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State of Washington Senate Bill 6337: A Bill that will Make No Difference, Provided that your Original Short Sale Approval is Negotiated Well

Seattle Short Sales - Wednesday, March 07, 2012

A revision of Senate Bill 6337 (companion to House Bill 2718) was passed last month. The aim of the bill is to protect homeowners who short-sale their homes from being pursued by their lender for the deficiency.

The deficiency is the shortfall owed to the lender after a home is sold short. For example, if a homeowner owes $200,000 on their mortgage but, following the short sale, can pay the lender back $120,000 on the loan, the difference - $80,000 - is the deficiency.

This bill sounds great in theory. But, for the majority of homeowners who process their short sale here through Seattle Short Sales, Inc., this bill will make no difference at all.

Why? Because the majority of our approvals - in fact 93% of all short sale approvals we negotiated last month - already come with a clear wording that waives the homeowner of ever having to pay back the deficiency. Our homeowners already have the protection that this bill would offer.

The new bill applies only to short sales for which the lender has issued a Form 1099 to the borrower: the homeowner to whom the debt was forgiven. Lenders are required to issue a 1099 any time that they forgive a debt of over $600. This means that the borrower must declare the forgiven debt, and they may have to pay tax on it as if it were income. It also means that the lender may write off the bad debt as a loss, which means that they may get a tax break on that loss.

So, really, what Bill 6337 does is prevent a lender from both writing off the bad debt as a loss, and also pursuing the borrower to pay back that debt. They must choose one option or the other. (Which - really - should be the case for whenever a 1099 is issued, not only in the case of short sale deficiencies).

And that seems only fair.

But, as we pointed out, 90% or more of our recent approval letters already specify that the lender will not pursue the deficiency. Here are some sample stats showing how our track record of obtaining deficiency waivers with short sale approvals has increased over the past two years:

 

(A quick point here, in case you were wondering why we’ve only shown stats for a few months over the past two years: We could not afford the time to go through all of the hundreds of short sale approvals we have negotiated over that time period. So we used the March 2010 and March 2011 stats, which we had already gone through for our blog post on deficiency waivers. And then, starting last July, we changed our file-naming system so that whether the deficiency was waived (“Debt Settled”) or not waived (“Lien Release” only) is in the file title, so we selected the two months at the beginning of that period as well as the last two months. You can review our complete short sale approval letter database here).

So two years ago, back when the majority of short sale approvals did not explicitly waive the deficiency, this bill might have made a difference. But now that lenders have realized that short sales are in their best interests, too, and are willing to write into their approval letters that they will waive the homeowner of ever having to repay the deficiency… well, Bill 6337 won’t do anything. They have already said they will not pursue the deficiency.

For the minority of our short sale approval letters where the lender does not explicitly waive the deficiency… well, even then, Bill 6337 will not change much. According to the wording of the bill, the lender is only prevented from pursuing the deficiency if they have issued a 1099. But if they don’t issue that 1099, again, the bill won’t prevent them from chasing borrowers up for that deficiency down the road - or to selling that loan on to debt collectors.

The take-away here is that the protection for homeowners who are considering a short sale is that Bill 6337 will not likely protect you. Your security lies in the wording of your original approval letter. Make sure that the negotiators who are working on your behalf work towards clear and unambiguous wording about waiving the deficiency balance - and then you will know that your future is safe, Bill 6337 or not.

If you are a homeowner, and would like to learn more about short selling your home, please go to: http://seattleshortsales.com/homeowners/

If you are a real estate agent, and would like to learn about our no-fee short sale service, please go to: http://seattleshortsales.com/agents/


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