March 2012


I live and work in San Diego County, which is a big military town for the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.  Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with many active military and veteran buyers using a VA loan to purchase a home.  But lately, I’m struggling to help my VA buyers complete a purchase as they are facing what I see as a marketplace that discriminates against them.

Most of my VA buyers are young, first-time buyers who have steady income, but not necessarily much money saved for a down payment.  As a VA loan offers 100% financing, this would seem to be a perfect solution and a great opportunity.  However, here are the obstacles they face:

  • The price point for many of the young VA buyers in San Diego Countyis relatively low, so when bidding on a house they are often competing with cash buyers.
  • As the buyer is  not allowed to pay certain closing costs on a VA transaction, and most VA buyers need a considerable concession, the seller in this competitive market is more likely to select a buyer that doesn’t ask for closing costs.  Even if the VA buyer comes in with a  higher offer to allow the seller the same net profit, there is the risk  that the property won’t appraise at the higher value and the deal won’t go through.
  • The VA also requires a termite clearance, and the buyer is not allowed to pay for it.  So, this pretty much rules out every short sale as the seller is not going to pay for an inspection, repairs or clearance, and it is highly unlikely that the seller’s bank will pay.
  • The properties themselves often pose the biggest challenge in this market of REOs.  According to VA guidelines, the home      must be habitable with a working stove and heat source, floor coverings, no large holes in walls, or missing window trim or baseboards, no mold or  mildew, and plumbing that does not leak.       So buying a fixer is out of the question as the VA buyer is not  allowed to pay for any repairs.

I would like to think that sellers might choose to actually make an effort to sell to a member of our military, but I think the VA itself has made it unnecessarily difficult.  I understand the VA’s desire to reduce the financial burden for the military buyer, and make sure they are protected in the transaction, but from where I stand, I see that the rules that are meant to protect them are actually hurting their chances of successfully buying in this market.

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Last March, I participated in a Bank of America webinar where they introduced their Cooperative Short Sale Program.  I remember being cautiously optimistic because the speaker promised that the Bank would respond to offers in 10 days.  Well, it’s now been five, yes five months since I uploaded an offer for the Cooperative Short Sale purchase of one of my listings.  We are finally in escrow and set to close on April 6th, but this has been, to say the least, a rocky road and not what I would call a “cooperative” negotiation.  Here are a couple of the low points:

  • The amount that B of A was offering to the 2nd lien holder was incorrectly communicated to  me.  They offered one amount and  then later came back with a much lower figure. I had to escalate the issue  and get pretty angry to make them stick to the original amount offered.
  • Shortly after finally getting  an approval in the first week of February, our buyer lost her job and we had to substitute her husband as the buyer.  Same transaction, no changes except the loan and sale were now going to be in the husband’s name.  It took over a month to get a new approval, and that was after I again had to escalate the issue.

Here is what I see as a big problem with the whole system:  Although the Equator platform is supposed to keep all parties in communication, it really doesn’t work that way.  Bank of America farms out the work of negotiating their Cooperative Short Sales to Asset Management Outsourcing, Inc., AKA, AMORecoveries.  So during the whole “negotiation” portion of the short sale, the agent for the seller is only in communication with a case worker at this company.  If you do need to escalate a matter to B of A directly, they might not be in the communication loop as far as the file and Equator are concerned.  Additionally, I find communicating through Equator sketchy at best.  Every step of the process is a “task” that gets accepted, completed or denied, and let me tell you, a short sale is simply not that black and white.  The only way I really got anything accomplished was when I could actually speak to someone.

Once you finally get an approval, the file becomes the responsibility of a “closing specialist” back at B of A.  So the person you’ve been dealing with throughout the whole process is now out of the picture.  When we had to substitute the new buyer, the file went from our “closing specialist” at B of A, back to AMORecoveries, to a different negotiator who thought it was an entirely new file!  I thought I was going to tear my hair out!

So I’m not a fan of the Bank of America system or the Cooperative Short Sale program that was supposed to streamline the approval process.  And I know that without going up the food chain and fighting for my seller this deal wouldn’t be closing.

 

Got a tough short sale in San Diego County?  Give me a call!

 

 

A couple of days ago one of my favorite loan officers shared some information about a problem facing many would-be buyers who are trying to get approved for an FHA mortgage after a short sale.  Here’s a couple of surprising things I learned that could squelch some dreams.

Most of us probably know that FHA requires a 3 year wait from the date of the short sale, (conventional 4 years), but here is the kicker:  Did you know that for DU underwriting it is actually 3 years from the reported date?  That means that if the 1st or 2nd lien holder didn’t report the account as closed until 10 months after the close of escrow, a buyer would not qualify until 3 years and 10 months after closing!

And it’s not just short sales.   FHA looks at a short sale, deed-in-lieu, foreclosure, and loan modification, (YES, even a loan mod) as the same derogatory event, and as noted above they require a 3 year wait from the reported date.  Approval for an FHA loan is normally based on running the application through the Desktop Underwriter (DU) automated underwriting program.  The DU program reads the dates entered on the credit report so if that is incorrectly reported, the loan will be denied.  In the case of a short sale, it might be helpful to find a lender who agrees to manually underwrite the loan so that the correct dates are used.

Besides the date, the other item that could trip up a buyer is how the old mortgage debt is reported.  If the account is reported as closed, but still shows the amount not paid off in the short sale as a balance on the account, the reported balance will probably disqualify them in DU by calculating a payment and inaccurately increasing their debt-to-income ratio.

Advice from my loan officer:  Following a short sale, borrowers should check their credit report from all 3 reporting agencies about 6-8 weeks after closing.  If the sale is not reported, and/or it does not show a zero balance they should contact their previous lender to get it corrected. Then, get a DU or manual underwriting approval well before shopping for a home.  It may mean the difference between buying again in 3 years versus facing an unanticipated and disappointing wait!