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Archive for the ‘Success Stories’ Category

Predatory lending is an insidious practice. Those that make a short term profit at the expense of another person’s financial health are criminals. Of course, they know little of the damage they cause, but those of us who try and pick up the pieces know that harm all too well.

I was called to meet with an elderly couple in White Plains, and a family friend was also present. I thought little of it in the beginning, but as I came to learn of their circumstances, I understood that the friend was there to ensure that they wouldn’t get hurt again. About a year earlier, a mortgage person convinced them to refinance their home with an option-ARM, which is a very exotic product intended as a short term loan for investors. I am sure the loan officer made a healthy commission, but these people belonged in this loan as much as Stevie Wonder belonged behind the wheel of a Ferrari.

The way it works is that the interest rate is artificially low in the beginning period, and then the difference between the note rate and the market rate is added to the loan principle each month. If the ARM  (adjustable rate mortgage) rate is 2% and the market rate is 7%, that month’s 5% annual interest is the amount that the loan amount increases. The low payment literally cannibalizes equity. Investors like them because the teaser rate is low, and by the time the adjustable rate period is at hand the home is resold. Not so for a long term owner occupant. By the time I had gotten there, they had realized that tens of thousands of their equity had disappeared. Nobody explained this to them, or, if it was covered, it was sped through so quickly they didn’t know what hit them. To make matters worse, the loan had a prepayment penalty, which is incredibly rare in the state of New York.

The clients were understandably mistrustful of anyone who promised to help them, and it was only their friend’s presence that convinced them to work with me. For the entire period of the listing (it took almost 7 months from listing to closing) we never met alone once. There was always a friend or relative present.  I didn’t blame them, and I actually preferred it that way, because every new person that met me became an ally.

It was a tough sell: we had subordinate financing, a prepayment penalty, a very outdated house, and the sale price of comps was still high at that point because the market decline was in it’s infancy. Even if we brought an offer, there might be appraisal issues. They also had a large amount of personal belongings to move, a difficult task for elderly, infirmed people.

We did get an offer, and the work began on negotiating the short payoff. One piece of good luck came through when a local non-profit that the clients contacted on their own got the pre-payment penalty disallowed (another example of people doing something to help themselves rather than curl into a fetal position). In our process we have the buyers sign a conditional contract, contingent on bank approval of the short sale. These things can go on for months, and there is always a danger of the lender giving the buyer an “out” by countering at a higher price. After weeks and months of frustration and waiting, the buyers did become nervous. I spoke with their agent quite often, and much of the discussion was reassuring them that we were confident we would get the deal done.

The approval did come through, and with a rare caveat: an unsecured note of $30,000 would have to be paid back by my clients. The lender would allow them to sell and release the lien, but the bank  wanted another $30,000. The term was advantageously long and the rate low, so the monthly payment would be a fraction of a $30,000 car for example, but it was a post closing obligation.  This is exceedingly rare; we had little choice. It was either that or foreclose. The clients accepted the lender’s terms.

They are renting now, and their expenses are far more in line with their fixed income. The stress is alleviated, and in spite of the small compromise they had to make with the lender to make the deal work, their quality of life is far better. In a perfect world, I would hunt down the loan officer that put them in that option-ARM and make him pay back the $30,000.

J. Philip Faranda is Westchester’s Premier Short Sale REALTOR. Find out more at www.NYShortSaleTeam.com  
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The stereotypical view of people who face foreclosure is that they are irresponsible or unintelligent. But sometimes, they are good, intelligent professionals who have had bad things happen. My own older brother, a Cornell alum, lost his house in the early 90’s due to illness.

One couple I listed was in similarly bad circumstances. She was a nurse; he was incapacitated due to an incurable debilitating illness. They were certainly upside down after refinancing 2 years earlier to catch up when health and work issues crippled their finances. One week after they went on the market she told him she had a headache. Those were the last words she ever spoke.

The house was taken off the active market while the family grieved. It was a terrible, unexpected tragedy, and bitterly ironic, since she was the healthy one. Unfortunately, the house was off the market for the earlier summer and when it went back on the sub-prime crisis hit, thinning the herd of buyers and blowing a hole in the confidence of those that remained. Fortunately, that winter we got a buyer.

The loss mitigation process on this file was particularly difficult, because the original lender was insolvent. Then, when the buyer’s lender required a test of the underground oil tank, it failed. We needed to get another $10,000 from the lender to remediate, but that wouldn’t be issued until closing. The buyer agent and I called in ever favor we could from the oil tank company to do the work and get paid at closing. They were understandably reluctant. This closing was not a sure thing. Thanks to the good relationship the buyer agent had with the owner of the firm, the work was competed, allowing the borrower to get their mortgage cleared to close.

Last minute environmental issues, while rare, can send a regular tranaction into a tailspin. You can’t underestimate the havoc they cause in a short sale. Teamwork got this done, and my client was able to open a new chapter in his life and move on as best he could. In a way it was almost like an estate sale as well, because they were in sense taking the last step in burying a loved one.

A young newlywed couple bought the house.

J. Philip Faranda is Westchester’s Premier Short Sale REALTOR. Find out more at www.NYShortSaleTeam.com  

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Some transactions stay with you your whole life. This occurred almost 2 years ago and seems like it was last week. The clients lived in Orange County, an exurb of NYC about 40 minutes north of White Plains. They were desperate, and their situation was compelling.

First, they were restoring an older Georgian. Even in an incomplete state, it was a magnificent place. As with many younger couples in the multi-tasking pursuit of making a family, they were also trying to have a baby with little luck. Then, she got pregnant.  Their daughter was born prematurely, and never made it home. Language limps in describing such a tragic event. She became understandably depressed, and then he lost his job.

I met her at the house on a cloudy day. She was back on her feet, physically and mentally, with a fat file filled with research on short sales on the kitchen table. She knew everything I was talking about. She educated herself. Unlike many people with overwhelming financial problems, she was not paralyzed with fear. I’ll explain.

While she was showing me the house, explaining what was completed and not, we came to what was the baby’s room. The poor Little Soul never slept in it. Briefly, she was sad again. She became depressed when she was told she couldn’t have a baby. I am blessed with 4 rugrats- what could I say? Have you thought of adopting, I asked. She looked me right in the eye. “Of course. But they won’t let you adopt if you have a foreclosure.” How dumb of me! Adoption agencies weigh finances very heavily!

And THAT is why she was on her feet, lucid and fighting. She wasn’t fighting to save her credit; she wasn’t fighting for sheetrock and plumbing;  she was fighting for motherhood. She was on her toes for a child who wasn’t even in her life yet, a child who was just an idea.

I am proud to say that there were multiple offers on that house (it was expired with a prior broker who tried to sell at a higher price because they didn’t know short sales). The lender approved the short sale, an offer about $15,000 over asking price as I recall, and it closed successfully. Was it easy? Hell no. Did I care? Hell no.

They mailed me a photo of their daughter later that year. You can’t make this stuff up.

J. Philip Faranda is Westchester’s Premier Short Sale REALTOR. Find out more at www.NYShortSaleTeam.com  

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