If I purchase a short sale and the owner of the home owes $10,000 in back property taxes to the county am I responsible?

Asked by Joe, Placentia, CA Sun Sep 13, 2009

Is there any thing particular I should put in the contract regarding the owed taxes when I structure the offer?

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David Alex Wright Team’s answer
David Alex W…, Agent, Newport Beach, CA
Tue Feb 16, 2010
All of the liens need to be satisfied on a short sale and taxes are not going to be passed on to the buyer. The bank (S) ultimately cover commisions, associations, liens, property taxes and all from your payment. Any reasonable escrow company and experienced agent can handle the transaction. Buyers who are reading this question should rest assured that it will be taken care.
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Grace Hanamo…, Agent, Cupertino, CA
Mon Sep 14, 2009
Hello Cindi and thanks for your post.

At least down here in Santa Clara, the banks must be getting a bit "cagier" about payment of liens or maybe its just a tactic of certain banks, but buyers are being asked to "participate" in some costs associated with a short sale including costs such as removing unpaid liens. I manage a lot of homeowners associations that have liens against units that are being sold short, and the payment of delinquent assessments has never yet been paid by the bank. In most cases, the payment must be made in full by the homeowner or the buyer before they close escrow so the Association can release the lien.

I've also handled quite a few short sales myself, and have issues such as delinquent property taxes be left in the hands of the seller and the buyer to negotiate because the bank will not agree to pay for these expenses as part of the sale. That is not always the case, but it certainly can happen.

Yes, it is true in California that title should transfer "lien free" to the buyer, but there may also be additional negotiating required on the bank's, seller's and buyer's part as to who pays for those liens in order to remove the encumbrances prior to close. So Joe should be prepared and happily surprised if the bank agrees to pay for those fees without his participation.

Personally, I think that the greater the distance between the market price and the offering price, the more the bank will ask for concessions from the buyer and seller in order to make the transaction close. If the offering price is within the bank's acceptable tolerances (whatever that may be, as the banks are not talking right now--although many realtors seem to think its between 85-90 percent of the appraised value at the minimum), the banks seem more willing to pay for all or most of the expenses associated with closing the sale, including removing liens. So each transaction is unique and the circumstances for closing can be different for all of them.

Cindi's point, Joe, that a qualified and experienced short sale Realtor should represent you cannot be understated. Having someone who knows about short sales, and knows both what to expect and how to negotiate a short sale is critical to the success of the transaction. If you are not currently working with a Realtor, it would be in your best interests to find one, like Cindi, who can guide you through this sometimes difficult process.

Good luck!
Grace Morioka, SRES, e-Pro
Area Pro Realty
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The Hagley G…, Agent, Pleasanton, CA
Sun Sep 13, 2009

I neogtiate a lot of short sales. If the lender approves the short sale, they WILL pay the back property taxes and every other lien on the home. When title transfers in the state of CA, it must be clean.....no liens against it.

It is critical to have an experienced short sale Realtor representing you.
Web Reference:  http://shortsalesheep.com
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Grace Hanamo…, Agent, Cupertino, CA
Sun Sep 13, 2009
Hello Joe and thanks for your question.

Since a short sale is actually a sale between buyer and seller, the bank will not necessarily absorb or absolve either party in the sales transaction of the responsibility to pay for the taxes. In fact, I've seen and heard of instances in which the bank has required the buyer to pay for 1) property taxes; 2) closing costs; 3) inspections; 4) escrow fees; 5) title insurance; 6) transfer taxes and/or unpaid property taxes and 7) a portion of the second or third liens on the home, including unpaid second and third mortgages and payments to any outstanding homeowners association fees.

So, there are a host of expenses that can come into play with a short sale. Your Realtor should advise of these issues, and should also have completed an exhaustive review of the property to determine what encumbrances, if any, exist on the lot that may become the responsibility of the buyer or seller to pay to complete the transaction. Knowing the outstanding debt will help you determine how to structure your offer to provide you with the best coverage. Keep in mind, however, that adding layers of protection on your offer (while good for you) will not necessarily be perceived as 'good for the bank' and it can make your offer less attractive, so the best strategy is to balance your needs with that of the loss the bank will be incurring.

Talk with your Realtor to determine how best to structure your offer to protect you from having to pay for property taxes. Usually the matter can be addressed simply with an addendum to the offer. Be advised that a short sale addendum will be required, in most cases, and you should read that addendum carefully before agreeing to purchase a home that is being sold short.

Grace Mroioka, SRES, e-Pro
Area Pro Realty
Co-Host "Naked Real Estate" on http://www.blogtalkradio.com
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