5 Important Tips When Considering a Short Sale

short sale help button

[tweetmeme]If you’re thinking of selling your home, and you expect that the total amount you owe on your mortgage will be greater than the selling price of your home, you may be facing a short sale. A short sale is one where the net proceeds from the sale won’t cover your total mortgage obligation and closing costs, and you don’t have other sources of money to cover the deficiency. A short sale is different from a foreclosure, which is when your lender takes title of your home through a lengthy legal process and then sells it.

1. Consider loan modification first.

If you are thinking of selling your home because of financial difficulties and you anticipate a short sale, first contact your lender to see if it has any programs to help you stay in your home. Your lender may agree to a modification such as: Refinancing your loan at a lower interest rate; providing a different payment plan to help you get caught up; or providing a forbearance period if your situation is temporary. When a loan modification still isn’t enough to relieve your financial problems, a short sale could be your best option if:

* Your property is worth less than the total mortgage you owe on it.
* You have a financial hardship, such as a job loss or major medical bills.
* You have contacted your lender and it is willing to entertain a short sale.

2. Hire a qualified team.

The first step to a short sale is to hire a qualified real estate professional and a real estate attorney who specialize in short sales. Interview at least three candidates for each and look for prior short-sale experience. Short sales have proliferated only in the last few years, so it may be hard to find practitioners who have closed a lot of short sales. You want to work with those who demonstrate a thorough working knowledge of the short-sale process and who won’t try to take advantage of your situation or pressure you to do something that isn’t in your best interest. A qualified real estate professional can:

* Provide you with a comparative market analysis (CMA) or broker price opinion (BPO).
* Help you set an appropriate listing price for your home, market the home, and get it sold.
* Put special language in the MLS that indicates your home is a short sale and that lender approval is needed (all MLSs permit, and some now require, that the short-sale status be disclosed to potential buyers).
* Ease the process of working with your lender or lenders.
* Negotiate the contract with the buyers.
* Help you put together the short-sale package to send to your lender (or lenders, if you have more than one mortgage) for approval. You can’t sell your home without your lender and any other lien holders agreeing to the sale and releasing the lien so that the buyers can get clear title.

For additional resources and assistance on short sales, contact your local Real Estate Resource Center.

3. Begin gathering documentation before any offers come in.

Your lender will give you a list of documents it requires to consider a short sale. The short-sale “package” that accompanies any offer typically must include:

* A hardship letter detailing your financial situation and why you need the short sale
* A copy of the purchase contract and listing agreement
* Proof of your income and assets
* Copies of your federal income tax returns for the past two years

4. Prepare buyers for a lengthy waiting period.

Even if you’re well organized and have all the documents in place, be prepared for a long process. Waiting for your lender’s review of the short-sale package can take several weeks to months. Some experts say:

* If you have only one mortgage, the review can take about two months.
* With a first and second mortgage with the same lender, the review can take about three months.
* With two or more mortgages with different lenders, it can take four months or longer.

When the bank does respond, it can approve the short sale, make a counteroffer, or deny the short sale. The last two actions can lengthen the process or put you back at square one. (Your real estate attorney and real estate professional, with your authorization, can work your lender’s loss mitigation department on your behalf to prepare the proper documentation and speed the process along.)

5. Don’t expect a short sale to solve your financial problems.

Even if your lender does approve the short sale, it may not be the end of all your financial woes. Here are some things to keep in mind:

* You may be asked by your lender to sign a promissory note agreeing to pay back the amount of your loan not paid off by the short sale. If your financial hardship is permanent and you can’t pay back the balance, talk with your real estate attorney about your options.
* Any amount of your mortgage that is forgiven by your lender is typically considered income, and you may have to pay taxes on that amount. Under a temporary measure passed in 2007, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and Debt Cancellation Act, homeowners can exclude debt forgiveness on their federal tax returns from income for loans discharged in calendar years 2007 through 2012. Be sure to consult your real estate attorney and your accountant to see whether you qualify.
* Having a portion of your debt forgiven may have an adverse effect on your credit score. However, a short sale will impact your credit score less than foreclosure and bankruptcy.

For additional resources and assistance on short sales, contact your local Real Estate Resource Center.  You may have other options available to you.  Find out what they are to make better financial decisions.


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6 Creative Ways to Afford a Home

new home buyers - family
There are still various options to consider when purchasing a home:

1. Investigate local, state, and national down payment assistance programs. These programs give qualified applicants loans or grants to cover all or part of your required down payment. National programs include the Nehemiah program, www.getdownpayment.com, and the American Dream Down Payment Fund from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, www.hud.gov.

2. Explore seller financing. In some cases, sellers may be willing to finance all or part of the purchase price of the home and let you repay them gradually, just as you would do with a mortgage.

