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!

 

 

Advertisements

As I’ve recently noted, getting a home loan these days can be extremely difficult unless you have a 20% down payment, a credit score in the mid 700’s and sufficient income so that your housing costs are no more than 28% of your gross income.  In fact, according to the Financial Institutions Examination Council, roughly 25% of all conventional home loan applications submitted in 2010 were rejected. 

These stringent qualification requirements are for loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but luckily they aren’t the only game in town.  Today, more and more borrowers are taking advantage of the less demanding criteria for FHA loans. The Federal Housing Administration has been in existence since 1934 and has become the largest government insurer of home loans in the world today.

Although every lender might have slightly different requirements, here are the basics needed to qualify for an FHA insured loan:

  • Technically, 580 is the minimum acceptable score, but in practice lending institutions require a minimum of a 620 mid score.  The mid score is the middle score when credit is pulled from all three major reporting agencies; Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.
  • Housing expenses, (mortgage, taxes and insurance) must not equal more than 31% of your gross income, and all payments, (including cars and credit cards) must not exceed 43%.
  • The down payment must be at least 3.5%.  If the down payment is less than 10%, most lenders require a credit score of 640.
  • There is also an Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium paid at closing and usually financed into the loan.  This premium is 1.75% of the base loan amount.  There is also an annual premium paid on a monthly basis.  This amount will be based on the loan-to-value ratio.

An FHA loan is an excellent choice for first-time buyers, or anyone with less than perfect credit or a small down payment.  If you’re thinking of buying in San Diego,Orange orRiverside County, please give me a call.  The time to get qualified is before you start looking for a home.  There is nothing worse than finding the perfect home, only to discover you can’t get a loan!

May got off to an interesting start with the release of several foreclosure reports that frankly, seem a bit contradictory.  There was good news.  There was bad news.  And I’m not quite sure analysts have a handle on what it all really means to the housing market.

Let’s start with the good news:  Mortgage delinquencies are down.  According to data from Lender Processing Services (LPS), delinquencies are down by 20% compared to this time last year.  At the end of March there were 6,333,040 loans nationwide that were past due or in foreclosure.  Sounds like a lot, but that is the lowest level since 2008.  The report would seem to indicate that modifications are helping as 23% of loans that were 90 days past due a year ago are current today.

Now here is where it gets confusing.  The same report showed that at the end of March foreclosure inventory was at an all time high – 2.2 million loans.  This inventory represents loans that have been referred to a foreclosure attorney but have not yet reached foreclosure sale.  The number of new foreclosure actions was 270,681 in March which is a 33% increase over the previous month.  So foreclosures are up but delinquencies are down?

Another piece of bad news was delivered in a HUD report detailing sales of FHA foreclosed homes.  HUD manages the disposition of homes that had FHA loans that were repossessed.  At the end of February there were 68,801 homes in the HUD inventory.  That is a 50% increase over the previous year.  The monthly sale of HUD homes has dropped from ahigh pointof 8,893 last June to a low of just 2,632 in January.  Thus new foreclosures are entering the market at an increased rate while sales have significantly stalled.

One factor not considered in the LPS report was the increase in the number of short sales over the last year.  In addition to loan modifications, which have not been very effective, short sales are presumably impacting the decreased delinquency rate as more homeowners are opting to sell short earlier in the delinquency cycle versus riding out the foreclosure timeline.    If you are a homeowner that owes more than your home is worth and are struggling to make your payments, the bright spot on the horizon might just be a short sale should a loan modification not provide the relief you need.

For the real estate industry overall, this jumble of numbers would seem to indicate that we’re still a long way from recovery.  With foreclosures increasing and sales decreasing, a bloated inventory of homes on the market will likely keep prices fairly stagnant in most markets.

Most loan modification programs are designed to simply lower a borrower’s mortgage interest rate, thus reduce their monthly payment.  However with home values so low, a loan mod that reduces the interest rate still means that most homeowners are paying on negative equity.  They owe more than the home is worth, so even if the payment is more affordable, it could be years before any part of their monthly payment is actually paying down principal on the current value of the home.

For many homeowners, this just doesn’t make financial sense and they are allowing their homes to go to foreclosure, a practice dubbed “strategic default”.  Experts predict that the number of strategic defaults will likely increase as home prices remain stagnant and homeowners become increasingly angry with banks. Everyone including the government, industry analysts, and the public would probably agree that an increase in strategic defaults and the subsequent foreclosures will only slow the housing market recovery.

So the FHA has introduced a new Short Refinance Program aimed at borrowers who are upside down.  The goal is to reduce the actual principal amount owed to a level more in line with current home values and thus encourage homeowners to stay in their homes and continue to make payments.

Sounds like a great idea at face value, but qualifying for the program does come with a list of conditions for the homeowner, including: 

  • Be current on their mortgage payments
  • Have a credit score of at least 500
  • Have negative equity
  • Not have a current FHA mortgage
  • Occupy the property
  • And…..have a bank willing to write off 10% of the loan principal

OK, I was thinking, “This might work….” until I read the last condition.  I don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard of many banks stepping up to the plate and offering principal reductions, (Wachovia being the only exception that comes to mind).  So I’m not sure how successful this will be.  And doing the math, will a 10% reduction really be enough to encourage people to stay and pay?  In some parts of the country where the housing boom had the most impact, such as locations in CA and FL, values have dropped by as much as 50% since 2006.  So if a $500,000 mortgage is reduced to a $450,000 mortgage but the property is only worth $250,000 or even $300,000, will that be sufficient incentive to keep a borrower from walking?

I applaud the concept but am very skeptical about outcomes.  Principal reduction is, I believe, the mechanism that has the best chance of slowing strategic defaults.  The banks certainly take a big financial hit when a home goes to foreclosure…..why can’t they take the hit up front and keep people in their homes?