Classified Realty Group

Tips for SELLERS of Real Estate

What to Do If You're Facing a Short Sale

If you're thinking of selling your home, and you expect that the total amount you owe on your mortgage will be greater than the selling price of your home, you may be facing 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.

Note: This article provides general information only. Information is not provided as advice for a specific matter.
Laws vary from state to state. For advice on a specific matter, consult your attorney or CPA.

Does Moving Up Make Sense?

These questions will help you decide whether you're ready for a home that's larger or in a more desirable location. If you answer yes to most of the questions, it's a sign that you may be ready to move.

1. Have you built substantial equity in your current home? Look at your annual mortgage statement or call your lender to find out. Usually, you don't build up much equity in the first few years of your mortgage, as monthly payments are mostly interest, but if you've owned your home for five or more years, you may have significant, unrealized gains.

2. Has your income or financial situation improved? If you're making more money, you may be able to afford higher mortgage payments and cover the costs of moving.

3. Have you outgrown your neighborhood? The neighborhood you pick for your first home might not be the same neighborhood you want to settle down in for good. For example, you may have realized that you'd like to be closer to your job or live in a better school district.

4. Are there reasons why you can't remodel or add on? Sometimes you can create a bigger home by adding a new room or building up. But if your property isn't large enough, your municipality doesn't allow it, or you're simply not interested in remodeling, then moving to a bigger home may be your best option.

5. Are you comfortable moving in the current housing market? If your market is hot, your home may sell quickly and for top dollar, but the home you buy also will be more expensive. If your market is slow, finding a buyer may take longer, but you'll have more selection and better pricing as you seek your new home.

6. Are interest rates attractive? A low rate not only helps you buy a larger home, but also makes it easier to find a buyer

8 Reasons You Should Work With a REALTOR®

12 Questions to Ask When Choosing Your REALTOR®

5 Things to do Before Putting Your Home on the Market

1. Have a pre-sale home inspection. Be proactive by arranging for a pre-sale home inspection. An inspector will be able to give you a good indication of the trouble areas
that will stand out to potential buyers, and you'll be able to make repairs before open
houses begin.

2. Organize and clean. Pare down clutter and pack up your least-used items, such
as large blenders and other kitchen tools, out-of-season clothes, toys, and exercise equipment. Store items off-site or in boxes neatly arranged in the garage or basement. Clean the windows, carpets, walls, lighting fixtures, and baseboards to make the
house shine.

3. Get replacement estimates. Do you have big-ticket items that are worn our or will
need to be replaced soon, such your roof or carpeting? Get estimates on how much
it would cost to replace them, even if you don't plan to do it yourself. The figures will help buyers determine if they can afford the home, and will be handy when negotiations begin.

4. Find your warranties. Gather up the warranties, guarantees, and user manuals
for the furnace, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and any other items that will remain
with the house.

5. Spruce up the curb appeal. Pretend you're a buyer and stand outside of your home.
As you approach the front door, what is your impression of the property? Do the lawn
and bushes look neatly manicured? Is the address clearly visible? Are pretty flowers
or plants framing the entrance? Is the walkway free from cracks and impediments?

Understand Agency Relationships

It's important to understand what legal responsibilities your real estate salesperson has to you and to other parties in the transaction. Ask what type of agency relationship your agent has with you:

Seller's representative (also known as a listing agent or seller's agent)
A seller's agent is hired by and represents the seller. All fiduciary duties are owed to the seller. The agency relationship usually is created by a listing contract.

Buyer's representative (also known as a buyer's agent)
A buyer's agent is hired by prospective buyers to represent them in a real estate transaction. The buyer's rep works in the buyer's best interest throughout the transaction and owes fiduciary duties to the buyer. The buyer can pay the licensee directly through a negotiated fee, or the buyer's rep may be paid by the seller or through a commission split with the seller's agent.

Subagent
A subagent owes the same fiduciary duties to the agent's customer as the agent does. Subagency usually arises when a cooperating sales associate from another brokerage, who is not the buyer's agent, shows property to a buyer. In such a case, the subagent works with the buyer as a customer but owes fiduciary duties to the listing broker and the seller. Although a subagent cannot assist the buyer in any way that would be detrimental to the seller, a buyer-customer can expect to be treated honestly by the subagent. It is important that subagents fully explain their duties to buyers.

Disclosed dual agent
Dual agency is a relationship in which the brokerage firm represents both the buyer and the seller in the same real estate transaction. Dual agency relationships do not carry with them all of the traditional fiduciary duties to clients. Instead, dual agents owe limited fiduciary duties. Because of the potential for conflicts of interest in a dual-agency relationship, it's vital that all parties give their informed consent. In many states, this consent must be in writing. Disclosed dual agency, in which both the buyer and the seller are told that the agent is representing both of them, is legal in most states.

Designated agent (also called appointed agent)
This is a brokerage practice that allows the managing broker to designate which licensees in the brokerage will act as an agent of the seller and which will act as an agent of the buyer. Designated agency avoids the problem of creating a dual-agency relationship for licensees at the brokerage. The designated agents give their clients full representation, with all of the attendant fiduciary duties. The broker still has the responsibility of supervising both groups of licensees.

Nonagency relationship (called, among other things, a transaction broker or facilitator)
Some states permit a real estate licensee to have a type of nonagency relationship with a consumer. These relationships vary considerably from state to state, both as to the duties owed to the consumer and the name used to describe them. Very generally, the duties owed to the consumer in a nonagency relationship are less than the complete, traditional fiduciary duties of an agency relationship.

What is Appraised Value?

Appraisals provide an objective opinion of value, but it's not an exact science so appraisals may differ.

For buying and selling purposes, appraisals are usually based on market value what the property could probably be sold for. Other types of value include insurance value, replacement value, and assessed value for property tax purposes.

Appraised value is not a constant number. Changes in market conditions can dramatically alter appraised value.

Appraised value doesn't take into account special considerations, like the need to sell rapidly.

Lenders usually use either the appraised value or the sale price, whichever is less, to determine the amount of the mortgage they will offer.