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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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 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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