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October Market Report

December 13, 2009

Demand rises and inventory declines as market nears stabilization

Home sales in the month of Oct. were up 25.6 percent from this time last year! The 2,021 sales last month represents the highest number of listings sold in the month of October since the housing boom in 2006! 

At a time when sales traditionally start to taper off, central Ohio home sales are actually increasing. The first time home buyer tax credit has obviously played a role and had an impact in this but, the fact that we have a solid inventory of homes available at very affordable prices and interest rates are still at record lows has also strengthened our housing market.

The number of homes in contract (but not yet closed) is also up. The 1,539 homes in contract is 17.2 percent higher than last year at the same time suggesting that November home sales will also be strong.

The month’s supply has dropped 30 percent from last year! Last year at this time, the months supply was 9.82 meaning that if no new homes were added to the market, it would take almost ten months to sell all remaining inventory. Today, that number is down to 6.86. A market is typically considered balanced with around a 6.5 to 7 months supply.

These numbers are a strong sign of stabilization. Demand has picked up, inventory continues to decrease, and the month’s supply is now very close to balanced. Furthermore, the $8,000 tax credit for new homebuyers was extended earlier this month and added to it was a $6,500 tax credit to benefit those homeowners who wish to purchase a new residence. This incentive will only further bolster the central Ohio housing market.

If you, or someone you know is considering Buying or Selling a Home in Columbus, Ohio please contact The Opland Group. We offer professional real estate advice and look forward to helping you achieve your real estate goals!

The Opland Group Specializes in Real Estate Sales, Luxury Home Sales, Short Sales in;  Bexley  Columbus  Delaware  Downtown  Dublin  Gahanna  Grandview Heights  Granville  Grove City  Groveport  Hilliard  Lewis Center  New Albany  Pickerington  Polaris  Powell   Upper Arlington  Westerville  Worthington

Short Sale Q&A | For Sellers

December 13, 2009

Short Sale Questions

Q. What are my options as a home seller when my property is in or heading toward default (foreclosure)?
A. In the event that you have been delinquent in paying your mortgage or anticipate that you will not be able to make payments moving forward, your options will vary based upon several factors or variables that are specific to you and your property. Always remember that each possible resolution will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by all parties involved. When considering your options, you should take into account:

  • the amount of equity you have in your property compared to the outstanding loan balance
  • the additional financial resources you may be able to bring to bear
  • whether or not you live in a homestead state, and the nature and amount of the homestead exemption
  • and/or the amount of private mortgage insurance you have.

All of these factors should be taken into account along with many other variables and special conditions. The most important decision you need to make is to ‘make a decision.’  Typically, when homeowners avoid confronting the serious lifestyle and financial consequences of defaulting on their mortgage, they end up with a significantly more deleterious outcome than they would have, had they taken charge of their own destiny while they could. Homeowners need to understand that there is free help out there and all they need do is make a simple phone call!

Once you decide to take action, we recommend that you contact a counselor and a real estate agent qualified to assist with your special real estate needs (you may also want to contact an attorney if you have the resources to do so). We at The Opland Group are not just committed to helping you pursue the potential option of a short sale, but to encouraging you to fully consider all other options that may be available.

Early on in the potential foreclosure process, homeowners should contact an attorney if at all possible, but also research all potential guidance and assistance available from the government, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD’s Guide to Avoiding Foreclosure may be particularly helpful. HUD’s toll-free telephone number is (800) 569-4287. Not all homeowners, however, can qualify for certain HUD programs. Whatever guidance you seek as a homeowner, we recommend, at a minimum, that you also carefully consider each of the following questions and answers:

Questions What is a better or more likely outcome for me and why?

  • A short sale or a foreclosure?
  • A short sale or a repayment plan?
  • A short sale or a forbearance plan?
  • A short sale or a loan modification?
  • In the case of an FHA loan, a short sale or a partial claim?
  • A short sale or a short sale/assumption agreement?
  • A short sale or a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure?
  • A short sale or a bankruptcy?

Answers: Any and all of the above-mentioned options pursued by homeowners should take into account their:

  • individual present and projected future financial circumstances
  • short- and long-range lifestyle goals
  • concerns over credit rating
  • desire to remain living in their present home
  • a complete understanding of the impact each available option might have in comparison to all other options being considered

In order to best contextualize or prioritize one’s various opportunities or limitations with all other options, it is advisable that an attorney or other suitable counsel be engaged. Such counsel is vital in order to properly weigh all legal, financial, tax and lifestyle implications surrounding each option. Since this article principally focuses upon the subject of short sales as just one alternative, it is important to note that short sales usually benefit home sellers because they not only stop mortgage foreclosure, but typically prevent the lender from suing for deficiency. Deficiency refers to the difference between the outstanding loan amount and what the net proceeds are from the sale of the home, or in some cases, simply what the proceeds are that the lender receives from the sale of the home. During their short sale negotiating process, it is vital that homeowners have their Realtor and/or attorney ensure that the lender agrees to forego suing for any monies that are written off due to the short sale.

Q. Within the short sale packet presented to the lender, there is a hardship letter that homeowners must provide. How important is this component in causing the lender to approve the short sale?
A. It is absolutely critical that the homeowner be able to document that they do not have the income or necessary assets to continue making payments on their home. Homeowners must be meticulously honest in documenting and presenting their “hardship letter” so they do not implicate themselves in mortgage fraud; mortgage fraud results from inconsistencies between what the homeowner is now representing compared to the information provided at the time of the original mortgage application.

