Short Sale Update 2015

Posted on 20. Mar, 2015 by ctlms in Blog, Foreclosures, My Blog, News, Real Estate, Short Sale, foreclosure

The state of short sales in 2015

It's a whole new world out there.

The loss mitigation industry, policies and procedures, and the general landscape of mortgage servicers is constantly changing.  Keeping track of all these changes can sometimes be a job all in itself.

In the past year the changing landscape of mortgage servicing has been in flux more than usual. Billions of dollars in Mortgage Servicing Rights (MSRs) have been being sold back and forth between mortgage servicers resulting in Servicing Transfers.  This is when the borrower receives notice that a new servicer will be handling their loan.  If you're in an active workout review like a short sale, this means at least a month delay while the loan is ported into the new servicer's systems and likely, you end up starting over from the beginning.  National Servicing Standards were put in place to eliminate these delays, but thus far they have not resulted in much success.

Another big development has been the sale of seriously delinquent loans to hedge funds by FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  All 3 of them have been pooling Billions of dollars in delinquent loans that are either insured by FHA or owned by Fannie or Freddie and putting them up for auction.  These are then bought by hedge funds.  This also results in the same type of servicing transfer as the MSR sales do.  However in these cases, the loans are now owned by a new investor, whereas a MSR sale is just the serving rights, the investor has not changed.

FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac all have very details loss mitigation guidelines that the servicer has to follow and many of them have protections for the homeowner.  These guidelines require the servicer to attempt to work things out with the borrower before foreclosing.  Most also include that an approved short sale result in the settlement of the debt so that none of it is left collectible after closing.  This all goes out the window with the Asset sales.  There is talk about enforcing some level of responsibility to attempt a workout with the borrower on future sales, but past sales did not have that.  This has all resulted in some new servicers in the industry that are servicing the loans purchased by these Hedge Funds.  Many of these servicer push to foreclose or push for a deed in lieu of foreclosure rather than a short sale.  That is not to say they will not do a short sale.  But these servicers are more apt to go straight to talking deed in lieu with the borrower and totally skip the short sale option.

One positive result with some of these new servicers and these asset sales has been a shorter decision timeline than with most other short sales.  Not all are faster, but some of these new servicer care less about the financials of the borrower and more about what the offer is and what the market value is.  Remember that these loans are already seriously delinquent.  So this makes more sense since the likelihood of the borrower being able to cure the default on a seriously delinquent loan is pretty low.

HAFA short sale updates.

The HAFA short sale program also got a major update in Feb of 2015.  2 areas of the HAFA guidelines in particular were updated.

The 1st are is the amount of funds allowed to be offered to a junior mortgage.  Previous HAFA guidelines allowed for "up to $8500" to a junior lien.  $8500 was often the highest of any other short sale program, however in recent years many of the servicers have latched onto the "up to" language and have established lower caps.  These caps are typically a percentage of the Unpaid Principal Balance (UPB) of the junior mortgage.  These range to 6-10% of the UPB.  So a junior mortgage owned $30,000 may be offered just 10% or $3,000 rather than the $8500 max allowed.  This can result in the junior lien not accepting since the guidelines also require they forgive the remainder of the balance.

The updated HAFA guidelines allow for a Min of $12,000 to the junior lien.  As has happened with nearly all other HAFA guideline changes, not all of the servicers have correctly implemented the new changes and some are still trying to set a % cap that could be lower than $12,000.  These require escalation to the HAMP Solution Center and the Treasury Dept to get oversight involved.  Unfortunately that ends up causing more delays in the process.

The 2nd guideline that was updated was the Relocation Incentive that Owner Occupied sellers are eligible for on HAFA short sales.  This has been increased to $10,000 from $3,000.  I have seen no idication why this was changed.  But this is great news for those sellers who qualify.

Remember though that HAFA is now a small percentage of short sales.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac no longer participate in HAFA and neither do any Government Insured or Guaranteed loans.  So these are only conventional loans not owned by Fannie or Freddie and owned by participating investors and servicers.  So this is a small %.

Current Time-Lines.

Unfortunately time-lines for short sale approvals have not improved and in many cases have regressed.  Revisions to the FHA short sale guidelines in late 2013 added much complication to guidelines already riddled with red tape. So FHA loans take longer than ever to get short sale approval.

Many of the larger banks such as Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo have also reduced the size of their loss mitigation staff.  Over all they are seeing fewer applications for short sales due to recover on some of the country.  However areas of the country like here in CT have not seen price appreciation or job growth.  So we are seeing short sales as busy as every and the reduced staff levels at these servicers is causing delays.

In general the mortgage servicers are as dysfunctional as ever.  It is all too common for the servicers to deny files for incorrect guidelines.  I would say that we have escalate at least 75% of our files that would otherwise be denied if we did not know the correct guidelines and escalated to the appropriate dept or oversight agency.

We here are Loss Mit Services are busier than ever processing short sales.  We have added staff over the past year to help manage our caseload and not compromise our service.  We will continue to do so as needed and as always we strive to get every short sale approved.

Income Taxes

The last topic I want to discuss is the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act.  This act allows taxpayers who have had mortgage debt cancelled on a purchase money mortgage on their primary residence to avoid the possibility of being taxed on that debt cancellation.  This act was passed in 2007 and extended several times.  It expired at the end of 2013.  It was not extended until just a couple weeks before the end of 2014 and was retroactive to cover all of 2014.

We find ourselves again without this protection for struggling homeowners in 2015.  There are already bills in congress to extend this yet again.  However this was the same this time last year.  So though we expect that this will likely be extended again, it has yet to be and may not be till much later this year.

Sean Wilder

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