Most frequently asked short sale questions
Q. What is a short sale?
A. In a short sale, the seller’s lender(s) agrees to accept less than what is owed on the loan for a property. As such, it requires (it is contingent on) the lender(s)’s agreement(s), (Third Party Approval).
Q. How do I know if I qualify for a short sale?
A. The three must-haves of a short sale is Hardship, Monthly Shortfall, and Insolvency.
- Monthly shortfall: Monthly income is less than monthly obligations.
- Hardship: Divorce, death, disease, disability, job loss, reductions of hours/salary, etc.
- Insolvency: Seller cannot have assets that can be liquidated or used to cure the debt or monthly shortfall.
Q. How long does a short sale take?
A. There is no standard short sale process used by lenders so each lender has their own method and timeline to process a short sale. After the lender receives a complete short sale packet with an offer to purchase the home, the lender will require from 30 to 120 days to process the short sale. The sale must close within 30 days from the date the lenders issue the demand letter (aka approval letter).
Q. Is the seller’s lender involved in the offer/contract on a short sale?
A. No. The sale of the home is between the buyer and the seller. The seller’s lender is not a part of the contract in any way whatsoever. It does not agree or disagree with anything, it does not negotiate terms, (down payment amount, the number of days for inspection, closing day, etc.). Seller’s lender approval is a contingency that must be met in order for the sale to go through. The banks make NO decision about accepting or denying an offer. The seller’s lender only verifies that the seller is a candidate for a short sale and how much money will they be willing to receive in exchange for releasing the mortgage and the note of the home.
Q. I have a little bit of money still left in my account. Will I qualify for a short sale if I have a hardship and a monthly shortfall?
A. Yes. I am not saying the someone has been completely broke but if there is a good amount of money on the distressed homeowner’s possession, the mortgage holder is likely to ask for some, or all, amount in order to agree to release the mortgage and the note.
Q. Should the seller sign multiple offers and submit multiple offers to the lender?
A. No. It is very common for my listings to receive multiple offers. When that happens, I ask the buyers to sign a multiple offer disclosure saying that there is more than one offer being presented to the SELLER and the form provides the buyer with time couple to change their offer to best and highest. Once that day comes, I present all offers to the seller and the seller will pick the best and highest offer, executes it and that is the offer to be sent to the seller’s lender. Any other offer after that is a backup offer. I have not found good language (nor would I advise me, client, too) sign more than one contract, a home cannot be sold to more than one purchaser and doing so leaves sellers open to much liability.
Q. How do lenders view multiple offers submitted on a short sale?
A. As mentioned above, there is no one set of rules that all lenders follow. However, it is my opinion that asking a lender to take a huge loss while submitting multiple contracts (showing enormous interest in the home) is contradictory in fact. I have had this conversation with many loss mitigators and some supervisors and loss mitigation department directors and I can share that much MANY loss mitigators will NOT work on multiple offers. One of them told me “I am not a Realtor® nor am I the owner of the home and I should not be doing their jobs”. He followed that sentence with. “If I receive more than one offer I do not know which offer to work on and I have to close the file”.
Q. Will my lender require me to sign a note making me still responsible for the loan?
- If there is only one loan in the home, the sellers have not been asked for a note. If the seller has a second mortgage on the property, it is likely that the lender holding the junior note (loan) is going to require something from the seller. As the number of short sale listings rises rapidly, the second mortgage holders are getting tougher to deal with.
- The seconds are requiring as much as 10% of the loan amount at closing and sometimes asking for a lump sum or an unsecured note for the difference (between the 10% they get a closing and the full loan amount) with monthly payments in order to release the secured note on the home and the sale to go through.
Q. Can the note be negotiated or waived?
A. Yes, I have been able to negotiate notes with the balance of, $92,000 to $20,000 with interest rates are low as 3% and from $21,000 to $10,000 with zero interest. Lenders in the second position are not willing to just completely waive their “unsecured note” requirement.
Q. Are there tax consequences between the amount that is owed and what the house sold for or are the sellers forgiven?*
A. On primary residence, the seller will receive a 1099C (C = Cancellation of Debt) but Congress passed a law on December 2007 that will absolve that 1099C amount (up to 2 Million Dollars) on the short sale seller of a primary residence. The seller does not have to pay income taxes on the difference between the acquisition costs of the home and the short sale amount…
Be aware that on refinanced mortgages where the seller took equity out of the home. The seller is responsible to pay taxes on the amount that he/she took out if it was not put back into the home on repairs/remodeling.