Q. What types of hardships would a lender generally consider conducive to a short sale agreement?
A. In the context of consideration for short sale approval, “hardship” is not defined by law. As such, there is no one definitive definition upon which you can rely. One would, however, anticipate that a lender would expect a hardship to result from the loss of job or salary reduction, divorce or separation, debilitating illness, medical bills, business failure, excessive debt, mortgage payment increase or the recent loss of a close family member, such as a child or spouse. Consult with an individual lender to determine the duration of the hardship, as lenders are unique in this regard.

Q. What are the tax consequences of a short sale?
A. The tax consequences for individual homeowners regarding short sales are different depending upon your financial situation. For that reason, it is suggested that you consult with a Certified Public Accountant, however, before doing so we advise that you consult the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007.

Q. What is the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007?
A. Prior to the implementation of this act, the law required taxpayers to include discharges of mortgage indebtedness as income for the calculation of income tax. In December, 2007, Congress acted to protect many debtors from income tax liability associated with foreclosure avoidance. The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 states that homeowners will not be subject to income tax from release from mortgage liability if and to the extent the mortgage proceeds were used to buy or improve their primary residence. The act does not provide income tax shelter from foregiveness of mortgage debts for investment property, vacation homes, or mortgages used for businesses or to pay off credit card balances. The protection expires in December, 2012. You should speak with an attorney or CPA familiier with the new law to see if you qualify for income tax protection.

For those borrowers who do not qualify for protection of the new Act there is an insolvency exception to imputed income from the cancellation of mortgage debt. If a borrower is financially insolvent when he surrenders the mortgaged property to the lender voluntarily or through foreclosure there will be no imputed income. A borrower who files bankruptcy is presumed to be insolvent, so that a bankruptcy debtor cannot suffer imputed income tax liability because the bankruptcy discharges personal liability under a mortgage note.

Q: What effect will each alternative have on my immediate, mid-range, and long-term credit?
A: There is significant confusion regarding the precise and relative proportionality surrounding how various pre-foreclosure(short sales)/foreclosure and bankruptcy options affect one’s credit score. It is therefore advisable that all property owners first check with their lender(s)’, credit bureaus, future lenders, government agencies, and an attorney in order to best gauge how each prospective resolution may potentially affect their future credit rating.

Credit rating impact should also be evaluated contextually by considering the role of your credit rating regarding future financial and purchasing plans.

Q. How do I know if my property and I may be considered for a short sale?
A. Eligibility for a short sale resolution is determined by your lender’s short sale policy. Your lender will also direct you as to what you must do to comply with their process and procedure. You can either contact your lender directly or authorize an attorney, real estate agent or other representative to contact them on your behalf.

Q. If a lender agrees to the short sale option on my property, can the bank still proceed with a foreclosure?
A. The foreclosure could be considered as a separate and distinct action taking place, even though the lender has agreed to the short sale proposal. This can easily occur when different departments of the same lending institution are seeking different outcomes, or simply because the bank, after agreeing to a proposed short sale outcome, but before signing a contract, believes that foreclosure would represent a more favorable outcome for the lender.

The submission of a short sale package/kit to the lender does not automatically stop a foreclosure action. Once a lender initiates a foreclosure action, the homeowner should consider that the lender will most likely retain this position until the lender has a signed contract in hand, has agreed to the short sale proposal, and has closed on the sale of the property.

At the time the lender agrees to the short sale proposal, the lender may or may not choose to terminate or postpone the foreclosure. A foreclosure may also proceed in the case of subordinate lien holders not having agreed to waive their lien on the property.

Because of the multiple stakeholders involved, and the complex nature of the regulatory environment, qualified, licensed counsel can be critical in taking steps to prevent a lender from not following through with the short sale process, especially in the case of a lender who has the intention of opting for a foreclosure-based resolution.

Q. How would I initiate the short sale process?
A. To initiate the short sale process, you may contact your lender(s) directly however, homeowners are strongly encouraged to contact a Real Estate Agent who specializes in short sales and allow this individual to handle this for them. Typically, the department to contact is your lender’s Loss Mitigation Department.

Either you or your authorized representative (Realtor) needs to ask the lender for a short sale package or kit. Most lenders will make their particular processing forms and procedures pertaining to their required short sale documentation available to homeowners.

Unlike what many people believe, SOME LENDERS will also allow you to apply and get approval for a short sale even when the homeowner has never been late or missed a mortgage payment. Please note however, that MOST LENDERS will typically only consider a short sale after the borrower has: missed two mortgage payments; has no means to continue paying the mortgage; provided all the necessary financial and hardship documentation to the lender; agrees that they will not derive any proceeds from the sale.

Q. Should I contact a real estate agent?
A. Absolutely. But before selecting a real estate agent to represent you, determine whether or not they are knowledgeable about preforeclosure(short sale), foreclosure and bankruptcy options. Your agent should not be giving you advice regarding your personal financial situation.

Any real estate agent who asserts that he or she is prepared to assist you as a homeowner in a potential short sale outcome must also be willing to follow the specific administrative procedures of the particular lender involved. In addition, the real estate agent should also acknowledge that they essentially confine their guidance to determining the property’s value and how to best market the property, versus advising the homeowner on the best preforeclosure(short sale)/foreclosure resolution.

Q. Should I contact an attorney?
A. Absolutely. We recommend that you contact an attorney with the understanding that the attorney needs to not only be well versed in real estate law and foreclosure law in your particular state or province, but also needs to be a proven negotiator on behalf of their clients. Not all short sales or other pre-foreclosure or foreclosure options are structured alike. Therefore, the role of a highly competent attorney in such matters-one who can skillfully negotiate on your behalf-can make a world of difference.

Q. How would multiple liens on my property impact short sale approval?
A. Each lender must recognize how it is in their best interest to approve a short sale resolution versus a more costly and protracted alternative. Here again, an attorney/lawyer or real estate agent who possesses experiential knowledge in this particular multiple-lien scenario can be instrumental in developing a multi-party resolution strategy satisfactory to all.

