The Short Sale Landscape is Changing

Posted on 22. Jan, 2013 by ctlms in Foreclosures, My Blog, Real Estate, Short Sale, foreclosure

Short sales are part of Loss Mitigation for the banks and the Loss Mitigation industry is constantly changing.

Over the past couple of months there have been a few major changes happening that affect short sales.  Not all of them for the better.

One common instance we are seeing is that many of the larger banks, that have had to settle with the government over foreclosure abuses, are service releasing large numbers of their delinquent loans to other services that are not bound by these settlement agreements.  This means many homeowners that are currently with a servicer that offers increased relocation incentives as part of that settlement, may find their loan is transferred and they no longer qualify for that incentive.  This transfer can even happen in the middle of a short sale, causing delays.

Another item we have seen, in particular with Bank of America but also with other lenders, is the forgiveness of some second mortgages in full, without a short sale.  This sounds great and is good when doing a short sale since you no longer have to negotiate with the second mortgage.  However, most of these loans that are forgiven are seriously delinquent and the banks know they will not recoup the money, or very little of it, anyway.  But by forgiving the full amount of it, they can "cook the books" for some of the foreclosure settlements requirements and take credit for a much larger principal forgiveness then they would seen from those loans anyway.

For short sales specifically the biggest change we have seen is the expiration of the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative (HAFA) short sale program for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac owned loans.  HAFA still exists for the rest of this year for eligible loans not owned by the 2 GSE's.

With the expiration of HAFA for Fannie and Freddie came a new program called the Standard Short Sale program or HAFA2.  This program is open to many more homeowners than those that qualified for Fannie and Freddie's very restrictive HAFA program.  This new program also has some streamlined processed for seriously delinquent borrower with low credit scores.

However the program does have it's downside.  Firstly there is a new valuation process in use which is more commonly coming back with inflated values that are well above realistic market value.  This causes reasonable offers to be rejected because the banks are given a much higher Minimum Net requirement from Fannie and Freddie.  NAR and other industry groups are aware of this are attempting to have the FHFA , which is oversight for Fannie and Freddie, address this issue.  But for now we are stuck with it and it can be very frustrating.

Another negative to the program guidelines is that Waiver of the Deficiency balance is not guaranteed.  This means that not all sellers will be able to walk away from the remaining debt.  The new program has a detailed calculation that the lender must do to determine if the seller must be requested to bring cash to closing and/or sign a promissory note.  If the seller refused, the servicer no longer has the authority to approve the short sale on their own if the rest of the file is in line.  Instead they must send the file to Fannie or Freddie for their review and hopefully approval.  This is a negotiable term, but I have seen it go both ways already with some sellers being waived of this requirement and others having their short sales denied for not accepting.

The program is still very new so it is yet to be seen how common this is going to be, but it is here and we have to deal with it when it comes up.

Some other issues currently with short sales are seen with FHA loans. FHA is having serious cash reserve problems and may need to be bailed out.  Because of this, FHA has gotten much tighter on closing costs for attorneys and other fees.  In addition, Variance approvals for sellers that do not meet some of FHA's restrictive guidelines are being denied more often than in the past, likely in an effort to delay having to pay the insurance claim to the bank until later on when the property is foreclosed on.

A big take away from all of this is that we have to get involved with the servicer on the loan(s) as early as possible, preferably before there is an offer.  This way we can determine what kind of potential obstacles await us and can set the correct expectations for the process with all parties involved.

Sean Wilder