3. Consider a shared-appreciation or shared-equity arrangement. Under this arrangement, your family, friends, or even a third-party may buy a portion of the home and share in any appreciation when the home is sold. The owner/occupant usually pays the mortgage, property taxes, and maintenance costs.

4. Ask your family for help. Perhaps a family member will loan you money for the down payment or act as a co-signer for the mortgage. Lenders often like to have a co-signer if you have little credit history.

5. Lease with the option to buy. Renting the home for a year or more will give you the chance to save more toward your down payment. And in many cases, owners will apply some of the rental amount toward the purchase price. You usually have to pay a small, nonrefundable option fee to the owner.

6. Consider a short-term second mortgage. If you can qualify for a short-term second mortgage, this would give you money to make a larger down payment. This may be possible if you’re in good financial standing, with a strong income and little other debt.

These creative strategies and more are covered in detail at our real estate seminars.  Find out your options and make sound financial decisions for you and your family.

Source: Realtor Magazine


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How to Recognize a Seller’s Market

buyer and seller lane signs

As a homeowner, and a prospective seller, you may be wondering if now is a good time to put your home on the market.

  • But how can you tell if the market is in your favor at this time?
  • Will you lose money or make money?
  • Is it a “sellers market”?

These are all very important questions. And the answer is in the market statistics.

As a seller, one of the first things you must evaluate is the desirability of your location. Market conditions are extremely localized statistics. While the national economy and housing market tie every area of the country together to a certain degree, markets and their conditions range widely from state to state, community to community, and even neighborhood to neighborhood within a community.

You must ask yourself, and your real estate agent, “Is my neighborhood up and coming or has it already come and gone?” If you live in a neighborhood that is highly desired due to its school system, local amenities, or even status and prestige, then you may find yourself in a continual sellers market, where you will always be in the advantage.

A great place to start your research is the National Association of Realtors’s website, realtor.org. They offer monthly quarterly and monthly studies by region, that include such things as existing and pending home sales.

For a more local view, look at the most recent sales in your surrounding area. How much are homes selling for? And how does your home compare in both size, location, upgrades, and condition?

Unfortunately, an issue completely out of your control can have a direct effect on your ability to sell your home, and for a good profit. Foreclosures in your neighborhood affect your home’s value. This isn’t fair, but it is how the market works. Buyers look for the best home for their dollar. If they are able to buy a home on your street for a foreclosure price, then suddenly your asking price must decrease in order to compete. Be sure to ask your agent for tips on how to make your home stand out again to buyers, despite this issue.

Another stat you should be aware of is “days on market”. This means how long it takes a home to sell from the time it hits the market. In general terms, anything less than 6 months is considered a sellers market. If the average time is longer than 6 months, then the market is in favor of buyers. This should be a consideration for when you look to buy your next home. Unless you are prepared to carry two mortgages, you will want to make sure your current home has sold before looking for the next.

How is the local job market faring in your city? If you live in a town that has a healthy economy, then chances are you live in a sellers market. People who have steady jobs are more inclined to look to buy. The bigger the unemployment figures, then fewer buyers on the market.

Another consideration is “appreciation.” In a healthy market, a home should increase in value each year. Many of the areas of the country, however, experienced a “bubble burst” after seeing years of record appreciation rates. Two major areas of uncontrolled appreciation were Florida and California. Homes bought during the bubble may very well be worth less now than their owner owes.

Be sure to discuss all of these issues with your local real estate agent. They will be able to help you determine whether now is a prudent time or not to put your home on the market.

For the right knowledge and resources, look into other strategies and options that are right for your situation at your local Real Estate Resource Center.

Source: Carla Hill (RealtyTimes)Ms. Hill is a Managing Editor for RealtyTimes’ online publication. She also is producer for the real estate news channel, seen daily on RealtyTimes.com and on video newsletters nationwide. She currently works out of the Realty Times corporate office and studio in Dallas, TX.
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A Morning Cup of Inspiration (July 23, 2010)

morning cup of inspiration


A determined soul will do more with a rusty monkey wrench than a loafer will accomplish with all the tools in a machine shop.

-Robert Hughes

Tiger eyes. Determination

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Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): How does it protect you and when to cancel

private mortgage insurance

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) provides protection to a lender in case you default on your home loan. Unless you make a 20% downpayment on a house, you’ll most likely be required to purchase PMI. PMI premiums on a median priced home ($198,100 in 2008) can run between $50 and $100 per month, according to the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America.

PMI might be unavoidable, but it isn’t eternal. Knowing exactly when you’re entitled to cancel coverage can save you a bundle. If you own a median priced home, you’ll pocket between $600 and $1,200 for each year’s worth of premiums you can avoid. That extra cash can be used to pay down your principal instead.