Q. Am I responsible to continue to make mortgage payments if I have intentions of applying for a short sale on my property?
A. Unless you have received information to the contrary from the lender in writing, you are responsible to continue to make mortgage payments.

Q. As a homeowner, what incentive do I have to assist in the sale of my property if I am not going to receive any proceeds from the sale?
A. We believe that homeowners first and foremost have an ethical responsibility to expend the necessary effort to support as high a sales price as possible-even though they will not experience a financial gain-when expecting the lender(s) to forgive any and all of the homeowner’s outstanding mortgage debt.

We also believe that the higher the realized sales price, the more likely the lender will be in granting a short sale outcome for the homeowner. Moreover, we also advise homeowners to be wary of any real estate agent who, for the sake of facilitating a guaranteed sale in order to collect a commission before a property is foreclosed (ruling out any possibility of a commission), demonstrates a less-than-professional marketing commitment. Such real estate agents will often justifies this lackluster attitude by saying to a homeowner, “No matter what the home sells for, it really doesn’t affect your pocketbook-only the lenders.” This disregard for marketing on behalf of some real estate agents seeking to facilitate a short sale at all costs (but not to them) is one that lenders readily recognize.

We find that this unprofessional approach to real estate marketing, notwithstanding the special circumstances surrounding a proposed short sale outcome, is to the detriment of well-intentioned homeowners who are hopeful of gaining lender cooperation. Lender cooperation is, without question, influenced by how honorable they believe both the homeowner and the real estate agent are, despite the difficult circumstances facing the homeowner and the challenging marketplace facing the agent.

Q. Does a “Listing Agent” represent me (as the homeowner) or the bank if I have intentions of gaining short sale approval from the lender?
A. The Listing Agent represents you the homeowner and does not represent the bank.

Q. Is there a real estate commission paid in a short sale and, if so, who pays it?
A. In the case of short sales, the home seller does not pay the commission. This is another incentive for a home seller to pursue a short sale remedy and use a qualified real estate agent. Moreover, many lawyers, although representing home sellers, are able to have the lender pay their fees. This makes it even more imperative that every homeowner considering any pre-foreclosure/foreclosure possibility-but especially where a short sale is the desired outcome-contact an attorney immediately. Homeowners should also encourage their attorney and their real state agent to meet as a group for the purpose of creating an effective overall short sale and marketing strategy.

Q. On average, how long does a short sale process take?
A. The time period will vary based upon circumstances, although the approval process and time to closing, in many/most cases, is longer than that associated with the sale of a property in a non “short sale” situation. That said, the average time frame once a buyer has been located is 60-90 days. 

Q. Which process has a more adverse affect on my credit rating: short sale: foreclosure; bankruptcy; or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure?
A. It is critical that homeowners, either personally or through a representative, research their individual situation with the various agencies that determine credit ratings. Be careful of categorical representations and sweeping generalizations regarding the credit rating consequences of short sales, foreclosures or other homeowner options. There exists wide-spread confusion, oversimplification, and inadequate guidance presently being offered, especially by individuals purporting to be experts.

Q. How important is the short sale package or kit when applying for a short sale to a lender?
A. Indispensible!

Q. On my own, can I prepare a short sale package/kit, and if so, how would I go about doing it?
A. The short answer is yes, you can prepare your own short sale proposal and submit it to your lender. Some lenders may even assist you in the process. Just like preparing your own taxes, however, you might need help in this critical process. Real estate agents experienced in short sales understand that the bank will want to find out what efforts have been made or could be made to market the property for the highest price and best use of the property. In addition, most lenders will require Broker Price Opinions and or Competitive/Comparative Market Analysis to determine benchmark pricing. Furthermore your lender will compensate a Realtor for their services and it is advisable to have a real estate agent assume this very time-consuming and administratively complex responsibility. Lenders, are very vigilant regarding the information they require pertaining to marketplace pricing and related real estate information, and rely heavily upon the expertise of high-caliber real estate professionals.

Q. In selecting a real estate agent, when the prospects of a short sale are desirable, is it more important to choose a real estate agent who is very competent in overall real estate sales and marketing, and not as knowledgeable in the short sale process, or is it better to select a real estate agent knowledgeable in the short sale process, but very inexperienced or ineffective in real estate sales and marketing?
A. Obviously, home sellers should want a real estate agent who possesses significant expertise in short sales and in real estate sales/marketing. The greatest emphasis, should be placed upon selecting a real estate agent who is highly competent in the areas of short sale marketing, merchandising (staging), negotiating, networking and information technology. The lender-required processes and information, are highly critical. The aforementioned skills are also indispensible in putting forth the best and most credible effort regarding the sale of the property.

Lenders can discern the difference between real estate agents who only represent pre-foreclosure strategic advice and assistance-ee.g., the performing of the required administrative tasks-from leading real estate agents who can perform the required administrative tasks and who possess short sale acumen while representing world class real estate marketing-related skills.

Lenders . . . Recoup . . . To recover all or part of a loss

Q. When a real estate agent deems it necessary to alert cooperating real estate agents that their listed property is a potential short sale, so that the buyer does not unknowingly enter into a conditional negotiating process, how does this announcement prior to a lender’s consent impact the marketing, property value, and ultimately the negotiating position of the lender?
A. This practice of announcing a potential short sale “Sale,” before a lender agrees to the short sale conditions is considered by many real estate practitioners who represent home sellers as a method of undermining the integrity and market value of that particular property.

Clearly, one can argue that by not providing this potential status to prospective buyer agents and thus, their clients, deprives them of a form of disclosure; this is why great debate exists surrounding the handling of a short sale situation.