On investment properties, the law mentioned above does not apply and the seller will be issued a 1099C and will have to pay ordinary income tax based on his/her tax rate on the difference between the loan amount and what the home sold for.
There is something called “insolvency”, IRS form 982, that might help offset some of the “gains”.
I always recommend that my sellers consult with a CPA or a Tax Attorney to examine their particular situation.
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Short Sale Myths
A short sale can be an excellent solution for homeowners who must sell and owe more on their homes than they are worth. Unfortunately, a number of myths about short sales have developed, and it is important to understand the reality of this process should you find it meets your current needs.
Myth #1 – The Bank Would Rather Foreclose than Bother with a Short Sale
This is one of the most common misconceptions. The reality is that banks do not want to foreclose on your property because the foreclosure process is incredibly costly. Banks, investors, and even the federal government have all publicly stated that if a person is qualified for a short sale, the deal needs to be considered. Overwhelmingly, banks receive more on their investment through a short sale than a foreclosure.
The qualifications for a short sale include:
1. Financial Hardship – There is a situation causing you to have trouble affording your mortgage.
2. Monthly Income Shortfall – “You have more month than money.” A lender will want to see that you cannot afford, or soon will not be able to afford your mortgage.
3. Insolvency – The lender will want to see that you do not have significant liquid assets that would allow you to pay down your mortgage.
Myth #2 – You Must Be Behind on Your Mortgage to Negotiate a Short Sale
While this may have previously been the case, today lenders are looking for verifiable hardship, monthly cash flow shortfall, or pending shortfall and insolvency.
If you meet these three requirements and believe that you soon may be unable to afford your mortgage, act immediately. Any delay could limit your options. Do not wait until the countdown clock to foreclosure has started and you have even less time left.
Myth #3 – There is Not Enough Time to Negotiate a Short Sale Before My Foreclosure
This is a myth that probably hurts homeowners the most. Many do not realize that foreclosure is a process and that there is time to make decisions that may result in better outcomes.
The foreclosing party—in most cases a lender—can stall a foreclosure up to the final day of the process. Today, many lenders will stall a foreclosure with as little as a phone call from you explaining that you are trying to sell, and almost all lenders will stall a foreclosure with a legitimate contract. For real estate professionals who understand foreclosures and short sales, there is time available until the foreclosure process is complete
Myth #4 – Listing My Home As A Short Sale Is An Embarrassment
It is understandable to have reservations about letting the world know that you owe more on your home than it is worth. However, according to recent estimates, more than one out of eight homeowners in the U.S. is in the same situation. You are to be congratulated for admitting you need help, taking action, and finding a professional who can work with you toward a solution.
With recent estimates showing 40-60% of U.S. sales will be short sales or foreclosures, you are not alone.
Myth #5 – Short Sales Are Impossible And Never Get Approved
This is a complete falsehood. Are short sales more difficult to execute? Yes. Do you, as a homeowner, need to learn about a new process? Yes. Are they impossible? Absolutely not.
For example, agents with the Certified Distressed Property Expert® (CDPE) Designation receive thousands of short sale approvals on a monthly basis. These professionals have undergone extensive training in methods to help homeowners in distress and process short sales. While there are no guarantees in any transaction, more and more short sales are being approved regularly. This is far from an impossible process.
Myth #6 – Banks Are Waiting For A Bailout And Not Accepting Short Sales
You may have heard this, but the reality is that banks (and the U.S. government) are trying to do anything they can, within reason, to avoid foreclosing on properties. It is preposterous to believe they would deny a short sale in hopes that some future legislation would pass and pay them for losses.
Today, more banks are aggressively pursuing short sales and working with agents who understand how to process them. Freddie Mac recently hosted a national training Webinar for real estate agents where they expressly stated the organizational goal of “eliminating distressed assets through modification or short sale.”
Myth #7 – Buyers Are Not Interested In Short Sale Properties
This is a myth that potential sellers hear all the time. Thankfully, this is just not true. In fact, many agents are getting calls from buyers who say they only want to look at foreclosure and short sales.
For buyers, short sales and foreclosures have become synonymous with “good deals.” More specifically, international buyers are targeting these properties. Listing with an experienced agent who is educated in the short sale process will provide you with a great chance of quickly seeing a contract on your property.
In conclusion, Agents with the CDPE Designation have been trained in all aspects of the short sale process, and know how to deal with the parties involved in foreclosures. Finding a CDPE can explain what options you have, and get you on the path to recovery.
* Sabatino Campilii, Bancasa Realty and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.
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