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To Stop House Foreclosure Or Not?

Apr 17, 2008
It's an epidemic that hasn't been seen since the great depression; houses are being foreclosed at three times the normal rate in some counties across America. As a result of this sudden rise in foreclosures a new type of business has sprung up within the real estate market called the "short sell." If you are considering bankruptcy or foreclosure it is extremely important to understand this practice that helps and hinders many at the same time.

Have you seen the ads that say "stop house foreclosure" online, in your mailbox and on billboards? Chances are these are make-shift investors offering to negotiate a short sell in lieu of foreclosure for you. A short sell is when an uninterested party negotiates with your mortgage company for a lower payoff for your home instead of foreclosure. Most of the times these people are looking to "scoop up" cheap houses or they already have an investor/buyer lined up to buy the home. The end result is that you have to move or rent from the investor.

When banks foreclose it's rarely a profitable situation for them, very rare in today's market. Most often the properties are in disrepair, dirty and littered with unwanted household items. The bank has to clean, repair and then discount the home to put it on the market. After the discounts, repairs, appraisers, real estate commissions and other added expenses banks are usually losing around 35% of the amount that was owed by the homeowner. This is why a lot of banks are using the short sell option more often as their foreclosure departments are maxed out to capacity.

Short sell experts simply attempt to handle all of the aforementioned headaches and skip to the discounted price. The person that negotiates the short sell will either make money by having the house pre-sold for a higher price than they negotiate or will be keeping the property as an investment and renting it. Either way they stand to earn a nice profit and while helping their clients circumvent foreclosure. If you are significantly behind on your mortgage and cannot see the light of day this may be a good avenue for you depending on your particular situation.

There are a few things you need to be aware of before executing a short sell to stop house foreclosure. The first thing is to know is if you are considering bankruptcy you definitely want to seek advice from council before executing a short sell. Selling property for a loss can sometimes be considered income by the trustee and complicate the bankruptcy. Also, if your primary goal is to avoid foreclosure to preserve your credit, it may not matter whether the bank forecloses or not. If you fall four months behind (120 days) on your mortgage this is considered to be a foreclosure by all mortgage lenders regardless of the fact.

According FHA loan requirements, borrowers must be out of a foreclosure for three years with little or no negative marks since the foreclosure to be approved for a new mortgage. If after three years you can prove adequate income, that you have established new credit and manage a 3% down payment you will almost certainly be approved for a new home. So if homeowners look at foreclosure from a three year perspective the picture is not quite so gloomy if they plan ahead and manage their finances well. In certain situations it becomes a viable option for many people in today's housing market.

Your home is an investment; businesses cut their losses on bad investments every day as a cost of doing business. If you bought a home for $200k with little or no money down within the last 5 years chances are that you still owe somewhere around $195k on the home. If you are in an area where property values have dropped significantly you may find yourself upside down in your home. For example, you may still owe $195k on your home and it's only worth $175k on the market. When this happens you need to look at the reality of the situation much as a business would and consider cutting your losses.

Consider this, if you are $20k upside down in the market and behind on payments, how long will it take you to catch up on your payments and at what cost? More than that, how long will it take for your house value to catch up with what you owe on it? Will you have to refinance to get out of a bad mortgage and what costs will be associated with this? By all estimations today it may take 3 years to 5 years for the housing market to catch up with today's losses and regain momentum. In Japan's case it took ten years when they went through a similar crisis.

A very likely scenario is that in three years you will owe exactly what your house is worth and still not have any equity in your home. In housing markets like we are in rental houses are cheap and plentiful. In fact, in Atlanta $300k homes are renting for roughly half of the cost of what that mortgage would be. If you were to accept a foreclosure and move to a rental home of equal value you could likely cut your home expenditure in half. If you were to save the difference between the payments for three years you would have a nice down payment for a new home. According to FHA loan requirements, as of today, you would be able to buy a home.

In closing, the point of this article is not to encourage foreclosure but to demystify it. Foreclosure is bad for you, the lender, and the economy. However, treading water on a bad investment for the sake of good credit or avoiding the stigma of foreclosure doesn't make sense. In three years time you will most likely be able to buy the same home you are in now and have a lower note with more equity. Banks and businesses cut their losses on bad investments everyday while planning for their next venture, you can as well.
About the Author
Aubrey Clark is a syndicated writer on financial matters and the editor for Lendfast.com. He writes extensively on lending topics like finding the best Atlanta mortgage rates and how investors obtain Georgia low mortgage rates.
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