Q. Should a lender do business with a so-called Short Sales Specialist who strategically advertises “Stop Foreclosures” to homeowners, when their intended approach is either most likely or solely a short sale outcome? Does the practice of labeling properties as possible short sales before they officially enjoy short sale status undermine the value of all homes within that marketplace?
A. We leave it to lenders to determine how they respond to the growing practice of homes for sale being labeled as members of either the troubled or the distressed property category, even though the property itself, and thus both the homeowner’s and the bank’s potential proceeds, is not troubled or distressed, but rather the homeowner and the lender. By categorizing properties as being distressed or troubled, it essentially undermines the underlying loan that supports the market value of the property.

Q. How can a lender best identify evidence within a short sale package/kit that the listing agent has placed much greater emphasis on supporting a lower short sale agreed-upon price than they have upon marketing for a greater selling price?
A. Lenders should respectfully challenge any real estate agent who supports any proposed sales price or offer as to the appraisal method they employ along with the specific and customized off- and online marketing methods they have designed for the subject property. In other words, evidence-based marketing versus merely evidence-based pricing.

Q. How can a lender best determine how dedicated a listing agent truly is to not just “Selling” a home but selling a home for more, in a climate where almost all low offers can be justified or rationalized as representing the best or the only possible offer that could be brought to the lender?
A. Simply ask the real estate agent what methods they employ to market homes for more. Otherwise, attention might be diverted to how they sell more homes versus how they sell homes for more. This is a powerful distinction that lenders must demand real estate agents respond to in order to best determine if the offer, which is part of the short sale kit, represents either optimum marketing or instead a convenient rationale for a significantly lower price.

Q. What can lenders do to prevent the real estate industry from becoming a “foreclosure-prevention” industry instead of an industry of world-class marketers dedicated to bringing back property values for both presently challenged and future home sellers?
A. Again, by communicating to the entire local real estate marketplace that any short sale packet being presented for short sale consideration must include an evidence-based marketing overview of the property, and not just a dazzling display of pricing data supporting a self-fulfilling prophecy of lower prices.

Q. When should a lender who holds a subordinate lien on the property being considered for short sale agree to or choose to resist a short sale resolution?
A. It would be presumptuous to suggest that lenders, given what is financially at stake for them, have not carefully considered the bottom-line implications of each and any lien position they hold as it relates to short-sale resolution and all other options available to the lender(s).

Q. Since a home seller does not stand to receive any money from the short sale, how can they best be motivated to enthusiastically support a marketing effort designed to realize an optimum sales price of their property?
A. As we responded to this question in the section for homeowners, we believe that homeowners first and foremost have an ethical responsibility when expecting the lender(s) to forgive any and all of the homeowner’s outstanding mortgage debt to, in return, expend the necessary effort to support as high a sales price as possible (even though there is not a financial gain to the homeowner). We also believe that the higher the realized sales price, the more likely the lender will be in granting a short sale outcome for the homeowner and possibly either fully or partially waiving a deficiency judgment. Moreover, we also advise homeowners to be wary of any real estate agent who-for the sake of facilitating a guaranteed sale in the hopes of generating a commission before a property is foreclosed (where they might not gain a commission)-demonstrates a less-than-professionalor lackluster marketing posture or commitment. Such agents justify this attitude by saying to a homeowner, “No matter what the home sells for, it really doesn’t affect your pocketbook, only the lender’s.”

This less-than-professional marketing commitment on behalf of some real estate agents seeking to facilitate a short sale at all costs (but not to them) is one that lenders readily recognize. We find that this unprofessional approach to real estate marketing, notwithstanding the special circumstances surrounding a proposed short sale outcome, is to the detriment of well-intentioned homeowners who are hopeful of gaining lender cooperation. Lender cooperation, without question, is influenced by how honorable they believe both homeowners and real estate agents are in spite of the difficult circumstances facing the homeowner and the challenging marketplace facing the agent.

If you’re facing foreclosure you’re facing some very important decisions. We want you know you’re not alone and we are here to help with any questions you may have to assist you in making the best decisions for your situation. There is no charge for this service and we are happy to help! We offer confidential and professional real estate advice.

The Opland Group Specializes in Real Estate Sales, Luxury Home Sales, Short Sales in;  Bexley  Columbus  Delaware  Downtown  Dublin  Gahanna  Grandview Heights  Granville  Grove City  Groveport  Hilliard  Lewis Center  New Albany  Pickerington  Polaris  Powell   Upper Arlington  Westerville  Worthington

The Short Sale Application Package – What’s Included

December 13, 2009

Although all lenders have varying requirements and may demand that a borrower submit a wide array of documentation, the following steps will give you a pretty good idea of what documentation the lender will require you submit and what to expect.

