Massachusetts short sale attorney

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.


Richard Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced Massachusetts short sale attorney. For more information, please contact him at info@vetsteinlawgroup or 508-620-5352.

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Short Sales Remain A Good Bargain For Educated Buyers

I was shocked to see this headline today in Banker and Tradesman: Buyers’ Agents Caution: Stay Away From Short Sales, If You Can. Behind this sensationalist headline is the Massachusetts Association of Buyer’s Agents (MABA) which is “warning buyers to say away from short sales.” Say what?!

Sam Schneiderman, the President of MABA states in the article that:

“But even though short sales are taking up a greater share of the market, many buyers aren’t fully aware of the trials and tribulations involved in the transactions. Buyers are thinking short sales are great deals – but it hangs you up for two months, three months, six months,” he said. “Whatever your timetable is, it’s bound to not co-operate. . . Even though banks have made efforts to speed up shorts in recent months, Schneiderman says such problems are endemic to the short sale process, with the buyer almost always left hanging while the bank frets and bickers with the seller and any second or third lien holders. “

Perhaps the MABA’s press release got “lost in translation” and Banker & Tradesman ran with a provocative headline, as Mr. Schneiderman suggests in his comment below. The article certainly spawned a fair amount of negative commentary.

The one thing we can all agree on is that potential short sale buyers must be educated on all of the risks and possible delays inherent with a short sale. The same is true for buyers’ agents who are likewise inexperienced with short sales. Short sales are growing segment of the Massachusetts market, and are predicted to be even hotter in 2012 with lenders trying to unload a stagnant inventory of distressed real estate. Scaring potential buyers (and inexperienced agents) with short sale war stories isn’t going to help anyone.

In response to the article, Andrew Coppo of Greater Boston Short Sales LLC, says:

“As somebody who exclusively negotiates Massachusetts short sales, this article is precisely the reason why agents need to be educated further if they plan on taking short sale listings or showing a short sale listing to a potential buyer. If not, they are doing their client a disservice. Short sales require much more work than a traditional sale, but commissions are typically the same, and in some cases less, therefore not all agents are willing to invest the extra time and effort needed to obtain short sale approval. A majority of agents undertake these transactions before fully understanding the lenders’ specific requirements and procedures. The problem is not short sales, but rather the number of inexperienced agents attempting to handle these types of transactions.

As someone with an extremely high short sale success rate, I do my homework upfront to make certain that the seller first qualifies for the short sale. I also make certain to give both the buyer and seller a reasonable time frame in which to expect to receive short sale approval. That way, everyone is on the same page and you avoid having the buyer walk away prior to giving the lender a reasonable opportunity to receive all necessary approvals from underlying investors. My company has helped hundreds of real estate agents get their short sales closed. Depending on the lender, and the amount of lien holders, we can typically get a short sale approved in the first sixty (60) days. If the buyer is not willing to remain a party to the transaction for the requisite sixty days, they are not the “highest and best offer” and their offer should never be presented to the lender.”

Andrew is spot on. By definition, short sales are a unique type of transaction and riskier than normal transactions. That is why the purchase price is usually discounted. Sometimes, short sales are not approved. But most often they are. Agents have to educate buyers about the time process inherent with a short sale. You are not going to close a short sale in 30 days. There could be, and often are, some delays.

I recently authored a post on how to properly write up sales contracts for short sales which was re-published by Banker and Tradesman. The risks can be properly managed. I, and the experienced short sale agents with whom I work, have successfully closed hundreds of short sales, with minimal delay.

I hope the next press release issued by MABA on short sales is more positive.


Richard Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced Massachusetts short sale attorney. For more information, please contact him at info@vetsteinlawgroup or 508-620-5352.


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.


Richard Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced Massachusetts short sale attorney. For more information, please contact him at info@vetsteinlawgroup or 508-620-5352.


Tireless Determination The Key To Massachusetts Short Sale Success

What Is A Short Sale?

A short sale is special type of real estate transaction between a homeowner, his mortgage holder(s), and a third party buyer where the property owner’s mortgage balance exceeds the market value of the property — known as being “under water.” In a short sale, the homeowner’s mortgage lender agrees to accept less than what is owed on the outstanding mortgage, thereby being left “short.” Ideally, the lender will agree to release out the entire debt including any deficiency between the sales price and mortgage balance. This is called a deficiency waiver and most skilled short sale negotiators will insist on this.

