Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Short Sales ... Quick are They?

All this talk about short sales … how quick are they?

The name “short sale” doesn’t reference the time involved, rather it describes the situation when a lender or bank agrees to accept less for the property than is actually owed on the mortgage. It is a realistic phenomenon in real estate markets such as we find ourselves in today. The majority of the prospective short sale properties today involve, in one way or another, a high purchase price or refinance done in 2005, an adjustable rate mortgage that is adjusting to normal from the teaser rates, or a high loan to value, i.e.- 100-125%, sub-prime loan. Any one of those items can create difficulties, two or more leads to sleepless nights.

Public myth to the contrary, the lenders don’t want to own the properties they loan on - they want their payments. If payments stop coming they have the option to foreclose. In a market that has declined they are faced with a difficult choice – take back the property, or settle for less than what is owed. Taking less than what is owed and avoiding the foreclosure process, with its many uncertainties and delays, is now seriously considered more than ever before. Some lenders have established departments for just this process – an unthinkable idea just a few years back.

A lender looks at many things when considering a short sale. Some are obvious like whether or not the homeowner is deserving of a short sale. Do they make a substantial amount of “verified” income? Do they have equity in other real estate? Is it in the bank’s best interest to take a short sale or repossess the house and sell through a Realtor? How many properties does the lender have in default? How flexible is the investor backing the loan? Is there a third party servicing the loan? Are there stipulations within the mortgage note or mortgage insurance precluding selling short? Is the property owner’s cause for default/foreclosure justified? There are other “secrets” that are known by trained short sale agents that are used to determine the feasibility of successfully executing a short sale.

Our Advice: If your payments are a struggle, or just aren’t happening, don’t deny the reality of the situation. Take action. If you wait too long you may have no option but to experience a foreclosure, or to delay the inevitable with a bankruptcy filing. If you take action you might very well get yourself out of your situation sooner, save the mental/physical wear and tear on you and your family, and incur less of a credit ding than the other options. Don’t prejudge what you think will happen – you might be very surprised at what can really happen for you. Find out the truth about your specific situation and you will have the ability to implement an action plan.

A lot of people are talking about short sales – deal with those in the know to get your situation properly resolved. Some are going to classes, getting educated to help the public. Check with your agent for guidance, or find one that is short sale knowledgeable. Short sales are a tool, but there can be unexpected consequences and they aren’t for everybody. This is but a moment in time and time will heal this … if you act now. When it comes to choosing professionals to assist you with your real estate needs… Experience is Priceless! Lisa Wetzel & Jim Valentine, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates,, 775-781-5472.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Homesteading My House

I’ve heard I should Homestead my house … what does that mean?

The Homestead Act today doesn’t mean you can squat on 160 acres of public land and eventually own it, rather it is a means to protect equity in your home against seizure, forced sale by general creditor claims, and judgments that might be entered against you. The amount of protection was recently increased in Nevada to $550,000. The Homestead Act is one of the gifts the Constitution of the State of Nevada gives to homeowners and yet it’s amazing how few people actually take advantage of it. Most of the people we speak with don't even know it exists.

Here’s how it works: You must own or be buying your home or mobile home in order to file a Declaration of Homestead. The home must be your principle residence, not a rental or investment property. It doesn’t matter whether you are single, married or an unmarried head of household. You may homestead your mobile home even though you don't own the land the mobile home sits on. Some mortgages may prohibit homesteading, check with your lender to ascertain their position on you homesteading your property.

Be aware that a homestead will not protect your home or mobile home if the judgment or lien is for: Taxes, the mortgage or deed on the home or mobile home, improvements made on the home or mobile home, mechanics liens and other liens on the home or mobile home, any debt or obligation you willfully and voluntarily incur.

Thanks to legislative changes this year, you can protect $550,000 of your equity. If your equity exceeds $550,000 you should go ahead and homestead understanding that you will only be able to protect $550,000 of your equity. To protect your property all you need to do is: Obtain and fill out a Declaration of Homestead form., Sign it before a notary and print your name beneath your signature., Record it at the County Recorder's office of the county in which the property is located. There is a nominal recording fee. You can record your homestead at almost any time, even if you have already lost a lawsuit or had a judgment entered against you.

If you have already filed a Declaration of Homestead on your property remember that you will need to prepare and record a new one if you: Sell your home and buy another one, move your mobile home from one lot space to another, marry, divorce or become widowed, get a new loan.

Our Advice: Filing a Declaration of Homestead is easy and is such a valuable tool that we recommend all Nevada homeowners utilize this very inexpensive means to protect their home equity.

You can obtain a homestead packet at most office supply stores, or contact us by phone or email, or simply stop by at 1320 Highway 395, Gardnerville. When it comes to choosing professionals to assist you with your real estate needs … Experience is Priceless! Lisa Wetzel & Jim Valentine, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates, 775-781-5472,

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What in the wide, wide world of real estate is going on around here?

What in the wide, wide world of real estate is going on around here? How is the market?

The market is still feeling its way along with surprises on a regular basis. Some segments are seeing no activity while others are active, but dropping in value. Buyers and Sellers are trying to determine the reality of their position with influences from National media, real estate agents, and general talk around town. Nobody wants to make a mistake which is causing some to simply not act – a market dynamic in itself.

