Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Will Your Sale Price Leave You Short

What to Do When the Sales Price Leaves You Short

It’s time to sell your home, and the total amount you owe is greater than your homes current value. This is called a short sale. A short sale is one where the net proceeds from the sale won't cover your total mortgage obligation and closing costs, and you don't have other sources of money to cover the deficiency. A short sale is different from a foreclosure, which is when your lender takes title of your home through a lengthy legal process and then sells it.

1. Consider loan modification first. If you are thinking of selling your home because of financial difficulties and you anticipate a short sale, first contact your lender to see if it has any programs to help you stay in your home. Your lender may agree to a modification such as:

• Refinancing your loan at a lower interest rate
• Providing a different payment plan to help you get caught up
• Providing a forbearance period if your situation is temporary

When a loan modification still isn’t enough to relieve your financial problems, a short sale could be your best option if

• Your property is worth less than the total mortgage you owe on it.
• You have a financial hardship, such as a job loss or major medical bills.
• You have contacted your lender and it is willing to entertain a short sale.

2. Hire a qualified team. The first step to a short sale is to hire a qualified real estate professional* and a real estate attorney who specialize in short sales. Interview at least three candidates for each and look for prior short-sale experience. Short sales have proliferated only in the last few years, so it may be hard to find practitioners who have closed a lot of short sales. You want to work with those who demonstrate a thorough working knowledge of the short-sale process and who won't try to take advantage of your situation or pressure you to do something that isn't in your best interest.

A qualified real estate professional can:

• Provide you with a comparative market analysis (CMA) or broker price opinion (BPO).
• Help you set an appropriate listing price for your home, market the home, and get it sold.
• Put special language in the MLS that indicates your home is a short sale and that lender approval is needed (all MLSs permit, and some now require, that the short-sale status be disclosed to potential buyers).
• Ease the process of working with your lender or lenders.
• Negotiate the contract with the buyers.
• Help you put together the short-sale package to send to your lender (or lenders, if you have more than one mortgage) for approval. You can’t sell your home without your lender and any other lien holders agreeing to the sale and releasing the lien so that the buyers can get clear title.

3. Begin gathering documentation before any offers come in. Your lender will give you a list of documents it requires to consider a short sale. The short-sale “package” that accompanies any offer typically must include

• A hardship letter detailing your financial situation and why you need the short sale
• A copy of the purchase contract and listing agreement
• Proof of your income and assets
• Copies of your federal income tax returns for the past two years

4. Prepare buyers for a lengthy waiting period. Even if you're well organized and have all the documents in place, be prepared for a long process. Waiting for your lender’s review of the short-sale package can take several weeks to months. Some experts say:

• If you have only one mortgage, the review can take about two months.
• With a first and second mortgage with the same lender, the review can take about three months.
• With two or more mortgages with different lenders, it can take four months or longer.

When the bank does respond, it can approve the short sale, make a counteroffer, or deny the short sale. The last two actions can lengthen the process or put you back at square one. (Your real estate attorney and real estate professional, with your authorization, can work your lender’s loss mitigation department on your behalf to prepare the proper documentation and speed the process along.)

5. Don't expect a short sale to solve your financial problems. Even if your lender does approve the short sale, it may not be the end of all your financial woes. Here are some things to keep in mind:

• You may be asked by your lender to sign a promissory note agreeing to pay back the amount of your loan not paid off by the short sale. If your financial hardship is permanent and you can’t pay back the balance, talk with your real estate attorney about your options.

• Any amount of your mortgage that is forgiven by your lender is typically considered income, and you may have to pay taxes on that amount. Under a temporary measure passed in 2007, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and Debt Cancellation Act , homeowners can exclude debt forgiveness on their federal tax returns from income for loans discharged in calendar years 2007 through 2012. Be sure to consult your real estate attorney and your accountant to see whether you qualify.

• Having a portion of your debt forgiven may have an adverse effect on your credit score. However, a short sale will impact your credit score less than foreclosure and bankruptcy.

