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September 1, 2011

Is the HAFA Short Sale Program Working?

Hi All,

   The days of summer, heat, humidity, bugs, etc, are dwindling down. Prepare your parkas and get ready to pick some pumpkins!

   "Foreclosure Crisis"

   Just reading those words will make many folks shudder, thinking about the possibility that they can potentially lose their home. For those folks that can and want to stay put during the process vs give the deed back to the bank in lieu of foreclosure ("Deed in lieu of foreclosure"), the would probably be considering a Short Sale, or selling the house "short" of what is owed on the home.

   The long-running issue with Short Sales is that they can drag on and take months or even longer to complete, and they can be quite painful for both buyer and seller. As a matter of fact, back in July, we did a post titled, "Lengthy Short Sale Process a Painful Reality" (BLOG POST HERE or PODCAST MP3 HERE), and in sum, the Short Sale Process is like a modern day "Wild West".

   Then comes HAFA...

   "HAFA is an acronym for Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives" writes Elizabeth Weintraub for About.com in her story titled, "Is the HAFA Short Sale Program Right for You?". Weintraub says that the HAFA short sale program, which is part of President Obama's Making Home Affordable Program. is designed to "help underwater sellers either modify their loans or sell their homes as a short sale to avoid foreclosure". The program was created with a limited lifespan (effective from April 5, 2010, through December 31, 2012), but the goodies are in what the program promises, and as Weintraub writes, "HAFA promises short sale approval within 10 days and gives the seller up to $3,000 in cash at closing". Whimsically, Weintraub says that the program "has been touted as the answer to every short sale agent's nightmare." Let's take a closer look at the program and some of the benefits.

   Some of the key benefits provided by the plan are as follows, per Weintraub; Lenders must agree not to foreclose during the short sale process, Second lenders can no longer try to force a seller to commit short sale mortgage fraud by demanding payments outside of escrow, and Sellers will receive a government payment of $3,000 at close of escrow to cover relocation expenses. One of the most interesting benefits is that the Lenders that participate in HAFA waive the right to a deficiency judgment, and for someone selling a home for $100,000 below the mortgage amount, that is huge ! At interest to Real Estate Investors, all parties involved in HAFA would need to sign an "arm's length affidavit" (Seller cannot sell a friend or relative and buyer cannot sell the property for 90 days).

   Before a borrower can apply for HAFA, they first need to apply to HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program), which requires all 5 rules be met in order to be eligible (only personal residences with a pre 1/1/2009 mortgage of below $729,750, with monthly mortgage payments of greater than 31% of the borrower's gross monthly income, coupled with some form of borrower hardship). Each of the 5 rules must apply. As Weintraub says, "If any one of the 5 rules do not apply, then the borrower is not eligible for HAMP."

   Now, this is where things get tricky. Weintraub says that "Eligibility and qualification for HAMP are two different animals", and that "If you are eligible for HAMP, it does not mean that you will qualify for HAMP". She adds a valuable insight; "Your goal, if you want to do a short sale, is to hope that HAMP will turn you down"..."Then you will be eligible for HAFA". If you are accepted into HAMP, she adds, and you stop making your loan modification payments, you can also apply to HAFA. "HAFA is a government-sponsored program, it's a lot more complicated than that", Weintraub says.

   To check eligibility, find out if your Lender participates in HAMP, since as Weintraub says, "lenders that participate in HAMP also participate in HAFA.". Who does participate? As of this post, Fannie Mae lenders, Freddie Mac lenders, and quite a large amount of other lenders (Bank of America, NA, CitiMortgage, Inc, etc.)

   If you are rejected for HAMP, then you can apply for the HAFA short sale program or Deed in-Lieu-of Foreclosure, but as Weintraub writes, "I don't know why anybody in their right minds would do a deed in-lieu". Basically, for HAFA, they pre-approve the price and permit 4-months to sell the home short via a Realtor. Similar to the HAMP, this is also only for personal residences with a pre 1/1/2009 mortgage of below $729,750, and in addition, the seller must be behind in payments or close to it, and previously rejected by HAMP.for HAMP.

   Is it Working? Is it Functional?

   According to a story by Jon Prior on HousingWire.com, the "Servicers completed 10,438 short sales through the government's Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program since it launched in April 2010, according to the Treasury Department". The big loan services handling the majority of these deals were JPMorgan Chase (approximately 3600 completed), Wells Fargo, and Bank of America, to round out the top 3. It definitely looks like it's working...there is a story behind each deal, for sure.

   In terms of on-the-ground and in-the-trenches reality, Weintraub says it's "interesting to point out that very few borrowers tend to qualify for a loan modification", and says that, in fact, "almost every single short sale that I do in Sacramento is for a seller who was rejected for a loan modification."

   In the article from HousingWire.com, Prior added some comments from Pam Marron, a senior loan officer with Gold Start Mortgage Financial Group in Tampa Bay, Fla.". Marron said that "more and more homeowners in negative equity view a short sale as their only way out. Many, she said, are defaulting because banks require them to do so in order to qualify for a short sale". Marron also says that the growing problem in Florida is the "alarming increase in the number of short sale listings that are coming onto the market", with people that are "still employed but severely underwater and are having to short sale because they are not able to pay the vast difference owed between the mortgage amount and the value of these homes".

   One of the most interesting, yet disturbing, quotes from Marron was as follows"; "Banks are requiring homeowners to default in order to qualify for the short sale". It's crazy!

   Apparently, I think the program is working, but it should be extended, and Realtors and Real Estate Attorneys should be letting more homeowners know about the program. It's not news that is spread around as much as it should be. Hopefully, this post can help towards notifying more struggling families, friends, and neighbors that there are options for them.

   Can you help spread the word?

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Have a Great Week, and Happy Rent-to-Owning !
Rob Eisenstein
HomeRun Homes Blog: http://blogging.lease2buy.com
HomeRun Homes Websites: http://www.lease2buy.com and http://www.homerunhomes.com

TAGS: #HAFA #HAMP #Foreclosure #ShortSales #DeedinLieu #loanmodification #bank #mortgage #realestateinvestor

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