Short sale is still relevant

short sale
Market conditions makes the short sale relevant (infographic from

Believe it or not it’s been over ten years since the financial crises and Great Recession, and the short sale is still relevant! And this is why…

Coming on the heels of a dismal January, the National Association of Realtors March 22nd data release announced good news declaring a home sales “surge” during February (  February’s closings increased 11.8 percent, compared to January!  But the bad news is that the number of sales also decreased 1.8 percent from last year. If you follow real estate news, you know that homes sales stats were disappointing during the winter. (Consider that 2018’s total existing home sales were lower than the previous year’s total, according to NAR’s statistics).  February’s adjusted annual home sale rate of 5.51 million is lower than the same time last year, and pales in comparison to the 6.48 million home sales in 2006.    

Although February was indeed a busy month, NAR’s March 28th data release of the Pending Home Sale Index predicts a slow start to the spring market.  Homes that went under contract during February decreased 1 percent from the previous month and decreased 4.9 percent from the previous year.  This “forward looking index” indicates that next month’s home sales may disappoint. 

But there is a silver lining.  Home sale prices continue to rise, meaning that home owner equity is not eroding. February’s median existing home sale price increased 3.6 percent from the same time last year.  And according to NAR’s statistics, home sale prices have risen for 84 consecutive months (which equates to 7 years of continued gains)!

There are many reasons for a short sale

Although home sale prices are rising, there are still many home owners who are underwater. According to Attom Data (, distressed home sales still account for 12.4 percent of all home sales.  Of course, this is far from the 38.6 percent in 2011.  And the percentage of distressed sale continues to decrease.  However, the number is still significant. 

It’s estimated there are millions of underwater home owners.  There are a number of reasons why home owners may be underwater, including (but not limited to) years of deferred maintenance, or a negative equity mortgage.  Many short sales today include investment properties.  Some home owners don’t know they are underwater until they list the home for sale. 

Although not as prevalent as in 2011, the short sale is still relevant!  Many underwater home owners don’t have to sell, as they are not financially distressed, and are happy to stay put for many years. However, some are compelled to sell for a number of reasons (such as divorce, bankruptcy, etc.).  Some underwater home owners may have a desire to move, but can’t because they are underwater (such as empty nesters and retirees). 

If you think your home sale may result in a short sale, get the facts.  Question what you hear from others and what you find on the internet.  There is a lot of information circulating about short sales.  A majority of the information is either misleading, erroneous, and/or outdated.  Consult with an attorney who negotiates sales to help you understand the legal aspects.  Also consult your accountant for the financial implications.

There is much to consider, and a lot at stake!  Be careful when considering your listing agent.  Due your due diligence and hire an experienced short sales agent that knows the process and is savvy about appealing lender values.  Many listing agents will give up on a short sale, mostly because it’s hard work. So most important, make sure your agent has a track record of getting the short sale to settlement.

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By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2019.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Real estate bargains

real estateThe typical real estate investor and the average home buyer have something in common – they both are looking for a home that makes financial sense, a bargain if you will. After all, who wants to overpay for their home? Although the investor’s priority is purely financial, a home buyer’s priority is a mix of lifestyle requirements that fits a budget. Even with priorities in line, both investors and home buyers don’t always recognize a bargain when it presents itself.

Finding a bargain home is not as easy as some will have you believe. Bargain hunters typically look for distressed properties such as foreclosures (also known as “bank owned” or REO homes) and short sales. Although there was abundant opportunity to buying such homes immediately after the housing crash, many were hesitant due to lack of market confidence. However, as confidence was revived in the housing market, the courthouse real estate auctions were once again attended home buyers and investors looking for good buys. And as home prices increased, so did the price for distressed properties; making it more difficult to find the bargain home. Even “motivated” home owners may not be as motivated as you think in today’s market.

This phenomenon is corroborated by a recent study of “bargain homes” by Trulia’s research blog. Ralph McLaughlin reported on January 7th (Where Is A “Bargain” Really A Bargain?; that advertised bargains were actually good buys in 55 of 100 housing markets. Furthermore, hot markets tend to offer less price discounting than cooler markets; home sellers are less inclined to make price reductions in markets where there is increased buyer competition. Locally, the Baltimore metro region was found to be in the top discounted markets for bargain homes (with an average discount of 11.3%); while the Washington DC metro region was found to be in bottom of discounted markets with an average of 4% discount on a bargain home.

