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Posts Tagged ‘Westchester short sale Realtor’

Contrary to what some may think, an owner is not obligated to submit every offer to the lender for approval in order to do a short sale. As a matter of fact, there are offers that an owner should never submit to the lender. That is the owner’s right, as they still hold title and ownership of the property, and the bank’s decision in a short payoff is simply the amount they’ll take to release the lien and settle the debt.

In Westchester and the surrounding areas of New York, offers are not submitted to the lender for approval, contracts of sale are. And those contracts are between buyer and seller, not the bank. The contracts are conditioned upon bank approval, but they are binding contracts none the less. And it can take every bit of 3-6 months for the lender to render a decision, all while the foreclosure wheel turns. If the owner goes to contract with an offer that is less than a realistic expectation of value, they can be six months closer to foreclosure when the bank issues their denial of the short sale.

Sellers are therefore looking for realistic offers, not for their own pockets, but to ensure the bank accepts the short payoff. If an offer can be judged favorably by 3 recent (i.e., 6 months or less) closed and 3 active comparables, the offer bodes well. Buyers who submit speculatively low offers, unsupported by 3 sold and 3 active,  are doing something ill advised; if their amount is not close to what comparable sales for similar properties are getting on the market, they could waste months waiting for the inevitable “no.” And that “no” could cost the owners their house.

We have a enough offers in multiple bid situations meeting resistance to the banks; lowball offers invite peril to the seller and frustration to the buyer. And it is ultimately the sellers decision as to whom they’ll go to contract with. A short sale sellers surrenders proceeds. But no owner surrenders their rights. While the bank makes the final decision on amount, it is the owner, on advice and market data from their agent, who determine what to submit to the bank for that decision.

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Here’s one from the other side of the closing table, where I represented buyers on a 5-month odyssey to purchase a short sale in Yonkers. It made me appreciate the waiting game that buyers must endure, and how valuable status updates are to home purchasers of a short sale in order to stay engaged and committed to the purchase. Buyers need to be updated to, among other things, time their mortgage application, appraisal, and rate lock.

Note that I did not say anything about ordering title work. Title work in a short sale MUST be ordered by the seller’s attorney in the beginning to ensure there are no 3rd party liens that might scuttle the sale later on. 3rd party judgments and liens are common in default properties because when there is financial hardship, there are other bills than the mortgage that go unpaid.

The home my clients sought to purchase was perfect for them- a recent build on a dead end street with a good location for their commute to work. Things on the seller’s side were not organized from what I could see, until I made substantive contact with the seller’s attorney, who entered negotiations later in the game when a private 3rd party hired to negotiate the short sale was sacked mid-process. I can’t judge their circumstances, only the scenery from our point of view. From contract signing in May until August, everything seemed to be in limbo.

In early August, the seller’s attorney spearheaded negotiations. The short sale was approved in late September with terms the seller could live with. We closed September 29, which was a nice anniversary gift. His communication with me was crucial to my buyer clients’ management of their mortgage financing. When they were ready, we were ready. No delays, no snafus, minimal drama.

This was a unique file in that I had a direct line of communication with the seller’s attorney, which brokers seldom have. Typically, I would deal with a listing agent, but that agent would be the conduit to their attorney. But the bottom line here is that the attorney’s involvement was indispensable, and the communication with our side affected a successful outcome. New York is different from many states where an attorney is not part of the process. But in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, it is clear to me through experience that without an attorney closely involved in the short sale, the closing may not succeed.

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I have listed two new short sale homes this weekend. One is just shy of $1 million, the other is around $200,000. One is in lower Westchester County, the other is in central Dutchess County. One is almost 3000 square feet, the other is closer to 1300 square feet. Although it doesn’t sound likely, the two clients have a great deal in common.

  • Both are responsible and hard working
  • Both are frugal and fiscally conservative in their management of money
  • Both are college educated professionals
  • Neither fits the profile of an irresponsible foreclosure candidate
  • Both are mortified at their situation, feel alone, and under considerable stress.

What is different about many short sales in the current market is that due to job loss, loss of income, or something else completely not related to their responsible behavior, otherwise good and accountable people are finding themselves needing to sell and not having the equity to cover their costs. These were not sub prime borrowers. They are stable. One had his business fail due to the recession, and the other has lost income. This is unfamiliar territory for both, because they have always watched their Ps and Qs and never overextended their credit.

