Zombie Houses & the Myth of Shadow Inventory

Zombie HousesThere continues to be widespread news reports, economic bulletins, and opinions from well-known government and banking officials that the banks are still holding years of “shadow inventory” — houses that have foreclosed (and lenders now own) that have NOT been released into the general market.  Many real estate investors and large hedge funds have been anxiously waiting for this dam to burst and REOs to flood the tight market we currently find ourselves in.  Well, let me tell you folks, it’s not going to happen.

Why do I believe this?  Several reasons, but here are 4 BIG ones you can take to the bank:

1)  ”Zombie Houses” or “The Walking Dead” are what I like to call underwater houses in which the homeowner is current on payments, still has a job, and can afford the mortgage payments.  They look “normal” on the outside, but the house is dead in the water when you look at the liens on title versus the current market value.  Granted, the slowly rising real estate market this past year has awakened some of these Zombie House with some equity, but there are literally millions of houses across the country that are “trapped” in their current state — the homeowner can’t sell because the owe the bank more than the house is worth, they can’t refinance because they have no equity, and they don’t qualify for a short sale because they can effectively still afford their mortgage.

2) It takes most banks an average of 9 months to turnaround a foreclosed property and sell it as an REO.  Yet, most banking and economic experts indicate that there is currently 7 times the amount of homes in shadow inventory as there are REOs currently for sale on the MLS.  This means that the current pace in which banks are releasing REOs is successfully getting rid of their current inventory.

3) Banks have figured out that they can easily sell thousands of non-performing notes in bulk to hedge funds and large investors without all the headaches, time delays and expenses of selling via REOs.  The hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes that have yet to hit the market as an REO have already (or will be) packaged in bulk and sold out the side door to willing and ready institutional buyers.  The volume of bank notes sold in bulk has gone up exponentially in the last year and will continue to be strong for several years to come.

4) The Homeowner Bill of Rights and other pro-homeowner, anti-foreclosure bills have both softened the banks stance or immediacy to initiate the foreclosure process and also encouraged underwater homeowners to stay in their houses longer hoping for a loan-mod or to wait out the foreclosure process as long as possible.  You are going to see more and more homeowners who still haven’t received a Notice of Default from the bank after going more than a year without making a mortgage payment.  But don’t think banks are getting the short end of the stick.  In fact, it’s the banks that lobbied to get these reforms passed into law because it gives them yet another tool to control the pace of shadow inventory hitting their books.

So now what?  Expect to see many more equity sellers coming off the fence and wanting to sell their homes before and during the Summer months this year.  These homeowners have been watching the market steadily climb over the last year and have been waiting for the prime real estate season to sell.  You’re also going to see a lot less big investor buyers (hedge funds, capital groups) competing for single-family homes as they are changing their strategy to buying the notes directly from the bank.

—Hope you enjoyed my rant. Want more info?  Give me a call and I’ll be happy to discuss how this further affects your particular situation whether you’re a seller, buyer or real estate investor.

Short Sale Approval. Now What???

Whats-next-bannerMy last blog post entitled “Eliminate Short Sale Surprises” discussed the Counter Offer, one of two critical (but often forgotten) documents you should use when working on a short sale as the listing agent. I hope you enjoyed it.

This email will discuss the second of these two documents, the Post Short Sale Approval Addendum, which when used with the Counter Offer will help you get more short sales to the finish line in a timely manner and avoid risk for all parties.

Let me ask you this:

  • Do you have misbehaving buyers when you get into escrow?
  • Do you have buyer’s lenders who don’t tell you the truth and/or waste weeks of your time?
  • Do you work with buyer’s agents who like to blame everyone else for delays or have no control of their client?
  • Do you want to protect your seller, protect the timelines and protect your short sale approval?

Then you’ll LOVE the Post Short Sale Approval Addendum.

What is a Post Short Sale Approval Addendum?
No, this document isn’t just another excuse to add more paperwork to the file.  In fact, it’s a very important part of the short sale timeline and legal puzzle to keep all parties in compliance and following the signed contracts. Unfortunately, most agents have never heard of such a document or ever thought of using a similar addendum to accomplish what this little gem does for you. Believe me, once you use this, you’ll never do another short sale without it.

The Post Short Sale Approval Addendum does the following:

  1. Contractually establishes that the seller has read, approved and signed the short sale approval letter and all other junior lien settlements (Remember, these are null and void until the homeowner agrees to all their terms and conditions.)
  2. Reminds all parties (because it’s been at least a few months) of the agreed contingencies, timelines and other important contract terms (i.e. late fees/penalties, release of EMD, etc.)
  3. Legally starts the contingency period time clocks for the buyer upon the homeowner’s acceptance of #1 above
  4. Establishes the exact escrow close date (or sooner) that the transaction must close per the contract
  5. Let’s you clearly set the rules (particularly if set about in the Counter Offer) of how you want the escrow period to go and all parties to behave.
  6. Allows you to create some breathing room in the escrow period (should some bumps occur) without disrupting the short sale approval timelines

“So Jordan, this sounds complicated.  How do you do this?”  Not really, it’s very easy.  Once you get short sale approval from ALL lienholders, create an addendum with some of the following verbiage:

“This Addendum shall serve as Buyer’s notice that Seller has received, agreed and approved all terms and conditions of short sale settlement form all lienholders. Buyer’s contingency periods (and any other important contract terms) are to begin (“date”) and will expire (“date”).

Close of escrow is to be on or before (“date”). All parties are aware that any extension beyond the close of escrow date may not be granted and Buyer is at risk of forfeiting EMD should buyer be the cause of delays.

Final approval of sale is subject to short selling lenders’ review and approval of final HUD.”

There are many other terms you can add to this Addendum, but this should give you a good start. Other tips:

  • Remember to give yourself some breathing room between the close of escrow date and the expiration of the short sale approval letter(s).
  • Have the homeowner sign and date every page of all short sale approval letters and negotiated settlements.
  • Have the homeowner sign the Insurance Premium Refund Waiver (if needed) at the time they sign approval letters so you don’t have to chase him/her down when time is fleeting.

I hope these suggestions were helpful. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or to find out how we can help you close more deals this year.