It’s clear now that home prices were at the bottom during 2008-2009. At that time, home inventories swelled and there was an abundance of (what would seem today) “cheap” homes for sale. I wrote at that time (If Cheap isn’t Selling, What is?; May 28, 2008) about how cheap homes were not selling, and how home buyers changed their focus from “buy anything” to buying quality homes that impart value. Of course, one of the main reasons cheap homes were not selling quickly was that there was an additional cost associated with the purchase; most of the cheap homes were distressed and required rehab, or at the very least needed updates and minor renovations.

For most investors, the concept of a bargain home is strictly the result of numbers in a formula; and for some home buyers, the bargain may be about getting a good price. However, a bargain home could be more than just the price tag. Maybe the bargain home is also the “value added” home. Rather than just focusing on price, buyers should also be aware of a home’s potential. Of course there is always risk when buying a home, which we experienced during the financial meltdown eight years ago.

Regardless, many lament having not bought homes at or near the price bottom. But hindsight is 20/20. And what didn’t seem like a bargain just a few years ago, is in comparison to today’s increasing home prices and an active housing market, a missed opportunity.

Copyright © Dan Krell

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Relief and uncertainty for short sellers

real estate

Although we’ve come a long way, the housing market is still feeling the effects of the financial and foreclosure crises. Consider that the CoreLogic’s October National Foreclosure Report ( indicated that there were 41,000 “completed foreclosures” (the total number of homes lost to foreclosure) during October, which is a 26.4% reduction of the 55,000 recorded during the same time last year; and about 65% lower than that of the peak during September 2010. Although moving in the right direction, the 41,000 completed foreclosures is a far cry from the 21,000 average monthly recorded completed foreclosures before the housing downturn (2000 and 2006).

Also seen as progress is the increasing number of home owners who are paying their mortgages; which is observable from the decrease of mortgage defaults since 2010. The November 2014 S&P/Experian First Mortgage Default Index, was 0.97%; and although this is slightly higher than the 3 months prior, there has been a -3.72% change from the November 2010 index of 4.69% (

Negative equity mortgages are making headway too. CoreLogic reported on September 25th (CoreLogic Reports 946,000 Residential Properties Regained 1 Trillion Dollars in Total Equity in Q2 2014) that “950,000 homes returned to positive equity” during the second quarter of 2014. The number of underwater borrowers dropped to 5.3 million (compared to 6.3 underwater borrowers reported in the previous quarter). However, as of Q2 there were 3.2 million underwater borrowers with first mortgages, and an additional 2.1 million underwater borrowers with first and second mortgages.

The number of home owners that continue to be underwater may have been the impetus for Congress to pass the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act before adjourning for break; the legislation was subsequently signed by the President. A December 17th National Association of Realtors® press release ( praises the passage of the legislation meant to help “distressed home owners and commercial property investors with transactions made during 2014.” NAR President Chris Polychron stated, “Realtors® strongly supported the bipartisan Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act, which was included in the package to prevent underwater borrowers from paying taxes on any mortgage debt forgiven or cancelled by a lender in a workout or after their home was sold for less money than was owed.

The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 was initially passed and signed into law December 20th 2007; which, if you remember, was a time when the housing market was in a sharp downturn. Any debt forgiveness from lenders (either from a mortgage refinance/ modification or a short sale) typically resulted in a huge tax liability (debt forgiveness is usually considered income). The legislation provided tax relief through 2009 to qualified underwater home owners and sellers seeking to avoid foreclosure. The legislation was extended several times thereafter.

Since the last extension expired December 31st 2013, the recent passage of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act was received as a reprieve by many underwater home owners expecting tax relief from debt forgiveness of short sales that closed during 2014. However, since the recent extension only covers mortgage debt forgiveness during 2014, those who have a short sale planned to close during 2015 find themselves in a tentative situation.

Current politics and economics have many pundits believing that any further extensions of the legislation may not be forthcoming. If you have a short sale planned for 2015, you should consult with your tax preparer about any potential tax liability you may incur.

By Dan Krell
© 2015

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Renovate your home with FHA 203k

FHA 203k
Renovate your home with a FHA 203k

If you’re like many home buyers, you’re probably looking for a home that is “turnkey” or an updated home that is ready to move right in.  However, since inventory is tight, competition can get intense.  But rather than passing on the “diamond in the rough,” consider the FHA 203k.

The FHA 203k is HUD’s rehabilitation loan.  The “203k” actually refers to the section within the National Housing Act that provides HUD with the ability “…to promote and facilitate the restoration and preservation of the Nation’s existing housing stock;” in other words provide mortgages to renovate and rehabilitate existing homes.  Although the program is not allowed to provide for “luxury” upgrades (such as hot tubs), the program may be used “…to finance such items as painting, room additions, decks and other items…”

If you’re purchasing a home that is not a total rehab project, there is a streamlined version of the program that can assist you to purchase the home and provide additional funds (up to $35,000) for improvements and upgrades.  The FHA 203k-streamline is a “limited loan program” designed to provide quicker access to funds so your home move-in ready relatively quickly.