  • Submit Letter of Authorization Lenders will not disclose any of your personal information without written authorization to do so. If you are working with a real estate agent and/or attorney, you will need to write a letter to the lender giving them permission to speak with those parties about your loan. The letter should include the following: 
    • Property Address
    • Loan Reference Number
    • Your Name
    • The Date
    • Your Agent’s Name & Contact Information
  • Preliminary Net Sheet This is an estimated closing statement that shows the sales price you expect to receive and all the costs of sale, unpaid loan balances, outstanding payments due and late fees, including real estate commissions, if any. Your closing agent or lawyer should be able to prepare this for you, if you do not know how to calculate any of these fees. If the bottom line shows cash to the seller, you will probably not need a short sale. 
  • Hardship Letter The sadder, the better. This statement of facts describes how you got into this financial bind and makes a plea to the lender to accept less than full payment. Lenders are not inhumane and can understand if you lost your job, were hospitalized or a truck ran over your entire family, but lenders are not particularly empathetic to situations involving dishonesty or criminal behavior. Click here for information on acceptable hardships and how to write a hardship letter.
  • Proof of Income and Assets It is best to be truthful and honest about your financial situation and disclose assets. Lenders will want to know if you have savings accounts, money market accounts, stocks or bonds, negotiable instruments, cash or other real estate or anything of tangible value. Lenders are not in the charity business and often require assurance that the debtor cannot pay back any of the debt that it is forgiving. Retirement accounts can not be used against you for the purposes of this analysis and the banks can not pursue you for these assets.
  • Copies of Bank Statements If your bank statements reflect unaccountable deposits, large cash withdrawals or an unusual number of checks, it’s probably a good idea to explain each of those line items to the lender. In addition, the lender might want you to account for each and every deposit so it can determine whether deposits will continue. 
  • Comparative Market Analysis Sometimes markets decline and property values fall. If this is part of the reason that you cannot sell your home for enough to pay off the lender, this fact should be substantiated for the lender through a comparative market analysis (CMA). Your real estate agent can prepare a CMA for you, which will show prices of similar homes:
    • Active on the market
    • Pending sales 
    • Solds from the past six months.
  • Purchase Agreement & Listing Agreement When you reach an agreement to sell with a prospective purchaser, the lender will want a copy of the offer, along with a copy of your listing agreement. Be prepared for the lender to renegotiate commissions and to refuse to pay for certain items such as home protection plans or termite inspections.

If you, or someone you know is considering Buying or Selling a Home in Columbus, Ohio please contact The Opland Group. We offer professional real estate advice and look forward to helping you achieve your real estate goals!

The Opland Group Specializes in Real Estate Sales, Luxury Home Sales, Short Sales in;  Bexley  Columbus  Delaware  Downtown  Dublin  Gahanna  Grandview Heights  Granville  Grove City  Groveport  Hilliard  Lewis Center  New Albany  Pickerington  Polaris  Powell   Upper Arlington  Westerville  Worthington

How to Write a Hardship Letter

December 13, 2009

The easiest way for a homeowner to qualify for a short sale is if the applicant has at least one buyer who has made an offer on the house.

After a property owner has an offer, the first thing to do is send the mortgage-holder the short sale application which will include a hardship letter. A hardship letter describes why the loan went into default, why the owner had to put the house up for sale and asks the lender to accept a short sale.

The hardship letter should not be cut-and-dry, and rather it should be an emotional letter describing each and every hardship the borrower encountered and what other calamities resulted. The hardship letter should appeal to the lender to have sympathy for the borrower.

At the same time, if you describe hardships, such as major debilitating car accident, then it is a good idea to make sure you are capable of backing this up with a police report about the accident and information from the insurance company about the claim.

If a letter describes a hospital stay and expenses racked up by that stay, it should be accompanied by a doctor’s statement and copies of the bills.

After a homeowner has assembled detailed budget information about why they have been unable to make mortgage payments and how bad the picture is, the homeowner should write a hardship letter describing why the seller is requesting a short sale.

Information provided by a real estate agent can be used to organize the information a homeowner should include in a hardship letter.

This letter should describe involuntary reasons why the loan went into default.

It should describe in graphic terms how the homeowner got financial difficulties, was there a major tragedy or other obvious cause?

Was the main income provider laid off or lose a job?

Are payments on the mortgage up-to-date, or in arrears, and how many payments have been missed?

The hardship letter should illustrate why the homeowner is unable to meet the terms of the mortgage and make an appeal for the lender to accept a short sale.

This letter should be kept relatively short, four or five paragraphs. The homeowner should describe what solution is suggested to bring the loan current and why you think these efforts will succeed.

Examples of Financial Hardships include; Unemployment, Business Failure, Reduction in Income, Job Relocation, Decling Market, Overextension of Credit, Rate Increase, Two House Payments, Divorce, Medical Emergency / Sudden Illness, Bankruptcy or Predatory Lending. 

If you, or someone you know is considering Buying or Selling a Home in Columbus, Ohio please contact The Opland Group. We offer professional real estate advice and look forward to helping you achieve your real estate goals!

The Opland Group Specializes in Real Estate Sales, Luxury Home Sales, Short Sales in;  Bexley  Columbus  Delaware  Downtown  Dublin  Gahanna  Grandview Heights  Granville  Grove City  Groveport  Hilliard  Lewis Center  New Albany  Pickerington  Polaris  Powell   Upper Arlington  Westerville  Worthington

Mortgage Debt Relief Act – Tax Consequences of a Short Sale

December 13, 2009

If you owe a debt to someone else and they cancel or forgive that debt, the canceled amount is usually taxable.

The Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 generally allows taxpayers to exclude income from the discharge of debt on their principal residence. Debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in connection with a short sale, qualifies for the relief.

This provision applies to debt forgiven in calendar years 2007 through 2012. Up to $2 million of forgiven debt is eligible for this exclusion ($1 million if married filing separately) and the loan must have been taken out to buy, build or substantially improve a primary residence, not a second or vacation home. The exclusion does not apply if the discharge is due to any reason not directly related to a decline in the home’s value or the taxpayer’s financial condition.

More information, including detailed examples can be found in Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions, and Abandonments. Also see IRS news release IR-2008-17.

The following are the most commonly asked questions and answers about The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and debt cancellation:

What is Cancellation of Debt?

If you borrow money from a commercial lender and the lender later cancels or forgives the debt, you may have to include the cancelled amount in income for tax purposes, depending on the circumstances. When you borrowed the money you were not required to include the loan proceeds in income because you had an obligation to repay the lender. When that obligation is subsequently forgiven, the amount you received as loan proceeds is normally reportable as income because you no longer have an obligation to repay the lender. The lender is usually required to report the amount of the canceled debt to you and the IRS on a Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt.

