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Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, May 26, 2010
By Jo E. Prout
Homes in the Capital District are selling better than expected this spring, according to local real estate agents. For those facing short sales or foreclosures, however, sellers can expect delays.
“Yes, there’s activity,” said Donna Greenwood, of Greenwood Realty in Voorheesville, about the spring selling season. “Not as much activity as there used to be,” she conceded. Greenwood covers the area from Bennington County, Vt. to southern Greene County, she said.
“In the general Guilderland, Clifton Park, Bethlehem area, houses that are properly priced are selling in 30 to 90 days,” she said. “It used to be, they’d sell in under 90.”
Properly priced homes are the key. “Your Realtor should do a comparative market analysis. You can get a general feel for what your type of house sells for. You kind of want to be in the middle not the most expensive and not the cheapest,” Greenwood said.
Kelly Gardner, an assistant manager with Coldwell Banker in Guilderland, agreed that homes are selling.
“It’s a very, very active listing environment,” Gardner said. “There’s a little bit of confidence in the market. People are moving for life situations that doesn’t stop. People waited through the long winter to list.”
Gardner’s office had 57 listings last month, and 56 sales.
“That’s a healthy market,” she said. Gardner attributes Capital Region sales to an abundance of employment with the state, numerous colleges and hospitals, and the growing tech community.
“We really do pretty well here in the Capital Region,” she said.
Of 134 active listings in Guilderland, she said, only three are pre-foreclosures, or short sales.
“It’s not a big thing,” Gardner said.
Short sales need third-party approval by a bank, Greenwood said, in order to go through.
“They are asking under what they owe,” she said. Sellers cannot accept an offering price on their own in a short sale, Greenwood said. “The bank is the one who makes the decision,” she said.
Gardner said that sellers with a second mortgage on a home will also need approval from that bank.
The short-sale process “is a little bit lengthier,” Gardner said. “You’re dealing with a large-entity bank. The homeowner has to show they’re in the hardship situation. You have to prove that you can qualify for a third-party” approval, she said. Banks require appraisals and time to process requests, she said. The entire selling time on a short sale can take six to nine months, Gardner said.
Short sales are options for sellers who for reasons like illness, medical bills, or loss of a job have financial hardships, Greenwood said.
“They’re not behind yet, but they’re going to be,” she said.
Some people were caught up in the buying frenzy in 2005 and paid high prices, Gardner said.
“The majority are trying the short-sale option, if they can,” she said.
Most forced sales “are not because of greed, per se,” Gardner continued. “The stories I’m seeing are family situations, health situations, or divorce. Life’s more expensive than it was. I’m seeing very honest people who are trying to keep up, and couldn’t.”
Short sales are a better route for those sellers than foreclosure, Gardner said.
“Sellers don’t want the burden of that debt on their heads,” she said.
“It’s better for the bank to just take that money than lose the [total] amount,” Greenwood said of the reduced return on a short sale. “It’s not in the bank’s interest to go to foreclosure.”
Foreclosed homes can be left empty, vandalized, or un-winterized, with pipes left to freeze, Greenwood said.
“Foreclosure is a lose-lose situation for everybody,” she said. “It‘s a loss for the bank, and a devastating loss for the homeowner. Nobody is a winner in this situation.
“The government is really trying to make laws that are protecting the people, and make everybody work together to prevent a foreclosure,” she continued.
Gardner, in Guilderland, has seen little success with governmental loan restructuring, she said.
“It’s not a workable program,” Gardner said.
“People really need to be very aware of the time frame” involved in a short sale, Gardner said. A recent sale in Burnt Hills required months of paperwork, and the need for a buyer to take out a home-equity loan, to close on the house, she said. The process took nine months, Gardner said.
“It was just…the process,” she said. “They’re not the easiest to deal with. It may take a longer time frame.”
“You need a really good attorney,” Greenwood said. “You need somebody to represent your interests.”