A look at MLS statistics for the area shows sales year-to-date are about one-third of what they were in 2005. Average sales prices for the same time are off 20%. Our real estate market is comprised of many segments throughout the Valley each which must be specifically analyzed to have an accurate understanding of that market, however these generalized numbers will serve our purpose here. Values are down – undeniably – in some areas more than others. Some areas have actually dropped 20% since April alone! You can see market trends for your neighborhood if you go to, put in your address, and look at the chart. We don’t recommend using their values without the interpretation of an agent, but the trend lines on the chart will illustrate what we are saying. If you are going to sell you must be priced right and ahead of the market as it adjusts. Knowing of its brisk decline if you are in such a neighborhood will enable you to be priced right sooner so you will sell before you have to drop it even further.

If you are in a market segment that has had little, or no, activity since the first of the year, i.e.- homes in the seven figure range, you have a different dilemma. How do you determine market value when there is no market? This was evidenced in a dramatic fashion in Elko County in the 1980’s when there were no sales of ranches for a few years. A Buyer with a bundle of cash wanted to buy several ranches and the lender wanted to make the loan. The appraiser used a trend line to predict what the value might be if the sales continued as they were. The loans funded and escrows closed. When the next sale happened it was below the last sale used to establish the trend. Notwithstanding the high sales of the properties using an “estimated” value, the values had in fact decreased and were less than half the “estimated” value. The “estimated” Buyer lost every ranch to foreclosure. Our situation is not as dire with wonderful residential properties, but the circumstances are familiar. What does one offer? You can use replacement cost with consideration of the hassle factor. You can determine what a specific property means to you and your circumstances and offer accordingly. You can simply take a run at it, professional jargon. What we do know is that you won’t enjoy it if you don’t own it.

Our Advice: Buyers should make their offer. You might buy a property at a price you are comfortable with, or at least you’ll know if the Seller of the property is willing to negotiate to a price acceptable to you. With interest rates still relatively low, prices low, and our “Chamber” attraction items still intact, it is a good time to buy. If you are Selling – decide if you really want/need to sell right now. This is not a market to “see if we can get our price”. If you don’t need to sell now … don’t. Wait for the anticipated recovery. If you are “upside down” in your property, owe more than its value, don’t list high with low hopes – talk to a true real estate professional with short sale skills about how you can get out intact financially and emotionally healthy.

Don’t get paralyzed by the market dynamics. Things can change daily. Talk to your agent with candor and you will be able to make the right real estate move for your circumstance.
When it comes to choosing professionals to assist you with your real estate needs… Experience is Priceless! Lisa Wetzel & Jim Valentine, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates,, 775-781-5472.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Nevada Real Estate Legislative Changes

We wrote an offer and our agent negotiated directly with the Seller without their agent.

Strange as it may seem, that is now legal if the right forms were signed by the Seller. Effective July 1, 2007, Sellers and their broker can sign a form authorizing an agent representing a Buyer to negotiate directly with the Seller, and a form waiving the right of a Listing agent to present offers to their Sellers. The obvious question is, why would a Seller hire an agent and not have them represent them? This new law is in response to a new breed of agents. There are agents that will charge a very nominal fee to put your property in the Multiple Listing Service … and that is all. They don’t show the property, represent the property, negotiate the sale, or deal with any of the escrow-related inspections, repairs, negotiations and documentation. They are what we call zero-service agents. Not minimum-service agents, another genre of agent, rather zero-service.

Their lack of any involvement in the transaction was presenting difficulties to other agents who were faced with presenting offers to people they didn’t represent. Technically, they were breaking Nevada real estate and agency law. The legislature made some changes, not to accommodate the zero services agents, but to protect the agents that were actually selling the homes those agents had signed up. To do so they had to create a form to allow an agent to negotiate directly with someone they don’t represent, and a Waiver Form allowing the listing agent to not present offers.

In a seeming contradiction of terms, the Waiver form says, “By signing below I agree that the licensee who represents me shall not present any offers made to or by me …”. It continues to put the burden on the Seller to know what to do and advises consulting an attorney. Combine that with the other form that has the following statements: “…a Buyer’s agent…may present offers…and negotiation directly with the Seller.”, “Negotiate” means (a) delivering … an offer, counteroffer, or proposal; (b) discussing or reviewing the terms of any offer, counteroffer, or proposal; and/or (c) facilitating communication regarding an offer, counteroffer, or proposal and preparing any response ads directed.”, “…additional contact from the Buyer’s agent may be required to obtain disclosures and other documents related to the transaction.”, “Seller acknowledges and agrees that Buyer’s agent does not represent the Seller…”. We don’t understand why one would hire somebody and allow them not to do what it is they were hired to do, but now it can be done and not jeopardize full service practitioners.

Our Advice: Understand what type of service you are getting when you sign a listing agreement. If you have little equity, or even if you are upside down in your home, a full service real estate agent with the right knowledge can get you out of your difficulties. There is a difference between what we call zero-service, minimum-service, and full service real estate practitioners. Know what you are contracting for and understand, whatever your chosen avenue to your close of escrow, what counts is the amount of your proceeds check, the integrity of your transaction, and your protection from potential legal difficulties.

All is not what it appears to be in life. With full knowledge of the reality in this matter the decision is easy – check it out! Don’t put yourself adrift on life’s sea – it’s your money, your time, and your peace of mind you are protecting.

When it comes to choosing professionals to assist you with your real estate needs… Experience is Priceless! Lisa Wetzel & Jim Valentine, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates,, 775-781-5472.