California Homeowners Bill of Rights – New Law for 2013.

The new California Homeowner Bill of Rights becomes law today. If you’re not familiar with this measure, it was a bill carried on behalf of California Attorney General Kamala Harris last year that sought to codify some of the measures set forth in the national mortgage settlement deal struck in early 2012. 

Initially opposed by the California Association of Realtors as well as the California Bankers Association and the California Mortgage Bankers Association, the bill was pushed through the legislature by a closed joint committee  of both houses so when the bill eventually reached the floor, it was voted on immediately and passed to the Governor. Total time in committee, floor and signature was measured in hours rather than days, months or years, as is typical for most bills. 

Due to the secretive nature of the committee structure, there was little opportunity for interest groups to provide input and there was great concern that what emerged would be a very flawed effort reflecting an over reaction to purported lender wrongdoing. However, CAR did have an opportunity to work with the committee to effect some modifications to the final version that removed our opposition to the bill. CAR was not supportive of the bill in its final version but adopted a neutral position, although banking groups remained steadfast in their opposition due to to concerns about meritless litigation that the bill opens up for aggreaved homeowners. 

Here’s what the bill does:

  • Stops dual tracking. Once the process has started for either a loan modification or short sale by the lender, the foreclosure process must be stopped. This is in response to cases where the property proceeds along multiple courses at the same time only to have the foreclosure process conclude days ahead of a short sale approval by another arm of the bank. As pointed out, this frequently resulted in the bank taking the property back and ultimately receiving thousands less in the foreclosure sale than they would have in a short sale. Of course we know the banks are covered either way and really don’t care but ultimately this should result in more short sales and fewer foreclosures, which is better for the recovering market.
  • Under the dual tracking provisions, banks must give an applicant a response to their loan modification before they can start the foreclosure process. If a homeowner has not applied for a loan modification, the bank must inform them of their right to do so before starting the foreclosure process.
  • No more robo signing.
  • Banks must provide a single point of contact to borrowers trying for a loan modification or short sale. Homeowners and Realtors are often frustrated by multiple points of contact and the handoff fr5om one agent to  another within a bank frequently resulting in the loss of paperwork sending the process back to square one while the foreclosure process continues apace in another department.
  • Allows the borrower to sue loan servicers if the borrower thinks they have violated any foreclosure laws. This is one of the most worrisome components of the bill in that it may open the door to frivolous lawsuits resulting in increased costs and unnecessary delays in an already costly and time consuming process. 

With nearly 1 million foreclosures recorded in the state since 2007, California remains one of the hardest hit areas of the country. However, foreclosures are down in most areas by 30% or more in the past year and with prices starting to climb across the state, the hope is that fewer and fewer people will be pushed into foreclosure anyway. Some 30% of state homeowners remain underwater in their loans but the combination of improving employment statistics and home price increases has decreased that by more than 5% in the past year.

The Homeowners Bill of Rights may well provide some relief for harried homeowners and produce further delays to the process, but it will do little to change the underlying ability of a homeowner to ultimately afford their home and will, in most cases, only delay the inevitable. If Sacramento and DC don’t screw it up, an improving economy will do more to aid homeowners than the HBR will ever accomplish – and ultimately that’s the best news for everybody. 

Short Sale Webinar Presented by Bank of America

Join us on March 23 at 1 p.m. or March 24 at 10 a.m. for a free webinar on Bank of America’s Cooperative Short Sale Program.  Bank of America will be rolling out its new program for expediting short sales, as presented by B of A’s Consumer Credit Executive Kimberly Dawson.  Topics to be covered in this one-hour session include:
How cooperative short sales will expedite the short sale process;
What the agent’s role will be;
Whether B of A will pay relocation assistance; and
Who the agent can contact for assistance or to escalate the process.
Space to attend this webinar may run out very quickly, so register now at http://www.car.org/education/webinars/bofawebinars/.  Once you have registered, you should immediately receive a confirmation email, which you will need to join the webinar on March 23 or 24.  If you have any questions, please contact C.A.R.’s Special Projects Coordinator Lindsey Moss at (213) 739-8217 or email her at lindseym@car.org.

Daddy. Why do they call it a short sale when it takes sooooo long?

Why do they call it a ‘short-sale’? You could actually have a baby in less time than it takes to work through the short sale process in many cases. And while lenders are promising to expedite the process and reduce the lead time, the fact remains that the problem is growing and as more and more short-sales are brought into the pipeline, the lead time threatens to increase rather than decrease.

Lenders are expected to try to negotiate more than 400,000 short sales this year – triple the amount they had to work with just two years ago. Do you really think that tripling their workload will result in decreased transaction time? I bet you bought that whole ‘hopey-changey’ thing too, didn’t you?

ServiceLink, the national lender platform for origination, loss mitigation and default servicing for Fidelity National Finance, recently reported that its improved loss mitigation business model has shown dramatic decreases in the amount of approval and closing timelines for short sales. ServiceLink now boasts that a streamlined short sale will take less than 74 days. A usual short sale can take over five months. (source – Housingwire)

Some recent stats as released by the Virgina Association of Realtors… (thanks to Lenn Harley)

The Quickest: GMAC with an averge of 6 months to approve.

