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Archive for the ‘foreclosure’ Category

Foreclosures getting worse

This story aired on May 28, 2010 on WKOW News.

By Bob Schaper – bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MADISON (WKOW) – A quarter of all home sales last month involved distressed properties – and the situation could be getting worse.

Peter Zarov, owner of Homestead Title, says the number of distressed sales – such as short sales and auctions – is likely to go up because closings lag months behind foreclosures.

“I’m hoping we’re at bottom,” he said. “But every time I say that it gets worse.”

Nationally, distressed sales were 33 percent of all sales in April, according to the National Association of Realtors. That was down slightly from March, when it was 35 percent.

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The following chart provides definitions and differences for various terms and concepts you may encounter in short sales and foreclosures. For a brief explanation of the HAFA Process, see HAFA Explained – The New Federal Short Sale Program. The National Association of Realtors also provides excellent information and resources.   These definitions and terms are a broad-brush attempt to offer clarity and understanding.  Many terms only apply to Wisconsin. 

Term or Concept

Traditional Short Sale

HAFA Short Sale

Foreclosure

HAMP N/A Mortgage Modification program through the Making Homes Affordable initiative. HAMP may be required for a HAFA Short Sale. HAMP Loan modification may be an alternative to foreclosure. The program has been unsuccessful for most home owners.
HAFA N/A The short sale program offered through the Making Homes Affordable initiative. HAFA is designed to be a short sale alternative when a loan modification fails. N/A
SSA

Short Sale Agreement

SSA Only Applies to HAFA:

Lenders do not agree to a traditional short sale until the end of the process, only after approving all application materials AND the offer to purchase.

SSA is the Lender’s Agreement that outlines the short sale for the home owner. This is agreed to at the time of listing.

N/A

RASS

Request for Approval of Short Sale

RASS Applies to HAFA:

Request for short sale approval is a long drawn out process of submitting information and often resubmitting it many times.

The Seller or REALTOR submits the RASS within 3 days of having an accepted offer. The lender than has 10 days to approve or deny the request. If approved, lender must close when buyers are ready.

N/A

Term or Concept

Traditional Short Sale

HAFA Short Sale

Foreclosure

Principle Residence Can do short sale if not principal residence. May have federal income tax consequences for amounts the lender does not collect. The home must be the seller’s principal residence to qualify for HAFA. N/A
Timing Wildly varies, but “Short” does not usually describe the length of time. 3-18Months to complete. Much faster than traditional short sale.

Less than 60 days From application to approval. Lender has 10 days to approve any accepted offer. Can close within normal timelines once the offer is approved.

Foreclosures in Wisconsin can take 8-12 months where a seller does not contest the foreclosure (default judgment). It can take longer if the seller answers the complaint. I can take less time for abandoned or commercial property.
Default The missed mortgage payment that leads to the filing of a foreclosure
Deficiency Lender may or may not demand a deficiency. The Deficiency is the amount of money the lender is still owed. Lenders cannot demand deficiency. First Mortgage holders generally waive their right to a deficiency in order to speed up the process. 2nd or 3rd lenders usually still retain a right to deficiency.
Term or Concept

Traditional Short Sale

HAFA Short Sale

Foreclosure

Loan Types and Underwriters Virtually all lenders and underwriters will do short sales. Every lender or underwriter has different standards. Only applies to non-GSE loans, meaning NOT Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Only applies to lenders participating in the HAMP Program.

All lenders can file foreclosure actions.

Mortgage Payments Sellers generally do not pay mortgage payments during the foreclosure and short sale process. Essentially, they are there “rent free.” Sellers must continue making mortgage payments, but not more than 31% of their gross income.

N/A

Commission Lender may negotiate to reduce it. Many investors and programs now require 6% if that is written in listing agreement. Requires servicers to honor listing agreement if commission does not exceed 6% N/A
REALTOR Anyone can participate in a traditional short sale, including FSBO’s, Investors, or non-licensed individuals HAFA short sales MUST be listed with a REALTOR. N/A
Term or Concept

Traditional Short Sale

HAFA Short Sale

Foreclosure

Initiating Short Sale Process Seller, Realtor, or Attorney calls lender, but process generally starts once a Buyer accepts the offer. Process initiated by sending short sale “package.” Seller calls lender and requests HAFA Short Sale. Lender must proactively offer short sale to individuals who try and fail at HAMP. May require application for HAMP first (although new guidelines allow for direct application for Short sale). N/A
Cash at Closing Sellers are rarely allowed any cash at closing. Many lenders require the seller to bring money to closing Lenders can offer up to $3,000 as a cash incentive for sellers to do a HAFA short sale. N/A
Credit Consequences Consult a financial advisor or credit counselor. Short sales can have a significant impact on credit. Consult a financial advisor or credit counselor. Short sales can have a significant impact on credit. Consult a financial advisor or credit counselor. Foreclosure will be a significant impact on credit.

