Realtor Magazine - 2 articles that go hand in hand

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Today Realtor Magazine had 2 stories I thought really went well together. The first was about new short sale guidelines from the government to assist homeowners and to encourage lenders to work out the situation & leave the homeowner alone after the sale with no further liablitity. The second article was about how in the coming months homeowners with Option-ARM loans especially from 2004 could be seeing steep hikes in their mortgage bills. I thought both were topical after the announcements over the last few days about the Making Home Affordable program.

Government Announces Short Sales Guidelines
The U.S. Treasury Department announced new guidelines this week designed to make short sales go more smoothly.

To qualify under these new guidelines:

  • The property must be the home owner’s principal residence.
  • The home owner must be delinquent on the mortgage or close to defaulting.
  • The loan must have been made before Jan. 1, 2009, and be for less than $729,750.
  • The borrowers’ total monthly mortgage payment must exceed 31 percent of their before-tax income.

Under the plan, borrowers will receive $1,500 from the government for selling homes for less than the amount of their mortgages. Mortgage-servicing companies will get $1,000 for each completed short sale. Second-mortgage holders can receive up to $3,000 of the sales proceeds in exchange for releasing their liens. Investors who hold the first mortgage can collect up to $1,000 from the government for allowing the payments.

Borrowers who complete a short sale under the program must be "fully released" from future liability for the debt, according to the guidelines.

Source: Associated Press, J.W. Elphinstone (11/01/2009) and The Wall Street Journal, Ruth Simon (11/01/2009)

The Second Story:

Option-ARM Borrowers Facing Resets
About 93 percent of option-ARM buyers chose to pay a minimum amount less than the interest due, according to a report released last week by Standard & Poors. That means that nearly all of the 350,000 option-ARM borrowers now owe more than they owed when they first purchased their homes.

Many of these loans were written in 2004 and are close to their five-year reset when the loans convert to a standard amortization. Some more recent loans will reset early if the accumulated interest has pushed the loan-to-value ratio above 110 percent.

In one example outlined in the S&P report, the payment on a $400,000 mortgage goes from $1,287 to $2,593.

The authors of the report say that many ARM borrowers aren’t good candidates for refinancing or modification because their loan-to-value ratios are too high for the government’s Making Home Affordable program. Also, about 80 percent of option-ARM loans were stated-income loans and borrowers could be held legally liable for deliberate inaccuracies on their original applications.

Source:, Les Christie (11/26/2009)

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