Great Short Sale News. You CAN Buy Another House.

Losing sleep over the precipitous drop in the value of your home? Wondering how you can continue to make payments on that $500,000 loan when the home now seems worth at most $300,000? Casting  jealous glances at the newcomers in your area who are getting bargain prices and bargain rates?

Guess what? Now you can short sell your home AND  buy another house at today’s prices and rates.

Over 14 million loans in the U.S. are now either underwater or in some stage of foreclosure. About half the nationwide sales to new buyers are either repossessions or short sales.  It seems to most underwater homeowners that there ought to be some way to connect the two–now there is. You can short sale your home and buy a similar property for half the price.

Lenders are  now coming out with new programs, many insured by FHA, which make it possible for homeowners to short sale their homes and simultaneously buy another property at today’s prices and today’s rates. Many homeowners have allowed their homes to go into foreclosure or waited helplessly for the loan modifications that never came simply because they couldn’t figure out where they were going to live if they left their homes. Some decided to stick out the school year. Others couldn’t bear to leave the neighborhood. Now they don’t have to.

Here are a few of the guidelines that will allow homeowners to short sale their current home and simultaneously purchase another home. First, they must be current on their mortgages. So, owners who have “let the property go” or who were not financially able would not qualify. Finally, here is some reward for those who have steadfastly made their payments in the face of dropping values.

Second, they must be able to qualify for the new mortgage.That means a FICO of at least 640 and income sufficient to pay for the new mortgage.That’s not as hard as it may seem. If a homeowner can pay the $500,000 mortgage at 6% or 7%, no matter with what great difficulty, think how easy it will be to pay the $300,000 with a 5% mortgage for an identical property.

Third, the buyer must have money sufficient to pay the minimum 3.5% FHA down payment and the accompanying  closing costs. The short seller will get no proceeds from the sale of his property. That’s a given. So, where will the money come from for the new property? If  it’s an FHA loan, the minimum down payment is 3.5% and that total amount can be a gift. Also, the short seller is eligible for the federal tax credit which goes up to $6500 for move-up buyers. That may be applied to the down payment or closing costs, but this is not yet determined.

Finally, some programs require that the new loan cannot be more than the previous loan. So, in this case the new loan cannot be more than the $500,000 which the  buyer was paying on the previous home. With the drop in prices today, in most markets, this will be an easy criterion to satisfy.

Impetus to do short sales just got much bigger. If you’ve been dithering about what to do and how to house the family after a short sale, these new loans could certainly aid in the decision-making process and give you peace of mind. Short selling your home and buying another one at today’s much lower values may, in fact, result in a significant improvement in your housing standards…

Breaking News: Tax Credit Can Be Cash for Downpayment

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HUD [Housing and Urban Development] announced today that the buyer’s credit of up to $8,000 can now be used as part of the down payment for an FHA loan.

This is great news because it will, undoubtedly help many more first-time home buyers get into their first home. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan estimates that thousands more buyers will now be able to use the FHA-insured program, stimulating the lagging housing market.
“We believe this is a real win for everyone,” said Donovan. “Today, the Obama Administration is taking another important step toward accelerating the recovery of the nation’s housing market. Families will now be able to apply their anticipated tax credit toward their home purchase right away. At the same time we are putting safeguards in place to ensure that consumers will be protected from unscrupulous lenders. What we’re doing today will not only help these families to purchase their first home but will present an enormous benefit for communities struggling to deal with an oversupply of housing.”

Previously, the buyer was required to wait until next year’s tax time to recoup the money. As we remember, this credit was included in Obama’s Recovery Act of earlier this year. The property must be purchased by December 1, 2009. How, exactly the tax credit of up to $8000 will be monetized is not yet clear. It appears that each state will issue separate guidelines for FHA lenders. Buyers financing through state Housing Finance Agencies and certain non-profits will be able to use the tax credit for their downpayments via secondary financing provided by the HFA or non-profit. In addition to the borrower’s own cash investment, FHA allows parents, employers and other governmental entities to contribute towards the downpayment. Today’s action permits the first-time homebuyer’s anticipated tax credit under the Recovery Act to be applied toward the family’s home purchase right away. Unlike seller-funded down-payment assistance, which was a vehicle for abuse, this program will allow homebuyers to shop for the best home price and services using their anticipated tax credit.

Homebuyers should beware of mortgage scams and carefully compare benefits and costs when seeking out tax credit monetization services. Programs will vary from organization to organization and borrowers should consider whether the services make sense for them, as well as what company offers the most suitable and affordable option.
For every FHA borrower who is assisted through the tax credit program, FHA will collect the name and employer identification number of the organization providing the service as well as associated fees and charges. FHA will use this information to track the business closely and will refer any questionable practices to the appropriate regulatory agencies, as necessary.

