According to attorney Aaron Resnick, short sales are rising sharply, offering many struggling homeowners a better alternative to foreclosure in many of the nation’s hardest hit states. A short sale is a sale of real estate in which the proceeds from selling the property will fall short of the balance of debts secured by liens against the property and the property owner cannot afford to repay the liens’ full amounts, whereby the lien holders agree to release their lien on the real estate and accept less than the amount owed on the debt. Any unpaid balance owed to the creditors is known as a deficiency. Short sale agreements do not necessarily release borrowers from their obligations to repay any deficiencies of the loans, unless specifically agreed to between the parties.
A short sale is often used as an alternative to foreclosure because it mitigates additional fees and costs to both the creditor and borrower. While credit is also typically damaged much less than from a foreclosure, both often result in a negative credit report against the property owner. Most creditors require the borrower to prove they have an economic or financial hardship preventing them from being able to pay the deficiency.
Creditors holding liens against real estate can include primary mortgages, junior lien holders–such as second mortgages, home equity lines of credit (HELOC) lenders, home owners association HOA (special assessment liens)–all of whom will need to approve individual applications for a short sale, should they be asked to take less than what is owed.
Most large creditors have special loss mitigation departments that evaluate borrowers’ applications for short sale approval. Often creditors use pre-determined criteria for approving the borrowers and the terms of the sale of the properties. Part of this process typically includes the creditor(s) determining the current market value of the real estate by obtaining an independent evaluation of the property with an appraisal, a Broker’s Price Opinion, or a broker opinion of value (BOV). One of the most important aspects for the borrower in this process is putting together a proper real estate short sale package including hardship letter explaining why a short sale is needed.
Depending on each creditor’s policy and the type of loan, creditors may accept applications from borrowers even if the borrower is not in default with their payments. Due to the overwhelming number of defaulting borrowers due to mortgage failures and other causes as part of the 2008-2012 global financial crisis, many creditors have become adept at processing such short sales applications; however, it can still take several months for the process from start to finish, often requiring multiple levels of approval.
In January, short sales rose 33% compared with 12 months earlier, the company reported. During the month, 32 states saw year-over-year percentage increases in short sales. Even more encouraging, short sale deals outnumbered foreclosures in 12 states, including some of the hardest hit like California, Arizona and Florida.
January’s numbers look to be just the beginning. “[W]e believe 2012 could be a record year for short sales,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.
Banks are showing signs of being more open and willing to approve the deals — even if it means accepting less money. The average sales price for a short sale was $174,120 in January, down 4% from December and 10% year-over-year.
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Typically, banks get about 20% less for a foreclosed home. Foreclosure can also take years to unload, during which expenses, like property taxes, insurance and other expenses, mount up.
One of the biggest roadblocks for short sales has been the time it takes to get deals approved. That time shrunk slightly during the first quarter — to 306 days from 308 days the previous quarter — but many deals still fall through because the buyer eventually walks away.
However, that could all change come June 1 when a set of new rules are put in place that will require lenders to make a decision about short sale requests within 60 days.
The Law Offices of Aaron Resnick, P.A. has helped hundreds of clients with short sales.