Short Sales

Some courts are attempting to void the foreclosure if the bank did not properly transfer the mortgage from one bank to another. The courts are claiming that, if you didn’t ‘legally’ transfer ownership of the loan documents, then you don’t ‘legally’ own it. If you don’t own the debt instruments, you can’t foreclose on them. What does this mean to banks when they handle future foreclosures?

One possibility is that banks may start favoring ‘short sales’ over foreclosures in more cases. The ‘short sale’ option has already been gaining momentum. The OCC and OTS Mortgage Metrics Report shows foreclosures are up 57.5 % year over year; ‘short sales’ are up 82.9%.

Now, with courts scrutinizing the foreclosure process, it may make more sense for banks to work with the current homeowner to sell the home even if it is at a price less than the amount owed on the mortgage. Adding to this possibility is that banks could lose less in a ‘short sale’ than a foreclosure. A ‘short sale’ sells for 81% of what a similar, non-distressed property would sell. A foreclosure sells for 59% of full value.

In the past, banks weren’t concerned with the difference because mortgage insurance companies had the legal requirement to cover the majority of the additional loss. However, insurance companies are now fighting these payments claiming that the original mortgage application might have been fraudulently written. This all adds up to the likelihood that banks will look more favorably at the ‘short sale’ process.

To this point, an article in Housing Wire quoted John Vella, the chief operating officer at technology provider Equator:

“Investors usually see a 20% to 30% better execution on a short sale versus an REO sale when it comes to loss severity. With the foreclosure volume, current and pending REO inventories, servicers will be pressed to do more short sales in 2011…they could see an increase of at least 25% over 2010 in completed short sales.”

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