As always, because this is a brand-new program there may be some delay before the money is available.

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L.A. County Home Prices: February 2009

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The news is still grim and grimmer for February 2009. L.A. County median home value has now sunk to an almost unbelievable $295,000. This represents a 37% drop over the previous year, but that’s only part of the story as prices had already sunk more than 10% by that date. Remember prices started to slide in September, October 2007.

Part of the reason for the precipitous drop in home values, as mentioned here repeatedly, is the wipe-out occurring in outlying areas, such as Lancaster [over 50% decline] and Littlerock [64% decline] which were offering many new homes to commuters. These homes are now almost worthless and dropping all the time due to adjustable mortgages, sub-prime loans and repossessions, in short the panoply of ills we have all learned about in the last year as our economy has tanked. Other areas of massive decline in L.A. County include Watts [61% down], Firestone Park [-52%], Eagle Rock [-51%] and Boyle Heights [-55%].

In the San Gabriel Valley, the eastern part of the L.A. County, the situation is not so bad, though, as always, working-class areas are hardest hit. In fact, only Pomona in the San Gabriel Valley comes close to the dire drops of northern L.A. County. Across its three ZIPs, Pomona has lost 40% to a median of $200,000 in 91766, 37% to a median of $195,000 in 91767 and in 91767 anothrer 37% drop to a median of $185,000.  Marching these declines are only Azusa at 47% drop to $235,000, followed by South El Monte at negative 38%.

The biggest surprise has to be  La Verne down 38% to a median of $369,000. If this trend holds, in fact, this would make LaVerne the biggest bargain east of the 605 because it has housing stock that is for the most part very well maintained along with a very good school system and plenty of infrastructure support.

For the rest of the east, Baldwin Park is down 31% to a median of $255,000,  Covina is down about 20% to a median of about $350,000 except in the South Hills where it’s down barely 2% to a median of $478,000 with just a couple of sales. Sales are weak  in Glendora 91740 where the median has dropped 25% to  $350,000; even more anemic sales in 91741 show a rise of 36% to a median of $660,000. Neither figure is reliable as sales are too scanty to know what is going on there.

Rounding out the east, Claremont has essentially held its own for the year with a median of  $570,000. Diamond Bar has dropped 11% to a median of $451,000. San Dimas has gained 10% over last year with a median of $543,000. Over its three ZIPs, West Covina has lost over 25% of its home values falling to a median of about $410,000.

On the west side of the 605 Sierra Madre has gained 2% to a median of $745,000. San Marino has gained 36%, but that is based on only 4 sales and so means little. South Pasadena has remained stable with a median of $725,000, again based on only a couple of sales. Arcadia has taken quite a dip-42% in 91006 to $485,000 and 14% negative in 91007 to $750,000. Some of these medians may seem high,but when you’ve paid more than a million dollars for your property, it’s no picnic watching it plumment to even $750,000.

Duarte is down 27% to $295,000 while Monrovia is down 30% to a median $400,000–both based on quite a few sales. Altadena is down 19% to a median of $443,000. Our major city, Pasadena, as always shows mixed results. In prestigious 91106 the median value is still over $1,000,000, a slight increase, again based on a negligible number of sales. 91107 shows a drop of 10% to $630,000, 91105 a 16% drop to $773,000, 91104 13% negative to $557,000 and 91103 a 34% drop to $310,000 median.

The situation does not appear to be improving significantly, but I can say that many of the stats were based on so few sales as to make them meaningless.  Few sales is also a negative in itself, of course, but  the coming of Spring to the Southland also opens the homehunting season for buyers who this year have an amazing array of help available to them in tax credits, higher FHA loan limits, and various city and county grants.

On the positive side,  perhaps Obama’s Plan will help some of these underwater homeowners. I am always available for discussion at 626-641-0346 or email at drdbroker@yahoo.com. The new administration has presented some plans to help those suffering from the precipitous drop in home values.

Figures are courtesy of MDA DataQuick in LaJolla, supplied by L.A. Times.

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Buyer Stimulus

Early reports about the massive Stimulus Bill due to be passed today indicate that home buyers will get a bit of a boost.

