Short Sale News
“Rescue” scams come in many forms. Some foreclosure-related scams to beware of:
The scam artist tells you that he can negotiate a deal with your lender to save your home - if you pay a fee. Once you pay, the scam artist takes off with your money.
You are asked to make all your mortgage payments directly to the scam artists while they negotiate with the lender. After collecting your payments for a few months, the scammer disappears with your money and you still owe the lender.
You think you’re signing documents for a new loan to make your existing mortgage current—but instead, you have given unscrupulous individuals ownership (the deed) to your home.
You surrender the title to your home as part of a deal that allows you to remain in your home as a renter, and buy it back later. But you lose all rights, and the scammer takes the equity in your home.
A scam artist offers to find a buyer for your home, but only if you sign over the deed and move out.
Once you transfer the deed, the scam artist rents out the home and pockets the proceeds while the foreclosure continues. You lose your home—and you’re still responsible for the unpaid mortgage.
The scam artist promises to negotiate with your lender or to get refinancing on your behalf for a fee. But instead, he pockets the fee and files a bankruptcy case in your name. You could lose the money as well as your home—and end up with a bankruptcy filing that ruins your credit history.
Tips to avoid mortgage rescue scams and mortgage fraud:
Use a REALTOR® who abides by a Code of Ethics.
Avoid anyone who asks for money to help you modify your loan. Scammers often take the form of a loss mitigation company, a bankruptcy lawyer, a real estate broker, and/or someone who uses government logos and offers “special programs” to appear that they can offer legitimate help.
Instead, find a nonprofit housing counselor who will help you for free at
www.takerootmilwaukee.org, www.hud.gov or www.findaforeclosurecounselor.org.
Beware of offers or promises that seem too good to be true. Be especially wary of guaranteed results.
Do not give away your Power of Attorney.
Do not be pressured to sign any contract. Take your time to review all documents thoroughly.
Don’t sign away ownership of your house (don’t transfer the deed) to anyone without advice from a nonprofit housing counselor or a reputable, experienced real estate lawyer.
Federal regulations prohibit “Mortgage Assistance Repair Services” from collecting any fees until there is a written and executed loan modification agreement between you and your lender or
Filing for bankruptcy will not necessarily save your primary home from foreclosure.
If your English-speaking skills are limited, bring your own trusted translator to any financial or homeownership negotiations.
Federal and some state laws prohibit companies from charging for credit repair services until the services have been fully performed. Ask your Attorney General’s (AG) office for the details.
Before doing business with any firm, check the company with your state AG, local consumer protection agency, and the Better Business Bureau. If the company is required to be licensed, check the license.
If you suspect that you have been approached by a scammer, please call the
Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council, a nonprofit agency that can help you – for free!
Call (414) 278-1240, or from outside of Milwaukee County, call toll free: (877) 765-443
Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enacted its Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule to protect financially distressed homeowners from foreclosure relief scams. MARS makes it illegal to collect any fees until a homeowner has actually received an offer of relief from his or her lender and accepted it. The Rule: (1) prohibits providers of these services from making false or misleading claims; (2) requires disclosure of certain information about the services; (3) bans advance collection of upfront fees and (4) prohibits those who may provide substantial assistance or support to providers who are in violation of the Rule.
NAR asked the FTC to exempt real estate agents and brokers engaged in real estate functions with regard to short sales including the typical advice real estate agents offer clients and former clients. In the preamble to the Rule, the FTC notes that real estate agents may perform functions such as listing homes for sale, showing homes and finding desirable homes for consumers when properties are bought or sold through a short sale transaction. The FTC does not consider these services to be MARS and concluded that an exemption for real estate agents is not necessary.
The FTC indicates that the MARS Rule “covers real estate agents who promote their services as a way to help consumers to avoid foreclosure, for example, by getting a lender’s approval for a short sale.” In other words, if a broker’s emphasis with consumers is saving them from foreclosure or from losing their homes instead of helping them sell, then the real estate licensee is apparently going beyond the scope of his or her licenses and may be subject to MARS. Negotiation with the seller’s lenders -- beyond shuttling information and proposals back and forth -- is the job of the seller, the seller’s attorney or some other accredited professional.
For additional information about the MARS Rule, visit http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2011/02/mars.shtm and http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre42.shtm
September 17, 2010
Risky Agent Behavior
Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA) (09/09/10) Krismer, Kary L.
Regulators in Washington state recently pulled the licenses of two real estate agents who allegedly, in the course of short sale transactions, encouraged homeowners to stop submitting payments to the mortgage lender; told them that they had to vacate the home even though they legally were still allowed to occupy it; and automatically lowered the list price. Experts say the case underscores the sensitive nature of short sales, which often generate consumer complaints. Property professionals submersed in this niche should go to extreme lengths, they suggest, to avoid any improprieties that could lead to trouble down the road. That is particularly true in the case of legal advice, as providing counsel that leads to a transaction that might not otherwise take place could easily backfire later. While some courses and presentations now on the circuit actually encourage REALTORS® engage in some behavior for short sales that they would never do for a traditional listing, practitioners must think for themselves instead of blindly follow these actions. If uncertain about the course of action to take, REALTORS® at the very least should approach their broker for guidance.
In an effort to make the process of a short sale more efficient, the government has adopted new laws and regulations, offering incentives to lenders to speed up the process of short sales. These new laws take effect April 5, 2010. Following is a link explaining the entire process and the goals they hope to achieve.
September 14, 2010
New FHA Refinance Options for Responsible Underwater Homeowners
In an effort to help responsible home owners who owe more on their mortgage than the value of their property, HUD is providing an additional refinancing option for underwater homeowners with credit scores of at least 500. The FHA Short Refinance option is targeted to help people who owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth because their local markets saw large declines in home values. The existing loan to be refinanced must not be a FHA-insured loan and the first lien holder must write off at least 10 percent of the unpaid principal. For more information on this new program, read the HUD Mortgagee Letter 2010-23 @ http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/letters/mortgagee/files/10-23ml.pdf