Massachusetts short sale negotiator

Lenders Given 30 Days For Short Sale Decisions

Well, someone in government has been listening to the chorus of complaints about lenders taking too long to make short sale decisions. In a *rare* move of federal government housing competence, the Federal Housing Finance Agency has instructed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to impose new guidelines which should accelerate short sale decisions. The new rules require that short sale lenders make a decision on a short sale within 30 days of a complete application, and if more time is needed, they must give weekly status updates. This will make short sale agents, sellers and buyers much happier. The new requirements go into effect June 15.

However, how much of an impact this will have on national short sales remains to be seen. Freddie Mac has jurisdiction over a small percentage of short sales, mostly HAFA short sales as well as a limited number of traditional short sales, totaling about 45,000 last year. (Bank of America did over 150,000 short sales last year, by comparison). This is certainly a step in the right direction, and hopefully will lead to more regulatory pressure on the big banks to speed up short sales.

I asked expert short sale negotiator, Andrew Coppo of Greater Boston Short Sales, for some commentary on this news, and he has a more tempered reaction:

It is no secret that both lenders and loan servicers have made continued efforts during recent months to vastly improve their short sale approval time-frames. As someone who exclusively negotiates short sales, I think it is important to note that the new Freddie Mac regulations don’t include any penalties or sanctions for loan servicers or lenders who fail to comply. What’s more, the new rules appear to only require short sale lenders to “make a decision on a short sale within 30 days of a complete application, otherwise they need to send weekly updates.” Most lenders will simply comply with the new requirements by sending out a weekly letter stating that the file is incomplete and request more short sale documents from the homeowner (most lenders already do this). Lenders could also comply with the new rules by simply making an unreasonably high counter-offer. What most people fail to realize is that most lenders, such as Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, and GMAC all utilize an automated short sale processing software, known as Equator, that enables them to approve a short sale in as little as 30 days. The majority of short sales that take more than 60 days to get approved do so because the person submitting the paperwork fails to submit a complete package or the lender “loses” a portion of the submitted paperwork. While the new guidelines are a step in the right direction, without any sanctions or penalties I don’t see them having much of an effect on the time in which the lenders and loan servicers process short sale requests. 

The text of the press release (which can be read in full here) is below:

In an effort to make the short sale process more transparent, Freddie Mac (OTC: FMCC) is updating its timelines and also requiring servicers to provide weekly updates when decisions take more than 30 days after the receipt of a complete application for a short sale under the Obama Administration’s Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative (HAFA) initiative or Freddie Mac’s traditional requirements. All decisions must be made within 60-days.  Today’s announcement marks the newest part of the Servicing Alignment Initiative (SAI) Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae launched in 2011 at the direction of their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, to set consistent servicing and delinquency management requirements. Last year Freddie Mac completed 45,623 short sales, a 140 percent increase since the housing crisis began.

News Facts

  • Freddie Mac’s new short sale timelines require servicers to make a decision within 30 days of receiving either 1) an offer on a property  under Freddie Mac’s traditional short sale program or 2) a completed Borrower Response Package (BRP) requesting consideration for a short sale under HAFA or Freddie Mac’s traditional short sale program.  (BRPs are standardized assistance applications developed as part of the Servicing Alignment Initiative.)
  • If more than 30 days are needed, borrowers must receive weekly status updates and a decision no later than 60 days from the date the complete BRP is received.  This will help servicers who may need more time to obtain a broker price opinion or a private mortgage insurer’s approval on a BRP or property offer.
  • In the event a servicer makes a counteroffer, the borrower is expected to respond within five business days. The servicer must then respond within 10 business days of receiving the borrower’s response.
  • Freddie Mac will use the new timelines to evaluate servicer compliance with the SAI and its own servicing requirements.
  • Freddie Mac completed 45,623 short sales in 2011, a 140 percent increase since 2009.  Overall, Freddie Mac has also helped more than 615,000 distressed borrowers avoid foreclosure since the housing crisis began.

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Richard Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced Massachusetts short sale attorney. For more information, please contact him at [email protected] or 508-620-5352.

