Sunday, October 2, 2011

Agency encourages short sales by offering money

Money to help struggling homeowners complete short sales is the latest way the Arizona Department of Housing is trying to spend its $269 million in federal foreclosure-prevention funds.

The state agency is offering homeowners $4,500 and to pay their 3 percent closing costs if they work with their lender to complete a short sale instead of losing their home to foreclosure. But, of course, like the principal-reduction loan modifications the Housing Department has been trying to use the money for, it's all up to the lenders whether the deals go through.

The Arizona Housing Department's annual 2011 housing forum starts today at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale. The conference draws housing advocates, counselors, builders, lenders and government officials from not only Arizona but other states and Washington, D.C. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the tough issues facing housing. Of course, now there are many, including a growing number of homeless people in Arizona.

Housing Director Michael Trailor said the state agency will start taking applications for the short-sale program today. Go to to apply. It's the same site that is taking applications for the principal-reduction loan-modification program and unemployment mortgage aid, both of which also are being funded by federal money from the Hardest Hit Housing program.

The Arizona housing agency has been able to persuade lenders only to match their principal reductions to modify six loans, so far. The program was launched a year ago, and Trailor said as many as 30,000 Arizona homeowners should qualify.

He said the miserable results, because of lender's reluctance to cut principal and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's policy not to reduce loan amounts, have been a frustrating and time-wasting effort for his agency during the past year.

So, to try to spend some of the money to help homeowners, the agency received approval from the U.S. Treasury Department to start the short-sale program.

The Housing Department is also expanding its program to cover mortgage payments for more unemployed and underemployed homeowners who are eligible.

"We want to spend this money to help homeowners, but we need lenders' help," Trailor said. "Anyone who thinks they are eligible should immediately apply at our website."

Statewide MLS?

An agreement for the Arizona Association of Realtors and its member groups to buy the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service, or ARMLS, is on hold. The deal would have given Arizona the largest statewide MLS in the country. But after a year of research and surveys to members to see how it could work, the Southeast Valley Realtors Association voted against it.

ARMLS CEO Bob Bemis said that a similar plan was voted down before but that there are many supporters of a statewide MLS in Arizona, so discussions continue about creating one.

by Catherine Reagor The Arizona Republic Sept. 21, 2011 12:00 AM

Agency encourages short sales by offering money

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