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Say goodbye to the slow short sale process

September 2, 2011

redistributed from HSH.com

Say goodbye to the
slow short sale process

Aug 29, 2011
By: Margarette Burnette  

Short
sales
are just one part of a trio of distressed real estate options
available to homebuyers in today’s real estate market. Their reduced asking
price makes them an attractive option, but the long and convoluted sale process
has caused many short sale properties to remain on the market unsold.

New legislation regarding short sales is working its way through Congress,
and if it becomes law, it could have a truly positive impact on the real estate
market. The bill, officially known as the Prompt Decision for Qualification of
Short Sale Act of 2011, would shorten the amount of time mortgage lenders have to approve or
deny a short sale request, says attorney Matthew Alegi, Chair of the
Residential Real Estate Practice Group at Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy &
Ecker, P.A., in Potomac, Md.

Click here

Reducing the wait

Under the new law, the deadline for lenders would be 45 days from the time
the request is made, he says. "If they don’t respond within the 45 days,
they are deemed to have accepted that request," he says.

The bill could significantly improve the real estate market in the near
future by allowing struggling homeowners to sell more quickly while increasing
home sales overall. "The goal is to help consumers, borrowers and
ultimately taxpayers by speeding up the short
sale
process," he says.

According to Alegi, short sale requests can often go unanswered for six
months or more. "By then, the buyer could have moved on," he says.
"A 45-day notification period would be a significant improvement."

Issues remain, questions still unanswered

However, there are several issues with the bill that still need to be
addressed, Alegi says. For instance, it’s not entirely clear that everyone will
agree on when a borrower’s information package is officially
"received," he says.

One of the reasons short sales take a long time before any decision is
made–positive or negative–is the loan servicer often doesn’t receive the
complete application file in a timely manner, says Steven Bocca, a senior
mortgage consultant with Element Funding in Atlanta, Ga.

The requirements for a short sale request can be time-consuming, he says. As
a borrower, you often have to provide detailed income information, such as past
tax returns, W-2s and bank statements, he says.

In addition, you likely have to provide proof that a short sale is
necessary. "A lender may require you to show that you are behind on your
home loan payments, prove you have to relocate for work, or prove through an
independent appraisal that your home is a certain percentage below what you owe
on it," says Bocca.

Another potential issue with the legislation is the company which services
the home loan (and would receive the request) may not have the ultimate
authority to approve a short sale, says Alegi.

Many mortgage loans are private-label products, which are backed by private
investors, he says. The true decision maker may be a trustee who has a
responsibility to investors, he says. It would be difficult for them to get
quick approval for a short sale that would only earn investors pennies on the
dollar, he says.

Automatic rejections?

As a result of these potential issues, experts say it’s possible that if the
law passes, mortgage lenders could
respond to short sale requests with "knee-jerk" denials, just so they
can say that they are in compliance with the Short Sale Act, Bocca says.

But eventually, lenders would have to find a way to make sure they’re in
compliance with the spirit of the law, he says. "Banks will be cautious
not to miss any steps and open themselves up to litigation," says Bocca.
This means reviewing applications carefully and setting up internal procedures
to help them make decisions faster, he says.

Revitalizing the market

If these issues can be resolved, there’s a decent chance the bill could
pass, Bocca says. However, the first few months could prove difficult for the
market. "There may be a sudden spike in the number of short sales on the
market, which would add more housing supply to the marketplace and depress
current home values," he says.

But the long-term view is more positive, Mortgage lenders would be motivated
to make faster short sale decisions, which could spur more stable, long-term
activity in the market. "This would ultimately allow homeowners to be in a
better position to sell their homes and move on with their lives," Bocca
says.

For more information regarding our Residential Real Estate
Settlements Group or our general real estate transactions and litigation
practice, please contact the author at malegi@shulmanrogers.com,
or (301) 230-6574.

This publication/newsletter is for informational purposes and
does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be
used or relied upon in regard to any particular facts or circumstances without
first consulting a lawyer.  

About the Author

© Matthew D. Alegi, 2011

Residential Real
Estate Practice