Despite the fact that home prices are on the rise, there are still thousands of people in San Diego County who owe more than their home is worth and are struggling to pay their mortgage. Have you fallen behind on your payments? Have you been unable to work out a loan modification? Just don’t know what to do?

I wrote a free guide book entitled, “What to Do When You Can’t Pay Your Mortgage” to help answer some of your questions and explore your options. Just go to http://cantpaymymortgagehelp.com to request your free, no-obligation copy.

For many, selling their home in a short sale has been a solution that immediately put an end to the harassing phone calls and sleepless nights. Did you know…?

Relocation Allowance: Though a relocation allowance cannot be guaranteed, it is not uncommon for the seller to be paid $2,000 – 3,000 by the lender at the close of escrow to help with the costs of moving. It all depends on who the investor is on the loan.

No Deficiency Judgment: In California it is against the law for a bank to file a deficiency judgment against you after a short sale when the loan was a first mortgage on a property from 1-4 units.

No Cost to the Seller: In a traditional equity sale, the seller usually pays the real estate commissions to the listing and buyer’s agent, along with his/her share of the closing costs. In a short sale, the bank pays all of those costs.

Here are comments from a few of my clients about their short sale experience:

“Marti was able to quickly secure a qualified buyer for our home and smoothly handled all of the negotiation with our bank. It was a huge relief to be out from under a mortgage we could no longer afford.” Megan M.

“Our situation with both a first and second mortgage and different lenders was very stressful, and I was leery of doing a short sale… I had heard so many horror stories. But Marti patiently walked us through the process and thoroughly explained every step along the way. Despite a reluctant 2nd lien holder, Marti was able to negotiate the sale and get it done.” Amber B.

“My only regret is that we waited so long to list our home for sale. I would highly recommend Marti to anyone faced with a mortgage they just can’t pay.” Lane M.

If you can’t pay your mortgage, please don’t ignore the problem. It is okay to ask for help and advice. Just remember that time is of the essence. Acting early allows you to make the decision that is best for you. Wait too long and your choices disappear. Get your free booklet today or call me at 619-846-9249 for your confidential consultation.

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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.

 

For most of the 22 million homeowners who owe an average of $40,000 – $65,000 more than their home is worth, the recent $25 billion dollar settlement with the banks will bring no relief. According to Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate’s housing subcommittee, “When you owe more than your house is worth, relief can be hard to come by.”   Among borrowers whose homes have dropped in value through no fault of their own, many choose to simply walk away, which according to Menendez, “Only exacerbates the problem.”

Menendez has introduced a bill that provides an interesting twist on the idea of principal reduction.  The Preserving American Homeownership Act would encourage lenders to write down principal balances by allowing them to share in the home’s appreciation at a later date.  The principal balance would be written down in increments over a three year period to 95% of the current value, so long as the homeowner remains current on their payments.

In exchange for the write-down, the lender would receive a fixed percentage of any future appreciation when the home is either sold or re-financed.  That share could not exceed 50%.  So if a principal balance was reduced by 25%, the bank would receive 25% of any future appreciation.

The Act would apply to primary residences only, but any homeowner could apply.  Borrowers who are in default or even in foreclosure could qualify, but would be required to make their reduced mortgage payment on time in order to remain in the program.

The article in DSNews where I read about the bill did not indicate if the Act would apply to all types of loans or whether or not the modified loans would be re-written at today’s lower interest rates. Presuming so, this Act could provide enough incentive to many underwater homeowners to persuade them to stay in their home versus initiating a strategic default.

As a fan of principal reduction, I like this idea as it seems to be a win-win situation for both homeowners and the banks.  Banks don’t take as big a hit as they would with a short sale or foreclosure, and the write-down is taken over a three year period, AND homeowners get to keep their homes with reduced payments and principal.  Even the opponents of principal reduction might find something to like about this plan!

It was just announced that the Obama Administration is making some significant changes to the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). I noted 3 key points:

1. Homeowners who are struggling financially will be eligible for a 2nd evaluation with a less stringent debt-to-income ratio.
2. The program will be extended to include investor owned properties that are used as rentals.

And ….(drum roll)…

3. The  Administration will triple incentives for lenders who write down principal balances for underwater homeowners, AND they are extending this principal reduction incentive to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac!

