I spoke with a seasoned real estate agent of over 12 years in the Washington County, Maryland area and found that perhaps one of the biggest hurdles in the real estate market today is the lack of understanding of how the last few years have actually affected real estate sales. Sandy Curtis of Mackintosh Realtors based in Washington County, Hagerstown, MD is a specialist in the short sale and foreclosure homes. While she is still a full service real estate agent licensed in Maryland and Pennsylvania, she strives to educate people that have stumbled into trouble with their mortgage on the incentives that very few seem to know exist.
There are many reasons a homeowner may be financially distressed and unable to continue making their mortgage payments. One would be the 8.5% unemployment rate Washington County Maryland had as of July 20, 2012. Other reasons would be divorce, medical bills, death, over use of credit, reduction of income, etc...
“Bank of America is offering 3,000 to 30,000 in incentives to people in distress willing to participate in a short sale on their property. Chase bank is offering up to 40,000.” Curtis tells me during our interview. Curtis explained, “Just as an example, homeowners have been claiming bankruptcy and walking away from their homes. Although the bankruptcy clears their debt, most people don’t realize that the deed is still in their name. The bank will offer these incentives to home owners that haven’t even lived in the property for years.” Curtis explains to me how much these folks are missing out on. In addition to relocation incentives the bank may offer, the HAFA (Home Affordable Foreclosure Act) can also offer up to 3,000 in addition to whatever the bank your mortgage was with may offer. Curtis gave me an example of a homeowner that had filed bankruptcy and left the house. That home remained vacant for three years. When Sandy was able to locate the owner she called them and asked if they would be willing to participate in a short sale with the bank. “They had a first and second mortgage with Bank of America. These people will be receiving 8,500 for participating in the short sale.” Most people do not realize that bankruptcy, although it comes across as the best solution, it is not always so. Curtis explains, “If you file bankruptcy, the debt is cleared, but your credit takes 7 years to return. A short sale enables the seller to not only release the debt, but possibly even make some money and often their credit can right itself in 2-3 years. “
This is where I had to ask what she meant by make money. I still didn’t understand how these people would make money. Curtis was kind enough to explain, “It is referred to by the banks as a relocation fund. It is designed to pay off second mortgages, other debt, and moving fees and so on.”
The other monumentally amazing thing happening in the real estate market right now is the low interest rates. I am sure most have heard that they are the lowest they have been in history, but they are lower than they were last year when that was the lowest they had been in history, according to CNN Money. Curtis used the example of one client that got a VA loan for about 3% interest. There are first time home buyer incentives available of up to $11,000 with low interest rates and even real estate investment properties have seen interest rates as low as 4.75%. It is a great time for home buyers, obviously, but home sellers are seeing multiple offers on their real estate properties as well, which has not been the case in the last few years.
I certainly was better informed after my interview with Sandy Curtis, the Short Sale and Foreclosure Specialist, and I hope to help her spread the word on how to help those that qualify. I agree that in this day and time, we all need to find and use any help we can get. If you want to reach Sandy, just give her a call at Mackintosh Realtors on Dual Highway at 301.790.1700 ext 5057 or visit her website at www.Sandy-Curtis.com.