Here’s a very simplified example. You borrow $10,000 and default on the loan after paying back $2,000. If the lender is unable to collect the remaining debt from you, there is a cancellation of debt of $8,000, which generally is taxable income to you. 

Is Cancellation of Debt income always taxable?

Not always. There are some exceptions. The most common situations when cancellation of debt income is not taxable involve:

  • Qualified principal residence indebtedness: This is the exception created by the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 and applies to most homeowners.
  • Bankruptcy: Debts discharged through bankruptcy are not considered taxable income.
  • Insolvency: If you are insolvent when the debt is cancelled, some or all of the cancelled debt may not be taxable to you. You are insolvent when your total debts are more than the fair market value of your total assets.
  • Certain farm debts: If you incurred the debt directly in operation of a farm, more than half your income from the prior three years was from farming, and the loan was owed to a person or agency regularly engaged in lending, your cancelled debt is generally not considered taxable income.
  • Non-recourse loans: A non-recourse loan is a loan for which the lender’s only remedy in case of default is to repossess the property being financed or used as collateral. That is, the lender cannot pursue you personally in case of default. Forgiveness of a non-recourse loan resulting from a foreclosure does not result in cancellation of debt income. However, it may result in other tax consequences.

These exceptions are discussed in detail in Publication 4681. 

What is the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007?

The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 was enacted on December 20, 2007 (see News Release IR-2008-17). Generally, the Act allows exclusion of income realized as a result of modification of the terms of the mortgage, or short sale on your principal residence.

What does exclusion of income mean?

Normally, debt that is forgiven or cancelled by a lender must be included as income on your tax return and is taxable. But the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act allows you to exclude certain cancelled debt on your principal residence from income. Debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in connection with a short sale, qualifies for the relief.

Does the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act apply to all forgiven or cancelled debts?

No. The Act applies only to forgiven or cancelled debt used to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence, or to refinance debt incurred for those purposes. In addition, the debt must be secured by the home. This is known as qualified principal residence indebtedness. The maximum amount you can treat as qualified principal residence indebtedness is $2 million or $1 million if married filingseparately.

Does the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act apply to debt incurred to refinance a home?

Debt used to refinance your home qualifies for this exclusion, but only to the extent that the principal balance of the old mortgage, immediately before the refinancing, would have qualified. For more information, including an example, see Publication 4681.

How long is this special relief in effect?

It applies to qualified principal residence indebtedness forgiven in calendar years 2007 through 2012.

Is there a limit on the amount of forgiven qualified principal residence indebtedness that can be excluded from income?

The maximum amount you can treat as qualified principal residence indebtedness is $2 million ($1 million if married filing separately for the tax year), at the time the loan was forgiven. If the balance was greater, see the instructions to Form 982 and the detailed example in Publication 4681.

If the forgiven debt is excluded from income, do I have to report it on my tax return?

Yes. The amount of debt forgiven must be reported on Form 982 and this form must be attached to your tax return.

Do I have to complete the entire Form 982?

No. Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness (and Section 1082 Adjustment), is used for other purposes in addition to reporting the exclusion of forgiveness of qualified principal residence indebtedness. If you are using the form only to report the exclusion of forgiveness of qualified principal residence indebtedness as the result of short sale or foreclosure on your principal residence, you only need to complete lines 1e and 2. If you kept ownership of your home and modification of the terms of your mortgage resulted in the forgiveness of qualified principal residence indebtedness, complete lines 1e, 2, and 10b. Attach the Form 982 to your tax return.

Where can I get this form?

If you use a computer to fill out your return, check your tax-preparation software. You can also download the form at IRS.gov, or call 1-800-829-3676. If you call to order, please allow 7-10 days for delivery.

How do I know or find out how much debt was forgiven?

Your lender should send a Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, by February 2. The amount of debt forgiven or cancelled will be shown in box 2. If this debt is all qualified principal residence indebtedness, the amount shown in box 2 will generally be the amount that you enter on lines 2 and 10b, if applicable, on Form 982. 

What if I disagree with the amount in box 2?

Contact your lender to work out any discrepancies and have the lender issue a corrected Form 1099-C.

Can I exclude debt forgiven on my second home, credit card or car loans?

Not under this provision. Only cancelled debt used to buy, build or improve your principal residence or refinance debt incurred for those purposes qualifies for this exclusion. See Publication 4681 for further details.

If part of the forgiven debt doesn’t qualify for exclusion from income under this provision, is it possible that it may qualify for exclusion under a different provision?

Yes. The forgiven debt may qualify under the insolvency exclusion. Normally, you are not required to include forgiven debts in income to the extent that you are insolvent.  You are insolvent when your total liabilities exceed your total assets. The forgiven debt may also qualify for exclusion if the debt was discharged in a Title 11 bankruptcy proceeding or if the debt is qualified farm indebtedness or qualified real property business indebtedness. If you believe you qualify for any of these exceptions, see the instructions for Form 982. Publication 4681 discusses each of these exceptions and includes examples.

I lost money on the foreclosure (or short sale) of my home. Can I claim a loss on my tax return?

No. Losses from the sale or foreclosure of personal property are not deductible. 

If I sold my home at a loss and the remaining loan is forgiven, does this constitute a cancellation of debt?

Yes. To the extent that a loan from a lender is not fully satisfied and a lender cancels the unsatisfied debt, you have cancellation of indebtedness income. If the amount forgiven or canceled is $600 or more, the lender must generally issue Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, showing the amount of debt canceled. However, you may be able to exclude part or all of this income if the debt was qualified principal residence indebtedness, you were insolvent immediately before the discharge, or if the debt was canceled in a title 11 bankruptcy case.  An exclusion is also available for the cancellation of certain nonbusiness debts of a qualified individual as a result of a disaster in a Midwestern disaster area.  See Form 982 for details.

