Friday, May 29, 2009

HUD reverses plan to allow use of $8000 tax credit for downpayment

On May 14th, HUD announced that first-time homebuyers would soon be able to access their $8,000 federal tax credit when closing on a home through a short-term bridge loan that will cover their down payment on FHA-backed loans.

HUD officials on Monday, May 18th reversed this earlier decision and details backing the 5/14 announcement were withdrawn from the HUD website.

Despite favorable reaction from the real estate industry to the bridge-loan proposal, not everyone was in favor of using the tax credit as collateral on a down-payment loan.

The loans also could have potentially created income-tax issues, according to the IRS officials who derailed HUD's plan.

This doesn't mean that HUD and lawmakers will not allow this in the future. Stay tuned - we'll keep you posted!

Saturday, May 23, 2009


This week, President Barack Obama signed into law the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009 to help homeowners and lenders avoid foreclosure. Previously included in this bill was a measure to allow bankruptcy judges to modify mortgage loans for principal residences, but the U.S. Senate did not pass this "cram-down" legislation.

The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009 contains various new laws to address the national foreclosure crisis. Major provisions that may affect you include the following:

HOPE FOR HOMEOWNERS (H4H) REVAMPED: The new law loosens the H4H program requirements to help homeowners refinance out of their troubled mortgages and into more affordable, fixed-rate FHA-insured loans. Originally launched in October 2008, the H4H program intended to help 400,000 distressed homeowners, but in the program's first seven months, it only helped one family stay in its home. The maximum loan-to-value ratio for an FHA refinance is 96.5% of the appraised value. If refinance proceeds are insufficient to pay off existing liens, the existing lienholders must voluntarily agree to a short payoff, but a new inducement is an opportunity for them to share in the homeowner's equity. Other changes to the H4H program include monetary incentives for both the participating servicers of the existing loans and originators of the FHA refinance. Millionaire borrowers (with net worth over $1 million) are now excluded from the program. HUD will establish the requirements and standards to implement the H4H program as revised.

LONGER STAY FOR TENANTS OF FORECLOSED HOMES: Effective immediately, an REO lender or buyer who acquires title through a foreclosure sale must give at least a 90-day notice to terminate a bona fide tenant as defined. A 90-day notice to terminate is sufficient for a month-to-month tenant or if a new owner will occupy the property as a primary residence at the end of the 90 days. Otherwise, a tenant with a one year or other fixed-term lease with a remaining lease term exceeding 90 days can stay in the premises until the remaining lease term ends. This new 90-day notice requirement applies to foreclosures of a federally-related mortgage loan or residential real property, except for properties under rent control, rent-subsidized programs (such as Section 8), or other state laws that provide additional protections for tenants. This law expires on December 31, 2012.

NOTIFICATION OF TRANSFER OF MORTGAGE LOANS: The Truth in Lending Act now requires a lender to whom a mortgage loan is sold or otherwise transferred to notify the borrower in writing of such transfer within 30 days. The notice must include the new lender's identity, address, telephone number, authorized representative's contact information, and other relevant information. This measure should help alleviate the problem borrowers often face in determining who owns their mortgage loans.
Other provisions of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act include a 4-year extension of the $250,000 FDIC deposit insurance to December 31, 2013, protection for loan servicers who establish qualified loss mitigation plans from liability for an alleged breach of duty to maximize mortgage values for their investors, $130 million for foreclosure prevention counseling and education, and $2.2 billion to strengthen homeless programs.

President Obama has also signed into law the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA) which authorizes the Department of Justice to prosecute mortgage fraud crimes against private mortgage brokers and companies that previously were not regulated by the federal government. FERA also earmarks almost $500 million for federal enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud and other fraud crimes.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Santa Clara County Flood Insurance Rate Maps Released