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The percentage of Dane County home sales that involved distressed properties increased to over 25% in the first quarter of 2010. Wisconsin is not immune from the national foreclosure crisis. The good news, however, is that Wisconsin’s woes don’t compare to the hardest hit states and our housing market continues to outshine the national averages.

Nevertheless, a large percentage of Dane County sales in the first quarter of 2010 were foreclosure related.  Indeed, the Distressed Property Index, developed by Homested Title and Dan Miller, indicates that distressed properties account for over 25% of all Dane County sales.  

The Distressed Property Index measures the ratio of foreclosure filings to total home sales in Dane County. The index provides an estimate of the number of distressed properties sales in the overall market. A distressed property is one that has gone through some stage of the foreclosure process.

In March, the index topped 25%, suggesting that more than 25% of Dane County sales involved a distressed property.

The Index was created by Peter Zarov and Dan Miller as a way of providing critical information for Buyers, Sellers, and their agents.

The Index is published on a monthly basis at the Wisconsin State Journal and on Danecountymarket.com.

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Foreclosures continue to rise in 2010, and with them, we continue to see more REO and Sheriff’s Sales. A sheriff’s sale is the judicial auction at the end of the foreclosure process. If there are no bidders, the bank retakes the property and sells it from its “Real Estate Owned” Department, or REO for short.

Both of these sales occur after a foreclosure, a judicial proceeding designed to end all ownership rights in former owners. This raises the question:

Do buyers of these properties really need title insurance?

The Answer is a resounding YES!

A Sheriff’s sale is designed to “strip” all interests and liens from the property and sell it free and clear to a new buyer. But, that does not always happen. Lien holders, like mortgages and judgments, that are not properly named or served in the foreclosure proceedings may retain an interest in the property. Taxes likely will remain due against the property. And, certain federal liens can be enforced months after the sale.

The Sheriff’s deed provides no warranties. This means that any title problems are solely the buyer’s responsibility. While title insurance will not entirely take the place of a warranty, it provides a level of protection and insurance in the event of a title claim.

Similarly, a Bank generally will transfer the property by “Special Warranty Deed” or “Quit Claim Deed.” These deeds also lack the full warranties of an ordinary deed. The warranty is the seller’s promise of good title.  Without a full warrenty, buyers will not be able to go after the seller for most title problems.

Thus, the need for title insurance.  A title insurance policy can protect buyers from liens such as past mortgages, judgments, taxes, or construction liens that might attach to the property.

Buying a property out of foreclosure without title insurance – whether at Sheriff’s sale or through REO – is a risky proposition. The cost of an owner’s policy of title insurance is a small price to pay to substantially minimize the risk.

Title insurance, however, is not the perfect solution.  It won’t eliminate all risks.  Title policies usually include certain “exceptions” or “exclusions” from coverage. The policy may not cover for some title risks such as adverse possession, boundary line disputes, construction liens, or matters not shown in the public record (among others). A full warranty deed would be the only protection from all title claims. But, Banks and Sheriff Sales don’t generally offer full, warranty deeds.

The trade-off when buying an REO or Sheriff’s sale is a great price in exchange for a little risk… unless you don’t bother with title insurance, in which case you’ll get a great price with a whole lot of risk.

This discussion is not intended as legal advice and should not be used outside of Wisconsin.  Buyers of REO or Sheriff sale properties are urged to seek the advice of a qualified attorney.

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Foreclosure This Exit: Highway Sign

Short Sale Seminar

May 26, 2010: 9am – 12pm

City Center West
525 Junction Rd.
Madison, WI 53717-2152

Licensed REALTORS and lenders are invited to attend this powerful seminar on short sales, foreclosures, and the new HAFA Program.

Attorney Peter Zarov will be breaking down the Agent’s responsibilities, the foreclosure time line, and the short sale process. This class will cover:

  • Short sale time line
  • Foreclosure process
  • How to avoid liability during a short sale (Your referral team, common scams, etc.)
  • The short sale packet and best practices to submit
  • The NEW Federal HAFA Short Sale Program
  • Transactional pitfalls that will kill the deal that can be avoided

Agents will a acquire critical knowledge of the foreclosure process in Wisconsin, short sale procedures, and the changes brought about by the new HAFA Program that went into effect on April 4, 2010. Surviving and thriving in this market requires a familiarity and understanding of these topics.

