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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 preapproving 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, Calif.-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. said in the Aug. 17 letter obtained by Bloomberg News.
Farley, whose home-construction lending business dried up after the housing crash, said the New York-based bank agreed to let her sell her San Marcos, Calif., home for $592,000 – about $200,000 less than what she owes. The $30,000 will cover moving costs and the rental deposit for her next home. Farley, who is also approved for an additional $3,000 through a federal incentive program, is scheduled to close the deal Feb. 10.