Seller Resources

Short Sales

When does foreclosure begin? 
Lenders will initiate foreclosure proceedings when borrowers become delinquent in their mortgage obligations, usually after three payments are missed. The lender will then notify the borrower in writing that he or she is in default. The lender can request a trustee’s sale or a judicial foreclosure, in which the property is sold at public auction. A borrower can cure the default by paying the overdue amount and the pending payment after the notice of default is recorded, usually no later than a few days before the property’s sale. Some sales allow the successful bidder to take possession of the property immediately. If the former owner refuses to vacate the premises, the court can issue an unlawful detainer that allows the sheriff to come out and evict them. Borrowers should do everything they can to avoid foreclosure, which is one of the most damaging events that can occur in an individual’s credit history.

How long do bankruptcies and foreclosures stay on a credit report?
Bankruptcies and foreclosures can remain on a credit report for seven to ten years. Some lenders will consider a borrower earlier if they have reestablished good credit.  The circumstances surrounding the bankruptcy can also influence a lender’s decision. For example, if you went through a bankruptcy because your employer had financial difficulties, a lender may be more sympathetic. If, however, you went through a bankruptcy because you overextended personal credit lines and lived beyond your means, the lender probably will be less inclined to be flexible.

Can a home seller sell a home for less than its mortgage?
Yes, in some case you can sell your home for less than what you still owe on the mortgage, but this is complicated and depends on the lender. This situation is known as a “short sale.” Sometimes a lender will be willing to split the difference between the sale price and loan amount, which must still be paid. A short sale may be more complicated if the loan has been sold to the secondary market, because then the lender will have to get permission from Freddie Mac, the two major secondary-market players. If the loan was a low-down payment mortgage with private mortgage insurance, then the lender also must involve the mortgage insurance company that insured the low-down loan.

How does a home go into foreclosure?
Foreclosure proceedings usually begin after a borrower has skipped three mortgage payments. The lender will record a notice of default against the property. Unless the debt is satisfied, the lender will foreclose on the mortgage and proceed to set up a trustee sale.

How does someone sell a slow mover?
Even in a down market, real estate experts say that price and condition are the two most important factors in selling a home. If you are selling in a slow market, your first step would be to lower your price. Also, go through the house and see if there are cosmetic defects that you missed and can be repaired. Secondly, you need to make sure that the home is getting the exposure it deserves through open houses, broker open houses, advertising, good signage, and listings on the local multiple listing service (MLS) and on the Internet. Another option is to pull your house off the market and wait for the market to improve. Finally, if you who have no equity in the house, and are forced to sell because of a divorce or financial considerations, you could discuss a short sale or a deed-in-lieu-of-foreclosure with your lender. A short sale is when the seller finds a buyer for a price that is below the mortgage amount and negotiates the difference with the lender. In a deed-in-lieu-of-foreclosure situation, the lender agrees to take the house back without instituting foreclosure proceedings. The latter are radical options. Your simplest, and in many cases most effective, option is to lower the price.

Seller Resources

Selling at a Loss

Can a home seller sell a home for less than its mortgage? 
Yes, in some case you can sell your home for less than what you still owe on the mortgage, but this is complicated and depends on the lender. This situation is known as a “short sale.” Sometimes a lender will be willing to split the difference between the sale price and loan amount, which still must be paid. A short sale may be more complicated if the loan has been sold to the secondary market because then the lender will have to get permission from Freddie Mac, the two major secondary-market players. If the loan was a low down payment mortgage with private mortgage insurance, then the lender also must involve the mortgage insurance company that insured the low-down loan.

When does foreclosure begin?
Lenders will initiate foreclosure proceedings when borrowers become delinquent in their mortgage obligations, usually after three payments are missed. The lender will then notify the borrower in writing that he or she is in default. The lender can request a trustee’s sale or a judicial foreclosure, in which the property is sold at public auction. A borrower can cure the default by paying the overdue amount and the pending payment after the notice of default is recorded, usually no later than a few days before the property’s sale. Some sales allow the successful bidder to take possession immediately. If the former owner refuses to vacate the premises, the court can issue an unlawful detainer that allows the sheriff to come out and evict them. Borrowers should do everything they can to avoid foreclosure, which is one of the most damaging events that can occur in an individual’s credit history.

Seller Resources

Seller Financing

What is seller financing? 
Seller financing is when a seller helps to finance a real estate transaction by taking back a second note, or even financing the entire purchase if the seller owns the home free and clear. Usually sellers do this when a buyer has difficulty qualifying for a conventional loan or meeting the purchase price. Seller financing differs from a traditional loan because the seller does not give the buyer cash to complete the purchase, as does a lender. Instead, it involves extending a credit against the purchase price of the home while the buyer executes a promissory note and trust deed in the seller’s favor. These special circumstances must be acceptable to the lender who makes the first mortgage on the property. The necessary paperwork is prepared by the title or escrow company after the terms are worked out between the buyer and seller.