As full time RealtorsThe H Team can provide a Broker Price Opinion and market your home.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

St Louis Association of Realtors Update

Pending Home Sales Show Healthy Gain
Reprint from SLAR News You Can Use

Pending home sales increased as more buyers took advantage of improved affordability conditions, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Big gains in the South and Midwest offset modest declines in other regions. The Pending Home Sales Index rose 6.3 percent to 87.7 from an upwardly revised reading of 82.5 in November, and is 2.1 percent higher than December 2007 when it was 85.9. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the index shows a modest rebound. "The monthly gain in pending home sales, spurred by buyers responding to lower home prices and mortgage interest rates, more than offset an index decline in the previous month," he said. "The biggest gains were in areas with the biggest improvements in affordability."

To begin your search for your new home or to sell your current home contact The H Team today.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Home Buyer Checklist

Buyer's Checklist
The H Team

Buyers must do their part to help make the Buying transaction "smooth" alll the way to the closing table. Always expect minor problems and delays along the way. On the seller's side, title problems are a common cause of postponed settlements. On your side, bureaucratic snags such as extensive credit checks and slow appraisals can bog things down. In many cases, there isn't much you or the seller can do but wait.

While you're waiting for completion of all the processes now in motion, you should:

Apply for homeowners insurance on your new home.
Get an exact accounting settlement cost, and make sure the money and necessary documents will be there at closing.
Select a date for the final walk-through of the house.
Contact utility companies about starting service in your name.
Insurance on your new home

Your lender will require you to take out a homeowners insurance policy, and usually pre-pay for the first years premium, something you would want to do anyway. The lender wants to cover the amount of its mortgage loan so it can recover the money in the event of a loss. However, it's up to you to see that your insurance coverage remains adequate by getting property protection, liability insurance and/or any additional coverage you think is necessary.

The final inspection
The house you're buying must be handed over to you in the condition specified in the contract. To verify this, schedule a walk-through of the house shortly before settlement, several days in advance is best, to allow time for the seller to correct any last-minute problems. Look for left behind items, trash, damages from the movers. Also check attics and garage rafters.

Take along a simple device, such as a plug-in nightlight, to test all electrical outlets. Turn on the furnace and air conditioning, flush toilets and turn on faucets, put the washing machine and dryer through a cycle. Fill all drains and check for leakage, run the dishwasher through a few complete cycles. In short, put the house through its paces.

If anything needs fixing or further cleaning, ask your agent to inform the selling agent or home seller immediately. Neither you nor the seller wants to postpone the settlement, but make it clear you won't go to closing until a second walk-through is satisfactory.

What happens at closing
The closing is where ownership of the home is officially transferred from the seller to you. Your closing officer works for the title company and coordinates the document signing and the collection and disbursement of funds. Your main role at the closing is to review and sign the documents related to the mortgage loan and to pay the closing costs.

Most parties involved with the purchase of your new home will attend your closing. The closing is a formal meeting typically attended by the buyer(s) and the seller(s) (and their attorneys if they have one), both real estate sales professionals, and, of course, the closing officer. The meeting is typically held at the title company's office.

What to bring to closing
For things to go smoothly, each party should bring certain documents and be prepared to pay the necessary fees. Many closing costs can be paid by personal check, but ask the closing attorney or closing officer. A certified or cashier's check may be required. Find out to whom checks should be made payable.Most closers will also require a state approved picture ID.

The seller and his attorney are responsible for preparing and bringing the deed and the most recent property-tax bill. They also will bring other documents required by the contract. This can include the property insurance policy, termite inspection, documents showing the removal of liens and a bill of sale for personal property.

Make sure you have adequate funds for the down payment and other settlement costs, arrange for your attorney to represent your interests at the meeting, bring the loan commitment, inform the lender of the meeting time and place. Finally, it's a good idea to bring a copy of the purchase contract to refresh your memory.

Regardless, if you're buying or selling The H Team will assist you from start to completion. Contact us today to answer any questions you may have.