The Event is $15 and includes materials, bagels, pastries, coffee, and juice. We accept payment by credit card or check.

Attend This Event

For more information, go to www.homesteadtitle.net/seminars or subscribe to our blog at www.homesteadtitle.net/blog

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Distressed Property Resources

 

Education and expertise are critical to serving distressed homeowners and buyers of distressed properties. Beware of internet sites that often contain incorrect information or involve scams. We have found the following resources to be helpful for Wisconsin Realtors, attorneys, and distressed home owners.

Trusted Web Sites:

 




 

 

Trusted Sources of Education:

 

 

The best resources are local. Feel free to contact Homestead Title to see if we can answer your questions or point you in the right direction. We’re here to help!

Ph: (608)203-4800

Email: home@homesteadtitle.net

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Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program (known as HAFA) went into effect on April 5, 2010. HAFA allows owners to participate in a “short sale” with standardized procedures and expedited timelines. Short sales are traditionally the hardest and longest transactions to complete and involve dozens of hours of phone calls and paperwork and a very high level of expertise. HAFA, it is hoped, will streamline this process. It is important to note, however, that HAFA does not replace the traditional short sale. Rather, it is a stream-lined short sale process that applies to specific owners who have mortgages with specific, participating lenders.

HAFA Is Not For Everyone

HAFA is not a mandated program that all lenders must follow. Nor does it apply to all distressed home owners. HAFA only applies to lenders that voluntarily participate in the HAMP Mortgage Modification Program. The good news is that this includes most major, national lenders, such as: Citi, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, GMAC Mortgage, Chase, Litton, and many others. The bad news is that the program does not apply to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loans, which account for a huge percentage of home loans. Nor does it apply to most smaller, local lenders.

In addition, the program does not apply to the following:

  • Loans originated after January 2009,
  • Loans with a balance over $729,750,
  • Property that is not the seller’s principal residence,
  • Loans where the total monthly mortgage payment does not exceed 31% of the seller’s gross income.

In other words, HAFA may make a difference for some distressed home owners. But, it may not even apply for a large group of owners and their lenders. In that case, the traditional short sale process may still be a viable option.

How It Works

HAFA is a short sale program designed to work with the Federal home loan modification program called HAMP. The HAMP program is intended to allow distressed homeowners to stay in their homes by using mortgage modifications that lower their monthly payment. The Federal government recognized that many (if not most) homeowners either did not qualify for HAMP or could not even pay the lowered mortgage payment. HAFA is intended to offer these home owners an option to sell their home through a streamlined short sale process.
Traditional Short Sale

In a traditional short sale, the home owner needs to request a short sale from the lender. The process, in a nutshell, goes something like this:

  1. Sellers and/or Realtor contact lender and initiate discussions about short sale.
  2. Sellers collect reams of documents to prove to the lender that they cannot pay the mortgage.
  3. The Realtor lists the property and tries to find a buyer, having no idea how much the lender will demand or what purchase price will be enough for a short sale.
  4. Once a buyer has signed an offer to purchase, the seller submits a “short sale package” to the bank. The package contains all financial information and documentation showing the seller is unable to pay and the offer to purchase.
  5. The bank often (usually) requests additional documents and follow up documents and it can take many efforts, phone calls and faxes to finally confirm that the bank has what it needs.
  6. The Seller, Realtor, and perhaps attorney spend weeks or months negotiating with the bank over the terms of the short sale, including the purchase price, what closing costs and commissions will or will not be paid, how much money the seller might need to contribute at closing, and whether the bank will forgive the debt or demand a deficiency after closing.
  7. The Bank finally approves the short sale based on the purchase price, offer to purchase, and any amendments that needed to be negotiated to get bank approval;
  8. The sale finally closes.

This process can take months, and in some cases more than a year. Every lender has slightly different requirements and they each handle transactions differently. Most short sales require dozens upon dozens of long phone calls and an unbelievable level of persistence, patience, and hard work. And, Sellers and Realtors must repeat this process for every second mortgage. Up Until the moment of closing, the seller may not know if the lender will demand a deficiency. If the lender does demand a deficiency, the Seller will still owe the bank after closing.

