Foreclosures

Hope for Distressed Homeowners

Recently, the guidelines for President Obama’s Making Home Affordable program were finally released. The program is designed to drastically reduce the number of homes falling into foreclosure by allowing up to 9 million homeowners to refinance or modify their existing home loans.

There are some very specific criteria you must meet to qualify. Here are the qualification criteria:

  • You must owe between 80% to 105% of your mortgage. What does that mean? The number reflects your mortgage to home value ratio. In other words, you can only owe between 80% and 105% of your home’s current market value. There is some market data that suggests approximately 25% of mortgage holders nation wide will qualify. Because of the large numbers of foreclosed homes in the Las Vegas valley, several areas have seen home values fall by up to 50% or more from prices in 2006. So you'll need to get a current, accurate appraisal of your home's value.
  • Your loan must be backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. If you’re not sure, you can call 1-800-7FANNIE and 1-800-FREDDIE to check. You can also check online.
  • Be within the conforming loan limits. The conforming amount will vary by city. For example, high cost areas like Boston, New York or Washington DC will have higher conforming loan limits than say, Des Moines.
  • Visit financialstability.gov and complete the Q&A to see if you qualify under the guidelines. It will determine if you qualify for loan modification or refinancing.

Other Options

Even if you don’t qualify for government program, that doesn’t mean you’re out of options. With so many foreclosures hitting the market, banks are more inclined to negotiate with homeowners rather then foreclose. You can contact your bank directly to renegotiate your home loan. There are several options available to you, depending on your situation. In the case of a temporary setback, you might negotiate an option called forbearance, where your bank agrees to suspend monthly mortgage payments for a set time. After which you resume making your normal monthly payments and start paying back the payments you missed.

You may also try to renegotiate the loan, to reduce the monthly payments to a more affordable level, as well as changing the terms of the loan from something like an adjustable rate mortgage to a standard fixed rate mortgage.

If there is no possible way for you to keep your home, you may also want to consider a short sale and sell the property. In order to do that, you’ll need an agreement from your mortgage holder(s). They’ll need to approve the short sale price and any offers on the property must be approved by them.

All of these options and more are available and can be done by you. Be aware that there are predators out there that will try to charge you exorbitant fees to “help you” avoid foreclosure. There are plenty of state, federal and non-profit organizations out there that will help you free of charge. Don’t throw good money after bad! Talk to your lender first and see what your options are.

**Update

On April 28th, the Obama Administration came through on its promise to help homeowners who are facing foreclosure and couldn’t modify their existing loan.  The initial program has been expanded to include second mortgages. Quite a few homeowners were unable to secure new financing due to a second mortgage on the property. According to Obama administration officials, it's estimated that as many as 1.5 million homeowners could be helped by addressing second mortgages.

Its just not home foreclosures

Usually when you hear the word foreclosure on the news, its referring to the plight of home owners across the country. Last Sunday 60 minutes did a piece on the foreclosure capital of the United States, Stockton California. However, that is only half of the foreclosure story. Its not only home owners that are in trouble. Some developers are in the same boat.

There are a few major projects around the Las Vegas valley that have gone into foreclosure. The biggest development to have trouble was Lake Las Vegas. Last fall the developer defaulted on a $540 million dollar loan after they failed to make option payments on 400 acres of land. The developer Transcontinental Properties, ended up selling assets (including shops and restaurants in Montelago Village, the aforementioned acreage and four golf courses) to a group of creditors.

The loft market was not without its own casualties. Newport Lofts which was completed last year has been taken over by the mezzanine lender. Newport Lofts sold roughly 100 of the 168 lofts for sale before the sales slump (proceeds went to the first lender).  Residents have moved into the project, and the first floor of retail has its first tenant. No official word yet on the remaining units.

What does this mean for buyers in these areas? Well, for bargain hunters in the loft market, for the first time in the market's history, there is a wide range of standing inventory of available lofts for sale, (which also includes high rise condos). Investors that bought in the boom times may be anxious to recoup their deposits back and potential buyers may be able to find some deals. I've been contacted by a few investors about units they purchased and are looking to liquidate. As for Lake Las Vegas homes, prices are remaining fairly steady. Some projects are having closeouts so there are deals to be had, but being a resort destination it's a fairly safe bet that prices won't dip.

Las Vegas foreclosures

Foreclosure news is not new. For the last several months, every major media outlet has been broadcasting about looming foreclosures, the increasing foreclosure rates, the latest foreclosure scams and the rising number of cases of mortgage fraud. The one thing that most of them haven't covered is what you can do to avoid losing your home to the bank.

The Federal government has finally taken notice and started talking about actually doing something about it. Nevada is one of the few states taking their own action to help home owners facing foreclosure. The issue was debated by the legislature earlier this year and now there is a help line and website that will answer some of the questions that homeowners face during a foreclosure proceeding. Nevada residents can simply dial 211 or visit the foreclosure help page on the Nevada government website.

The website has a Q&A section, how to avoid scams, information about predatory lending, home counselors you can contact, a list of information you will need when contacting your lender plus what you can do to prevent foreclosure. 

The Las Vegas real estate market has seen a significant rise in the amount of bank owned properties on the market. The city of North Las Vegas has had the highest foreclosure rate in the state, making national news. A trusted resource homeowners can turn to for answers should help reduce the amount of foreclosures. Some of the information provided is common sense, but with the amount of confusion that can come into play it may be just what people need to help them avoid losing their home, especially to a scam artist.

There is also a national help line number homeowners can call 888-995-HOPE. It connects you to a nationwide counseling service (provided by the Homeownership Preservation Foundation). The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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