When PMI is cancelled automatically

Though often maligned, PMI plays an important role. Many aspiring homeowners, especially first-time buyers, simply can’t afford to put down 20% on a house. Without the safeguard offered by PMI, lenders would be reluctant to extend mortgages to low-equity purchasers.

For many borrowers, the coverage is short-lived. The Mortgage Insurance Companies of America, the industry trade group, estimates that 90% of homeowners are done paying PMI premiums, which are tax-deductible for some, within five years.

If you purchased a house since 1999 and are still paying PMI, you probably fall under the Homeowners Protection Act (HPA) of 1998. Your lender is required to automatically cancel your insurance once you’ve paid down your mortgage to a 78% (0.78) loan-to-value ratio, or LTV. Put another way, once you have 22% equity built up. Many lenders will treat pre-HPA loans in a similar fashion. Call to confirm.

To calculate your LTV, divide the outstanding loan amount by the original price of your home. If you have a $190,000 mortgage on a house you purchased for $200,000, the LTV is 95%. You’d need to get the mortgage balance down to $156,000—78% of the original value—to qualify for automatic cancellation of PMI.

When you need to request cancellation

You don’t necessarily have to wait for automatic cancellation. When your LTV hits 80%, you can petition your lender to end its PMI requirement. The process can take several weeks. Your lender isn’t obligated to grant your request, but you’ll bolster your case if you have a good payment history.

Start by calling your lender, not the PMI provider. You’ll probably need to make a formal request in writing and pay out of pocket for an appraisal. The average cost of an appraisal is $362, according to a 2009 Bankrate.com survey. Your lender will usually select the appraiser.

Although an appraisal is conducted primarily for the benefit of the lender to confirm that your property hasn’t declined from its original value, a high appraisal can work to your advantage. As your property value increases, whether due to a general uptick in real estate prices or specific home improvements, your LTV decreases.

A way around PMI premiums

In search of a PMI loophole? Look for so-called piggyback loans, also known as 80/10/10 or 80/15/5 loans. Basically, the home lender finances 80% and immediately gives you a second loan for 10% to 15%. You put down 5% to 10%. No PMI is required.

This alternative has traditionally been available for homebuyers with minimal capital but excellent credit. In tight lending environments, however, this arrangement is harder to come by. And even when piggyback loans are available, the extra interest you usually pay on the second mortgage may actually cost more than PMI premiums. Do the math.

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but is not intended to be relied upon by readers as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Readers should consult a tax professional for such advice, and are reminded that tax laws may vary by jurisdiction.

Source: Richard J. Koreto (HouseLogic.com) Koreto is a freelance writer. He has been editor of several professional financial magazines and is the author of “Run It Like a Business,” a practice management book for financial planners. He and his wife own a pre-Civil War house in Rockland County, N.Y.


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Hump Wednesday Funnies

gated-community real estate cartoon


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Homeowners Take Advantage of the Power and Go Solar

solar power panels

A few years ago, Jim Camasto thought about investing $20,000 in the stock market. But instead, Camasto, of Naperville, Ill., spent that money on a ‘greener’ investment—solar power.

Camasto has installed a solar thermal and solar electricity system on his roof, which helps heat and power his home.

His gas use has dropped more than 50%, and his electricity use has dropped about 70%. He sells extra power back to the electricity grid and sells renewable energy credits, which investors buy and trade to support renewable energy projects. His return on his investment is about 3-4% a year.

“Some people say that’s a slow return,” he said. “But I’m willing to bet utility costs are not going down in the next 10-15 years. There’s very little risk. I’m glad I made the investment.”

Although the price of solar panels is falling, the upfront costs of installing a solar power system can still be daunting. But many states have incentives designed to help finance renewable-energy projects in addition to federal tax credits for up to 30% of the cost which are available to homeowners and businesses that buy solar or wind energy systems.

Illinois offers 30% rebates on the total cost of installing solar or wind systems to homeowners and businesses, and 50% rebates for governmental and nonprofits, with a maximum of $50,000, said Marcelyn Love, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. And there are grants available to state and local governments and nonprofits through the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, Love said.

Legislation introduced in Illinois would have allowed local governments to give loans to homeowners or business owners for solar installations and allowed them to repay the loans as assessments on their property tax bill. But the bill did not pass.

Mark Burger, president of the Illinois Solar Energy Association, said installing solar power is like making a major home improvement, with the cost being roughly equal to adding a new bathroom or remodeling a kitchen.

It’s a buyer’s market, Burger said, and a solar-powered house that promises reduced utility bills for years can be a major selling point. “Developers are realizing that putting solar power on homes to make them more ‘green’ is one of the best ways to help the real estate market,” Burger said.

Source: Gerry Smith (Chicago Tribune) RISMedia


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