During the real estate boom of the last few years, a brand new problem began cropping up on a regular basis whenever a lender had to foreclose on a defaulted mortgage. Every Tom, Dick and Harry with no money and no credit, but ready access to late night television suddenly wanted to “flip” houses.
Legitimate real estate investors who buy distressed houses, make repairs and then sell the property to new homeowners provide a very valuable function in the real estate market. Unfortunately, the late night TV watching “house flippers” didn’t quite serve this same purpose as well. While the market was booming, these budding Donald Trumps would make offers on homes even though they had no way to finance or pay for that home. While they waited for closing day, they would go out and find some uneducated mark and send them to their mortgage broker to qualify for an FHA loan to buy the house under contract. As soon as the potential homeowner was safely qualified, the investor would go in, mop the house up a little and set up back to back closings. They would purchase the property and sell it for much more at the same time without ever putting up any money of their own.
These “sellers” would offer prospective purchasers such enormously easy terms in the middle of a seller’s market that folks would be lining up fighting to see who could pay the highest price. After this practice had been rolling along for a few years, many of these new home owners started defaulting on their mortgages, thus forcing HUD to pay off the mortgages with money from the FHA insurance fund. The HUD homes advertised all over the place come from these foreclosures. When HUD tried to sell these houses, however, the trouble started. HUD found that the appraisals used to get these loans approved were seriously over inflated, causing huge losses when selling the properties. This endangered the entire FHA program.
This resulted in HUD implementing a new anti-flipping rule. If a property had changed owners within 90 days, this property was not eligible for any FHA financing. The goal was to make sure that only legitimate investors who were actually repairing the property and increasing the value would be able to use FHA financing to sell their property.
In the usual bureaucratic tradition, HUD created another problem with their solution. Foreclosed homes being sold by lenders were not exempted from the rule. This blocked many buyers out of the market and lowering home values even more. Therefore, in 2006, HUD took action and amended the “anti-flipping” rule to allow FHA financing on those homes sold by government sponsored enterprises and federally chartered institutions. There was no change in the rule for other sellers.
Here we are at the present. Subprime lending is dead. Foreclosure levels are setting new records every time they are announced. Many people are losing their homes. At least, though, many potential new first time home buyers can now take full advantage of these lower home prices since FHA interest rates are still low.
Smart real estate agents and mortgage originators who are up to date on guidelines release these nervous potential home owners out into the market. As they visit these foreclosed properties, they always ask whether the present owner is eligible for that financial institution exception. The lender’s real estate agent will say honestly that this home is definitely still owned by the bank and the bank is an exempt institution. Everyone completes the negotiations and gets all the right signatures to put the buyer’s mortgage in process. Everything is wonderful up to this point. As normally happens, the title examination results are faxed over to the processor and look fine at first glance. Then while double checking the details, the mortgage processor notices that the owner named on the title policy doesn’t exactly match the contract. Very similar, but not an exact match. So a call is made to the attorney/title company’s office and the processor finds out that now a subsidiary company of the foreclosing now owns the property. A fairly common practice lenders employ in managing their real estate owned portfolio.
Unfortunately, this subsidiary, which often receives title to the property months after the foreclosure, is not exempt from the “anti-flipping” rule and has only owned the property a month! Usually even the listing agent is unaware of this and no one at the lender’s office thought anything odd about it, but our eager new homeowner who has given 30 days notice on their apartment must now wait 60 more days before they can close on their new home.
Mortgage originators, real estate agents and potential new home owners, whatever you do, please remember – this rule is there to protect you. Be sure that you go far above and beyond with questions about the ownership of the home before you put the dates on your sales contract. This isn’t much of a problem if you ferret it out at the beginning and plan for it, but can be a devastating blow if it catches you unaware.