A short sale is an attractive alternative to foreclosure, mainly because the impact on your credit is far less severe.  However, just because you owe more on your mortgage than your home is worth doesn’t necessarily mean that a short sale is a viable option.

In a short sale, the lender agrees to accept a pay-off on your mortgage for less than the amount owed.  Logically, the lender is not going to agree to receive less money if there is evidence that you can continue to pay your mortgage as promised.  Thus, a homeowner hoping to sell their home in a short sale must demonstrate that they can no longer afford the mortgage payments. 

The first question the lender will ask is “What happened?”  At the time of loan origination you were able to make your payments….why not now?  You will be asked to identify one or more recent hardship factors that have negatively impacted your ability to pay.  Examples of hardship factors include: 

  • Illness/Disability                                             
  • Death of a Spouse
  • Unemployment                                               
  • Reduced Income
  • Medical Bills                                                   
  • Too much Debt
  • Divorce/Separation                                        
  • Military Service
  • Incarceration                                                  
  • Business Failure

The lender will also request that you complete a financial worksheet that lists all of your monthly expenses and income.  You will need to provide bank statements and pay stubs to document the information on the financial worksheet.  Contrary to popular belief, it is OK to have a small amount of money in savings and lenders do not expect you to drain your 401K to pay your bills.

So the bottom line is that if you have experienced an event(s) that triggered a financial hardship and your monthly expenses are greater than your monthly income you probably qualify for a short sale.  Please feel free to contact me with specific questions about your situation.

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Short sales can be a real pain for everyone involved…sellers, Realtors, buyers…and because so many fail, people are often left with a negative view of the short sale process.  But, do you really know the benefits that might make it worth the effort?

As I’ve mentioned before, I work with an exceptional short sale negotiation company that has a 99% success rate in getting approvals.  The president of that company recently put together a nice chart outlining the benefits of a short sale vs. a foreclosure and I’ll share the highlights.

Future Ability to Purchase a Home:    When you apply for a home loan, there is a question on the application that asks, “Have you had a property foreclosed upon or given title or deed-in-lieu thereof in the last 7 years?”  A positive response may impact your ability to qualify and will certainly influence the interest rate you are charged.  Currently, there is no question on the loan application with regard to short sales.

Impact on Credit Score:    With a foreclosure, credit scores can drop 250 – 300 points.  Conversely, with a short sale only late payments will impact the credit score.  After a short sale, the mortgage that was paid-off short will be reported as ‘paid as agreed’, ‘negotiated’, or ‘settled for less than agreed’.  This can lower your score as little as 50 points and will usually have little to no effect in twelve to eighteen months.

Impact on Credit History:   Foreclosure remains on your credit history for seven years.  Since short sales are not specifically reported their impact is only as great as the number of missed payments, as noted above.

Deficiency Judgment:  Unless you’re in a state with anti-deficiency laws, the bank can pursue a deficiency judgment.  In a successful short sale, the bank will waive the right to pursue a deficiency judgment.

Current and Future Employment and Security Clearance:   Many employers require credit checks for all employees, and certainly for anyone hoping to attain a security clearance.  While individual companies and agencies have different requirements, a foreclosure can have a negative impact on your ability to get a job, keep your job, or get certain clearances.

Of course I’m not a lawyer or accountant, and each individual’s situation is different, and not everyone will qualify for a short sale.  You should always consult the appropriate professional for advice.  But as a real estate professional, I would definitely give the short sale serious consideration before deciding to just walk away.  For a confidential consultation just give me a call at 619-846-9249.

Just in time for Christmas, Fannie Mae put new rules into effect on December 13th that will make it even more difficult for homeowners who have had a foreclosure to buy again.

Under the new lending guidelines that control qualification standards for Fannie Mae backed mortgages, a borrower who has had a foreclosure will now have to wait seven years before being approved for a new mortgage.  That is up from the current wait time of four years.  Another provision of the guideline revision tightens the acceptable debt-to-income ratio (DTI) to 45%, down from 55%, and includes stricter scrutiny of all installment debt.  Under the new guidelines, even one missed payment on a credit card could mean the difference between approval, and not qualifying.  Fannie Mae currently guarantees 28% of all residential loans.

While we all understand the need to move away from the “if you have a pulse, you qualify” standards of a few years ago, these new guidelines seem downright punitive!  On one hand the Fed is pumping money into banks urging them to make more loans to stimulate the economy, yet at the same time the new regulations make it more difficult for banks to lend.   And why the increase from four to seven years?  There is no rational reason for this extended wait time.  The only thing I can figure is that this is intended to scare homeowners considering strategic default into continuing to pay an inflated mortgage on a grossly devalued home.

Although there are several provisions of the new guidelines that may benefit some borrowers, overall this is not an effective way to get the housing market back on its feet.  Thanks Fannie:  You’ve just provided one more reason why I believe we’ll continue to see an increase in short sales over the coming year.

It has been estimated that the average cost to foreclose on a home is about $75,000 including costs to local government for lost tax revenue and services, costs to the homeowner, and the devaluation to neighbor’s properties. Of this amount, the actual cost to the bank averages about $50,000 – $60,000, including attorney’s fees, property maintenance and REO resale fees.  Considering that the hard costs of a short sale are considerably less, and the impact on local government, neighborhoods and individuals is far less destructive, it’s difficult to understand why banks seem to be dragging their feet when it comes to approving short sales.

According to a recent article in the NY Times, many lenders are concerned about fraud. It is known that some homeowners, who actually can afford their mortgage payments, falsely portray their financial picture in order to cut their losses on a property and move on.  Other homeowners may try to sell to a relative who would then sell the home back to them, a practice that is illegal.  A recent industry report estimates that short sale fraud occurs in a least 2 percent of sales and costs banks about $300 million annually.

But fear of fraud and the associated costs is a relatively minor consideration.  The more important reason shouldn’t be too surprising:  There are financial incentives in many cases to choose foreclosure over a short sale.  For instance, institutions that service loans can reap high fees from foreclosures and lenders can often collect on private mortgage insurance that protects against foreclosure losses.  Neither the same high fees nor insurance is collected when a home sells short.  Another little known fact:  A 2009 regulatory change to a federal accounting law allows banks to foreclose on a home, but not take the loss until the home sells.  By contrast, in the case of a short sale, the bank must take the loss immediately.

So obviously, the bank’s decision has nothing to do with what is best for the national or local economy, or the individual homeowner.  Check back for my next blog where I’ll discuss what you can do to improve your chances of having your short sale approved.