Cecala of Inside Mortgage Finance said he wonders whether lenders are making big payments on properties with underlying title problems. Evan Berlin, managing partner of Berlin Patten, a real estate law firm in Sarasota, Florida, said representatives of a large bank told him the incentives are primarily given to borrowers when it doesn’t have the proper paperwork needed to win its foreclosure case. He declined to name the bank for publication.
Banks, accelerating efforts to move troubled mortgages off their books, are offering as much as $35,000 or more in cash to delinquent homeowners to sell their properties for less than they owe.
Lenders have routinely delayed or blocked such transactions, known as short sales, in which they accept less from a buyer than the seller’s outstanding loan. Now banks have decided the deals are faster and less costly than foreclosures, which have slowed in response to regulatory probes of abusive practices. Banks are nudging potential sellers by pre-approving deals, streamlining the closing process, forgoing their right to pursue unpaid debt and in some cases providing large cash incentives, said Bill Fricke, senior credit officer for Moody’s Investors Service in New York.
Losses for lenders are about 15 percent lower on the sales than on foreclosures, which can take years to complete while taxes and legal, maintenance and other costs accumulate, according to Moody’s. The deals accounted for 33 percent of financially distressed transactions in November, up from 24 percent a year earlier, said CoreLogic Inc., a Santa Ana, California-based real estate information company.
Karen Farley hadn’t made a mortgage payment in a year when she got what looked like a form letter from her lender.
“You could sell your home, owe nothing more on your mortgage and get $30,000,” JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) said in the Aug. 17 letter obtained by Bloomberg News.