If the remaining balance owed on my mortgage loan that I was personally liable for was canceled after my foreclosure, may I still exclude the canceled debt from income under the qualified principal residence exclusion, even though I no longer own my residence?

Yes, as long as the canceled debt was qualified principal residence indebtedness. See Example 2 on page 13 of Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions, and Abandonments.

How do I report the forgiveness of debt that is excluded from gross income?

Check the appropriate box under line 1 on Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness (and Section 1082 Basis Adjustment) to indicate the type of discharge of indebtedness and enter the amount of the discharged debt excluded from gross income on line 2.  Any remaining canceled debt must be included as income on your tax return.(2) File Form 982 with your tax return.

Can I exclude cancellation of credit card debt?

In some cases, yes. Nonbusiness credit card debt cancellation can be excluded from income if the cancellation occurred in a title 11 bankruptcy case, or to the extent you were insolvent just before the cancellation. See the examples in Publication 4681.

How do I know if I was insolvent?

You are insolvent when your total debts exceed the total fair market value of all of your assets.  Assets include everything you own, e.g., your car, house, condominium, furniture, life insurance policies, stocks, other investments, or your pension and other retirement accounts.

How should I report the information and items needed to prove insolvency?

Use Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness (and Section 1082 Basis Adjustment) to exclude canceled debt from income to the extent you were insolvent immediately before the cancellation.  You were insolvent to the extent that your liabilities exceeded the fair market value of your assets immediately before the cancellation.To claim this exclusion, you must attach Form 982 to your federal income tax return.  Check box 1b on Form 982, and, on line 2, include the smaller of the amount of the debt canceled or the amount by which you were insolvent immediately prior to the cancellation.  You must also reduce your tax attributes in Part II of Form 982.

If you, or someone you know is facing foreclosure Columbus, Ohio and are interested in attempting a loan modification or a short sale, please contact The Opland Group. We offer professional real estate advice and look forward to helping you!

The Opland Group Specializes in Real Estate Sales, Luxury Home Sales, Short Sales in; Bexley  Columbus  Delaware  Downtown  Dublin  Gahanna  Grandview Heights  Granville  Grove City  Groveport  Hilliard  Lewis Center  New Albany  Pickerington  Polaris  Powell   Upper Arlington  Westerville  Worthington

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Loan Modification Efforts Helping Few Borrowers

December 13, 2009

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RISMEDIA, July 21, 2009-(MCT)-Despite efforts by the federal government and banks to stop the home foreclosure disaster, frustrated borrowers are still battling red tape and delays in their attempts to negotiate lower payments, even as hundreds of thousands of them lose their homes every month. Banks say they’re swamped with inquiries and are just now completing the first mortgage “loan modifications” under the Obama administration’s Making Home Affordable plan, the program begun in April 2009 requiring borrowers to make three months of renegotiated payments before securing new loan terms.

Though the reasons are many, the problem is simple: Banks aren’t renegotiating enough loans to stem the rising tide of foreclosures, either through the federal program or on their own. “If the banks wanted it to work, it would work,” said Fred W. Schwinn of the Consumer Law Center in San Jose.

Many banks started their own programs for modifying mortgages-lowering payments by changing the interest rate or the length of the loan, or in rare cases, forbearing some principal-before the administration’s plan was unveiled. Two San Jose homeowners who sought help through their banks’ programs told tales of seemingly endless red tape.

Angelo Gallo, of San Jose, sought help from his bank lowering his monthly payments in January, before the Obama plan was announced. He said he and his wife, Mary, worked with their lender for five months, fulfilling numerous requests for more documents, but recently they were told they had to start over. “I was so frustrated,” Gallo said. “Every time you call it’s a different person, and it seems like the files are all over the place.”

Fairilla Turner, a single mother from San Jose who was laid off from her semiconductor technician’s job in January and now works part time, said her bank assured her she qualified for a renegotiated loan last November. She said the bank repeatedly asked her for additional documents, which she said she supplied. In April, the bank told her told to submit a new application.

Turner paid a Southern California consultant $2,000 for assistance. But it didn’t work: The bank is foreclosing and has given her four months to move out.

The Treasury Department, which runs the Obama administration’s Making Home Affordable program, declined to comment on criticism of the banks, however, it’s monthly progress report on the modification program shows that mortgage servicers had started 759,058 trial periods with consumers nationally by the end of Novembers 2009. More than 697,000 of them were considered active trial modifications and 31,382 were permenent loan adjustments.

This was the first month the Treasury Department required mortgage servicers to release the number of permanent modifications and while the data shows the number of trial modifications is increasing, permanent conversions to more affordable loan terms are running far behind.

Bank of America, which has more than 1 million mortgage loans that are at least 60 days past due and eligible for the program said it has 156,864 homeowners in trial modifications but only 98 borrowers received permanent modifications. JP Morgan Chase’s 448,815 delinguent, eligible mortgages, 136,686 customers are in active trial modifications and 4,302 have received permanent ones. Wells Fargo Bank had 30% of it’s customers in modifications, including 96,137 customers in trial period and just 3,537 in permanent modifications. At CitiMortgage, 100,124 of it’s 233,924 deliquent borrowers were in trial modifications and just 271 received permanent modifications.

Quite simply this program is not even making a dent and brings false hope to homeowners. Bankruptcy lawyers are particularly critical of the banks. The banks’ current efforts are “largely a farce,” according to Cathy Moran, a bankruptcy lawyer in Mountain View. She said most of her clients have been unable to modify their home loans. “I don’t think the people in the loan modification departments at banks are empowered to make deals,” Moran said.

