Effective November 1, 2012, there are new guidelines for all Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac short sales.  The new program, dubbed the Standard Short Sale /HAFA II requires Fannie and Freddie servicers to manage short sales under one uniform process.  It is anticipated that this new streamlined process will make short sales faster, easier and more accessible to underwater borrowers.   Under the new program:

  • Homeowners do not need to be delinquent on their mortgage payments if they meet other hardship criteria.
  • Deficiency judgments will be waived in exchange for a cash contribution from certain qualified homeowners.
  • Military personnel who are relocated will automatically be eligible.
  • Up to $6,000 will be offered to  2nd lien holders to speed the process.

The new hardship criterion includes:

  • Death of a borrower or  co-borrower
  • Divorce
  • Unemployment
  • Disability
  • Relocation for a job

The good news is that this program should allow more homeowners to participate in a short sale and get out of a negative equity situation, even if they are not delinquent on their mortgage.  The bad news is that even with no missed payments; their credit will suffer as they will have settled their mortgage debt for less than the amount owed.  In the world of credit reporting, a short sale is a short sale, whether or not there was ever a missed payment or a Notice of Default recorded.

Overall, HAFA II should allow more homeowners to take advantage of a short sale and standardized processing can’t help but improve the whole experience for everyone involved.  As a Realtor who lists and negotiates short sales, I welcome anything that will streamline the often cumbersome and lengthy process.

If you live in San Diego County and are considering a short sale, or if you’re an agent looking to out-source negotiation, please call me for a confidential no-obligation consultation.

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I was part of a Bank of America Webinar today during which they outlined the benefits of their new Cooperative Short Sale Program and took questions from way too many clueless agents.  To listen to the speaker, this new program is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I think that remains to be seen.

The key difference between this new program and the traditional short sale program is that much of the work on the bank’s side that usually doesn’t begin until after an offer is submitted, can now begin before the home is even put up for sale.  This means that a homeowner with a B of A 1st mortgage who recognizes that a short sale is his/her best option can work with their Realtor and get the process started before actually marketing the property.  B of A will complete the valuation process and let the Realtor and homeowner know the suggested list price prior to listing, in theory speeding up the approval process once a qualifying offer is submitted.  In fact, with the review of the homeowner’s financials and the valuation completed prior to marketing, B of A is promising a response to an offer in 10 days.

The program is modeled to a large degree after the HAFA program, and like HAFA, the homeowner may qualify for a relocation fee in the amount of $2500, (HAFA is $3000).   Approval in the cooperative program would also halt foreclosure action and give the homeowner 120 days to find a buyer.  Unlike HAFA, the Bank of America cooperative Short Sale Program can apply to non-owner occupied properties.

While this all sounds pretty rosy, it was not exactly clear what happens when there is a 2nd mortgage held by another bank.  Are we to believe that they’ll speed up their approval processing to keep pace with B of A?  Ha!  And what about deficiency judgments?  In a HAFA short sale the bank has to agree not to pursue a deficiency judgment, promissory note, or the collection of funds from the borrower.  But in the B of A program, there are no such promises and the speaker today danced around discussion of deficiencies by suggesting that we all investigate the laws in our own states.  Pretty vague to me, and it has been suggested that B of A requires such in-depth financial information so that they better know who to target for deficiencies.

While I am hardly a fan of Bank of America, I’ll keep an open mind…but I’m watching closely.  I somehow just don’t trust that protecting the homeowner is their #1 priority.

For information about a short sale in San Diego County please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.

Here is an update on this post!

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.

Once again, Santa forgot to bring me a crystal ball.  So this look into the future of the housing market is based on trends from the past year, projections from those that crunch the numbers, and my gut feelings based on life in the real estate trenches.

Foreclosures continued to be the top story in 2010 with robo-signing and questionable practices making headlines.  In 2011 so-called shadow inventory will be making news as it grows and clogs the pipeline.  This includes borrowers that are 90 days or more delinquent, homes in foreclosure, and bank-owned properties not yet on the market.  S & P estimates that it will take 41 months to clear the backlog, continuing to slow the recovery.

Short sales will increase as the government and lenders try to stem the deluge of foreclosures that add to the shadow inventory.   Right now about 35% of defaults end in a cure or short sale.  I see that number growing as banks and the government iron out the problems with HAFA (Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives), and the processing of short sales is streamlined.

Loan modifications will continue to be largely unsuccessful.   There is some hope for small improvement in the numbers if the FHA principal reduction program can be expanded.

Mortgage interest rates jumped this last month, but are gradually heading down.   Frank Nothaft, chief economist for Freddie Mac foresees rates staying below 5.00% throughout the year.  Let’s hope he’s right.

Home sales will increase, especially for first-time buyers, provided interest rates remain low and the economy continues to improve.  If unemployment continues to decrease and incomes increase we should see an increase in home sales over 2010 by the 2nd half of the New Year.

