A Dozen Morris County People Talk With Realtor Kelly Holmquist, Attorney Marty Eagan About Avoiding Foreclosures

(We just issued the following release:)

The Holmquist Team, Kelly Holmquist, Morris County Realtor, houses for sale in Long Valley, houses for sale in Chester, houses for sale in Mount OliveCHESTER – The headlines may be shouting about an improving housing market, but for a dozen people at a workshop in Chester earlier this month, the topic of a quieter discussion is avoiding foreclosure. They heard two experts – Kelly Holmquist of The Holmquist Team, part of Keller Williams-Towne Square Realtors and Morristown Real Estate Attorney Martin Eagan – talk about ways to do that.

Ms.Kelly Holmquist, the Holmquist Team; Morris County Realtor, Long Valley Realtor, Chester Realtor; short sales, foreclosures Holmquist and Mr. Eagan work together to help people sell homes short, meaning the bank agrees to allow a house to be sold for market value, even when that sum is less than what is owed to the bank.

“It’s a traditional sale,” explained Eagan. “You’re selling to a buyer. It’s not a foreclosure. It’s just the bank agrees to take less than you owe.”

As they have at several previous workshops, the duo explained to those around the table how a short sale works and the role of the attorney and the Realtor in the sale. The bank agrees to accept the lower price, but it does want market value. It’s a tight rope, said Eagan.

“We want to upsell it to the buyer and downsell it to the bank,” said Eagan. “Kelly’s great at that.”

Ms. Holmquist explained that the home will be appraised by the bank, which will set a target asking price. The house is then aggressively marketed like any other home. It must be listed on the MLS, for instance. And home sellers are encouraged to properly stage their homes so it sells quickly. When an offer is received, the bank has to approve the offer.  In fact, said Ms. Holmquist, the only difference between a short sale and regular sale is the negotiations are done by the attorney with the bank and others owed money from the proceeds of the sale.

“On the front side, everything appears to be a traditional sale,” said Ms. Holmquist. “It’s on the back side that it’s different.”

While past workshops have been attended by an array of people, many of them have been younger homeowners who can no longer afford their mortgages or who need to move for a better job, but can’t sell their depreciated homes. This group was a different, said Ms. Holmquist and Mr. Eagan. One couple, for instance, was collecting information for their daughter who is going through a divorce. Another couple is trying without success to sell a home owned by the woman’s mother, now in her 80s in assisted living and with no income. A third woman, in her 70s, had taken multiple mortgages to pay medical expenses. Although she’s never missed a mortgage payment, the failure of the real estate market and the devaluation of her savings now has created financial problems.

“All sorts of people are facing foreclosure or are so far underwater that they may never recover, even though they’re making their payments,” said Ms. Holmquist. “It’s not at all uncommon.”

In fact, she said, about 29 percent of the homes being sold in Long Valley and Mount Olive are short sales. In the Chesters, that number is about 9 percent.

“Working with an established team of an attorney and a Realtor to sell short offers a good way out for many people,” said Ms. Holmquist. “The improving real estate market improves their chances of selling short, but it’s still the best answer for some people.”

Ms. Holmquist said people with questions about short sales or any other facet of buying or selling real estate can call her office at (908) 867-7109 or by sending her an email at kholmquist@comcast.net.

Ms. Holmquist is the team leader for the Holmquist Team, part of Keller Williams Towne Square Realty, and one of the top-producing real estate teams in Morris County, N.J.  She has been in real estate since 1997, specializing in residential home sales. After working at other agencies, she founded The Holmquist Team in 2008. A Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), she holds a bachelor of science from PennStateUniversity. More information is at http://www.kellysellshouses.com or by calling (908) 867-7109.

Eagan heads an office that focuses on real estate and is one of New Jersey’s fastest growing specialty law firms. The firm has successfully represented thousands of individuals and business clients across the state in residential and commercial real estate transactions. More information is available at (973) 898-7300 or www.martyeagan.com.


Holmquist Team, Other Realtors, Will See More Short Sales In Coming Days

Short sales a way out for those swamped by mortgages

For those swamped by their mortgages, short sales may help avoid the coming tide of new foreclosures.

