Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Happy Memorial Day!

All Gave Some.......Some Gave All! Happy Memorial Day from Stephens & Stephens!

Thank you to our nation's military, both current and past (including our own father and both grandfathers). Our country would not be the same without you.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Check Out the HGTV Green House at Serenbe - Right Here in Metro Atlanta

HGTV, the popular home and garden television network, recently sponsored their HGTV Green Home 2012 right here in Georgia! Located in Serenbe, a sustainable community less than 30 minutes from Atlanta, the Green Home includes all the luxuries of the modern life combined with an environmentally friendly and eco sustainable process and lifestyle.

Wondering what the Green Home looks like on the inside? You’re in luck! This Monday, May 21st, our company, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers, has the day exclusively to ourselves to tour the home and bring our clients from 10am - 7pm. Tickets are discounted and only $15 (typically they are $20). Tickets must be purchased at the door for this special tour on May 21.

Why Tour the Home?

• Preview the finished home that’s currently being showcased on the HGTV show.

• View the latest trends in green living from professional designers.

• Snacks and drinks available throughout the day.

• Check out one of the hottest up and coming neighborhoods. There will be other homes open at Serenbe, and you can have breakfast or lunch at the Blue Eyed Daisy CafĂ© located in the heart of the community.

If you'd like to go, give us a call or email and we'll make sure you're in. We can't wait to see it ourselves!

P.S. If you can't go this Monday, but still want to go, the home is open until June 24th from Tuesday throught Sunday 11am - 7pm each day (closed on Mondays). The cost is $20 on regular days.

Tours last approximately 30 minutes.

For more information about the home, or to see interior photos, check out: http://serenbe.com/greenhome/

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fun Events This Weekend - Geranium Festival, McDonough & Fine Art Show & Taste of Fayette, Fayetteville

Fun Annual Events in Our Area

1. Geranium Festival: McDonough

Where: On and Around the McDonough Square

When: Saturday, May 19th from 9:00-5:00

What: Come out and enjoy local vendors, artisans, and cooks selling and showcasing their products, handmade goodies, crafts, foods, etc.

2. 44th Annual Fayette Fine Arts Show

Where: The Old Courthouse Square - Fayetteville

When: Saturday, May 19th from 10:00-6:00 & Sunday, May 20th from 12:00-5:00

What: Come out and enjoy beautiful artwork from local and nationwide artists showcasing their art all on the courthouse lawn. It's fun to just browse, but art is available for purchase as well. Skip across to Stonewall Village when you're done to visit the Taste of Fayette event on Sunday (see below).

3. Taste of Fayette

Where: Stonewall Village - Downtown Fayetteville - Near the Old Courthouse

When: Sunday, May 20th, 12:00-5:00
What: Sample foods from Fayette County's restaurants for fees ranging from 50 cents - $3.00. There's also a kids corner with activities for the kiddos including face painting and rides. Skip across the street to the Fine Arts Show when you're done (see above).

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Short Sale vs. Foreclosure - 10 Myths Busted

It's likely you've heard the term "short sale" thrown around quite a bit. But what, exactly, is a short sale?

A short sale is when a bank agrees to accept less than the total amount owed on a mortgage to avoid having to foreclose on the property. This is not a new practice; banks have been doing short sales for years. Only recently, due to the current state of the housing market and economy, has this process become a part of the public consciousness.

To be eligible for a short sale you first have to qualify!

To qualify for a short sale:

■ Your house must be worth less than you owe on it.

■ You must be able to prove that you are the victim of a true financial hardship, such as a decrease in wages, job loss, or medical condition that has altered your ability to make the same income as when the loan was originated. Divorce, estate situations, etc... also qualify.

Now that you have a basic understanding of what a short sale is, there are some huge misconceptions when it comes to a short sale vs. a foreclosure. We take the most common myths surrounding both short sales and foreclosures and give a brief explanation. LET'S BUST SOME MYTHS!!

1.) If you let your home go to foreclosure you are done with the situation and you can walk away with a clean slate. The reality is that this couldn't be any farther from the truth in most situations. You could end up with an IRS tax liability and still owing the bank money. Let me explain. Please keep in mind that if your property does go into foreclosure you may be liable for the difference of what is owed on the property versus what is sells for at auction, in the form of a deficiency balance! Please note this is state specific and in most states you will be liable for the shortfall, but in some states the bank may not always be able to pursue the debt. Check your state law as it varies widely from state to state.

