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Posts Tagged ‘HAFA’

A number of short sale clients have shown me letters, mostly from Chase, offering them an almost incomprehensible amount of money if they’ll do a short sale. It would seem hard to believe, in a world where short sale sellers typically walk from closing with the clothes on their back and no proceeds, that lenders would suddenly offer them tens of thousands of dollars to sell for less than what they owed the bank. But there, in real living color, I have been shown these letters, right at the kitchen table, with numbers to call for verification and everything.

We’ve looked into it. The ones from JPMorgan Chase are legitimate. In some cases, Chase is giving a $30,000 incentive to underwater borrowers to complete a short sale. I have verified it through attorneys, Chase, and several Chase officials, and the explanation has been the same: Chase wants to close out these assets and they’d prefer not to foreclose. In the cases I have seen, the loans were originally Washington Mutual mortgages acquired by Chase when they absorbed WaMu in 2008. Chase paid $1.9 billion for Washington Mutual’s assets in 2008 after they were shut down by the FDIC. They did not pay face value for these mortgages. They can afford to sell them at a loss and even pay an incentive to the borrower and still remain in the black- and safely distant from the robo-signing scandal headaches.

According to a senior VP at Chase I have known for many years, other banks are doing similar incentives. Wells Fargo bought Wachovia. Bank of America bought Countrywide. And they can, in house, offer a far better cash incentive in many cases than what sellers could get under the HAFA incentive of $3,000, which many people often do not even qualify for. Not only that, under the TARP rules, the banks can claim a loss on the face value of the loan on their taxes. And that appears to be what they are doing.

Not every letter a delinquent homeowner gets in the mail promising them cash, incentives, and other goodies is legit. As a matter of fact, much of the mail I have been shown by delinquent homeowners struck me as a scam. But I have to say, in the case of banks like Chase, those large incentives to complete a short sale are a fact.

WHATEVER you do, however, never do it alone. If you are in New York or Connecticut where I work, contact a lawyer and check everything out before you ever deal with the bank directly alone and without help. We have a team including lawyers and a CPA who can make sure that our clients make all the right moves and have their backsides covered. Forewarned is fore armed.

Originally Published on the Westchester Real Estate Blog

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New HAFA rules are forcing home sellers to negotiate directly with subordinate liens, or, in common terms, second mortgages, on their own, according to Bankrate.com. The way the rules are written, there is a financial incentive for the 2nd mortgage  to settle and release the lien, but the onus of getting assurances that the bank will settle rests on the borrower, which seems incongruous with the intent of the law. If the law is that the bank gets $3,000 from the government to settle, then it is the government who should be getting written assurances that they will indeed settle, not the borrower. The article points out that distressed sellers are already bleaguered and beaten up and in no condition to play hardball with another bank.

I agree. Distressed home sellers ought not do this on their own. They need an advocate, and a 3rd party with experience is very likely going to get a better result than a beaten up home owner. This is what we do, but rather than make this post a commercial I’ll also add that here in New York, the attorney should be on the front lines dealing with the 2nd mortgage as well as the first. The attorneys that we have on our team are excellent; the sellers can rest assured that the arrangements they help negotiate are the very best that can be agreed to. They also read the “fine print” with a fine tooth comb. The devil is in the details in these things, especially in New York.

All short sale agreements from lenders should be in writing, and all short sale agreements from lender should specify that they will not go after the borrower for the difference after closing. Anyone can get a short sale with no assurances of financial security after the closing. It takes a professional to ensure that the seller’s obligations in a short sale end at closing with no residual debt. That is our job, and that is how we do our short sales.

Doing a short sale on your own invites peril. We have done dozens, and that puts you in good hands compared to the guy in the mirror.

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Amy Hoak’s timely article on HAFA and short sales in yesterday’s Journal concludes with timely advice that I wrote myself the very same day. The article focuses on the many pitfalls of short sales, as well as the new HAFA (Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives) regulations which are set to go into effect on April 5, 2010.

Here is what I wrote yesterday:

Yet people still do not ask their prospective agents how many short sales they have closed. You simply cannot be a specialist with no experience; I’m sorry. I don’t care if you have a PhD or a photo shaking the Pope’s hand. What they taught you in class simply isn’t all it takes to handle the loss mitigation department of a lender. Sellers need to understand that if they hire an inexperienced agent to do their short sale, they do so at their own peril. I’d never want a surgeon cutting their teeth on my gall bladder, a lawyer apprenticing at the expense of my freedom, or an agent getting their feet wet at the expense of my finances.

Simply ask : “How many short sales have you successfully closed?” prior to listing your home. That will guide you far better than a patch on their arm.

Sellers at the conclusion of the Journal article are advised much the same thing: to ask their prospective agent how many short sales they have successfully completed, and how many were lost to foreclosure.

Obviously, the word is getting out. Experience trumps marketing when your financial life is at stake.

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