The entire process can be extremely time consuming and typically requires a lengthy negotiation with the lender by a skilled Massachusetts short sale attorney or lawyer. Banks and loan servicers now realize that short sales are a preferred method to dispose of distressed properties as they are far less expensive than foreclosure. Short sales are generally reserved for homeowners who do not qualify for a loan modification.

Do I Qualify For A Short Sale?

Homeowners can qualify for short sale approval by proving a recognized involuntary financial hardship. An involuntary financial hardship is some event, beyond the homeowner’s control, that caused the mortgage payments to become unaffordable, even if only temporarily. Acceptable hardships typically include:

  • Loss of a employment
  • Curtailment of income
  • Increased mortgage payment or liabilities
  • Loss of tenant(s)
  • Divorce or Separation
  • Catastrophic medical event
  • Job relocation
  • Military service; or
  • Death in the family

Most lenders distinguish between someone who lost their job and someone who voluntarily quit their job. Thus, unless you are able to prove that you were forced to leave your job, or asked by your employer to take a significant pay cut, a change of employment status may not automatically qualify you for a short sale. Furthermore, many homeowners have suffered multiple hardships, and it can be difficult deciding which hardship you should present to your lender when requesting a short sale. 

The Hardship Letter

As a part of the short sale application process, a skilled Massachusetts short sale lawyer will draft a hardship letter detailing why you are no longer able to make mortgage payments on your home and why you qualify for a short sale. The hardship letter can be one of the most important aspects of the short sale process and should be as detailed as possible, telling a compelling story about the applicant’s individual circumstances.

As part of the short sale hardship package, the short sale applicant will also submit the following:

  • Third party authorization (allowing your lawyer and/or realtor to communicate with your lender)
  • Financial worksheet (breakdown of monthly expenses and income)
  • Hardship letter (why you could pay your mortgage before and why you cannot now)
  • Recent pay-stubs
  • Recent Bank statements
  • Offer to Purchase
  • MLS listing showing the market history of your property
  • Last 2 Years Federal Tax Returns

How Long Does Short Sale Approval Take?

Depending on who your lender is and how many loans you have, short sale approve can take on average between 60 – 120 days, depending on the particular lender and complexity of the case. If the lender makes a counter offer on the purchase price or if there are multiple mortgages and liens against the property, the process will take longer. One of the keys is to submit requested documentation as fast as possible, and to stay on the lender, with frequent requests for status updates. That’s what separates a skilled short sale attorney from the run-of-the-mill negotiators who’ll let your file languish.

Credit and Legal Ramifications

A short sale is far less damaging to your credit and ability to secure a mortgage down the road than a foreclosure or bankruptcy, although it does have some impact.

Foreclosure Short Sale
Credit Score Same impact as a bankruptcy, 200 – 300 negative points on a credit score.  Score affected minimum of 3 years and will report for 7 – 10 years. Any late/missed mortgage payments will show on credit score. Once the short sale is completed, it will be reported as settled for less than full amount due (or similar verbiage).  Impact can be as little as 50 points, lasting apprx. 12 to 18 months.
Credit History On credit history for 7 to 10 years. Only the late payments will be reported on your credit. The short sale will appear the same as a charge off on a credit card and will be reported as settled for less than full amount due (or similar verbiage).
Future Home Purchase (Primary Residence) Ineligible for Fannie Mae backed mortgage for 5 years. Ineligible for Fannie Mae mortgage for 2 years. (Can use local bank or private lender).
New Mortgage
Must disclose foreclosure on 1003 loan application which may affect future rates after the 5-7 waiting period. There currently are not any questions related to a short sale on the loan application.
Deficiency Rights In Mass., lender retains right to collect any deficiency judgment after foreclosure. It is rare however. We are typically successful in negotiating full and complete deficiency waiver in a short sale approval.


Do I Need A Short Sale Attorney?

