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California Short Sales, Foreclosures, REOs Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside & Orange County Short-Sales Listings
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01 Feb 10 SEC Charges 2 California Advisory Firms with Improper Short Sales

Two California investment advisory firms were charged with improper procedures for short sales today by the Securities and Exchange Commission.  Palmyra Capital Advisors LLC, which lists $21.7 million in assets in its ADV disclosure form, profited in three of its managed hedge funds by violating short-selling rules, the SEC alleged. The regulator claimed it found that the firm made California short sales in 2008 in advance of a public offering by Capital One Financial Corp., resulting in improper profits of $225,500.

AGB Partners LLC, which lists $10 million in assets, and its principals, Gregory Bied and Andrew Goldberger, allegedly netted thousands of dollars by shorting in advance of their purchase of stock in a secondary offering, according to the SEC.  Both firms agreed to settle the SEC’s charges without admitting or denying its findings.

Palmyra Capital consented to be censured and pay more than $330,000 in disgorgement and penalties. AGB Partners, Mr. Bied and Mr. Goldberger consented to be censured and pay more than $50,000 in disgorgement and penalties.  An attorney for Palmyra could not be reached for comment. ABB Partners’ attorney, Hardy Callcott of Bingham McCutchen LLP, declined to comment.

31 Aug 09 California Real Estate Agents Become Short Sale Specialists

California loan modification plans have slowed down short-sales in the state, but the volume of homes sold for less than the balance of the loans is still abnormally high.  Scores of delinquent home loans have grown much more dramatically than those falling into foreclosure in recent months, shifting the focus of California home buyers away from REO homes and toward short sales, complex deals in which a lender forgives most or all of the seller’s remaining mortgage balance. 

Listing agents have had to learn the ins and outs of such deals since prices began to slide in 2005, and some groups of agents have brought on agents with experience in short-sale negotiations. But the deals have become so cumbersome over the past year that many are ending up with specialists who do nothing but negotiate with lenders.  Homes are selling at a pace not seen in three years, thanks largely to lower home prices and tentative signs that the recession may be easing. At the same time, buyers and real estate agents say the buying process takes longer than at any point in memory, often six months or more in the case of short sales.

Such situations have grown more frequent in the past year, as many as two-thirds of all transactions for some real estate agents. Meanwhile, bank-owned properties’ share of completed sales in Southern California has fallen to about 43% from about 57% last summer, according to research firm MDA DataQuick.  Short sales have become more frequent in part because market prices are generally lower than at any point from 2003 to late 2008. Nearly 43 % of all mortgages in San Diego County exceeded the estimated values of those homes as of June 30, First American CoreLogic reported last month. In the two-county area of Riverside and San Bernardino, that figure was 57%.

Street Russell, director of enrollment at BGS3, a Louisville, Ky., company that negotiates with lenders on behalf of sellers, said California has come to account for about one-third of his company’s new clients. Sellers’ agents hire the company; it typically collects a fee of 1 % of the price when the sale closes. “You guys are going through such a difficult housing market compared to everyone else around the nation,” Russell said.

Such negotiators can be located in San Marcos, Calif., or San Marcos, Texas. It doesn’t matter because they focus on paperwork and phone calls to lenders, agents said. Negotiators’ selling point is that they free listing agents to focus on listing and showing properties. “I’m on the phone all day long,” said Karen Beer, a short-sale negotiator in Murrieta. Beer, who is also a real estate agent, relies on “co-listing” arrangements and splits commissions with the agent whom the buyer initially contacts. It’s one of several business models for short-sale negotiators and specialists.

Remerge Transaction Coordinators Inc. in Irvine uses the same model as Beer, said company owner Shelly Gorenstein. Remerge’s division of labor involves about seven people for a single short sale, Gorenstein said. One, for example, collects the sellers’ financial information and makes the case for a financial hardship.  Such hardships appear to have gotten markedly worse over the last year, while actual foreclosure numbers have risen more modestly, based on reports by CoreLogic. The portion of San Diego County mortgage borrowers whose homes are in foreclosure rose to 2.8 % in June 2009 from 1.8 %, while the Inland Empire’s rose to 5.9% from 3.8%.  But nearly 8% of San Diego County borrowers and about 16 % of borrowers in the Inland Empire are at least 90 days behind on mortgage payments without technically being in foreclosure, up from 5.1 % and 10.8 %, respectively. A short sale can be advantageous for such a borrower because it causes a somewhat smaller hit to the borrower’s credit score.

Short sales have always been more complicated and taken longer than other sales because lenders usually verify financial hardship and determine what an acceptable amount to lose on the property is.  In many cases, a second lender has loaned $50,000 to $100,000 on a property and is being asked to settle for $10,000 or less. Some lenders also demand that the borrower repay a portion of the remaining balance over several years after the deal closes. 

13 Apr 09 Are Short Sales Helping Homeowners

Lenders agree to let owners who can’t make payments sell their house for less than they owe.

Falling home prices are giving rise to a foreclosure alternative that can help people get out of homes they can’t afford.