Although the news media and real estate blogs have been talking about the improving real estate market, there’s an unpleasant fact that people in the market have to face: Even as home sales are increasing, The Holmquist Team and other Realtors in New Jersey soon will see many more foreclosures and short sales.

The housing marketing is improving. Home sales in theNorthwesternMorrisCounty area up, days on market are down and the number of buyers per home is increasing. But a recent report by the Mortgage Bankers Association saysNew Jersey now has the second highest percentage of mortgage loans in foreclosure in the country. With 8.4 percent of homes in foreclosure,New Jersey is second only behindFlorida.

The problem is a 2010 court-ordered moratorium on foreclosure filings as part of the “robo-signing” scandal. Banks and mortgage companies were signing so many documents so quickly, that they often didn’t have proper documentation when a home was sold and couldn’t prove ownership when foreclosures were challenged. Add to that New Jersey’s court process that stretches out for more than a year, and you loans due for foreclosure just piling up.

Now the courts have cleared the way for the floodgates to open. While Realtors, economists and government officials will say that the housing market can’t stabilize until the foreclosures are dealt with, it doesn’t help those who are drowning in debt and facing foreclosure.

For some, foreclosure can’t be avoided. But for others, there are ways out. For those behind in the mortgages or barely keeping up, the issue may soon be unavoidable.

For those folks, attorneys and knowledgeable, experienced Realtors can provide information about the many federal, state and non-governmental programs that are available.

There are programs to help people in foreclosure. Others help people readjust their mortgages. For many, short sales are a good answer. In fact, several experts are predicting an increase in the number of short sales.

A short sale is when the bank allows a homeowner to sell a home for less than what’s owed on it. The seller gets to stay in the home until closing. Short sales have less of an impact on the seller’s credit rating.

On the other hand, there are complicated negotiations and there could be tax implications to a short sale.  It takes a team of experienced Realtors and attorneys to do a successful short sale.

If a short sale seems like a good idea, talk with your Realtor or attorney. Make sure they are experienced in dealing with short sales.

And plan on spending Monday evening, June 11, with us at Cinders on Route 46. I’ll be there with attorney Marty Eagan, an attorney who specializes in short sales and other distressed sales. Call (908) 867-7109 or email me at kholmquist@comcast.net.net for more information about our free workshop.

The Housing Market Seems Poised for Recovery. Don’t Be Left Behind

Underwater mortgages are no reason to be left behind as home sales go up. You can refinance or sell your home through a short sale or other program.

Underwater mortgages are no reason to be left behind as home sales go up. You can refinance or sell your home through a short sale or other program.

Optimism seems to be seeping back into the housing market. At the Holmquist Team, we are seeing housing prices in the area stabilizing, demand increasing, inventory decreasing and mortgage relief is the talk of the town. Realtors across the nation are reporting similar findings. So even if you’re house loan is “underwater,” it’s not too late for you to get in on this growing spring market.

About a fifth of the homes for sale inLongValleyand a quarter ofMountOlivehomes are being sold through short sales. So if you’re struggling with a mortgage, there are two things you should know.

First, you are in good company.

Second, now’s the time to do something about it.

The statistics are easy to find, and the most important number is how many homes in your neighborhood are in foreclosure or behind in their payments. A Realtor can tell you that while he or she is helping you determine the market value of your home.

The most important information you need, however, is about programs that can get you out from under that oppressive mortgage. If you can avoid foreclosure, you should take those steps.

We’ll be conducting a free workshop at 7 p.m. Monday, March 5 at the Publick House onMain Street inChester to talk about some of those alternatives. Speakers include Kelly Holmquist, leader of the Holmquist Team, part of Keller Williams Towne Square Realty, and Marty Eagan, aMorristown attorney specializing in distressed sales.

They’ll be talking about short sales, where the bank allows you to sell your home for less than you owe on it; the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program, a federal program that helps you sell short or return your home to the bank in an option called a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure; or other tactics. The idea is to free you from that mortgage you can’t afford while trying to protect your credit rating as much as possible. Doing that usually requires a Realtor, an attorney and a dose of creativity.