The next Fastest: CitiMorrgage with an average of 7.5 months to approve.

The next-next Fastest: Wells Fargo with an average of 8 months to approve.

LAST PLACE (SLOWEST) goes to Countywide (Bank of America) with an averge of 13 months to approve.

NAR President Vicki Cox-Golder recently held a meeting with B of A exec’s wherein they committed to getting transaction time down from 117 days to 57 days. From the looks of it, 117 days would be a worthwhile target from the current average of 390 days.

Short sale indeed.

New Treasury Dept. Short Sales Guidelines

From: NAR Government Affairs

Date: December 1, 2009

RE:   Short Sales Program Guidelines Issued by Treasury Department

The long awaited guidelines for Short Sales have been released by the Treasury Department.  The Issue Brief below contains a summary of the provisions and links to additional information.  This information is also available at www.realtor.org/shortsales. We encourage you to add this link to your websites

National Association of REALTORS® Government Affairs Division 500 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Washington DC, 20001

Treasury Department Announces Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program On  November  30,  2009,  the  Treasury  Department  released  guidelines  and  forms  for its new Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program (HAFA).  HAFA is part of the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).  HAFA provides incentives in connection with a short sale or a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure (DIL) used to avoid foreclosure on a loan eligible for modification under the HAMP program.  HAFA applies to loans not owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, which will issue their own versions of HAFA in coming weeks. HAFA is a complex program, with 43 pages of guidelines and forms, designed to simplify and streamline use of short sales and deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure.

HAFA:

Complements HAMP by providing a viable alternative for borrowers (the current homeowners) who are HAMP eligible but nevertheless unable to keep their home.

Uses borrower financial and hardship information already collected in connection with consideration of a loan modification.

Allows borrowers to receive pre-approved short sales terms before listing the property (including the minimum acceptable net proceeds).

Prohibits the servicers from requiring a reduction in the real estate commission agreed upon in the listing agreement (up to 6 percent).

Requires borrowers to be fully released from future liability for the first mortgage debt (no cash contribution, promissory note, or deficiency judgment is allowed).

Uses standard processes, documents, and timeframes/deadlines.

Provides financial incentives: $1,500 for borrower relocation assistance; $1,000 for servicers to cover administrative and processing costs; and up to $1,000 for investors for allowing a total of up to $3,000 in short sale proceeds to be distributed to subordinate lien holders (on a

one-for-three matching basis).

The program does not take effect until April 5, 2010, but servicers may implement it before then if they meet certain requirements.

The program sunsets on December 31, 2012.

Press Release, HAMP Update—New Program Offers Borrowers Foreclosure Alternatives https://www.hmpadmin.com/portal/docs/news/hampupdate113009.pdf

Supplemental Directive 09-09, Introduction of Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives—Short Sale and Deed-in-Lieu of Foreclosure https://www.hmpadmin.com/portal/docs/hamp_servicer/sd0909.pdf

SB 306 Short Sale Relief? Not really.

NO NEW 21-DAY TURNAROUND REQUIREMENT FOR SHORT SALE APPROVALS

Recently enacted Senate Bill 306 does not require lenders to review short sale requests from sellers and their agents within 21 days.  The new California law, which addresses certain escrow procedures, has been mischaracterized by some practitioners as landmark legislation calling for a 21-day turnaround for short sale approvals.

The new law inserts a short payoff amount request into the existing payoff demand law which generally requires a lender to respond to a request for a payoff demand statement within 21 days from when it is requested, typically by escrow.  The new law essentially requires, after a short sale has already been approved, for the lender to respond to a request for a short-pay demand statement within 21 days.  The lender’s response to escrow can be a short-pay demand statement or even, depending on the circumstances, a written statement electing not to proceed with the proposed transaction.

Another provision of SB 306 may also cause confusion.  In practice, a lender may approve a short sale subject to its review of a closing statement prepared by escrow, but the lender does not review that closing statement promptly.  Under the new law, if a lender fails to approve the closing statement within four days, the closing statement shall be deemed approved, but only if it is “not clearly contrary to the terms of the short-pay agreement or the short-pay demand statement provided to the escrowholder.”  The new law does not bind a lender to a short payoff amount in an offer that the lender has not approved.

Senate Bill 306 contains other technical changes in real estate related laws, such as, but not limited to, the following:

  • Expanding the existing requirement for a lender to contact certain borrowers to explore options for avoiding foreclosure at least 30 days before filing a notice of default, to include not only owner-occupied residences, but also owner-occupied residential property with two-to-four dwelling units.
  • Extending the existing requirement for a lender to record a notice of sale from 14 to 20 days before a trustee’s sale.  This provision does not change existing law requiring a lender to wait at least 20 days after mailing a notice of sale before conducting a trustee’s sale.

This new law comes into effect on January 1, 2010.  The full text of Senate Bill 306 is available at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bill/sen/sb_0301-0350/sb_306_bill_20090806_chaptered.pdf