In both cases, I have let them know that they are not alone, and that they are actually smart for getting proactive and contacting me. In both cases, I will get them out from under their upside down mortgage and get their short sale approved. They will not owe the lender anything after they close. They will get a fresh start. I will keep a roof over their head and help them repair their credit over time. In 2 years after they sell, if they want, I’ll help them buy another house.

The money is not the worst part of a short sale. No one starves or has no clothes. The worst part is the stress. Address the stress or find someone to help, and you’ll be lucid enough to help yourself. That goes for Scarsdale. And Chappaqua. And Yonkers. And New Rochelle. Everywhere.

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Earlier this month we closed on a short sale that was another marathon. I listed it in April of 2009 and got an offer that August. It went under contract in early September and everything looked like a relatively smooth deal until about a month into the contract period we still did not have a negotiator assigned to our case. I always warn short sale clients that we might be in for a wait, so we were all on the same page.

My client was a very nice man- a widower, originally from the Bronx, and had the house decorated “bachelor style” in his own words, and I knew what he meant. His other half had departed this earth, and he couldn’t handle the house alone.

By the time the autumn rolled around, we finally started to get some communication from the lender. They moved slow as molasses, and the buyers were getting understandably restless. These were cash buyers; we wanted to keep them and avoid the uncertainty of waiting out a loan approval once we had the short sale finalized. However, as autumn gave way to the holidays and Winter, it was clear that the bank did not share our zeal to put this transaction to bed.

A title issue was discovered in March when we thought that this was going forward, and at that point the buyers asked for their money back. Deadlines had long since passed, and we had no contractual enforcement to keep them in the transaction. It took until May to clear up the title issue, thanks in so small part to my clients’ hard work to produce needed documentation (clearly, his late wife was the organized one in that partnership, by his own admission).

I had remained in touch with the buyer agent and our attorney kept the lines of communication open with the buyer’s attorney. When we informed them that the issues were cleared and the bank was ready to close, they elected to return to the table. On July 12, 13 months after I listed the home, we closed. We successfully held off foreclosure action from the bank for over a year, the seller had a fresh start with no liability or debt after the closing, and he left the house with dignity. He deserved it- he was a good guy and a team player, and if he was stressed, he dealt with it very well.

Short sales are seldom this long a process, but even if they aren’t, a good short sale broker will help stop foreclosure action on the client’s house and keep negotiating with the lender until we get to “yes.” Moreover, it took some real teamwork to clear the title issues and get our client to the table. To his credit, he was very cooperative, and that is all you can ask for from a client selling his home in a short sale. Except maybe tidy up a little!

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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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When I closed my first short sale in 1998 I had no idea that 10 years later I’d be doing them with any regularity. At that time, short sales were uncommon; they remained uncommon through 2006. Even in 2007, other agents needed to be educated about what a short sale was, how long it took to close, and what process the negotiation would entail.

Having closed dozens of short sales in the period since 2007 in Westchester and the surrounding counties, I now see a larger number of agents who are familiar with short sales. I also see a higher number of agents who bills themselves as “short sale specialists.” In some cases, they have earned a designation. I applaud any agent who furthers their knowledge. However, designations can be misleading and may not help the client.

There is only one problem with an agent who calls them self a specialist these days, and that is this: they may not really be specialists. Designations mean nothing if you cannot successfully negotiate and close a workout. In Westchester, there are enormous numbers involved, and if a home seller cannot close on their short sale because their agent, well, stunk, they could be stuck with a lingering debt, or, worse, a deficiency judgment for tens of thousands of dollars. What’s worse, if these sellers really knew how many short sales their “specialist” agent actually closed (often, between zero and one) they would be mortified.

The code of ethics strictly prohibits misleading clients as to the agent’s scope of expertise. A special designation might circumvent an outright violation. But it doesn’t protect a Westchester homeowner from huge problems if their agent can’t get the job done. In many cases, the homeowner never asked the agent how many short sales they have actually closed. This is madness. I would never have eye surgery with a rookie doctor. Our obstetricians had decades of experience. The same goes for the guy that installed our pool table, water heater, and appliances. The reasons are obvious.

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. And if you are an agent who wants to get into short sales, work for someone who does them with regularity. I have often said that any agent can make money in short sales. However, 99% of them should be via a referral to a true specialist.

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