If you are a seller considering such an arrangement, it is critical to thoroughly evaluate the creditworthiness of the buyer first. Fear of default makes many sellers reluctant to take back a second note. But seller financing can bring a higher price as well as complete the sale sooner in some situations. For more information, contact the Internal Revenue Service for a copy of its Publication 537, “Installment Sales.” Order by calling (800) TAX-FORM.

How are the rates set for seller financing? 
The interest rate on an owner-carried loan is negotiable. Ask your agent to check with a lender or mortgage broker to determine the current rate on institutional first (or second) loans. Seller financing typically costs less than conventional financing because sellers don’t charge loan fees (points). Interest rates on an owner-carried loan will also be influenced by current Treasury bill and certificate of deposit rates. Sellers usually aren’t willing to carry a loan for a lower return than they would earn if their money was invested elsewhere.

What are the benefits of seller financing?
Seller financing offers tax breaks for sellers and alternative financing for buyers who can’t qualify for conventional loans. If you are a seller, the risks you face are the same as those facing any lender: Is the borrower a good credit risk? Will the property hold enough value over time to allow for the repayment of all loans made against it? You should run a full credit check on the borrower, require hazard insurance on the property, and include a due-on-sale clause. There also are financing, disclosure, and repayment-term requirements that need to be met. It is wise to consult a lawyer when putting together this kind of transaction.

Seller Resources

Property Taxes

Where can I learn more about appealing my property taxes?
Contact your local tax assessor’s office to see what procedures to follow to appeal your property tax assessment. You may be able to appeal your assessment informally.  Mostly likely, however, you will have to go through a formal tax-appeal processes, which begin with an appeal filed with the appropriate assessment appeals board.

How is a home’s value determined?
You have several ways to determine the value of a home. An appraisal is a professional estimate of a property’s market value, based on recent sales of comparable properties, location, square footage and construction quality. This service varies in cost depending on the price of the home. On average, an appraisal costs about $300 for a $250,000 house. A comparative market analysis is an informal estimate of market value performed by a real estate agent based on similar sales and property attributes. Most agents offer free analyses in the hopes of winning your business. You also can get a comparable sales report for a fee from private companies that specialize in real estate data or find comparable sales information available on various real estate Internet sites.

Are taxes on second homes deductible?
Mortgage interest and property taxes are deductible on a second home if you itemize. Check with your accountant or tax adviser for specifics.

How do property taxes work?
Property taxes are what most homeowners in the United States pay for the privilege of owning a piece of real estate, on average 1.5 percent of the property’s current market value. These annual local assessments by county or local authorities help pay for public services and are calculated using a variety of formulas.

Are property taxes deductible?
Property taxes on all real estate, including those levied by state and local governments and school districts, are fully deductible against current income taxes.

What is an impound account?
An impound account is a trust account established by the lender to hold money to pay for real estate taxes, and mortgage and homeowners insurance premiums as they are received each month.

Seller Resources

Pricing the House to Sell

What is the difference between list and sales prices?
The list price is how much a house is advertised for and is usually only an estimate of what a seller would like to get for the property. The sales price is the amount a property actually sells for. It may be the same as the listing price, or higher or lower, depending on how accurately the property was originally priced and on market conditions. If you are a seller, you may need to adjust the listing price if there have been no offers within the first few months of the property’s listing period.

What are the two most important factors when selling a home?
Price and condition are the two most important factors in selling a home, even in a down market. The first step is to price your home correctly. Use comparative sales information from your agent, or pay for a professional appraiser (usually $200 to $300), to objectively evaluate your home’s worth. Second, go through the house and repair any obvious cosmetic defects that could deter a buyer. In a down market, you may have to consider lowering your price and/or making a major repair, such as replacing the roof, in order to lure a buyer. Also, make sure that your home is getting the exposure it deserves through open houses, broker open houses, advertising, good signage and a listing on the local multiple listing service or online listings provider. If this isn’t happening, take it up with your agent or agent’s broker. If you are still not satisfied you are getting the service you need, you may have to switch agents.

What is the best time to buy?
Because many buyers prefer to move in the spring or summer, the market starts to heat up as early as February. Families with children are eager to buy so they can move during summer vacation, before the new school year begins. The market slows down in late summer before picking up again briefly in the fall. November and December have traditionally been slow months, although some astute buyers look for bargains during this period.

What is the difference between market value and appraised value?
The appraised value of a house is a certified appraiser’s opinion of the worth of a home at a given point in time. Lenders require appraisals as part of the loan application process; fees range from $200 to $300. Market value is what price the house will bring at a given point in time. A comparative market analysis is an informal estimate of market value, based on sales of comparable properties, performed by a real estate agent or broker. Either an appraisal or a comparative market analysis is the most accurate way to determine what your home is worth.