FIRST-TIME HOME BUYER CREDIT First-time home buyers are eligible for a refundable tax credit equal to 10 percent of the purchase price of their home, up to $8,000, if they made the purchase after Jan. 1, 2009, but before Dec. 1, 2009.  A first-time home buyer is traditionally defined as someone who has not owned a home in the past 3 years, no matter how many homes owned before that date.

first-time-home-buyer

Unlike a similar credit that Congress provided last year, buyers  don’t have to pay this one back over 15 years. The new credit, however, does phase out for individuals with incomes over $75,000. Also, you forfeit the credit if you sell the house within three years.  In other words, no home flippers, please.   Of course, this credit is for owner-occupied homes only.

Coupled with the now-permanent rise in the cap rate of FHA loans to $625,000, this does propel buyers into the market.  FHA loans offer a variety of options for the home buyer, and,  prime among them is that 3.9% down payment.  Some of the savor there is reduced by the high mortgage insurance amounts necessary for these federally-backed loans, but  FHA allows  sellers  to  contribute up to 6% of the loan amount for these and other costs.

Today, mortgage rates for 30-year fixed, are hovering around 5%, among the lowest in 50 years, and home prices are still declining, albeit more slowly.

If all this doesn’t point qualified buyers in the right direction–what will? Today’s buyer, especially in Southern California, is  unlikely to get a better deal in his or her lifetime.

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Loan Restructuring v. Loan Modification: What’s the Difference?

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Mortgages and foreclosures, never popular topics, are dominating the news lately. Gradually, we are learning ways to halt or at least slow this onslaught of foreclosures ravaging neighborhoods and ruining lives.  One stop-loss method is loan modification. Typically, loan mods are for homeowners who are behind in their payments and are facing  foreclosure. In fact, I’ve even done a previous post about Loan Mod Myths.

Yet, loan mods do work. Here’s who will benefit from a loan mod:

Loan Modification Eligibility

  • Minimum of 12 months elapsed since loan origination date.

  • The mortgagor [homeowner]  most be delinquent (3 full payments due and unpaid) or more.

  • Default due to a verifiable loss of income or increase in living expenses.

  • The Loan Modification mortgage must remain in the first lien position.

  • Loan may not be in foreclosure when executed.

  • Owner occupant, committed to occupy property as primary residence.

  • Mortgagor has stabilized surplus income sufficient to support the Loan Modification mortgage.

  • Does not have another FHAinsured mortgage.

In some cases, the banks today will modify loans for those who are less than three months late. And, banks will modify investor-owned or non-owner occupied. Banks do require financial information, such as pay stubs and tax returns, but credit scores are not an issue.

What this all means is that you must have enough income to support the new payment. Banks will not modify your loan if you cannot show you have the income to sustain the new, lower, payment.

If you can’t show the income, then the best option for you is probably a short sale which will do less damage to your credit than a foreclosure and allow you to purchase another home within 2 years, provided, of course, you’ve paid your debts during these years and you can qualify for a loan.

What about those who are not behind in their payments?

For those current in their payments, Loan Restructuring , may be the answer. If you have not missed payments or perhaps find yourself owing more than your home is worth, you may be able to  redo your  loans without having to bear the cost of refinancing.

How is this possible?  Who is eligible for loan restructuring? Essentially, if you do not fall into any of the loan mod categories, then you may be eligible for a loan restructuring.

Loan Restructuring Criteria

  • Homeowner may be current in mortgage payments or  have missed a payment or two
  • Mortgagor does not have to reside in the property; investment property qualifies.
  • Mortgagor may receive a reduction in principal, interest and a cash refund.
  • No “Hardship” letter is required.
  • Existing income, debt, credit scores  do not matter.

A loan restructuring may enable you to reduce your principal, especially in areas where property values have fallen drastically and many owners are thinking of “walking away.” How exactly can this happen?

In seeking to restructure a loan, the homeowner re-examines the loan at the point when it was originated.  Attorneys or real estate brokers, like myself, working with attorneys search the documentation of the loan to see if it was  predatory in nature or, if not, if it  did not fully comply with federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act [RESPA] requirements. If a flaw is found,  the original loan is voided and restructured (not modified). This allows the homeowner or his representative  to negotiate with the lender from a position of strength. If the loan was “bad” from the beginning, why modify a loan to the advantage of the lender? Restructuring is clearly the best option for the homeowner.

If the loan is found to be predatory or in violation of RESPA, the homeowner may also be eligible for a refund of all or part of the original closing costs.


As we have all heard, banks packaged our mortgage loans into so-called “exotic” financial instruments and sold them all over the world. It’s these mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps which are the original cause of our Current Recession. In their bottomless greed, banks sold and resold mortgages, slicing and dicing them into parts which they cannot now put back together. It is these mortgages which are great candidates for restructuring.

If you think you might qualify for a restructuring, call or email me and for a small fee we can find out. If your loan is not eligible for restructuring, the fee will be returned.

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