(MCT)—QUESTION: Due to a hardship, we stopped making our mortgage payments. Because values have increased recently, we think the house is worth more than we owe. How do we know if we need to do a short sale? And can we use a family member as our real estate agent?
ANSWER: In a short sale, you need to get your bank’s permission to sell the house for less than what you owe on the mortgage. You will need to send in financial information and jump through other hoops to get your lender to agree to this discount.
Your first step should be to ask your lender for a complete payoff statement so you know exactly what you owe. Then you need to get with a real estate agent to see what the home is realistically worth. A fresh coat of paint, proper decorating and good staging can add significant value, maybe making the difference here.
Mixing family and business typically isn’t a good idea, but there’s nothing stopping you from doing it if you don’t need your lender’s permission to sell.
Because you are not sure if this will be a short sale, you should play it safe and find an experienced agent, unrelated to you, who can help you stage and market your home for the maximum price. If this does turn out to be a short sale, you, the buyer, the real estate agents and the title company will all have to sign an affidavit stating that this is not an insider deal and that no one is related to you. Lying about this is considered mortgage fraud.
Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar.
©2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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