The “203k” process is relatively straight forward.  After identifying a home, you should consult your 203k lender and consultant about the feasibility of a FHA 203k.  A project proposal is prepared detailing a cost estimate for each repair/improvement.  During loan underwriting, the appraisal is completed to determine the value of the home after the proposed repairs/improvements are completed.  If the mortgage is approved, the home is purchased with the loan and the remaining funds are placed in escrow to pay for the project.

Much like a typical mortgage, you must qualify for the program by meeting underwriting standards for borrowers.  However, unlike the typical mortgage, additional underwriting requirements include review of architectural plans and repair estimates (materials and labor) from licensed contractors.  HUD approved consultants/inspectors examine and evaluate the project’s progress to ensure work is completed and compliant with HUD standards.  Funds for the repairs/renovations are released in draws to ensure the work is completed as intended as well as meeting all zoning, health and building codes.

Of course, the home must also meet eligibility guidelines.  The home: must be one to four units; must be at least one year old; and must meet neighborhood zoning requirements. The program allows for major rehabilitation on homes that have been razed provided that the foundation still exists.

But what if you’ve decided to renovate your home rather than move?  The FHA 203k allows for home owners to make renovations, updates, and sometimes additions.  The possibilities seem endless (as long as your vision stays within the loan limits).   Besides painting and updating kitchen and bathrooms, you could possibly even expand your existing house with an addition.  The FHA 203k even allows for many “green” upgrades to make your home more efficient.

FHA guidelines have been revised in recent years, and may undergo further revisions.  It is important for home buyers and others who are interested in the FHA 203k to consult with an approved FHA lender for borrower and home qualifying guidelines, loan limits and 203k acceptable improvements.  Additional information (including a list of lenders) can be found on the HUD website (

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By Dan Krell

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Finding a real estate bargain

Many first-time home buyers and investors whom I encounter typically ask about foreclosures and handyman-specials. Essentially they are looking to buy a real estate bargain. When is the best time to by a real estate bargain?

A foreclosure is a home that has been repossessed by the holder of the mortgage note, usually a bank. The process of foreclosure varies depending in which state the foreclosed home exists and what type of mortgage document exists on the home. To make a long story short, the home is either auctioned to the highest bidder, or the home is taken over by the bank to be sold on the market. The foreclosed homes that are put on the market are also called REO, which stands for real estate owned by bank.

Foreclosed homes can also be bought at auction. Auctions are usually conducted at the courthouse by a local auctioneer. These types of auctions are also known as a trustee’s sale or substitute trustee’s sale. If you are interested in attending an auction, you can find the advertisements for the auctions in the local papers’ classified section. To bid on the home, you must have the minimum deposit in the form of certified funds. The minimum deposit is usually posted in the advertisement. If you are buying a foreclosed home at auction, you are essentially buying it “as-is” without the ability to do a home inspection prior to close.

When the bank has taken title to a foreclosed home, a Realtor is usually hired to list the home on the Multiple List Service (MLS). In this scenario, you have an opportunity to view the home before you decide to submit your offer. The home is generally sold “as-is.” Hopefully, you will have a Realtor of your own to advise you of the value and general condition of the home.

Generally, the process of buying a foreclosed property can be bumpy due to foreclosure process. Sometimes the previous owner will damage the home (sometimes on purpose), or take valuable materials out of the home such as copper or other fixtures. Additionally, the home is locked up for months, often without utilities. Mold growth is typical due to water penetration, and/or other structural and environmental concerns.

A handyman special is a term that is often used when a home is sold by the owner. The home can have deferred maintenance or other damage.  The home could be a rental property in need of “TLC.” Many times, a handyman special will require mostly a great deal of cosmetic work, such as painting, carpet, etc. Sometimes, there are some structural concerns, such as (but not limited to) replacing a roof, or fixing walls.

Overall, when considering a real estate bargain whether you will have to determine if the home is worth the price you want to pay. In addition to the acquisition cost, you will have to consider the total cost to repair the home, as well as the costs to make updates. It is also important to look at the recent neighborhood comparables to see if the price or adjusted price (price plus costs for repairs) is in line.

If the market is depressed or a buyers’ market, there may be some choices in a real estate bargain.  However,  if the market favors the seller, there are fewer bargains. In a sellers’ market, distressed properties can sell for close to market value.

by Dan Krell © 2005