When home prices were rising, people who lost a job or otherwise couldn’t pay their mortgage, could have sold and moved on. Declining home values mean some can’t sell for enough to pay off the loan. In those cases, short sales are an option.

In a short sale, the lender agrees to accept less than the mortgage balance as payment in full because it’s a less costly route than foreclosure. Both processes result in losses for lenders, but with foreclosures, they have the added costs of maintaining and selling properties. Short sales also spare homeowners the embarrassment of foreclosure and eviction.

A short sale will damage a person’s credit score, but Fair Issacs, keepers of the widely used FICO credit score, says the impact depends in part “on the composition of the individual’s credit profile.”

“We really think it is a much better experience for everyone concerned,” said David Knight, who handles short sales nationwide as a vice president with Wells Fargo & Co.’s mortgage servicing unit in Fort Mill.

The San Francisco bank, which recently bought Charlotte’s Wachovia, is one of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders and servicers. Knight declined to provide specific figures but said Wells’ short sales have “probably tripled” in the past 18 months as unemployment has risen and home prices fallen. They’re more common in former bubble markets, where prices shot up and fell harder than in areas such as Charlotte.

Short sales aren’t always advertised as such, so there’s no way to get a complete count. Unlike foreclosures, there also are no consistent indicators of short sales in public records. But local Realtors say they’ve seen an increase. Job loss, unexpected bills and job transfers, coupled with lower home prices, are all factors driving the use of short sales.

“They’re really coming on in this last year,” said Joe Clorite, a Realtor for 20 years, who is with Keller Williams Realty’s University office. “People are in over their heads.”

Nationwide, short sales are up about 20 percent in the past six months, said Mark Pearce, N.C. deputy commissioner of banks. That’s based on figures collected from mortgage servicers by a multistate foreclosure prevention group Pearce is part of. The group has not yet publicly released the data.

“Short sales are going up fairly significantly,” Pearce said. “They’re better than foreclosures.”

Homes losing value

Struggling to make their monthly mortgage payment, Meleta and Gerald Wideman called their lender for help.

“Once we got behind, they said we could do a short sale to get out of the loan,” she said.

The couple, with two children, moved to Charlotte in 2006 from Chicago after visiting family and deciding they liked the area. They bought a new house in Oakbrooke, a subdivision north of uptown. They paid about $140,000.

Their troubles began the first year. They were school bus drivers and couldn’t find summer work. She found a year-round job working with blood donors, but her overtime has been cut. They are Seventh Day Adventists, and say their faith prohibits work on Saturday. All the year-round jobs he’s been able to find require Saturday work.

Seeing no way around it, they listed the house for sale. The asking price, $99,900, is well less than what’s owed. Nearby homes have shed value, too. A foreclosed home across the street sold two years ago for $143,000. On Friday, its listing price was $92,700. Another foreclosure is listed for $117,900, down from the $140,000 paid less than two years ago.

Meleta Wideman says they’re looking for a place to rent in the Charlotte area.

“I’m scared to leave because the economy is so bad,” she said. “I’m working full time. We know we can eat.”

Closing can take longer

A big drawback of short sales is added red tape that means closing a deal can take months, a potential turn-off for sellers, buyers and Realtors.

Clorite has had a house listed in Oakbrooke since May. He went through the months-long process of finding a buyer, getting a short sale approved. At the last minute, the buyer’s financing fell through, so the house is back on the market.

“There is more cooperation, but they are still far behind,” Clorite said of lenders handling short sales.

The Oakbrooke owner he represents is a California investor who thought he got a good deal in 2006 when he paid about $155,000 for the new house.

The investor, who asked not to be named, said he has been unable to get a reliable tenant. He’s lost money, paying for extensive repairs as well as the mortgage, taxes and insurance. Now rents are going down. The house is listed for $120,000, likely to sell for less.

“It’s better to just cut the losses and dump the property,” the investor said.

Clorite believes he has another buyer, but again, he’s waiting on lender approval.

Short sales take time because everyone being short changed must approve the deals. That includes the mortgage holder, others with liens such as home equity loans and investors backing the mortgages. They may negotiate among themselves on how much of the loss each will accept.

Lenders have become more efficient, Pearce said, but the sluggish process can still turn away buyers.

“They’re not going to wait when there are so many homes being sold for lower prices these days,” he said.

See the original article written by Stella M. Hopkins.

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07 Dec 08 Home Sales Drop

“Some servicers keep a loan in a delinquent state until they see customers carrying through on their agreements, and then they’ll switch it to performing,” Brinkmann said. U.S. home sales and prices began to tumble in 2006 after a five-year boom, dragging the economy into a recession that began in December 2007, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The median home price in the fourth quarter probably will be $190,300, down 19% from the record $226,800 in 2006’s second quarter, according to a Nov. 24 forecast by Fannie Mae, the world’s largest mortgage buyer. Purchases of existing homes in October slid to an annual rate of 4.98 million, lower than forecast, the National Association of Realtors said in a Nov. 24 report. The median price fell 11.3% from a year earlier, the most since the group began collecting data in 1968. Short sales in states like California have become all too common.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke yesterday urged using more taxpayer funds for new efforts to prevent home foreclosures, saying the private sector is incapable of coping with the crisis on its own. The Fed chief outlined four possible options, including buying delinquent mortgages and providing bigger incentives for mortgage refinancing. He called for addressing the “apparent market failure” where mortgage lenders aren’t offering loan modifications even in cases where it’s in their own economic interest to do so. Bernanke’s proposed changes would go beyond those announced last month by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Steve Preston, who oversees the FHA. The agency will change the amount of the loan a lender must forgive and allow banks to extend the payback time of a mortgage.