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The Offer to Purchase Has Become Much More Important

With a glut of distressed property still on the market and lenders realizing foreclosures aren’t very cost-effective, analysts are predicting a healthy spike in short sales for 2012. Short sales are quite unique in terms of deal dynamics, and should be handled differently than the typical transaction.

Massachusetts real estate attorneys and Realtors, however, are set in their ways when it comes to real estate contracts. For decades, we’ve been using the standard form Offer to Purchase and Purchase and Sale Agreement from the Greater Boston Real Estate Board or some variation thereof. We have also developed a predictable process in which the parties sign the Offer, conduct property inspections, sign the Purchase and Sale Agreement, obtain financing, order title, and get to closing.

With the recent proliferation of short sales, we have had to … yes, that dreaded word, CHANGE, the way we do things. Some agents and attorneys still do things the “old way” for short sale transactions, but they are doing themselves and their clients a disservice by doing so.

In this post, I will outline —  and explain — the “newer and better” way of handling the legal contracts in a Massachusetts short sale transaction.

The Offer to Purchase: Now The Operative Contract Document

We are seeing a shift to making the offer the operative contract in a Massachusetts short sale transaction. And for good reason. A short sale, by definition, is subject to a critical contingency: obtaining short sale approval from the seller’s lender(s). No short sale approval, no deal. Experienced short sale attorneys and real estate agents (and their clients) don’t want to spend the time and incur the expense of drafting a comprehensive (and contingent) purchase and sale contract when there is no guaranty of getting short sale approval. Furthermore, short sale lenders will accept a signed offer from the buyer during the approval process.

When we were first doing short sales, there were several instances where we drafted up purchase and sale agreements and then the short sale approval fell through. We had to charge the client for the drafting work or eat the cost. No one was happy.

The better way has proven to be the following:

  • Build all contingencies into the Offer to Purchase, namely, Short Sale Approval and Financing (we’ll talk about home inspections later)
  • Use a standard rider with short sale contingency language, with a deficiency waiver
  • Seller to use best efforts in obtaining short sale approval
  • Buyer agrees to be bound for set approval period  (60-90 days) in exchange for seller taking property off the market and not accepting back up offers. Negotiate deposit amount, usually 1% of purchase price. Buyer will obtain his financing and loan commitment during this approval period.
  • Negotiate extension rights, with corresponding protection for Buyer’s financing/rate lock
  • Upon short sale approval, purchase and sale agreement is signed within 5-7 days and full 5% deposit made
  • Closing within 30 days of short sale approval. (Most short sale approvals are only good for 30 days)
  • Waiver of home inspection or inspection prior to offer acceptance. Sellers should never agree to allow a home inspection contingency giving the Buyer a right to terminate. If the buyer doesn’t want to pay for an inspection up front, he is not a serious short sale buyer.

Change Is Hard…

I recognize that this is a departure from the “normal” way we document residential real estate contracts, but trust me, it’s a better way, and will actually decrease the time it will take to obtain short sale approval, because the parties are not waiting around for the P&S to be negotiated and signed and the buyer (and his attorney) don’t have to do unnecessary work.

Another important piece here is that the Buyer must get his financing in order, ready to go by the time short sale approval comes through. Lenders must recognize the unique short sale process and work with borrowers to get a firm loan commitment issued timely. Also, there’s no need for a lender to insist that the borrower have a signed purchase and sale agreement for underwriting approval. Under the process that I’ve outlined and under established Massachusetts case-law (McCarthy v. Tobin), the Offer is a legal and binding contract for the sale of the subject property and is sufficient for underwriting purposes. If it’s ok for the short sale lender, it should be ok for the buyer’s lender.

Help Is An Email Away

If you are a Realtor and need some guidance on the new Short Sale Offer, email me here and I will send you the form Rider. Also, if you need a referral for an excellent short sale negotiator, I highly recommend Andrew Coppo at Greater Boston Short Sales LLC.

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Richard Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced Massachusetts short sale attorney. For more information, please contact him at [email protected] or 508-620-5352.

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