Meanwhile, there are some other things you could be doing. Begin your spring cleaning early.  To a buyer, one of the advantages of a short sale over a foreclosure is that the home is usually still occupied and in good condition. So now is a good time to begin cleaning up, fixing up and maybe rolling on a fresh coat of paint.

Now isn’t the time to finish that basement or redo your bathrooms. You probably won’t see any increase in the value of your home. And, besides, as much as you like how that new bathroom looks, the new homeowner might have a different idea.

What’s more important is to put unneeded things away. Stagers – people who get paid to come in and tell you how to make your home look nice – will tell you that the most common problem with a home is clutter. It makes a home feel crowded and dirty. Put things away that don’t need to be out, get rid of the beat up old chair in the corner, no matter how much the dog likes it, and take other steps to make your home shine.

You’ll also need to fix what’s broken. It’s time to call the plumber to deal with the toilet that won’t stop, and have someone come and put that gutter back on the back of the house. A buyer will use such issues to knock big bucks off what he or she will pay.

If you have structural problems with the home, or it desperately needs a new roof or other major maintenance, talk with your Realtor candidly about it. Together, you’ll decide what’s worth fixing and what’s worth letting the new owner fix.

Nobody says you have to sell your home and move out, just because your home is worth less than your mortgage. If you’re working but you have to stretch to keep up with your mortgage, there are programs available to help you lower your payments or lower your interest rates. For instance the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) can lower your monthly mortgage payment to 31 percent of your monthly gross income if you qualify.

The important thing, however, is not to sit quietly and watch everything you’ve worked for disappear, including your credit rating. Now is the time to take action. Give us a call, or check with the Realtor, attorney or financial counselor of your choice. And join us March 5. Make a plan and get out from under that mortgage.

Holmquist Team Helping Homeowners Take Advantage of Federal Program That Helps Avoid Foreclosure

Area homeowners are turning to Realtors like the Holmquist Team to take advantage of a federal program designed to help homeowners who are drowning in debt and facing foreclosure. That program is slated this year.

New Jersey ranks fourth in the nation in homes with delinquent mortgages, according to the Otteau Valuation Group, a well-respected real estate appraising company. One in six home loans is “underwater” in New Jersey. Homeowners in this situation, however, should be reaching out to knowledgeable Realtors who can help them navigate various private, state and federal programs to help them reduce their loans or sell their home before losing it foreclosure.

Holmquist Team, real estate agents and  home sellers in Long Valley, Chester and Mt. Olive, an help homeowners who are having difficulties with their mortgage and are underwater with their mortgages.

Homeowners who are overwhelmed by their mortgage should contact the Holmquist Team or another Realtor to explore their options before they lose their home to foreclosure.

Short sales are one tool to get homeowners out from under an oppressive mortgage. For qualifying homeowners, a group of federal programs called Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives is an excellent way to get out of a home you can no longer afford and still be able to move on with your life. Under the HAFA program, you may be able to sell your home through a short sale or through a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure, where you give the home back to the bank.

The program applies to homes that are principal residences with a mortgage under $729,750 that was obtained on or before Jan. 1, 2009. The homeowner also has to be able to document financial hardship.  The program applies only to homes with mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, although there are other programs available for in-trouble homeowners with VA, FHA and USDA mortgages.

Qualifying has excellent benefits:

  • You’re completely released from your mortgage debt after the property is sold,
  • A HAFA sale has less negative impact on your credit score than a short sale,
  • HAFA gives you $3,000 in relocation assistance.

While there’s some discussion of the program being extended, right now the program is slated to end Dec. 31, 2012.

If you’re a homeowner in trouble, now is the time to make a move. You should start by contacting The Holmquist Team or another Realtor who is knowledgeable in distressed sales and in HAFA.  He or she can help you understand what options you have, what you need to do to get your home ready to sell and, perhaps, where you can live next. An agent also should have the proper contacts to work on your behalf with lenders and attorneys.