The bankers’ report cites percentages without providing the number of mortgage loans. The U.S. had $11.3 trillion of outstanding home loans at the end of June, according to Federal Reserve data. Mortgage lending fell to $80.8 billion in the second quarter, down from $764 billion a year earlier, the Fed said. The Mortgage Bankers report is based on a survey of 45.5 million loans by mortgage companies, commercial banks, thrifts, credit unions and other financial institutions.

20 Nov 08 FDIC Regulators Close Banks in California and Texas

FDIC Regulators closed down California based Security Pacific located in Los Angeles and Houston-based Franklin Bank last Friday, which brings the total number of failed federally insured banks this year to nineteen. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was appointed receiver of Franklin Bank, which had $5.1 billion in assets and $3.7 billion in deposits as of Sept. 30, and of Security Pacific Bank, with $561.1 million in assets and $450.1 million in deposits as of Oct. 17. The co-founder and chairman of parent Franklin Bank Corp., Lewis Ranieri, is credited with inventing mortgage-backed securities two decades ago, but apparently was unable to save his own company from getting ensnared in the home-loan bust. The bank’s failure is a bitter irony because it is the mortgage securitization business of which Ranieri is known as a pioneer – the repackaging of home loans as bonds that are sold to investors – that was at the heart of the mortgage loan and credit crises. Last spring, the audit committee of the company’s board found in an investigation certain weaknesses in accounting, disclosure and other issues relating to residential real estate loans.

Franklin Bank Corp. just Sunday said it had received proposals for transactions to strengthen Franklin Bank’s capital position and was keeping regulators informed of the talks’ progress. The FDIC said all of Franklin Bank’s deposits will be assumed by Prosperity Bank of El Campo, Texas. Its 46 offices will reopen as branches of Prosperity Bank with their normal business hours, including those that open on Saturday. In addition to assuming Franklin Bank’s deposits, Prosperity Bank also will acquire about $850 million of the failed bank’s assets. Parent company Franklin Bank Corp. just Sunday said it had received proposals for transactions to strengthen Franklin Bank’s capital position and was keeping regulators informed of the talks’ progress.

Meanwhile, all of Security Pacific’s deposits will be assumed by Pacific Western Bank of Los Angeles. Its four offices will reopen Monday as branches of Pacific Western, a unit of PacWest Bancorp. (PACW) (PACW) In addition, Pacific Western will purchase around $51.8 million of Security Pacific’s assets. The FDIC will retain the remaining assets of the two banks for eventual sale. The agency said depositors of Franklin Bank and Security Pacific Bank will continue to have full access to their deposits, which will continue to be insured by the FDIC. The FDIC estimated that the resolution of Franklin Bank will cost the federal deposit insurance fund between $1.4 billion and $1.6 billion, while that of Security Pacific Bank will cost the fund $210 million. Regular deposit accounts are now insured up to $250,000 as part of the new financial rescue law enacted in early October. The limit on individual retirement accounts held in banks remains at $250,000. The 19 bank failures so far this year compare with three for all of 2007 and are more than in the previous five years combined. It’s expected that many more banks won’t survive the next year of economic tumult. The pressures of tumbling home prices, rising mortgage foreclosures and tighter credit have been battering many banks, large and small, across the nation.

The failures this year include that of Seattle-based thrift Washington Mutual Inc. in late September, the biggest bank collapse in history. It had $307 billion in assets. In July another big savings and loan, IndyMac Bank based in Pasadena, Calif., failed and was seized by regulators with about $32 billion in assets. The FDIC estimates that through 2013 there will be about $40 billion in losses to the deposit insurance fund, including an $8.9 billion loss from the failure of IndyMac Bank.

The FDIC remains a leading proponent for mortgage lenders to provide home loan modifications to distressed homeowners to prevent more foreclosures. The FDIC is raising insurance premiums paid by banks and thrifts to replenish its fund, which now stands at around $45.2 billion, below the minimum target level set by Congress and the lowest level since 2003. In addition, the FDIC may guarantee nearly $2 trillion in U.S. banks’ debt and deposit accounts in an effort to break the crippling logjam in bank-to-bank lending. Well over half of the roughly 8,500 federally-insured banks and savings and loans are expected to tap the FDIC’s temporary guarantees. The agency will provide as much as $1.4 trillion in insurance for more than three years for loans between banks, guaranteeing the new debt in the event the issuing bank fails or its holding company files for bankruptcy. Of the 8,500 FDIC-insured banks, 117 were considered to be in trouble in the second quarter – the highest level in about five years and up from 90 in the first quarter. The agency doesn’t disclose the banks’ names