Underwater Homeowners’ Situation Seen Improving


SARASOTA, FLORIDA, November 7th, 2013 – Sales of distressed properties in Florida remain among the highest in the U.S. at 29% of total sales state-wide in August, but a decline from this level is likely in the coming months, Sarasota Bay Real Estate reports.  This September, the Florida Housing Finance Corp. opened the Florida Principal Reduction Program, the newest among the state government’s measures to help underwater homeowners or those who owe more than their properties’ value.

The FHFC has earmarked $350 million for this program under which eligible homeowners can apply online for up to $50,000 to reduce the principal on their mortgages. This program covers only those considered as severely underwater on their mortgage or homeowners owing 125% more on mortgages than their homes’ value. A $350,000 cap on the mortgage owed is also one of the program’s eligibility requirements. An initial 25,000 applicants will be accepted. It is estimated that Florida has at least 200,000 underwater mortgages.

Easier hold on federal funds

underwater homes

Florida’s recent initiative on home mortgage borrowers with negative equity stems from the FHFC’s decision to relax its grip on the state’s billion-dollar slice in federal foreclosure funds instituted during the last two years. The agency was reported to have spent only a small fraction of this share and now wants to release more money to qualified applicants in order to trim their outstanding debts and monthly mortgage amortizations.

Sarasota Bay Real Estate notes that these federals funds, which were set up with the support of the National Realtors Association (NAR), assisted over 7 million underwater homeowners in refinancing their homes or modifying their mortgages. The federal measures adopted include the Home Affordable Modification Program and the Home Affordable Refinance Program which has two iterations.

Through NAR’s advocacy, the FHA Single-Family Mortgage Program was also reformed to ensure continued availability of mortgages to qualified home buyers. Millions of home buyers also benefitted from the temporary homebuyers’ tax credit program initiated when private lenders left the market which resulted in stymied access to mortgage insurance. During the 2013 second quarter, the analytics firm CoreLogic estimated that over 2 million underwater homeowners returned to positive equity.

Brighter Sarasota picture

Mirroring this improving trend, distressed property sales in Sarasota declined to 20.6% of their overall number properties sold in August. This was down from 22.7% in July and 22.7% a year earlier. Significantly, local realtors are also continuously upgrading their expertise through training programs on addressing distressed property sales. The skill-building’s scope covers issues starting from listing and contract through closing. The brokers are also updated on title insurance issues and pertinent government programs, like the FHFC’s recent mortgage-debt reduction initiative.

In the current MLS listing of Sarasota homes for sale, nearly 500 properties are either short sales or foreclosures. This accounts for 13.2% of all residences available in the local market.

For buyers interested in distressed home sales, Sarasota Bay Real Estate pinpoints a new listing of a bank-owned property at phase 2 of the Sherwood Forest subdivision a short distance southeast of the city’s downtown. This home has three bedrooms and two baths within its floor area of almost 2,800 square feet and has a quoted price of $270,000.