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By Manu Kapoor | Broker in Queens, NY

Settlement To Boost Short Sales

 

Settlement To Boost Short Sales

The government's $25 billion settlement with the nation's five biggest mortgage servicers over so-called "robo-signing" practices could boost short sales, as loan servicers will receive credit when they approve sales that include forgiveness of a portion of underwater homeowners' debt. 

Although the settlement is only expected to help a fraction of homeowners who owe more their properties are worth -- perhaps 1 in 20, according to one estimate -- it will also help bring certainty back to housing markets by removing some of the obstacles that have been keeping homes stuck in the foreclosure pipeline.  Announced last month, detailed terms of the agreement between mortgage servicers and a coalition of state attorneys general and federal agencies were filed today.

Broadly, the settlement calls for mortgage servicers to pay $5 billion in fines and commit to a minimum of $17 billion in homeowner relief, including principal reductions. Another $3 billion is earmarked for helping underwater borrowers refinance.

"We will see an increase in short sales, because lenders and loan servicers will get the same credit for doing a short sale, as if they did a loan modification or principal reduction," said Rick Sharga, executive vice president of Carrington Mortgage Holdings LLC. 

Allowing debt forgiveness on approved short sales to count against the required $17 billion in principal reductions helped secure a settlement that will reach more borrowers, the paper said. Loan servicers will also get partial credit even when it's investors, rather than the banks themselves, taking the loss.

Also, if the remaining six to 14 loan servicer’s sign on to the settlement, it would grow to about $30 billion with more than $45 billion in benefit to homeowners, HUD said.  Cade Holleman, executive director of the Irvine, Calif.-based National Association of Women REO Brokerages, said the day is fast approaching when brokers and agents who have concentrated heavily in real-estate owned properties will have to diversify.  Short sales, refinancing’s, and loan modifications are each "pulling REO inventory out of the game," he said.  "You've got to keep your eye on that process," Holleman said.  "You can no longer be 80% REO," but must diversify into short sales and property management.

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