What is the difference between list price, sales price and appraised value?
The list price is a seller’s advertised price, a figure that usually is only a rough estimate of what the seller wants to get. Sellers can price high, low or close to what they hope to get. To judge whether the list price is a fair one, be sure to consult comparable sales prices in the area. The sales price is the amount of money you as a buyer would pay for a property. The appraisal value is a certified appraiser’s estimate of the worth of a property, and is based on comparable sales, the condition of the property and numerous other factors.

How does someone sell a slow mover?
Even in a down market, real estate experts say that price and condition are the two most important factors in selling a home. If you are selling in a slow market, your first step would be to lower your price. Also, go through the house and see if there are cosmetic defects that you missed and can be repaired. Secondly, you need to make sure that the home is getting the exposure it deserves through open houses, broker open houses, advertising, good signage, and listings on the local multiple listing service (MLS) and on the Internet. Another option is to pull your house off the market and wait for the market to improve. Finally, if you who have no equity in the house, and are forced to sell because of a divorce or financial considerations, you could discuss a short sale or a deed-in-lieu-of- foreclosure with your lender. A short sale is when the seller finds a buyer for a price that is below the mortgage amount and negotiates the difference with the lender. In a deed-in-lieu-of-foreclosure situation, the lender agrees to take the house back without instituting foreclosure proceedings. The latter are radical options. Your simplest, and in many cases most effective, option is to lower the price.

How is the price set?
It’s very important to price your home according to current market conditions. Because the real estate market is continually changing, and market fluctuations have an effect on property values, it’s imperative to select your list price based on the most recent comparable sales in your neighborhood. A so-called comparative market analysis provides the background data upon which to base your list-price decision. When you prepare to sell and are interviewing agents, study each agent’s comparable sales report (the data should be no more than three months old). If all agents agree on a price range for your home, go with the consensus. Watch out for an agent whose opinion of value is considerably higher than the others.

What are the standard ways of finding out how much a home is worth?
A comparative market analysis and an appraisal are the standard methods for determining a home’s value. Your real estate agent will be happy to provide a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on comparable sales in the neighborhood. Be sure you get listing prices of current homes on the market as well as those that have sold. You also can research this yourself by checking on recent sales in public records. Be sure that you are researching properties that are similar in size, construction and location. This information is not only available at your local recorder’s or assessor’s office but also through private companies and on the Internet. An appraisal, which generally costs $200 to $300 to perform, is a certified appraiser’s opinion of the value of a home at any given time. Appraisers review numerous factors including recent comparable sales, location, square footage and construction quality.

How do you prepare a house to sell?
Doing whatever you can to put your house’s best face forward is very important if you want to get close to your asking price or sell as quickly as possible. Short of spending a lot of money, here are several ideas for making your home show better:
* Sweep the sidewalk, mow the lawn, prune the bushes, weed the garden and clean debris from the yard.
* Clean the windows (both inside and out) and make sure the paint is not chipped or flaking. And speaking of paint, if your home was built before 1978, new federal law gives a buyer the right to request a lead inspection. If you think you might have some problems, do the inspection yourself beforehand and make any fixes you can.
* Be sure that the doorbell works.
* Clean and spruce up all rooms, furnishings, floors, walls and ceilings. It’s especially important that the bathroom and kitchen are spotless.
* Organize closets.
* Make sure the basic appliances and fixtures work. Get rid of leaky faucets and frayed cords.
* Make sure the house smells good: from an apple pie, cookies baking or spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove. Hide the kitty litter.
* Put vases of fresh flowers throughout the house.
* Having pleasant background music playing in the background also will help set your stage.

Where do I get information on housing market stats?
A real estate agent is a good source for finding out the status of the local housing market. So is your statewide association of Realtors, most of which are continuously compiling such statistics from local real estate boards. For overall housing statistics, U.S. Housing Markets regularly publishes quarterly reports on home building and home buying. Your local builders association probably gets this report. If not, the housing research firm is located in Canton, Mich.; call (800) 755-6269 for information; the firm also maintains an Internet site. Finally, check with the U.S. Bureau of the Census in Washington, D.C.; (301) 763-2422. The census bureau also maintains a site on the Internet. The Chicago Title company also has published a pamphlet, “Who’s Buying Homes in America.” Write Chicago Title and Trust Family of Title Insurers, 171 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60601-3294.

Is a low offer a good idea?
While your low offer in a normal market might be rejected immediately, in a buyer’s market a motivated seller will either accept or make a counteroffer. Full-price offers or above are more likely to be accepted by the seller. But there are other considerations involved:
* Is the offer contingent upon anything, such as the sale of the buyer’s current house? If so, a low offer, even at full price, may not be as attractive as an offer without that condition.
* Is the offer made on the house as is, or does the buyer want the seller to make some repairs or lower the price instead?
* Is the offer all cash, meaning the buyer has waived the financing contingency? If so, then an offer at less than the asking price may be more attractive to the seller than a full-price offer with a financing contingency.