It’s this last item that has me excited as I’ve been a proponent of principal reduction for a long time, as noted in my blog post back in 2010. What impact all of this will have of course depends on how quickly the new rules can be put into effect and how well all participating lenders adhere to the new guidelines.

All that being said, I’ll take any good loan modification news that we can get!

Short Sale vs. Foreclosure

People often ask me if a short sale is really worth the effort.  Well, I’d be the first to admit that short sales can be a real pain for everyone involved…sellers, Realtors, buyers…and because so many fail, people often have a negative view of the short sale process.  But, do you really know the benefits over foreclosure that might make it worth the effort?  Watch this short video and see why short sale if becoming an attractive alternative to foreclosure for many homeowners.

 

What is a Loan Modification?

Watch this short video to learn the truth about mortgage loan modifications.

Check out the latest San Diego County home sale and value statistics. How well has your neighborhood fared in 2011? Just give me a call for specific information about your home.

Thanks to my wonderful and talented video producer husband, I’ve just launched the first in a series of short videos designed to help educate consumers on a variety of real estate topics.

The first in the series discusses your 8 options if you can’t pay your mortgage. Would love to hear your comments!

And please don’t hesitate to contact me for a free, confidential consultation. 619-846-9249.

As I’ve mentioned more than once, I’m no Economics genius. So I was pleasantly surprised to read the October 12th NY Times article by Martin S Feldstein, a Harvard professor of Economics and former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors. It appears that Professor Feldstein and I agree that the only way to stop the drop in home values is by principal reduction.

The professor points out that for most Americans, their homes are their primary source of wealth. Since the housing bubble burst in 2006, Americans have lost $9 trillion or 40% of their wealth. This sharp decline in wealth means less consumer spending, fewer jobs and a stalled economic recovery.

Today, nearly 15 million homeowners owe more than their homes are worth and of this group about half of the mortgages exceed the value by more than 30%. The professor maintains that housing prices continue to fall because millions of homeowners are defaulting on their mortgages and the sale of the foreclosed properties drive down prices. Because most mortgages are non recourse loans, underwater borrowers have a strong incentive to simply walk away.

Professor Feldstein suggests that instead of throwing tax dollars at ineffective programs aimed at reducing interest rates, the government should address the real problem which is that the amount of the mortgage debt exceeds the value of the home.

Here is a summary of his idea: The government would reduce mortgage principal to 110% of the home value. The cost for doing this would be split between the government and the banks. This would help about 11 million of the 15 million underwater homes at a cost of under $350 billion. Considering the millions of mortgages held by Fannie and Freddie, the government would in essence be paying itself.

This would of course be a voluntary program. In exchange for the principal write-down, the borrower would agree that the new mortgage was a full recourse loan and the government could go after other assets if he defaulted on the loan.

I think it sounds fair, as everyone makes a sacrifice and we put the brakes on strategic default. It is a huge one-time cost, but continuing to allow housing prices to fall could risk another, even more costly recession. And speaking for my short sale clients, I know that most would have gladly signed up for a principal reduction if it meant saving their home.

What do you think?

If I’ve sounded a bit like a broken record over the last 10 months, it’s because I strongly believe that principal reductions are an import key to ending the housing crisis.  People who are struggling to make payments on an upside down mortgage are more likely to avoid default if they are paying on a mortgage based on 2011 home values.  Fewer defaults mean more stable values and ultimately an end to the real estate crash.  And apparently some of the banks now agree.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Bank of America is finally bringing principal reduction modifications to the bargaining table.  For months now, B of A and the nation’s other four largest servicers have been in discussion with state and federal officials in an attempt to settle charges of inappropriate activities in connection with foreclosure proceedings.  Investigations last September revealed that several servicers used illegal affidavits and faulty paperwork in their foreclosure practices, and the banks are now hoping to settle and avoid any further liability.

The state attorneys general have pushed for principal reduction as part of the settlement, but until recently the banks have refused.  The private negotiations have been going on for months, and the June 15th target for resolution has come and gone.  As a means of kicking the discussion into high gear, B of A has now offered principal reductions as a bargaining chip, and the other banks are expected to follow.

Of course, Bank of America is not offering principal reductions because they actually care about keeping people in their homes, but rather because they hope to make the problems caused by sloppy and illegal foreclosure practices go away.  But in any case, the end result could be the answer to the prayers of many homeowners facing default.

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