Believe it or not flipping is back on the Real Estate scene and out of all places Downtown LA its on fire.
Banks pay delinquent borrowers $35,000 to sell their homes
By Les Christie @CNNMoney February 10, 2012
The deals are aimed at incentivizing homeowners who owe more on their home than it is worth and who are seriously delinquent on their payments to sell their homes in a short sale.
In short sales, homes are sold for less than what is owed and the bank forgives the excess debt. Banks have been reluctant to approve such deals in the past — since they take a loss on the home — but in certain cases, it’s become a much better proposition than letting the homeowner fall into foreclosure.
This new approach by the banks has startled plenty of homeowners, according to Elizabeth Weintraub, a Sacramento-area real estate agent who specializes in short sales.
“Initially, the homeowners are skeptical,” she said. “The bank may have already turned down their request for a modification. Then, one day, they call and say, ‘Let us give you some cash.'”
When Chase Mortgage told Angelique Pierce, that she would receive a check for $25,000 if she sold her house, she couldn’t believe it.
“I got the offer in the mail,” said the Rancho Cordova, Calif. resident. “I called my bank to ask if it was real.”
After Pierce became disabled a few years ago and had to stop working work, she fell behind on payments on both her first and second mortgages, valued at $250,000 and $50,000, respectively.
Now, she’s trying to sell her three-bedroom ranch for just $95,000 — almost half of the $179,000 she paid for the place in late 2002.
From the bank’s point of view, the offers make sense, according to Tom Kelly, a spokesman for Chase Mortgage, who would not comment on Pierce or other individual cases. “The first choice is a modification but if that’s impossible than a short sale is a faster, more efficient solution,” he said.
For the banks, foreclosure has become an increasingly difficult and expensive option. Homeowners have learned to fight the banks tooth and nail, dragging out cases for years.
And as the cases drag, expenses grow. Homeowners not only stop paying their mortgages but they stop paying property taxes and conducting normal maintenance as well. Roofs, siding, plumbing and other parts of the home deteriorate and the property loses value. By the time banks take possession, they’re out tens of thousands of dollars.
“I’ve seen a lot of foreclosures for sale where it would cost a lot more than $20,000 to get them into condition to sell again,” said John Hayton, a short sale specialist in Orlando, Fla, who has had a number of clients receive offers from the banks.
Short sales also command higher prices than foreclosed homes. In December, foreclosed properties sold for an average of 22% less than conventional sales, while the discount for short sales was only 14%, according to the National Association of Realtors.
All that has been true for years, but it is only lately that these outsized incentives, which Bloomberg recently reported on, have surfaced
Sellers are more cooperative when they’re going to receive a five-figure check for their troubles.
Nick Chaconas, an agent with discount broker Redfin, wondered why one seller was so anxious to sell their home. “Since I represent the buyer, I didn’t even know about the incentive until the closing,” he said.
It turned out that the seller’s bank was writing her a check for $30,000.
Whether sellers can expect incentives from their banks depends on multiple factors, including where they live.
Wells Fargo limits its offers to certain states, such as Florida, where the foreclosure process can be lengthy, according to spokeswoman Veronica Clemons. The bank has paid $10,000 to $20,000 to borrowers who short sell or transfer their title to Wells via a deed-in-lieu.
Bank of America had a pilot program in Florida that paid incentives of $5,000 to $20,000 for sales that were initiated between Sept. 26, 2011 and Nov. 30, 2011 and close by the end of this August. The amount of the incentive is based on 5% of the unpaid balance, with a $5,000 minimum and $20,000 maximum.
Jumana Bauwens, Bank of America’s spokeswoman, called it a “test-and-run program” that may be expanded to other states.
The offers are not always a panacea for homeowners struggling to pay the bills, however. Pierce, for example, has not been able to make hers pay off. She had a buyer but her second mortgage holder refused to go along with the deal unless it got a share of the $25,000 she was being offered by the bank. She said that the bank balked at the deal and the sale was cancelled.
She’s looking for another buyer, but it’s up in the air if Chase will honor its original offer if the second mortgage holder won’t cooperate.