You may also wish to attend a workshop on short sales and other tactics to avoid foreclosures that is slated for 7 p.m. March 5 at the Publick House Restaurant in Chester. It will feature Kelly Holmquist, broker-sales associate and leader of The Holmquist Team of Keller Williams Towne Square Realty. Also featured will be Martin D. Eagan, a Morristownattorney who specializes in distressed real estate sales. The pair will discuss the HAFA program and other alternatives. Information is available at www.theholmquistteam.net or by calling the office at (908) 867-7109.

There are many alternatives to having a home taken by foreclosure, but homeowners need to give themselves ample time to investigate and take advantage of those programs.  Those who need to get out of a mortgage that has them “underwater” should call a Realtor today to explore their options.


Short Sales One Way to Avoid a Foreclosure

(LONG VALLEY, N.J.)  Sept. 30, 2011 — People sell their homes for a variety of reasons. Among the toughest situations is the person who is behind or struggling with payments because of job loss, divorce or other problems. While the popular wisdom is that people can just abandon a home, walking away will lead to a foreclosure that sparks devastating long- and short-term financial, tax and legal implications for the former property owner.

An experienced seller’s agent can help you avoid such a desperate move. Among the options is a “short sale.” In a short sale, the bank allows you to sell your home for less than what you owe. The bank forgives the difference and you walk away with a smaller impact on your credit than you would with a foreclosure and nobody is chasing you for damages.

When I first started encountering short sales, the banks were the biggest problem. Bankers had no idea how to handle short-sales. Files were missing, banks had no system for tracking documents and everything was hand-written. It was a mess and nothing was consistent. In those early days, I had one bank approve a $250,000 loss in three weeks and another take more than a year to decide on a loss of $50,000.

Things have gotten better and banks now have standardized the process. A short sale can happen in 90 days from application to closing. These transactions, however, aren’t the norm and require an experienced attorney and Realtor to negotiate with the lenders. You also can’t get away with accepting any offer. Banks bring in an appraiser to make sure the home sells within an acceptable range of market value.

Even the federal government has gotten into the short-sale act. The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAFA) was created last year to help homeowners who apply for but do not qualify for a loan modification. The rules are:

  •  The property is your principal residence;
  • The mortgage on it was originated before Jan. 1, 2009;
  • The mortgage is owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac;
  • You are delinquent in your payments or default is foreseeable;
  • You can demonstrate hardship;
  • Your total monthly housing payment exceeds 31 percent of your gross income;
  • The unpaid principal does not exceed $729,750.

Talk to an experienced real estate agent about selling your home as a short sale. It’s not the best way to sell a home, but it’s better than a foreclosure.

By the way, the government considers any debt you don’t pay as income. Expect a 1099 IRS form from the bank for the amount of the shortfall that is forgiven. More information about that is here.

Buyers know there still are bargains to be found among short sales. They need flexibility because there’s no guaranteed closing date and they must be willing to accept some up-front expenses such as attorney’s fees, home inspections and so forth. Buyers need to make a reasonable offer because of the banks are using appraisers now.

The good news is that the majority of homes have been well maintained and there aren’t many surprises. That’s because, unlike a foreclosure, the seller usually occupies the property until the closing and agrees to maintain it.

As with the seller, buyers need an experienced real estate agent to properly represent them. And the HAFA rules, while mostly aimed at the seller, also impact the buyer:

  •  Buyers must present documentation of funds or a pre-approval letter from a lender. The seller will need to present this to his or her lender within three days of receiving the offer.
  • Lenders must approve or deny the offer for the home within 10 business days.
  • Settlement must take place within a reasonable period, but the lender cannot require a closing earlier than 45 days from the date of the sales contract unless the homeowner agrees.
  • If you buy property under this act, you can’t sell it again for 90 days.
  • Sellers can’t sell the property to a relative or anyone else with whom they have a close personal or business relationship.

Buying and selling real estate is complicated in the best of conditions. Short sales make the waters muddier. You’ll need an experienced agent, like those on the Holmquist Team, to guide you through the process.

By the way, you have nothing to gain by paying a third party to supply you with lists of foreclosures or so-called pre-foreclosures. Homes that are foreclosed and homes where the seller wants to sell short will be listed on the Multiple Listing Service when they are available. Your agent will watch for them and alert you. Those third-party sites just take your money.