HAFA Short Sale Process

HAFA is intended to streamline and standardize the procedures for short sales. The HAFA process goes something like this:

  1. Seller applies for mortgage modification through HAMP program and is either denied or misses payments;
  2. The lender must proactively notify the Seller about the option of a HAFA short sale (or the seller can ask);
  3. The lender sends a Short Sale Agreement (SSA) and a blank document called a Request for Approval of Short Sale (RASS);
  4. The Seller has 14 days to sign the SSA and return it to the lender along with the Realtor’s listing agreement and a title search showing any other mortgages or liens;
  5. The Lender will inform the Seller (even before any buyer submits an offer) what it will take to get short sale approval – either a purchase price or the amount of proceeds needed
  6. Once a buyer has signed an offer to purchase, the Seller and Realtor have 3 days to fill out and submit the Request for Approval of Short Sale (RASS) to the lender.
  7. The lender has 10 days to accept or deny the RASS;
  8. Upon acceptance of the RASS, the Seller proceeds to closing.

The fact that we were able to summarize both processes into 8 steps does not mean that HAFA will be just like an ordinary short sale. Step one will require the seller to submit much of the same documents as a traditional short sale. Indeed, a Mortgage Modification also requires financial disclosures and reams of documentation. But, once this step is done, the rest of the process is much smoother, much faster, and standardized.

Differences Between HAFA and Traditional Short Sales

HAFA improves the short sale process in a number of important ways. But it also comes with some trade-offs. The following chart highlights the differences between HAFA and traditional short sales:

Traditional Short Sale

HAFA

The home owner generally does not make mortgage payments up to the date of closing. They live “rent free” during the short sale process. Under HAFA, the owner must make mortgage payments up to 31% of their income. Failure to pay the mortgage will disqualify the owner from participating in HAFA.
Lenders can demand a deficiency for the amount of the short-fall. In other words, the debt is not forgiven after closing. First-Mortgage lenders must waive the deficiency and must negotiate with second-mortgage lenders to waive their deficiency as well.
The Seller could receive no funds at closing. Sellers can receive “cash incentives” at closing for up to $3,000.
Lenders generally budget up to $3,000 to pay second mortgage holders. Lenders are given a government incentive of up to $6,000 to pay to second mortgage holders.
The property could be sold by a Realtor or For Sale By Owner (FSBO) Property must be listed with a Realtor.
Lenders can take as long as they wanted to approve or deny the short sale HAFA imposes strict and short time-lines on participating lenders
Lenders will not begin to “negotiate” a short sale or even initiate the process until a buyer has signed an offer to purchase Lenders must start the process at the time or even before the property is listed with a Realtor.
Lender does not give short sale approval until days before the closing. Lender must approve the short sale, including the amount they will receive within 10 days of receiving the accepted offer.

 

These differences are important to understand. More importantly, it is critical to understand that HAFA
does not replace the traditional short sale. It is an additional tool that applies to certain lenders and certain home owners.

Homestead Title is always available to answer questions and help you with your short sale closings. Look for additional posts in the coming days and weeks.

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The new Federal Program designed to aid distressed home owners went into effect on April 5, 2010. The HAFA Program is designed to assist distressed home owners in selling their home, even if they owe more than the home is worth. The program allows owners to participate in a “short sale” with standardized procedures and expedited timelines. Short sales are traditionally the hardest and longest transactions to complete and involve dozens of hours of phone calls and paperwork and a very high level of expertise. HAFA, it is hoped, will streamline this process.

Homestead has provided some basic information on HAFA in a previous post. Click Here. And, we are always available to answer your short sale or foreclosure questions (relating to Wisconsin properties).

On March 26, the Federal government announced a few changes to HAFA including:

  1. Sellers who are relocating can receive up to $3000 as an incentive to close (the original amount was $1,500).
  2. Changing some of the requirements when a homeowner declares bankruptcy and allows them to apply for HAFA (if you are considering a short sale and bankruptcy, you really need an attorney!)
  3. Allows for certain home owners to apply for the HAFA program even if they have not previously applied for a HAMP loan modification.
  4. Clarifies how third-party vendors (negotiators) may be paid.

Bloomberg news recently reported that this new program could be a “game changer.” Indeed, MoodysEconomy.com predicts that the HAFA program may stave off nearly 1.5 Million foreclosures over the next 2 years. While this may be a positive over the long term, it could mean more short sales over the short term. This has the potential to dampen sales prices in certain markets.

One key provision of HAFA is that it REQUIRES the use of a Realtor. All short sales are difficult and require expertise and the federal government recognizes that licensed Realtors will need to be a part of the transaction. Likewise, it is critical to use a title company with an incredibly high level of expertise and experience. Homestead Title has closed hundreds of distressed properties over the last 3 years and provides guidance and expertise whenever appropriate.

