It’s no secret that the government’s short sale program, HAFA, has had less than stellar results.  The Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative program was started in April 2010 to provide alternatives to foreclosure when a loan modification wouldn’t work.  Through September, the program has processed only 342 short sales or deed-in-lieu transactions.  This number is ridiculously low considering that third-party technology provider Equator, who provides the platform for processing short sales for several banks, including B of A, reports that over 117,000 HAFA short sales were initiated in the period from April – October.   What happened to all of those transactions?

Mortgage servicers and Realtors have complained about the confusing rules and the stringent requirements for participation that have made it difficult to complete a transaction.  In December the California Association of Realtors sent a letter to government regulators complaining about the program and requesting specific changes to expedite approvals.  The government responded quickly and issed a directive on December 28 that made some significant changes to the program.  Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Servicers are no longer required to verify that an applicant’s mortgage payment exceeds 31% of their gross income, although a hardship must still be demonstrated.
  • Applicants do not need to be currently living in the home so long as it was their principal residence in the last 12 months.
  • Payments to subordinate lien holders are no longer capped at 6%, but have an aggregate cap of $6,000.
  • Servicers participating in the HAFA program will be required to either approve, disapprove or provide a counter to any complete short sale application and purchase offer within 30 days.
  • Servicers who pay contractors to assist in processing the short sale cannot charge those fees to the borrower or deduct it from the real estate commissions.

Will these changes improve the approval rate?  Probably, but the key will lie in how well the banks comply and the rules are enforced.