimately are at the heart of the problem. The Obama transition team also is said to be working on a plan though no details have yet emerged.

So what help is there for struggling homeowners right now? Sadly, very little. The silver lining is that several robust plans that could have a real impact on the problem are being discussed seriously and the new administration will have the political capital to insure that whatever plan emerges victorious passes quickly. That is why Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with Governor Charlie Crist, have placed a temporary moratorium on foreclosures until January.  The hope is that by that time, after a new president is sworn into office and details of the plan are ironed out, there will finally be a real and workable alternative to foreclosure for millions of Americans.

To have any teeth, the final plan will have to contain several aspects of the plans already discussed. It will have to provide for a low fixed rate, a forty year amortization and some postponement and/or forgiveness of some portion of principal. It must also, and this is critical, offer the same terms to homebuyers with a minimum down payment requirement of 5% and a HUD backed mortgage insurance plan to safeguard banks so they will indeed lend. Without renewed demand for housing to stop home price decline, any new mortgage rescue plan will simply be buying time.

For this and more, visit my blog at www.activerain.com/blogs/hpalmer

Hunter Palmer

Bank Says Laketown Wharf will be 'taken care of'

One of the Corus Bank investors sent me an email with the Quarter 3 report of Corus Bank that has a paragraph that briefly speaks into their Laketown Wharf holding.  The paragraph gives some indication as to their plans of the building in the near future.

The remaining component of nonperforming assets is OREO, which consists of three properties as of September 30, 2008. The largest is a condominium project located in Panama City, Florida, which Corus took possession of in September 2008. At the time Corus took possession, the outstanding loan balance of $96.5 million was transferred to OREO on the balance sheet. Prior to the transfer, Corus recorded a charge-off of $30.2 million. While certificates of occupancy have been received for the entire project and over 60 units have been sold, management estimates that an additional $10 million will be necessary to complete all work on the building. The Bank also intends to pay an additional $5 million to furnish approximately half of the unsold units and make them available for rent. The ultimate goal, however, is to sell all of the individual units.

I found this extremely interesting, and actually quite encouraging.  Not that a huge bank would ever let a holding this large “go to the birds”, I’ve seen stranger.  It is very important to the image of Panama City Beach that Laketown Wharf maintains a good image and that something does indeed happen with this property, whether the remaining condos are sold for whatever they can be sold for, or rented.

Talking to a friend today, I was told that Laketown Wharf has no formal agreement with anyone for beach access.  I hope that Corus can negotiate a permanent solution for the guest, tenants and owners to have access to the beach.

The rest of the report provides interesting insight into how a large bank is handling the current economic condition of our great country.

The report seems to indicate the banks willingness to finish the job and do what it takes to move forward.  A property they took possession of in California, they will be funding, finishing, marketing, and selling.

Laketown Wharf Busts, Leaves Developer Crying

We’ve all heard the rumors about what is happening with Laketown Wharf.  Jerry Wallace, the developer, once positively referred to the area around Laketown Wharf as a “condo canyon” and himself as the Trump with a drawl.  I bet he doesn’t feel so Trumpish now.

I was VERY critical of this development from the get-go, extremely worried what this “behemoth” would do to the image of our area.  A largely vacant, 750 condo, elephantine monolith, Laketown Wharf actually had great aspirations, with some possibility of success had it come unto creation mid 2004.  With huge swimming pools, a Balagio-style fountain/light show, a 650-seat live performance theatre, 5 restaurants and 1,000’s of square feet of retail space, it was planned to be almost a small town.  And, it is actually kind of awesome, even though it is not on the beach.

On the 12th of September, Jerry Wallace, developer of Laketown Wharf and President of Laketown Wharf, Inc. signed over the remaining unclosed units to Corus Bank, the institution that originally financed the construction of the project.  With only 8% of the 750+ condos built actually closed, the only option was to hand the rest back to the bank.

At this point, a new chapter is created in the life of Laketown Wharf.  The sad part is that the image of a huge traffic crossing point on the beach is now completely up to a financial institution that may or may not have our best interests in mind.

As of two weeks ago, it had looked like the grounds were being neglected, but after going by today, I noticed that some of the pools had been filled back up.  The water-features were not on, nor were any of the fountains and the whole place looked like a ghost town.

We’ll be following this closely.

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House OKs Controversial Housing Plan

The House approved a federally backed bailout for the housing market; as skimpy as it may seem.  Not supported by the White House, the foreclosure prevention package was passed in a 266-154 vote.

The package will let FHA insure up to $300 billion in new loans over the next four years as long as lenders agree to reduce the mortgage principle. The lender would have to cut the amount owed to no more than 85% of the current appraised value.  If they FHA insured loans went into default, then the FHA would pay the lender the remaining principal owed.

Continue reading “House OKs Controversial Housing Plan”

Bill to allow judges to lower mortgage amount instead of foreclosure

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In an effort to reduce the number of foreclosures this year and next year by an estimated 600,000+ households, there are two bills before Congress that would grand “judges the authority to reduce mortgage debt.”

The two bills only apply to borrowers that live in their homes and have either subprime mortgages or other non-traditional mortgages, such as interest-only loans.

“It is one of many efforts by government and consumer groups to encourage lenders and mortgage servicers to restructure loans to more affordable terms for home owners in danger of default.”

Continue reading “Bill to allow judges to lower mortgage amount instead of foreclosure”