Home values throughout most of the country will reach the bottom by mid-year and many areas, such as San Diego County will see modest gains of 2.00 – 4.00%.  The exception continues to be the luxury home market where home prices in locations such as La Jolla and Rancho Santa Fe will continue to decline.

My advice?  If you own a home and are not terribly upside-down, hang tight.  Looking to buy?  Do it now!  This is a great time to purchase your first home or pick-up an investment property.  Struggling with your payments?  Let’s explore your options, before it’s too late.  Overall, I’m cautiously optimistic.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Whether you’re considering a short sale purchase, or the short sale of your own home, understanding the process will relieve some of the stress.

The first thing to understand about a short sale is that unlike a traditional equity sale there is an all-important 3rd party that controls the fate of the deal:  The lender(s).  In order for a short sale to occur, the lender or lenders must approve the transaction.  This involves 3 items for their consideration:

  1. Can the current owner show sufficient financial hardship to prove that he cannot pay his mortgage?
  2. Is the price offered consistent with comparable sales in the area?  The bank wants to re-coup as much of their investment as possible.
  3. Will the bank or investor agree to settle for less than the amount owed, or will they choose to foreclose?

Step #1 – Pre-Qualification

Let’s start with pre-qualification of the homeowner.  Before taking a short sale listing it should be the job of the Realtor to understand the financial requirements and pre-qualify the seller.  This involves having the sellers complete a financial worksheet and reviewing their income and assets.  Whether buying or selling, this is a critical step and one reason why working with an agent that is experienced in short sales is important.  If the sellers don’t financially qualify, there is no point going any further. 

Step #2 – Documentation

Once it has been determined that the sellers qualify, the Realtor or qualified short sale negotiator, will contact the seller’s lender and determine the exact requirements for submission as they are all slightly different.  It will also be determined at this point if the lender participates in the government HAFA (Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives) program as there may be incentives for both the sellers and the lender, and certain procedures may be streamlined.  In any case, the Realtor will work with the sellers and collect all the necessary documentation.  This will include: 

  1. A statement of general information
  2. Financial worksheet
  3. Handwritten letter explaining their hardship
  4. 2 months pay stubs or year-to-date Profit and Loss statement if self-employed
  5. 2 months bank statements
  6. Tax returns for the last 2 years
  7. Most current statements for all retirement accounts or other assets
  8. Authorization form to allow Realtor or negotiator to speak with the lender(s)

Step #3 – Sale of the Property

The house is then listed for sale as a short sale.  Both listing and selling agents must agree to equally split whatever commission the lender decides to pay.  Once an offer is received the Realtor should carefully examine the offer and make sure that it is an offer the lender is likely to accept; the price should be consistent with comps; the offer must not be contingent on the sale of the buyer’s home; and the buyer must understand that it is unlikely that the lender will pay for any termite work or other repairs.

Step #4 – Submission of the Short Sale Package

The listing Realtor or negotiator submits everything to the lender for approval of the short sale and the sale is noted in the MLS as “Contingent”.  Again, it is important to have an experienced Realtor or negotiator who makes sure that the submission is not only complete, but that it is packaged neatly and easy to read and understand.

The package goes to a special department at the lender where it is reviewed.  If there is any documentation missing or unclear, they will request additional information. Unfortunately, even this initial review can sometimes take 4 weeks or longer.

Once this initial review is completed and the package confirmed as complete, a negotiator representing the lender will be assigned.  It is the job of this negotiator to carefully review the file and make a recommendation as to whether it should be approved, or not.  If there are 2 lenders (a 1st and 2nd mortgage), this entire process must be completed for both lenders. 

Step #5 – Negotiation

During the actual review and negotiation process, the lender’s negotiator may counter specific items in the offer including the purchase price and the requested commission.  In the case of the second mortgage holder (who stands to lose the most), they may also request that the buyers make a financial contribution.  Again, this is where experience counts.  The seller’s Realtor or negotiator should be in communication with the lender’s negotiator several times a week, working to move the deal along and arrive at terms that are favorable to the seller and buyer.  This part of the process can drag on for weeks, or even months, although some lenders have streamlined the process.  Also, keep in mind that many of the 2nd mortgage holders won’t even begin the review process until the 1st lien holder has approved the sale.

Step #6 – Approval

If the lender’s negotiator recommends approval, the file goes to upper management or the investor for final approval.  Generally speaking, if the file makes it this far, it is usually approved.  But again, this final leg of the process may take an additional week or two.

And finally, the letter everyone has been waiting for – the approval letter.  Assuming all terms are acceptable to sellers and buyers the sale will now proceed as a “normal” sale.  The approval letter will stipulate a date by which the sale must close or the approval is no longer valid, usually 30 days.  Hopefully the buyer has hung-in during the approval process, and at this point the clock starts ticking for buyer inspections and contingency removals.

Navigating a short sale as either a buyer or seller can be overwhelming.  Making sure you’ve got an experienced professional on your team is the best way to protect your interests.  Questions?  Just give me a call.  619-846-9249.