Alliance Group Blog

What’s A Short Sale?

By | March 29, 2011

Once upon a time, short sales were among the rarest of transactions. Houses tended to appreciate (heavily) over time and mortgages used to come with heavy down payments, leading to lots of equity for sellers. People could wait a few years, get a few tax benefits, and then sell for a profit.

Not anymore.

These days, more and more homes are marketed as short sales (the first step a house takes toward foreclosure.) High loan-to-value mortgages and unsustainable price appreciation led to an unprecedented drop in home values. Here are some Sarasota, Florida market statistics for the last five years:

sarasota median sales prices

Homes prices have plummeted to unbelievable lows, but the market has stabilized substantially over the last year (as of March 29, 2011). Lots of homeowners remain upside down in their mortgages, however, and need to find a way to sell their property.

Enter the short sale.

What is a Short Sale?

A short sale is, simply put, a way for homeowners to sell their properties for less than what they owe. It’s not a ‘get out of jail free’ card; short sale sellers take big hits to their credit, lose any money they’ve invested in their properties, and in some cases are required to repay some or all of their mortgage after the property has been sold.

For a short sale to work, the bank that owns the note (the instrument that binds the seller to repay the mortgage) has to agree to take less than what they’re owed. In many cases, this can be hundreds of thousands of dollars less than the original amount.

Why Would a Bank Accept a Short Sale?

Money talks.

From a bank’s perspective, here’s the problem: borrowers owe lots more than their houses are worth and are unwilling or unable to make payments. Mortgage payments are the bank’s primary sources of income. When borrowers don’t make payments, banks don’t make money.

Once upon a time, banks would just foreclose on properties when the borrowers went into default. This didn’t happen often, and when it did, the income from other mortgages more than made up for the loss – and in any event, the newly foreclosed home could be sold at market value and the banks might even be able to turn a quick profit in the resale market.

These days, when banks foreclose, they’re up against heavy competition to get a house sold. The market values are so far below what the borrower originally paid that the banks will take a loss regardless of their actions. If they do foreclose on a home they have to sell it at a steep discount and they take over all kinds of other payments – lawn service, taxes, HOA fees, maintenance, pool guys, and more. These are all red marks on the bank’s balance statement.

On top of that, banks have to pay attorneys to foreclose. And lawyers ain’t cheap.

A short sale is a way for a bank to trump all of those payments – homeowners will generally maintain their own properties as long as they live in the home, the banks won’t have to pay the courts thousands of dollars in fees and costs, and at the end of the day, the banks will actually net much more by allowing a borrower to walk on their mortgage.
Enter the short sale.

 

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Bonefish Grill

By | February 15, 2011

 

I lived in Chicago for half a decade, and I would have been mortified to bring a weekend guest to the Cheesecake Factory downtown.  Shortly after I moved here, a new friend suggested we go to Bonefish.  I said “sure!”all while turning up my inner nose at the idea.  Who would go to a chain restaurant with all these great seafood restaurants around?  Years later, I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a regular.  The service is always great, the food is always excellent, and as odd as it may be, it’s actually quite the locals scene.  It’s so packed during Season that you have to hover and stalk seats at the bar and common tables, but it’s a fun energy.  We usually sit in the bar, but if you want a table expect to wait an hour and a half during season.  Don’t worry though, they pass tasty snacks around on trays while you wait!  The bartenders make it a point to know your name too, which is a nice touch.  I get the same thing almost every time: Jumbo Sea Scallops and Shrimp (except I ask for all Scallops, and they don’t charge me extra!), around $16.  They are never overcooked and are always properly cleaned so you don’t bite into that tough little morsel from hell that they’re supposed to cut off.   You can pick from among four sauces (Pan Asian, Lemon Butter, Chimichurri, or Warm Mango Salsa), but if you’re nice you can ask them to serve your fish grilled and sample several of the sauces!  I like the Lemon Butter and Chimichurri.  I was brave enough to try the Imperial Longfin the other day and it was TO DIE FOR.  Fresh, tender, flaky, and rich enough that I suspected Paula Deen might just come walzing out of the kitchen yelling “Hey y’all, surprise, it was me that cooked this!” (Sidebar: Just how cool would that have been?)  They also have a seasonal side, which right now seems to be some kind of spaghetti squash which is just ok, but for $1 you can substitute one of their other sides, which I will now be doing on a regular basis.  The Haricot Verts and Potatoes Au Gratin are the best, though the Garlic potatoes are excellent as well.  On Wednesdays bang bang shrimp are $5, so if you want a seat at the bar come early.  When there is a bargain Sarasota, the locals will pack it in!  Oh, and if you’re lucky enough to go when they have the chocolate crème brulee, get it, but plan on your bill being permanently more expensive because you will always feel incomplete without it.  I’m not one to turn down bread, but if you plan on getting dessert or an appetizer (AHI TUNA, don’t ask, just get it), do yourself a favor and skip it unless your ultimate plan for the evening is laying on your couch in misery.

