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.

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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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Of all the articles I’ve written, posts about Bank of America and their Cooperative Short Sale Program seem to draw the most attention.  Is that because people have been disappointed in the results?  Or are they nervous about potential problems?  Well, I thought it would be interesting to share the progress of a new B of A Cooperative Short Sale that I’ve just listed to see just how good, (or bad) the process really is now that the program has been around for a while.

This sale is a bit different than most short sales I’ve done, as the owner had already begun the Cooperative program when I was hired.  Thus a lot of the initial paper work was already in the system, and the bank had ordered an appraisal.  The turn-around time on the appraisal was fairly quick, and I was pleased to see that the suggested list price approved by the bank was reasonable according to all of my research, so at least we are not dealing with an unrealistic starting price.

We did lose a couple of days as I tried to connect with the B of A representative, who will be my primary contact, but we finally spoke and she seems pleasant and knowledgeable.

So just when I thought this might be smooth sailing, the homeowner received a notice that the 2nd mortgage had been sold to a new investor, and the servicing also transferred away from Bank of America.   So how do you sell a 2nd mortgage that is upside down?  There is absolutely no equity in the home to provide collateral backing for the 2nd TD, so it seems odd that it was sold at this stage of the game.

This of course throws a bit of a wrench into the works as I will now have to negotiate a totally separate approval with the new note holder, through the new servicing company…..once they even figure out that they have the account.  Sigh.  We will have to see how this affects the B of A approval process…really not sure what to expect at this point, but I’ll keep you posted.

A recent study by analytics company CoreLogic reported that nearly 25% of all mortgage borrowers owe more than their home is worth.  The aggregate amount of negative equity in the U.S. was a whopping $750 billion at the end of last year.   This lost equity prevents homeowners from refinancing or moving, and according to the report, is the “dominant factor” driving the real estate market.

If you’re among the millions who are paying each month for negative equity, you probably have some questions about your options.  To help address this issue, I’m offering a FREE workshop here in San Diego covering the following:

  • Should I wait for home values to increase?  What is the future of San Diego real estate?
  • What about a loan modification?  What programs are available, how do I qualify, and how many loan modifications are actually approved?
  • If I can’t afford my payments, what are my options?
  • What is involved in the foreclosure process?  How long can I stay in my home? How will it affect my credit?
  • Will filing Bankruptcy save my home?
  • What is a strategic default?  What are the risks?
  • What is a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure?
  • Is a short sale better than foreclosure?  What is the process? What is a HAFA short sale?
  • What about deficiency judgments and 1099s?  When can I qualify to buy again?

Saturday, June 25th  10:00 – 11:30 a.m. 

San Diego County Library, 4S Ranch

10433 Reserve Dr, San Diego, CA 92127

There is no fee or obligation for attendance, but space is limited.  Advance registration is required.  Homeowners will receive comprehensive workshop materials.

Call 1-888-464-1820 x104 to Register Today

As mentioned previously, I’m not an accountant or lawyer and you should always consult the appropriate professional before making any major decision about your home.

 

Everyday I wake up, turn on my computer and read all the real estate news.  But pretty soon I’m scratching my head, wondering whether or not anyone really has a clue about what’s going on.  One story says values have double-dipped at a new low, another says they’re on the rise.  Some “experts” insist that reducing unemployment will drive the real estate recovery, while others have the statistics to “prove” that a stronger real estate market will be what heals the national economy.  No wonder the real estate market is stagnant – everyone is paralyzed by uncertainty!

As noted previously, I have no crystal ball.  Nor do I have a doctorate in economics.  However, I do know one thing that will help heal both the real estate market and the overall economy:   Would-be buyers and defaulting owners – take action now!  

If you are thinking about buying a property, quit thinking and start doing!  This is a fabulous buyer’s market and both prices and interest rates are at incredible lows.  If you’re worried that you won’t get the absolute lowest price because values might continue to drop, you’re probably wrong.  Most experts believe that we’ll see some slight ups and downs in value over the next 2 years, but it will be more of a bumpy road versus a roller coaster dive.   If you wait another year to buy, you’ll lose 12 months of mortgage interest deduction, and the enjoyment of owning your own home or investment property.

On the other hand, if you’re unable to continue to make your mortgage payments it’s definitely time to take action.  You probably won’t win the lottery, so call your bank and try to get a loan modification.  If that doesn’t work, consider a short sale.  Avoiding a foreclosure through short sale is generally not only better for the seller, but it will help the real estate market and economy.  Banks are choking on foreclosure inventory, and as those homes are released into the sales system they are often neglected and tend to lower home values.  Reducing the number of new foreclosures is key to recovery for everyone.

So if you’re still unsure and have questions about buying or selling, just give me a call.  I’m ready when you are to help turn this market around!

The short answer is “No” and “Maybe”.  When faced with the prospect of losing their home to foreclosure, many people are willing to try most anything to halt the process and save their home.  Bankruptcy however, is probably not the answer.

Let me first say that I’m not an attorney, and do not intend this as legal advice.  If you are considering bankruptcy, please consult an attorney before taking any action.

Personal bankruptcy is generally filed under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.  Under Chapter 7 most of your unsecured debt (such as credit card debt) is permanently discharged, while Chapter 13 allows you to reorganize your debt with your creditors and develop a plan to pay-off your debts over a specific period of time.  If you qualify and file personal bankruptcy under either Chapter 7 or 13, an automatic stay is put on all your creditors, including a lender that might be pursuing foreclosure.   However, this is only a temporary halt to the foreclosure process.

As mentioned above, filing Chapter 7 does not discharge your secured debts.  A mortgage is a secured debt and the collateral is your home.  If you do not pay, your lender has the right to take back the security you offered in exchange for the money advanced as a mortgage.  So filing a Chapter 7 will not save your home from foreclosure.  At any time before your unsecured debts are discharged, the court can allow your lender’s request for “relief from the automatic stay” and the foreclosure can proceed.  After discharge, the foreclosing lender is free to continue the process.

Filing Chapter 13 however may allow you to save your home from foreclosure.  In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy you are allowed to make arrangements with your creditors for repayment of debts owed, including your mortgage.  However, this is generally allowed by the courts only when you have a stable source of income that will allow you to make all payments as agreed for the entire repayment period.  There are many factors that determine if filing for protection under Chapter 13 will allow you to keep your home. The only way you will know if this will work in your particular situation is to consult an attorney.

It is also important to note that a bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for 10 years after date of filing. If this doesn’t seem like a viable solution, please read more about other options to avoid foreclosure.