Survey: Mortgage Foreclosure Scams Surge
Not only is America’s foreclosure crisis still going strong, it now comes with even more fraud and deception.
With heightened media coverage surrounding the recent national mortgage settlement and refinements to government assistance programs, experts say selling “the schtick” has only become easier for criminals. But there are red flags consumers can watch out for when trying to determine whether or not an organization is legit.
First, homeowners should never have to pay anything up front for a loan modification or information on how to negotiate with their lender, says Roy Oppenheim, whose Florida-based law firm Oppenheim Law has handled more than 1,000 mortgage and foreclosure fraud cases over the past 5 years.
“If you’re paying upfront to a non-lawyer who’s claiming they can modify your loan, that’s a big scam,” Oppenheim says.
Short Sales Soar as Home Foreclosures Fall
The foreclosure crisis isn’t over, but a new trend in real estate sales could be the light at the end of the tunnel for many borrowers and lenders. Short sales, which occur when homeowners sell their homes for less than what they still owe, outpaced foreclosures for the first time ever in January,according to a new report from Lender Processing Services, Inc.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced this month that mortgage servicers will be required to review and respond to short sale offers within 30 days and make final sale decisions within 60 days. The new requirements, which take effect in June, have kept lenders busy expanding and training the staff needed to catch up with growing short sale demand.
“When the robosigning crisis hit, there was effectively an 18-month moratorium on foreclosures,” said Roy Oppenheim, a foreclosure defense attorney with Oppenheim Law in South Florida. “The banks got caught with their hand in the cookie jar and the lid slammed closed on it. Fraud, robosigning — it all came to a stop. But through this $25 billion settlement, they’re using the crisis to their advantage. The settlement creates a major incentive for the banks to do short sales.”
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Short sales pick up in housing market
Lenders are pricing short sales more aggressively, RealtyTrac adds. In January, the average short sale price was 10% lower than a year earlier, exceeding the drop in U.S.home prices.
Some mortgage servicers started pursuing short sales more aggressively months ago. Bank of America says it did 107,000 short sales last year, up from 92,000 in 2010 and double the 2009 volume. New measures are also likely to boost short sales.
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which own or guarantee 60% of home loans, will soon require lenders to decide short sale offers within 60 days. Realtors have complained that short sale offers often linger. The recent $25 billion mortgage settlement also encourages short sales.
New rules have slowed foreclosures in many states, increasing short sales, says Florida foreclosure defense attorney Roy Oppenheim.
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