Here is an example of how a deficiency balance works

If you owe $200,000 on the property and it sells at auction for $150,000, you could be liable for the $50,000 difference if your state law allows it.

Not only could you be liable for the difference to the bank, but in some situations you could also be liable to the IRS! Although there are exemptions (mostly for principle residences) under the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act, there are times when you could be taxed on both a short sale and a foreclosure, even in a principle residence situation. Since the tax code on this is a little complicated and I am not a CPA, I advise always talking to a CPA when in this situation as you are weighing your options. Hard to believe? Well, believe it or not, the IRS counts the difference between the sale and the charged off debt as a “gain” on your taxes. That’s right-you lost money and it’s counted as a gain! (I didn’t make that rule, that's a wonderful brainchild of the IRS). Banks and the IRS can go as far as attaching your wages. Not to mention if you let your home go to foreclosure you will have that on your credit, as well.

Guess What? A short sale can alleviate your liability to the bank, in most situations. There are also exceptions to this, but in most cases banks are releasing homeowners from the deficiency balance on a short sale.

2.) There are no options to avoid foreclosure. Now more than ever, there are options to avoid foreclosure. Besides a short sale, loan modifications along with deed in lieu are also examples of the many options. In most cases (but not all) a short sale is the best option. Either way, there are more options today than there have ever been to avoid foreclosure.

3.) Banks do not want to participate in a short sale, or, it is too hard to qualify for a short sale. Banks would rather perform a short sale than a foreclosure any day. A foreclosure takes a long time and creates a huge expense for the banks; a short sale saves both time and money. Banks have more foreclosure inventory than ever before, and certainly do not want any more. Banks more than ever welcome short sales. Qualifying for a short sale is easier than you think, you need to have a true financial hardship, or a change in your finances and your house has to be worth less than what you owe on it. Not only do consumers, but banks also now have government incentive to participate in short sales.

4.) Short sales are not that common. At this present time, short sales range from 10-50 % of sales in various markets and it is predicted that in 2012 we will have more short sales than any other year, to date. Due to economic changes in the last few years, this is something that is affecting millions of Americans. Short sales are in every market, and are not just limited to any particular income class. This has affected everyone from all facets of life. A short sale should be looked at as a helpful tool, not a negative stigma. That is why the government is offering programs that actually pay consumers to participate in short sales. It is not just affecting one community; it is affecting communities and consumers across the nation.

5.) The short sale process is too difficult and they often get denied. Though the short sale process is time consuming; it is not as difficult as the media would have you believe. The problem is that most short sales are denied because of a misunderstanding of the process. It is true that if the short sale process is not followed correctly there is a good chance of getting denied. An experienced agent knows how to avoid this. Short sales require a lot of experience, and a special skill set. If you are looking to go the option of a short sale make sure your agent is skilled and experienced in this area.

6.) Short sales will cost me money out of pocket. A short sale should not cost you any out of pocket money. In fact, you could get between $3000-up to $30,000 to participate in a short sale. In many ways, a short sale may put you in a better financial position than prior to the short sale. Almost every short sale program now has some type of financial incentive for the home owner, as long as it is a principle residence, and we are even seeing relocation money being paid on some investment/second homes. As a seller of a property you should never have to pay for any short sale cost upfront to any professional service. Realtors charge a commission that is paid for by the bank. In most communities there are also non-profits and HUD counselors who can help you with foreclosure prevention options for free. The only potential cost you could incur is if the bank would not release you from a deficiency balance in the short sale, which is happening less and less now.

7.) If I am behind on my payments, I can perform a short sale any time. The farther you get behind on your payments, the harder it is to get a short sale approved. The closer a property gets to a foreclosure the harder it is to convince the bank to perform a short sale. As they get closer to a foreclosure sale more money is spent, thus deterring them from doing a short sale. If you think you need to perform a short sale, time is of the essence; the sooner you start the process, the better. Waiting too long can trigger the ramifications of a foreclosure, losing the ability to do a short sale as a viable option.

8.) I have already been sent a foreclosure notice so I can't perform a short sale. For the most part just because you received a foreclosure notice or notice of default it does not mean that you do not have time to perform a short sale. The timeline and specifics do vary from state to state, but having done short sales all over the country, I have seen banks postpone a foreclosure to work a short sale option as close as 30 days prior to the scheduled foreclosure auction, but the longer you wait the less chance you have. If you have received a legal foreclosure notice, please reach out to a professional right away. The longer you wait, and the closer you get to foreclosure, the fewer options you have. If you have received a notice to foreclose this means the bank is filing paperwork and starting the process to take legal action to repossess the house. You still have time at this point to prevent foreclosure, but do not hesitate! The closer you get to the foreclosure date the harder it becomes to negotiate with the bank for whichever option you choose.

