Short sale or walk away? Why women are falling victims to the housing market
In the first half of 2009 alone, the foreclosure crisis has hit as many as 1.5 million homes, according to an estimate by foreclosure listing service RealtyTrac Inc. The United States witnessed a 33 percent jump in filings in June, up 5 percent from May. Nevada recorded the highest number in the first half of 2009, with one of every 16 households affected, followed closely by Arizona.
Single women are among those most affected by the housing crisis. Sacha Blanchet, real estate asset manager and foreclosure specialist for Sweet Arizona Real Estate Consultants, estimates that 75 percent of his owner-occupied clients are single women. The remaining 25 percent are couples.
"Most of my clients are professional women who were recently laid off and are having trouble making their mortgage payments," says Blanchet. "I see a lot of situations where a couple's relationship suffers because of economic issues, and married couples may even go through divorces. I've had a lot of single women coming to me and asking for help."
Alternatives to foreclosure
Blanchet wants his clients to know there are alternatives to foreclosure. If the client wants to stay in the home, Blanchet recommends that she call the bank and see if they're willing to work out some type of agreement to lower payments. If that doesn't work, he encourages his customers to consider a short sale, in which an agent negotiates with the lender to take a lesser payoff amount on the property instead of moving it into foreclosure.
Banks consider short sales because they actually cost banks less money than foreclosures. That's because a short sale entails no attorney fees, maintenance charges, penalties or taxes. The buyer, meanwhile, gets the property at a lower cost, and the seller doesn't have to pay anything. The bank covers commission for the agent, and it can sell the property as is, without fix-up fees. A short sale also takes a lesser toll on your credit score than a foreclosure, and most people who go through the process are able to apply for another loan within two years, as opposed to the five to seven years required after a foreclosure.
Only those who have gone through genuine hardship in recent months qualify for the short-sale process. A consumer who's upside down on a loan because he bought an investment property during the real estate peak probably won't qualify. Short sales are reserved for people who are unable to sustain their homes. If you're interested in qualifying, you must submit tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs, financial worksheets and a hardship letter offering details on your situation to begin the process.
When a client approaches Blanchet with questions or interest in a short sale, he sits them down for an advising session. "I go through how the process of a short sale works and how the benefits compare to a foreclosure or loan modification. I tell them to consult their tax attorney to make sure it is the right fit for them," he says. "I want to see the big picture -- their expenses and their income. I want to make sure it is a good decision."
Blanchet's main job is to negotiate with the bank on his client's behalf and then to settle an agreement for all of the parties. In total, the entire process generally takes about three to four weeks after the original consultation. He warns, though, that some banks may take longer than others based on their own systems and guidelines. And, he advises, you can't just throw any offer on the table and expect the bank to take it. "It has to be a win-win situation for everyone. If we bring the bank an offer that's too low, they're going to come back and say we need to put up more money or they'll move the property into foreclosure," he says.
Another piece of advice Blanchet offers his clients: "I let them know that the bank will be calling for collections and not to get nervous. The best thing they can do is to actually answer the phone and let them know you're working on a short sale. If the property is listed, let them know. Usually they'll stop calling if they know the owner is looking for a solution."
Blanchet also recommends that consumers visit; www.azshortsaleadvisor.com for additional information.