YOU Magazine - February 2009 - Problems With Your Mortgage? There May be a Short Way Out
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Lyn Bankowski     Lyn Bankowski
AVP/SR. Mortgage Loan Originator
Alaska USA Mortgage Company
Phone: 360-679-5633 / 360-969-5550
Fax: 360-279-1198
License: NMLS#304060 / CL-157293
Alaska USA Mortgage Company
February 2009

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Problems With Your Mortgage?
There May be a Short Way Out

Problems With Your Mortgage? - There May be a Short Way Out

With unemployment figures reaching a 25-year high, the toll of the declining economy continues to impact hundreds of thousands of families each month, especially homeowners struggling with their mortgage. According to RealtyTrac, 303,410 foreclosure notices were served on properties in the month of December alone. This followed the 2,854,396 foreclosure filings throughout all of 2008.

For homeowners facing foreclosure, options do exist that can prevent the trauma of losing their home or facing long-term financial loss. YOU Magazine has addressed these options in previous issues. So, this month we'll focus instead on short sales, an alternative to foreclosure for struggling homeowners who do not want to stay in their homes but would also like to avoid the years of potential financial damage that a foreclosure could cause on their credit rating. If you or someone you know are looking for a "short" way out of a mortgage, keep reading and find out if a short sale is a feasible option.

Don't Be Short-Sighted
Before we dive into what a short sale is and how it can benefit some struggling homeowners, it's important to understand that you're not alone, and that just because you're struggling now doesn't mean you won't be able to recover in the near future. In today's tough economy, millions of Americans are facing challenging situations seriously affecting their finances right now that they can, and will, eventually overcome, including lay-offs, divorce, the death of a spouse, or even major losses in the stock market or their retirement investments.

That's why, before choosing to attempt a short sale, it's important to ask yourself if staying in your home is an option you'd like to explore, because there are opportunities, including a loan modification that may be a better path for some struggling homeowners to pursue. A loan modification would allow the homeowner, in many instances, to renegotiate the terms of their existing mortgage(s) to a more affordable monthly payment(s). This can be accomplished in a number of ways that bring about both temporary and permanent solutions but ultimately allow the homeowner to keep their home.

If you think that a change in your mortgage terms, like a lower rate or lower monthly payments, might help you make it through this rough patch, it's important to communicate with your lender, even if you're several months behind in your payments. Many lenders have reported that in over 50% of the cases where a homeowner is delinquent on his or her mortgage, they have been unable to reach the owner to discuss any options. Picking up the phone and placing a call is always in your best interest. More importantly, opening lines of communication with family members, in many cases, could help lighten the emotional burden that often comes along with these challenges.

When Staying is Not a Viable Option
If, however, you think a loan modification would not be appropriate for your individual needs, one solution to avoiding foreclosure could be a short sale. A short sale is an agreement from the lender(s) to allow the homeowner to sell the property for less than what is owed on the mortgage(s). An example would be an agreement to allow a sale of the home to take place for $175,000 when $300,000 is actually owed on the property.

For a lender to consider a short sale, there are a number of factors that the lender will take into consideration before an approval can be secured, including:

  1. Current hardship, which can include a change of income due to job loss, loss of hours or salary reduction, illness, death of a wage earner, or a change in marital status.
  2. The property is "upside down," which means the house is worth less in today's market than what is owed.

It's important to note that, unlike a loan modification, a homeowner does not have to be delinquent to be considered for a short sale. However, a hardship should be demonstrated showing that the homeowner would not be able to remain current on the mortgage in the future due to mounting financial obligations.

Why would a lender agree to sell your home at a loss? Well, in many cases, the foreclosure process results in a loss of up to 40% or more of the original mortgage balance for the lender. When borrowers and lenders work together on a short sale or loan modification, however, these losses can be reduced by roughly half, in many cases. For example, a foreclosure on a $300,000 home could cost the lender up to $120,000 or more in losses, where they might only lose $60,000 by working with the borrower. Add to that the record losses incurred on other foreclosures, and it's clear why lenders, in many cases, prefer to negotiate a solution.

Credit Benefit
Working with a lender to negotiate a short sale instead of a foreclosure can also be more beneficial to your credit as well, especially if you want to secure another mortgage in the near future when your finances are back on track. According to Fannie Mae, one of the largest mortgage insurers in the country, a foreclosure on your credit record will likely mean it will be between 3 and 5 years before you're able to secure a new mortgage. The typical timeframe to buy a new home with a short sale on your record, however, is only two years.

A short sale also has a lesser impact to your FICO score compared to a foreclosure, which is very important for obtaining future credit from everything including automobiles and consumer credit to getting reconnected with local utilities and cell phones services. Your credit score can even affect certain employment opportunities as well.

Start the Process
The first step of a short sale is to contact your lender and seek their assistance.

The second step is to enlist the help of an experienced real estate agent. An agent who is skilled at handling the negotiation process will not only minimize negotiation time, he or she will also help in limiting the time and costs of marketing the property.

Tony Sena, a real estate agent with North American Realty in Las Vegas, Nevada agrees. Sena, who is currently closing 10-15 short sale transactions a month says, "The single greatest reason for a distressed property not selling is selecting the wrong agent."

When selecting an agent, don't be afraid to ask questions about their experience. Sena says to look at the current inventory of listings the agent represents and ask:

  • How many of the properties are currently short sale properties?
  • Does the agent have testimonial letters from short sale sellers?
  • If an agent says they have sold a number of short sale properties, how many of the transactions were listings sold, not just where they had the buyer.

The third step is to price the house properly, according to the market. While many buyers would love to "steal" your property for the lowest price possible, remember that the lender is already going to incur a loss and they are not interested in losing more than they have to. Sena suggests initially pricing the property at the current value and then reducing the asking price every two weeks until it attracts buyers. Then, once you have an offer, the negotiations on the final price can begin with the lender.

The last step is to be prepared for challenges in both the short sale process and in the market place. Remember, you have a lot of competition out there and getting a property sold can be tough, especially in a buyer's market. However, choosing the right agent and setting the right price can assist you in not only selling it more quickly but also in minimizing the friction of having to deal with the lender directly.

Be aware that, in some cases, not all, a lender will agree to a certain price, but only if the seller agrees to accept a promissory note for some amount of the deficiency – that means money that you will be responsible for paying back. In some cases, Sena has seen lenders ask that sellers pay up to $20,000. However, while early last year the interest rate for these notes was in the range of 4% to 8%, lately Sena has seen that lenders have also been extending offers with 0% and terms of repayment up to ten years.

Get Moving
Once you recognize that you are having problems keeping up with your mortgage payment, take action quickly. Decide whether you want to stay in the home or not. Then contact your lender to find out the best solution to your needs. If you'd like to learn more about short sales or other foreclosure alternatives, a great place to start is by contacting the professional who provided you with this copy of YOU Magazine.

License AK# 157293 Washington Consumer Loan Company license# CL-157293 California Residential Mortgage Lending Act, License# 4131067

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