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In an effort to end the foreclosure crisis, the Federal Government has been trying to keep owners in their homes through Mortgage Modifications. Now, under a new plan, it will try to make short sales easier.

The Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative Program (HAFA for short) is a complex program designed to simplify, streamline, and standardize the short sale process. HAFA not only streamlines the short sale process, it allows some distressed owners to walk away with a little cash.


HAFA is an extension of the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) that sought to assist home-owners through mortgage modifications. Unfortunately, the HAMP program has not been very successful. Thus, HAFA offers incentives to both home owners and their lenders to facilitate a short sale. According to the National Association of Realtors, HAFA does not apply to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loans, which will issue their own versions of HAFA. The new HAFA program takes effect on April 15, 2010 and provides the following benefits:

  • Short Sale pre-approval much earlier – before even signing a listing agreement or an offer.
  • Prohibits commission reductions below 6% (unless required by private mortgage insurance)
  • Requires full release of any 1st mortgage deficiencies – borrowers must be released from their debt
  • Provides financial incentives to lenders and owners: $1500 for owners and $1,000 for lenders.
  • Institutes uniformed and streamlined procedures that all participating banks must follow.

HAFA is a complex program with dozens upon dozens of pages of guidelines and forms. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will likely add hundreds of pages of their own programs.   HAFA is a new program and there is very little guidance.   We found the following resources helpful:

Homestead Title is committed to providing the most up to date information and will be offering updates often.

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 Question: What are the Tax implications when a lender forgives debt in a foreclosure or short sale?

Answer: The short answer – Ask an accountant! The long answer is that the forgiven debt may or may not be taxable. Normally, debt that is forgiven or cancelled by a lender must be included as income on a tax return. But the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act allows owners to exclude certain cancelled debt on their principal residence from income. It only applies to “qualified principal residences,” and the law expires at the end of 2012. So, if the bank forecloses or agrees to a short sale and forgives debt, and the owner lives in the home as his principle residence, the IRS suggests that the debt will likely not be taxable. For more information, go to the IRS website or IRS Publication 4681.
 

Question: Why are some banks taking so long to approve Short Sales?

Answer: Lenders are completely overwhelmed and understaffed. The foreclosure crisis struck quickly and grew at a staggering pace – too fast for lenders to keep up. There were nearly 2 MILLION foreclosure filings in the first half of 2009 alone. A large lender may have a few hundred loss mitigators. Dane County saw over 1,400 foreclosures in 2009. That is one relatively small county out of thousands nationwide. Lenders simply can’t keep up. At the same time, they can’t keep up with defaults and late payments. It is taking lenders longer than ever to deal with customers in default, start the foreclosure process, and push the foreclosures to completion.

Question: If a Realtor hires a third-party negotiator, can the Agent be held liable for that negotiator’s actions?

Answer: Probably. Third-party negotiators often charge their fee from the agent’s commission. Some go further and contract only with the agent for their services. In this case, the negotiator is essentially a sub-agent of the Realtor and the Realtor may very well be liable for the negotiator’s actions. This is a question for the Realtor’s broker or legal counsel.

Question: Are agents allowed to hold offers, if the bank hasn’t looked at them yet, and play offers against each other until the bank examines the offers?

 Answer: An agent can delay submission of an accepted offer, but doing so is not likely in the client’s best interest. By delaying submission, the Agent would be delaying initiation of the short sale process. In addition, a seller cannot accept multiple primary offers.  Only one offer can be accepted and any other offers would be in secondary position. Thus, there should be little reason to delay submission. There is some disagreement as to whether agents should submit secondary offers.  Many experienced agents suggest submitting only one offer and suggest that submitting multiple offers only slows the process.  Other agents suggest that the secondary offer, if better, improves your chances on two levels: one, it is a better offer, and it also shows sincere marketing efforts.   

Question: Short Sale are high risk, take incredible effort and long hours, often result in reduced commission, and often involve angry sellers. Why would any sane Realtor touch one of these?


 Answer:
Short Sales, Foreclosures and REOs comprise anywhere from 20-30% of the sales market in Dane County and will continue to be a large part of the market for quite some time to come. Distressed properties are hard, but they are also a fantastic opportunity.  Realtors who commit to this are having their best years ever.  Those agents are careful about which short sales they will take and avoid those that will just be impossible to close.  And they develop systems and shortcuts that make the overwhelming work manageable.  Agents can do more than survive, while truly helping sellers and buyers. The key is to stay educated, develop efficient systems, and work with a team of experts. The most important member of your team is a nimble, experienced title company, like Homestead Title.

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