June 2013


Ever wonder why it was so difficult for people to get permanent loan modifications a couple of years ago? Maybe it’s because some employees were allegedly paid to make sure they were denied, at least at one bank.

According to a June 14 Bloomberg.com article, Bank of America provided employees with incentives including cash bonuses and gift cards for meeting quotas linked to sending homes into foreclosure. The allegations were revealed by past employees as part of a lawsuit filed against the banking giant earlier this month by homeowners who were denied modifications. Many who were denied loan modifications eventually lost their homes to foreclosure.

Apparently employees in the loss mitigation department were instructed to delay review, ask homeowners for items they already had in the file, and do whatever was necessary to deny permanent loan modifications. Former B of A loan servicing specialist Theresa Terrlonge said that they received restaurant gift cards and cash rewards for denying loan modifications. “I witnessed employees and managers falsify information in the systems of record, and remove documents from the homeowners’ files to make the account appear ineligible for loan modification,” said Terrelonge.

But the big rewards came for actually pushing a borrower into foreclosure. According to Simone Gordon, a loss-mitigation representative who left the company in 2012, specialists who put 10 borrowers into foreclosure, including those in a trial modification, received a $500 bonus. Bank of America insists that the allegations are inaccurate and will file an opposition to the motion to make this a class action case.

Unfortunately, I’m not terribly surprised by these allegations and find it difficult to believe that B of A was the only bank involved in this type of behavior. It’s no wonder that there have been so few successful loan modifications; the very people charged with creating positive outcomes were apparently paid to do otherwise.

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Heart of Real Estate

This afternoon as I took a listing, I had finished explaining the agreement to the seller and was showing him where to sign, when he paused, pen raised, sadly stating, “This is the first time I’ve done this alone.” He had lost his partner of 40 years to cancer last September and now needs to sell their home.

In that one moment, the enormity of his loss and the task ahead of him seemed to come into focus and he struggled as he signed the agreement. I asked him if he would like to wait, but he insisted that he needed to turn the page and move on with his life. Selling their home was the first major step.

I put the rest of the disclosures aside, and asked him about his morning. He had taken a drive earlier in the day to explore some different neighborhoods that he is considering as a good area to meet new people. He brightened-up and spent the next 15 minutes telling me about how pleased he was with what he had discovered and seemed genuinely excited. We talked about what he would be looking for in a rental, and I of course told him I would be happy to help him in his search. We chatted about the logistics of actually moving and downsizing and he asked if I could help him locate a good moving company. I smiled and told him that I would do whatever I could to make this transition as smooth as possible.

Sometimes in the flurry of our dollar-crazy real estate world, I think that it is easy to lose sight of the fact that a home for most people is not only a financial investment, but a huge emotional investment. It’s the place where babies are raised, birthdays are celebrated, and loved ones are nursed. When a house has to be sold in a short sale, or because of divorce or death, or sometimes even relocation, I think there is a process of grieving that is often overlooked. Home is our stage, the backdrop for our lives. We paint it, decorate it and instill a little, or a lot, of who we are into the house, which makes the home distinctly ours.

As we walked around and I took photos, he shared little stories about the house and their time there and seemed to relax just being able to talk. I’m sure there will be several moments in the sales and moving process when he needs to stop and take a deep breath. I can’t be his therapist or his best friend, but I’ll do my best as his Realtor to provide a smooth transaction, support him by being responsive to his questions and needs, and most importantly, honor the real significance of his moving on.

Thus far in 2013, here are the La Mesa short sale numbers; 41 detached homes have closed escrow, and 19 other types of homes, including condos and mobile homes. This is down considerably since 2012 when for the same period; there were La Mesa short sale closings for 69 detached homes and 31 for other types of homes.

Although these numbers have decreased in the past twelve months, it is likely that short sales will continue to play a significant role in our real estate market. According to Zillow CEO, Spencer Rascoff, 44% of U.S. homeowners with a mortgage still owe more than their home is worth. For the thousands of folks that remain underwater, a short sale might be a good solution.

If a short sale is an option that you’re considering, you’ve probably heard horror stories about how long it takes, and how few sales are ever approved. That’s often because the listing agent doesn’t understand the short sale process, or lacks the necessary experience and negotiation skills. Steele Group Realty has been negotiating short sales for 5 years and has a 95% success rate for successfully selling and closing short sales throughout the county. Here’s how we take the mystery out of La Mesa short sales and improve your possibilities for a successful close:

• Before listing your home, we determine if a short sale is an appropriate option and if you qualify according to general lender guidelines.
• We research your title report to identify any potential issues and develop a strategy to overcome obstacles.
• If approved to enter our La Mesa short sale program, we aggressively market your home on over 100 high-traffic websites to quickly secure an acceptable offer.
• Our professional short sale negotiating team works with your lender to win approval. We have an unbeatable track record, successfully closing over 95% of all transactions.
• All fees and commissions are paid by your lender, not you.
• Depending on the investor for your mortgage, we may be able to negotiate a relocation allowance ranging from $2000 to upwards of $10,000.
• From start to finish, we guarantee to keep you informed of the progress on your sale with regular phone and email updates.
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For a confidential, no-obligation consultation regarding a La Mesa short sale please contact me at 619-846-9249.

SGR-for-sale

Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen single family home prices increase by as much as 20% in some parts of the country. This is the most rapid increase since the housing bubble collapse, and largely driven by supply and demand. According to Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff, nearly 44% of homeowners with a mortgage still owe more than their home is worth, thus even if they would like to sell they are unable. This, combined with fewer foreclosures, has created a scarcity of available homes on the market and helped push up prices.

So with home prices on the rise, if you do have equity in your home and have been considering a move-up, why sell now? Wouldn’t it make more sense to wait another year or so and take advantage of even higher prices?

Not necessarily. While low supply has been a factor in the recent price increase, it has been driven by demand created by historically low interest rates. However, mortgage interest rates are on the rise. Yesterday, in the fifth consecutive week of gains, the rate for a 30 year fixed mortgage rose to 3.91%. That is 18% higher than the lowest rate of 3.31% back in November 2012. According to chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, Laurence Yun, in an interview with Forbes magazine, “the rate will probably go up to 5% by the end of next year.”

The result of higher interest rates is likely to be a decrease in demand, especially in the higher priced areas of the country, such as coastal California, Boston and New York. Rascoff provided the following example in an interview yesterday on CNBC. “Imagine yourself buying a $300,000 home today, and in four years you may want to trade up to a $500,000 home,” he said. “That home is not just that much more expensive—but because mortgage rates are going to be higher—it’s significantly more expensive. So the trade-up market is going to be very troubled in a couple of years.”

So looking down the road a year from now, it is likely that interest rates will increase which will slow the demand, which in turn will put the brakes on home price increases. Thus, if you are considering selling your home, now may be the best time while demand is high and supply is low.

For more information about what this might mean for you and your San Diego County property, please give me a call.