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has issued revised Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for all of Santa Clara County that become effective on Monday, May 18, 2009. These maps show areas that are considered to be in a floodplain, and therefore may require homeowners to obtain flood insurance. Flood zone disclosure is a statutory requirement in California real estate transactions.
The revised FEMA maps will expand the 100-year flood zone and affect residential parcels in Palo Alto near Foothill Expressway, in Cupertino near Heney Creek Place, and in San Jose near Zanker Road and Component Drive, and Kingston Way and Manitoba Drive. In some areas, the 100-year flood zone will be reduced in size and parcels will be removed.
Prospective home buyers may wish to check with their insurance agent to see if the property's flood zone, and insurance requirements, will be affected by the map changes. To comply with federal law and to obtain the lowest available rate, owners drawn into a higher-risk zone must purchase flood insurance before the new maps become effective on May 18, 2009.
NOTE TO AGENTS: Where escrows are currently open in the affected areas, agents may wish to consider the impact that added flood insurance costs may have on the borrower's loan qualifications. In addition, where properties are drawn into a high-risk flood zone, building permits for future construction may require design standards that minimize flood risk, which could increase project cost. This development impact, and the insurance requirement triggered by the new flood zones, are material facts in real estate disclosure where properties are affected.
More information about...
- the flood map changes and how they may affect your clients
- insurance requirements which these changes may trigger
- opportunities that may benefit your clients with lowered flood insurance costs
- disclosure compliance
- how to view the new FEMA maps online at the link below:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Breaking News - May 14, 2009 - First Time Homebuyer Credit To Be Used For Downpayment

First-time homebuyers will soon be able to access their $8,000 federal tax credit when closing on a home through a short-term bridge loan that will cover their down payment on FHA-backed loans.

The Federal Housing Administration will soon publish a policy that will allow FHA-approved lenders, HUD-approved non-profits, and state and local housing finance agencies to "monetize" the tax credit through short-term bridge loans, Secretary of Housing said Tuesday.

This is a great time to be buying a home!!

Foreclosure Alternatives Program (FAP) Announced by Obama Administration

We wanted to share some interesting news on the new Foreclosure Alternatives Program (FAP) with you:


Good news from Washington, D.C., today. The Obama administration announced new details under its Foreclosure Alternatives Program (FAP) enabling servicers and borrowers to pursue short sales and deeds-in-lieu (DIL) of foreclosure in cases where the borrower is generally eligible for a Making Home Affordable modification but does not qualify or is unable to successfully complete the three month trial period. The program, effective through 2012, requires that prior to proceeding with a foreclosure, servicers must determine if a short sale is appropriate.

We’re gratified that the administration has recognized the need to streamline the short sale and deeds-in-lieu processes, and has provided viable options to homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgages but owe more than their homes would sell for in today’s challenging market. We also appreciate the efforts of our colleagues at NAR for keeping this issue front and center in our nation’s capital.

Incentives in the FAP program include $1,000 for servicers for successful completion of a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure; $1,500 for borrowers/homeowners to help with relocation expenses; and up to $1,000 toward the cost of paying junior lien holders to release their liens ($1 from the government for every $2 paid by the investors to the second lien holders).

The FAP includes streamlined and standardized documents, including a Short Sale Agreement and an Offer Acceptance Letter to minimize complexity and increase use of the short sale option. Servicers will independently establish both property value and minimum acceptable net return, in accordance with investor requirements, based on an appraisal or one or more broker price opinions, issued no more than 120 days before the date of the short sale agreement.

In the Short Sale Agreement, servicers must give borrowers/homeowners at least 90 days to market and sell the property, or up to one year, depending on market conditions. The property also must be listed with a licensed real estate professional with experience in the neighborhood, and no foreclosure may take place during the marketing period, of at least 90 days, as specified in the Short Sale Agreement.

The Short Sale Agreement also must specify the reasonable and customary real estate commissions and costs that may be deducted from the sales price. The servicer must agree not to negotiate a lower commission after an offer has been received. Servicers may not charge fees to borrowers/homeowners for participating in the program. Servicers have the option to require the borrower/homeowner to agree to deed the property to the servicer in exchange for a release from the debt if the property does not sell within the time allowed in the Short Sale Agreement, plus any extensions.

Additional details will be forthcoming. Please check C.A.R.’s Market Response Center for updated information as it becomes available.


James Liptak

2009 President



Monday, May 4, 2009

Choice of Escrow Bill (AB 957)

C.A.R. achieved a compromise in AB 957, “Choice of Escrow Bill.” In multiple discussions with the author, C.A.R. worked with Assemblywoman Galgiani to come up with compromise language that will require fair treatment for real estate owned (REO) buyers in the choice of title and escrow providers.

The new language now protects fair negotiation over settlement services, and has removed C.A.R.'s opposition.

The new language will codify in California law the federal RESPA rules for selection of title insurance, and extend the same rules to protect buyers in the selection of escrow services. In a nutshell, the sellers will have to negotiate the selection of title and escrow. Under the new language, if an REO seller wants to try and direct choice of escrow, the seller will have to pay for the privilege.

AB 957 will also impose new penalties on REO sellers that violate the law, and will empower state regulators to go after both RESPA and "steering" violations.