“There is an amazing lack of staffing to support the flood of modification requests the banks are getting,” said San Jose bankruptcy lawyer Norma Hammes, past president of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. “Lenders lose stuff all the time, and they ask for stuff they don’t need. We have to jump over hurdles and through hoops all while the banks continue to collect loan servicing fees which is undoubtly their true goal.”

“I’m seeing several people each week with the same hard-luck story of how mortgage lenders have led them on for months, lose the paperwork and then find one excuse or another to turn them down,” San Jose bankruptcy lawyer James “Ike” Shulman. Banks say they’re doing the best they can, given a flood of requests for loan modifications.

Help for homeowners
The Obama administration is working with banks to help homeowners refinance into new loans, modify the terms of their existing loans, and if all else fails encouraging homeowners to pursue short sales in an effort to avoid foreclosure. Here’s how the programs work:

-Refinancing program: Helps homeowners with existing Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loans who are current on their mortgage payments but unable to refinance to a lower interest rate because the value of their home has declined.

-Loan modification program: Helps homeowners who have fallen behind on their payments because of a loss of income or other change in circumstance. Banks may agree through this program to change the interest rate, length of the loan, or even forebear some of the principal.

-Short Sale: Short sales help homeowners who are unable to refinance their home and are unable to arrange a loan modification. Banks may agree to allow the home to be sold short, that is for less than the existing mortgage amount. The banks will cover all of the costs associated with the sale including the sales commissions and other closing costs.

If you’re facing foreclosure you’re facing some very important decisions. We want you know you’re not alone and we are here to help with any questions you may have to assist you in making the best decisions for your situation. There is no charge for this service and we are happy to help! We offer confidential and professional real estate advice.

The Opland Group Specializes in Real Estate Sales, Luxury Home Sales, Short Sales in;  Bexley  Columbus  Delaware  Downtown  Dublin  Gahanna  Grandview Heights  Granville  Grove City  Groveport  Hilliard  Lewis Center  New Albany  Pickerington  Polaris  Powell   Upper Arlington  Westerville  Worthington

Feds to Simplify and Incentivize Short Sales

December 13, 2009

The U.S. Treasury on Monday set long-awaited guidance on a plan for mortgage companies to stream line and provide formal guidelines for the short sales of homes and other loan modification alternatives to speed the process and stem a rising tide of foreclosures.

The Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program provides financial incentives and simplifies the procedures for completing short sales, a growing practice in which a lender agrees to accept the sale price of a home to pay off a mortgage even if the price falls short of the amount owed, according to an announcement on the Treasury’s website.

Guidelines address barriers that have often sidelined short sales by setting limits on the time it takes a bank to approve an offer, freeing borrowers from debt and capping claims of subordinate lenders.

The incentives, first announced in May, expand on the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program, known as HAMP, that has seen limited success in lowering payments for distressed homeowners. The Treasury earlier on Monday stepped up pressure on mortgage companies to make permanent the 650,000 trial modifications they have started.

“While HAMP program guidelines are intended to reach a broad range of at-risk borrowers, it is expected that servicers will encounter situations where they are unable to approve” or offer a modification, the Treasury said in its announcement.

Financial incentives for completing short sales or similar deed-in-lieu transactions — in which the deed is simply transferred to the lender — include a $1,000 payment to servicers, and a maximum of $1,000 to go to investors who sign off on payments to subordinate lien holders, the Treasury said. Borrowers would receive $1,500 in relocation expenses.

Short sales are favored by homeowners, real estate agents and community groups over foreclosure because they can preserve the borrower’s credit rating and leave the property in better condition than when a homeowner is evicted. While primary lenders typically realize steep losses, their recovery is typically far better than under foreclosure.

But short sales have been frustrating for borrowers and real estate agents, often hung up by negotiations with multiple lien holders and mortgage insurance companies. Real estate agents have complained that sales fall through as lenders bicker over the sales price, what they should receive from the proceeds.

Among the new requirements, mortgage servicers have 10 days to approve or disapprove a request for short sale, and when done the transaction must fully release the borrower from the debt.

It also prohibits mortgage servicing companies from reducing real estate commissions on the sale, a practice that has dissuaded many agents from taking short sale listings.

In one of the most contentious issues gumming up negotiations between lenders, the guidance caps the aggregate proceeds to subordinate lien holders at $3,000.

Second lien holders in recent months have begun demanding more money from the first lender, seller, buyer or agent in exchange for releasing their claim, agents have said. Because primary lenders would face larger losses in a foreclosure, some subordinate lenders have felt empowered, the agents said.

The largest second-lien holders are Bank of America Corp, Wells Fargo & Co, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Citigroup Inc.

Second lien holders may proceed with a short sale outside of the Treasury program, if they felt the cap was too low, a Treasury official said in October.

“If there was a short sale program that didn’t recognize the second lien holder position, it could have pretty damaging consequences for the industry,” Sanjiv Das, chief executive officer of CitiMortgage, said in an interview last week.

For more information on purchasing a short sale, or for a list of homes currently offered via short sale please email us your request or call us at 614.332.6984.

If you’re homeowner who’s having trouble making your mortgage payment and are interested in exploring your options including the listing of your home as a short sale, please click here before giving us a call.

The Opland Group Specializes in Real Estate Sales, Luxury Home Sales, Short Sales in;  Bexley  Columbus  Delaware  Downtown  Dublin  Gahanna  Grandview Heights  Granville  Grove City  Groveport  Hilliard  Lewis Center  New Albany  Pickerington  Polaris  Powell   Upper Arlington  Westerville  Worthington