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Sales surge in December 2010 and Prices Remain Stable

By | January 13, 2011

The Sarasota real estate market saw a big surge in December sales, from 534 in November to 681 last month for a 27.8 percent increase. In addition, the median sales price for both single family homes and condos was up in December 2010, indicating a recovering local real estate market. The property sales breakdown in December 2010 was 500 single family home sales and 181 condos.

The statistics for December 2010 were even better than December 2009. The 681 total sales reported last month topped the 648 sales in December 2009. The median sale price for single family homes stood at $165,000, a small drop from last year’s figure of $170,000, but higher than the November 2010 figure of $160,100. For condos, the median price rose slightly to $160,000 from the previous month’s $159,000, down from last December’s median of $199,000. But condo prices have sunk below the $150,000 level several times in 2010, so the current figure indicates a sign of improvement.

Pending sales remained strong in December 2010 at 789, compared to 764 in November 2010, and higher than the 739 reported last December, when the market was still strengthened by the homebuyer tax credit initiative. This statistic is a strong indicator for the next two or three months of sales, as pending sales reflect current buyer activity. “2010 ended with a resurgent local real estate market, and the higher number of pending sales tells me we could see continued strength in early 2011,” said SAR President Michael Bruno. “For the second half of 2010, there was a fairly steady trend in sales and prices, another sign of stability and recovery. Word of mouth indicates we are seeing more showings and more closings this season than we have in quite a while. And this year, we don’t have the homebuyer tax credit to point to as a reason for the surge. Sarasota is just a great place to purchase a property.”

Inventory dipped in December 2010 to 6,047 from 6,207  – the lowest since August 2010 when 6,039 properties were on the market. The higher sales volume and lower inventory levels meant a major drop in the months of inventory to 7.8 months for single family homes (from 10.9 months in November 2010), and 11.7 months for condos (from 13.3 months in November 2010). The market is considered to be in equilibrium between a buyers and sellers market once the figure reaches the 6 month level.

There was also more good news on the distressed property sales front, as short sales and foreclosure sales once again fell to 44 percent of overall sales, from 46 percent last month. For the entire year 2010, distressed sales made up 36 percent of overall sales.  “The fact that we’re trending downward for distressed property sales is encouraging,” noted Bruno. “We are all hoping 2011 is a turning point and the worst is behind us. The improving national economic picture and recent drop in the national unemployment rate are signs that the economy is heading in the right direction.”

Overall, 2010 sales were up 12.4 percent compared to 2009 – 7,603 to 6,739 total sales. The median sale price for both single family homes and condos for 2010 stood at $163,000. For 2009, the median sale price for single family was also $163,000, and for condos was $190,000.
Sales in the Sarasota market have now risen for two consecutive years since a low point of 5,820 sales in 2008. The level of sales is now at its highest point since 2005.

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