Only if you want to maximize your chances of getting short sale approved, obtain approval in the fastest manner possible, and protect your legal rights and future credit history at the same time! There are real estate agents and short sale firms advertising themselves as short sale negotiators — and some are really good — however, they are not licensed to provide legal or tax advice, and you must seek that advice elsewhere at additional cost. With an experienced Massachusetts short sale attorney, the applicant can “kill two birds with one stone,” by having the attorney take over the entire short sale approval process. While negotiating with your lender, the short sale attorney can simultaneously perform all necessary short sale legal work, including reviewing and drafting the offer to purchase, short sale approval letter and purchase and sale agreement with short sale addendum/riders. The cost is relatively the same across the board, and some of the fees may be paid by the lender, depending on who it is.

We highly recommend Andrew Coppo at Greater Boston Short Sales LLC, an experienced and successful short sale negotiator. Andrew writes all about Massachusetts short sales on his fantastic blog, The Closing Table.


Richard Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced Massachusetts short sale attorney. For more information, please contact him at info@vetsteinlawgroup or 508-620-5352.


What Is A Short Sale?

A short sale is special type of real estate transaction between a homeowner, his mortgage holder, and a third party buyer. In a short sale, the homeowner’s mortgage company agrees to take less than what is owed on the outstanding mortgage, thereby being left “short.” In some but not all cases, the lender will agree to wipe out the entire debt. Many people believe that short sales offer bargain basement prices, but lenders will do their best to get as close to fair market value as possible so as to minimize their loss.

Short sales are a unique type of transaction and far different from the typical transaction between parties of equal bargaining power. Likewise, the legal aspects of a short sale are unique.

Short Sale Approval Required

The most important legal issue in a Massachusetts short sale is to recognize that the deal doesn’t go through unless the seller’s lender(s) approve the short sale. Thus, the offer and purchase and sale agreement must reflect that the buyer’s and seller’s obligation to close is contingent upon the lender’s approval of the short sale.

Sometimes, sellers need to obtain short sale approval from not one, but two, lenders with mortgages on the property. Buyers and their agents should research the title ahead of time because a second lienholder can often muck up an otherwise promising short sale.

The Waiting Game

Another significant issue is timing. The typical time-line on a short sale can vary greatly from 45 days to 6 months or more from accepted offer to closing. The approval of a short sale and the negotiation for the reduction in the mortgage balance can be a time-consuming process. There is a long, but manageable, list of documents that must be submitted by the seller/homeowner before a lender will approve a short sale.

Inspections and Financing

Short sale transactions don’t follow the typical process of the “normal” transaction, especially with financing and inspection contingencies. Due to the often lengthy wait for short sale approval, most buyers are reluctant to lock in mortgage financing and otherwise spend to secure a firm loan commitment. The same is true for home inspections. Buyers argue why should I pay for a home inspection if the deal may not even happen? Sellers and their agents often feel that buyers should put a little “skin in the game” and do a home inspection early on. These issues will be negotiated from deal to deal.

When I represent buyers of short sales, I insist that the the closing, inspection, and mortgage contingency deadlines dates in the offer and purchase and sale agreement start “x” days from the short sale approval. There should also be a end date for obtaining short sale approval and protection for the buyer’s rate lock so the agreement is not left completely open-ended and delays won’t adversely affect the buyer’s financing.

Short Sale Addendum/Rider

The deal agreements must be tailored quite specifically to a short sale transaction. Experienced Massachusetts short sale attorneys (like us!) always use a customized short sale addendum/rider. A form, however, is no substitute for an experienced short sale attorney and guidance through the complicated short sale process.

Buyers Bring Your Tools

Also, cash strapped sellers are usually unwilling to do any repairs in a short sale situation. Inspections may be performed and “outs” may be negotiated for significant repairs, but most buyers must ultimately accept the property “as is.”ar123517806003655

Get Experienced Advice and Watch For Scams

Lastly, there’s a growing perception that short sales are akin to the old Wild West. There are also reports of scams and illegal and unethical behavior by realtors such arranging for illegal buy backs to the defaulting homeowners. I suggest reading Metrowest Realtor Bill Gassett’s advice on realtor ethical issues in short sales.

Given the unique nature of the Massachusetts short sale transaction, the sage advice is to work with ethical Realtors and short sale attorneys who have significant experience with short sale transactions.