Mortgage rates have been hovering at historical lows for months—but some homeowners are waiting for even better deals before they take the plunge and refinance.
Experts say that could be a mistake.
The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low of 3.87% for the week ended Feb. 2, according to mortgage-finance giant Freddie Mac. Rates on fixed-rate 15-year loans dropped to 3.14%.
Many homeowners who are able to refinance are holding out because they believe rates still have more to fall.
Jason Riggs, a consultant to a San Francisco nonprofit, is grappling with whether he should refinance the $560,000 mortgage on his duplex. The 38-year-old wants to get a better rate than his current 5%, but says, “I’m really wary of spending the time and money to do this and then have rates go lower.”
Adding to the optimism over the prospects for lower rates: President Barack Obama’s recent appeal to Congress for new legislation to allow homeowners who are current on their mortgages the chance to refinance at bargain-basement rates.
Already Near Bottom?
Yet in the short term, the administration’s proposal isn’t likely to lower rates, experts say. In a report this month, Barclays Capital called it more “bark than bite.”
Some economists predict the Federal Reserve will embark on a third round of bond-buying known as “quantitative easing” to target mortgage rates directly. In this scenario, the Fed would buy large quantities of mortgage bonds to drive down rates.
But many economists don’t think such a program would move the needle significantly. “It’s going to take heroic measures in the short term to do much more with rates,” says Brad Hunter, chief economist at Houston-based Metrostudy, a housing-market research firm.
If anything, with the economy improving, albeit slowly, the odds are better that rates will tick a bit higher in coming months, economists say.
The upshot: “This is an excellent time to refinance,” says Greg McBride, a senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com, a consumer information site.
Mortgage rates vary by region, but they are down around the country for borrowers with top-notch credit. Homeowners in Chicago can get a 3.625% rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage from Bank of America. Citigroup, meanwhile, is offering a 3.875% rate on 30-year fixed mortgages and 3.250% on a 15-year fixed-rate loans. EverBank Financial of Jacksonville, Fla., is offering San Diego residents a 3.88% rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage.
To be sure, brewing fears about Europe’s instability could damp rates a bit, Metrostudy’s Mr. Hunter says. But it would take an economic catastrophe there to send rates plunging from these levels, economists say.
Homeowners who are waiting to see whether a new quantitative-easing program will lower rates further are going to be disappointed, say housing economists. That is because the Fed’s future bond-buying spree already is being reflected in the markets. Mortgage-backed securities are trading near record-low yields, which move in the opposite direction of prices.
Even so, mortgage rates haven’t moved in kind. Historically, average rates on 30-year-fixed mortgages tend to be around 1.68% higher than the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. This month, the spread is 2.0%, according to John Burns, president of research firm John Burns Real Estate Consulting.
That spread isn’t likely to get squeezed much further, Mr. Burns says. “Rates don’t have much further to fall,” he says.
When considering a refinance, of course, it is important to factor in closing costs, marginal tax rates and the number of years left on your mortgage. Many experts say it doesn’t make much financial sense to refinance unless you can reduce your rate by at least one point.
Your “break-even” threshold, which is when the savings surpass your upfront costs, shouldn’t exceed two years, experts say, unless you are sure you will remain in the house longer than that.
To help defray the upfront costs, homeowners can try to persuade lenders to cover the bill for their fees. Regional lenders are more likely to agree to cover the costs on loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
“It’s in no way a freebie, but for some homeowners, it works,” Mr. McBride says.
Another way to save is to refinance into a shorter term to cut the total interest payments. For instance, you could ditch a 30-year-fixed mortgage for a 15-year loan.
Say you have 25 years left on a $400,000 fixed-rate loan at 5%. By jumping into a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage at 3.375%, your monthly payment would jump by about $687, but you would save more than $200,000 in total interest payments.
Ellen Richard, a 34-year-old stay-at-home mom in Arlington, Va., traded in her 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 5.5% for a 3.375% 15-year loan in December. Even though her monthly payments went up by $978.25, she will save $160,671 in interest over the life of her loan.
Says Ms. Richard: “It was such an excellent decision.”