Short Sales Outnumber REO in January Purchases

Short sales accounted for 15.9% of home purchases in January, surpassing the share of other distressed property activity, when real estate owned (REO) properties are measured separately, according to a monthly Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance (IMF) survey of more than 1,500 real estate agents, conducted by Campbell Surveys.

Despite a reputation for being slow and problematic, so-called short sales are quickly becoming the preferred way to dispose of distressed properties in 2010.

According to the latest Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance Monthly Survey of Real Estate Market Conditions, short sales accounted for a substantial 15.9% of home purchase transactions in January. This was well above the share of other distressed property activity – damaged real estate owned or REO (13.4%) and move-in ready REO (13.8%) – and represented a big jump for short sales.

As recently as November of 2009, short sales accounted for 12.4% of the home purchase market, behind move-in ready REO at 12.6% and nearly even with damaged REO transactions at 12.3%.

Short sales are an effective method of resolving mortgages in default, both for large lenders and for the government agencies supporting lenders’ efforts. Short sales typically result in lower lender losses and houses left in more saleable condition. Moreover, borrowers that agree to a short sale can often buy another house with mortgage financing after only two years. For borrowers going though the foreclosure process, mortgage financing can be unavailable for a period of five to seven years.

Short sale properties are most often purchased by first-time homebuyers, the January survey results revealed. Currently, mortgage servicer approval on offers for short sale properties can take several months, making these transactions difficult for current homeowners who often need to conduct not one, but two, transactions in quick succession. In contrast, first-time homebuyers more often have flexibility around the timing of short sale closings.

“Short sales activity took a temporary dip in November around the expected expiration of the first-time homebuyer tax credit,” reported Thomas Popik, research director for the Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance survey. “Few first-time homebuyers wanted to take the chance that their short sale transaction wouldn’t be approved by the November 30 deadline. But now that the tax credit has been extended, we see first-time homebuyers once again snapping up attractively priced short sales.”

Survey results showed that short sales typically sell for only 91% of listing price. In contrast, move-in ready REO sells for 99% of listing price, on average.

Published by Stout Law Firm

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