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Real estate agents to lenders: Short-sale process broken

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California real estate agents say closing short-sale transactions are "difficult" or "extremely difficult," and said procedures by mortgage lenders and servicers are only serving to make matters worse over the past six months, according to a new survey. The lender satisfaction survey was conducted by the California Association of Realtors. More than three-fourths (77%) of agents said short-sale transactions were difficult or extremely difficult, up from 70% in December, according to the CAR survey. The survey gauges agents' experiences working with lenders in their most recent transaction. The majority of those surveyed dealt with short-sale transactions — sales in which the lender agrees to accept less than the balance owed on the mortgage. Short sales are one method for homeowners in default on their mortgages to avoid foreclosure. "Despite promises by lenders to improve their short-sale processes, clearly, they are not doing enough," said CAR President Beth Peerce. "Instead of helping struggling homeowners who need to sell and willing homebuyers who want to buy, lenders have created manmade roadblocks that have caused real estate gridlock and hindered a desperately needed housing recovery." Real estate agents and brokers cited communication issues as the most frequent obstacle in working with lenders and servicers during the short-sale process, including lenders’ slow response time to a short-sale package (cited by 66% of those surveyed), poor communication with lender representatives (cited by 55%) and repeated requests for documentation (51%). More than 15% of agents surveyed said the lender foreclosed on the home before the short sale could be completed. The time it takes to complete a short sale is also a big beef among real estate agents with 67% saying it took more than 60 days for lenders or servicers to return a written response on the approval or disapproval of the short sale.  Additionally, 43% said it took the lender more than five days to return any form of communication. A full 75% said they were "not satisfied" or "not at all satisfied," with the experience of working with the lender on a short sale, up from 67% in December. "With short sales accounting for a fifth of all transactions in California, it’s crucial that lenders improve their short-sale process so that a meaningful recovery in the housing market and overall economy can occur," Peerce said. CAR also asked its members to rate which lender was the easiest to work with. Of the top four lenders, 40% said Wells Fargo (WFC) was the easiest, while 23% cited Bank of America (BAC); 17% said JPMorgan Chase (JPM); and 11% said Citigroup (C). The survey was conducted in June.  Most of the Realtors surveyed dealt with Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase in their most recent transaction. Write to Kerry Curry. Follow her on Twitter @communicatorKLC.

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