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Surge in Short Sale Requests Unlikely to Impact Housing Market

Although short sales are likely to increase in 2010, the jump in these transactions is unlikely to have any real impact on the housing market, according to a new study by Destin, Florida-based Housing Predictor.


While more at-risk homeowners are turning to short sales as an alternative to foreclosure, Housing Predictor says the small number of short sales that are actually approved by banks represent less than 1 percent of all homes facing foreclosure. In the first half of 2009, only 40,000 short sales were completed, according to the most recent data available from the Office of the Comptroller of Currency shows.

In addition, Housing Predictor said only an estimated 8 to 12 percent of all homeowners who request short sales accomplish a completed transaction. Because lenders only write off short sales as a loss when a property is sold, this small percentage of completed transactions leaves a gaping hole in the troubled banking industry's problem with short sales.

In possibly the first indication of a growing second wave of foreclosures, an increase in distressed properties listed for sale is already beginning to develop in Southern California. Dana Point has seen its inventory of foreclosures and short sales jump to more than 24 percent of all homes listed for sale, and nearby Laguna Beach and San Clemente have seem similar increases. While this rise


in troubled properties indicates that lenders have increased foreclosures, it may also signify that that they are showing more cooperation in the case of short sales, Housing Predictor said.

As DSNews.com reported, the Treasury Department recently passed a sweeping series of rules to expedite short sales, giving at-risk homeowners an alternative to foreclosure. Under the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program, bankers will get $2,000 in exchange for handling a short sale, but the program will not start until April. Housing Predictor said this plan is also beleaguered by the same flawed logic that the Obama administration has with bankers to modify mortgages only on a voluntary basis.

Above all else, Housing Predictor said the biggest problem with short sales is getting approval from bankers. While the number of approved sales increased in the third quarter of 2009, industry analyst still aren't sure by how much, as they are awaiting final government figures. Real estate agents are trying to price properties at levels where they will get approvals, but bankers often believe the price being offered by a purchaser is too far under market to approve the sale, Housing Predictor said.

However, the longer payments fail to be made on a mortgage, the more a bank loses on its capital. As a result, major banks are preparing for an influx of short sales. Many claim to have hired extra staff to handle short sales, and some have purchased new software to assist in the process. JP Morgan, with one of the highest default rates in the industry, says it has hired 5,000 new employees to handle distressed sales.

Bank of America services about 14 million mortgages, including millions of troubled loans it acquired in the purchase of failed Countrywide Home Loans. The lender says it has also taken steps to prepare for an increase in short sales by upgrading its system to handle these types of transactions. However, Housing Predictor said Bank of America has driven many troubled borrowers further away from working with the bank by out-sourcing much of its process to an India call center.

About Author: Brittany Dunn


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