Short Sales: Are They Worth The Trouble?

Short sales – a real estate transaction in which the homeowner needs to sell the property, but owes more on the mortgage than the home currently is worth – continue to dominate the housing market, but these real estate transactions aren’t for everyone.

Making sense of the story

  • Typically with a short sale, the homeowner is underwater and has experienced a financial hardship such as a job loss.  To limit the damage to his credit rating, a homeowner may attempt to work with his lender to negotiate a short sale.  Not only must the bank approve of the short sale itself, it also must agree to the price, since the bank will accept the difference as a loss.
  • Unlike foreclosures, in which the owner has walked away and the bank is looking to unload a vacant – and sometimes vandalized – property, a short sale isn’t a distressed home that will sell at an extremely low price.  According to data from RealtyTrac, short sales typically sold for nearly 10 percent less than the market price in the first quarter of 2011, whereas foreclosures sold at an average discount of 35 percent.
  • Home buyers wanting to purchase a short sale must have patience.  In most cases, when a buyer makes an offer on a house, he receives a response from the seller within a few days, or even hours.  With a short sale, the bank must approve of the sale and bank representatives are overloaded with cases.  It may take 30 days or longer for a buyer to receive a response from the bank.
  • In a traditional real estate transaction, it is common for a home buyer who currently owns his home to make his offer contingent on selling his current home.  In short sales, most banks will not approve an offer that is contingent on the buyer selling his current home, as too many things can go wrong.
  • Banks also typically won’t consider short-sale offers that have inspection contingencies in them, so buyers can either do an inspection prior to making an offer or forego an inspection altogether.
  • Even with the challenges associated with short sales, buyers should not avoid these transactions.  Being prepared ahead of the time and working with an experienced REALTOR® can help buyers avoid frustration and surprises down the line.


Home Sales decline in California but Higher Than Last Year

California home sales decline in July, but remain higher than a year ago
Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California dropped 4.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted 458,440 units in July, according to information collected by C.A.R. from more than 90 local REALTOR® associations and MLSs statewide.  July home sales were up 4.5 percent from the 438,850 units sold in July 2010.  The statewide sales figure represents what would be the total number of homes sold during 2011 if sales maintained the July pace throughout the year.  It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales. “Although July sales improved over last year, they were somewhat weaker than expected, given current prices and mortgage rates,” said C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young.  “Economic uncertainty and recent developments in financial markets have caused hesitation among buyers, the effects of which we may see in the coming months.  We must see sustained job and income gains along with an increase in consumer confidence before we can expect to see consistent improvement in the housing market.”

The statewide median price of an existing, single-family detached home sold in California dipped 0.3 percent in July to $294,230 from a revised $295,210 in June.  July’s median price was down 7.6 percent from the $318,550 recorded in July 2010. “Despite the uncertain outlook, interest rates are at near-record lows, and home prices are favorable,” said C.A.R. President Beth L. Peerce.  “Well-qualified, motivated buyers who expect to own their home for more than a few years should carefully study their options now.”

Most Buyers Choose Fixed Rate Mortgages

95 percent of refinancing borrowers choose fixed-rate mortgages
In the second quarter of 2011, fixed-rate loans accounted for approximately 95 percent of refinance loans, according to the Freddie Mac Quarterly Product Transition Report. An increasing share of refinancing borrowers chose to shorten their loan terms during the second quarter. Of borrowers who paid off a 30-year fixed-rate loan, 37 percent chose a 15- or 20-year loan, the highest such share since the third quarter of 2003. Fifty-five percent of borrowers who had a hybrid ARM chose a fixed-rate loan during the second quarter, while the remaining 45 percent chose to refinance into the same type of product.  The share refinancing from hybrid ARM to hybrid ARM was the highest since the second quarter of 2004.

Mortgage Rates Plummet

Mortgage rates plummet to new lows on market concerns
The 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.32 percent, its lowest point this year. That’s down from 4.39 percent last week and 4.44 percent a year earlier, Freddie Mac said in its primary mortgage market survey.

Foreclosures Fall for 10th Straight Month

Foreclosure filings were down 4 percent in July compared with June and were 35 percent lower than July 2010, marking the tenth straight month of year-over-year declines, according to RealtyTrac.

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