9.) I was denied for a loan modification, so I know I will get denied for a short sale. Short sales and loan modifications are handled by two separate departments at the bank. These processes are totally different in approval and denial. If you got denied for a modification you can still apply for a short sale; in some cases you can get a short sale approved faster than a loan modification, as some loan modifications are denied because they cannot reduce the loan low enough based on the consumers income.

10.) If I go through a short sale I cannot buy another house for a long time. The time to buy another house depends on your entire credit picture and can vary from 12-24 months. There are even a few FHA programs that allow for a purchase sooner than that. I have worked with clients who went through a short sale and bought another house in less than 12 months.

These are just a few of the common myths surrounding short sales and foreclosure. With the options available today, no homeowner should ever have to go through foreclosure, and hopefully this information can help a few more homeowners think twice before walking away from their home not realizing the possible long term ramifications a foreclosure can have.

Rebekah and I understand short sales and foreclosures. If you need personal guidance, or you're looking into buying either a foreclosure or short sale, don't hesitate to call, email, or text to discuss your options.

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Source: KCM Blog - Steve Harney

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Are You a Buyer Looking to Purchase a Short Sale?

It seems that there is a significant amount of confusion when it comes to purchasing a short sale. There are many misconceptions when it comes to this type of transaction, so below I have provided some information to potential buyers of short sales. If you are looking to purchase a short sale, understand that it is not the same as a normal sale and the approach is very different. There could be several parties involved and issues that are unknown to the buyer and buyer's agent that can affect the transaction. If you are looking to purchase a short sale here is some helpful information.

1. On average, to get a short sale approval, it can take 60-90 days.
There could be mortgage insurance and an end investor on the loan as well as the servicer, which means it has to go through three different processes. Bank of America could be the servicer on the loan but they do not actually own the loan, so, the short sale has to pass their guidelines, then go to the mortgage insurer if there is one, then to the end investor like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. If you are a buyer and can't wait at least 60-90 days for an approval and then another 30 days to go to closing, then you need to look at other houses. The worst thing you can do is tie up a house that is in a short sale with no intention of being patient while waiting for a short sale approval. Approvals can come sooner than 60 days, but industry standard is at least 60 days to get an approval or denial.

2. There is a general assumption that you can purchase a short sale for 40-50% under its listed price. In a short sale the bank comes out and does a valuation of the property and will expect a slight discount, but will not accept a huge amount under the market value.
Hopefully, if the agent who is handling the sale is experienced, they will have already gotten an approved list price from the bank by the time you are interested in making an offer. The bank will usually be willing to negotiate on that price, but will not, in almost every case, take 40-50% off of that price. To that point, you may be able to get a reasonable deal on a short sale, though it will not be, in most cases, as much of a deal as you may be able to get on an REO (foreclosed property). Also to that point, most short sales will be in better condition than an REO. When you look at the potential repairs a comparable REO needs and the time and expense it can take to do those improvements vs. a short sale being sold at a slight market discount with improvements already made, the investment could even out. There are REO properties that can be picked up for a huge discount, but require massive repairs that a comparable short sale may not require.

3. Short sales are a very difficult process and it takes a qualified person to handle this type of transaction.
With this type of transaction it takes a very experienced agent on the listing side as well as the buying side. Make sure before you move forward on the transaction that the listing agent has ample experience dealing with these types of transactions, or you could be tied up in a contract for months that never goes to settlement. There are several different types of short sale processes and each bank's process is somewhat different; it takes a professional who has had experience with all of these different types of short sales to help facilitate a successful transaction.

4. In most short sale transactions the properties are sold "as-is" and no repairs will be made.
Although there are some exceptions to this rule, speaking in general, short sales are sold "as-is" and no repairs will be made even if they are found during a home inspection. In most short sale transactions the bank will require both the buyer and the seller to sign an addendum that states the property is being sold "As-is" and no repairs will be made.

These are just a few short pointers for buyers who are looking to purchase a short sale as they are a reality in every market, and if you have the patience you may be able to get the home you are looking for at a discount!
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Source: KCM Blog - Steve Harney