Friday, April 25, 2014

Is your buyer precluded from buying US Real Estate?

As previously posted on February 28, 2014:

Check with the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the US Treasury before you help your client buy.

To use the Office's search features by person and country, click Resources on the page and find the feature that fits your need.

Remember, The Office of Foreign Assets Control administers and enforces economic sanctions programs primarily against countries and groups of individuals, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers. The sanctions can be either comprehensive or selective, using the blocking of assets and trade restrictions to accomplish foreign policy and national security goals.

So, its important to check the Office's Resources frequently as sanctions change and you need to know what the rules are today when working in real estate brokerage.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Guidelines Shifting for the Federal Loan Modification Program

Updates to the Making Home Affordable Handbook for the federal Home Affordable Modification Program are available here and will be effective July 1, 2014!

Top things you need to know about HAMP:
  1. The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) is a federal program designed to help homeowners obtain affordable loan modifications.
  2. HAMP Tier 1 only applies to loans of principal residences.
  3. A HAMP Tier 1 mortgage payment must reflect 31% of the homeowner's gross monthly income.
  4. HAMP Tier 2 may apply to loans of principal residences or to loans of rental properties.
  5. A HAMP Tier 2 mortgage payment must be within the range of 25% to 42% of the homeowner's gross monthly income.
  6. A HAMP Tier 2 mortgage payment must represent a reduction of at least 10% of the original mortgage payment amount. 
However, Supplemental Directive 14-02 to the Making Home Affordable Handbook is drastically changing the requirements under HAMP Tier 2 to make it easier than ever to get a loan modification on a non-GSE rental property!

In Section 6.3.3 of Chapter II of the MHA Handbook, the post-modification principal and interest payment under HAMP Tier 2 must be at least ten percent less than the pre-modification principal and interest payment. To clarify, if the original monthly principal and interest mortgage payment is $3,000, then the modified monthly principal and interest mortgage payment under HAMP Tier 2 must be $2,700 or less according to the ten percent reduction rule. Under this Supplemental Directive, however, this required percentage is totally erased. Now, it is only required that the post-modification principal and interest payment be less than the pre-modification principal and interest payment, thus expanding the amount of homeowners eligible for HAMP Tier 2. In the past, many homeowners were ineligible because servicers could not reduce the principal and interest amount by the required percentage due to the default amount, monthly real estate taxes, property value, and other similar factors. Without a required percentage, servicers will have a much easier time reducing the post-modification principal and interest payment for more homeowners across the country.

However, it should be noted that servicers may require a minimum reduction as long as that reduction is not greater than ten percent. Servicers must include this minimum reduction in their written policy if they choose to do so.

Another important clarification is the modification of loans prior to the loss of good standing. If a homeowner would like to modify an already HAMP-Tier 1-modified loan and is not in default on that loan, he or she may be eligible for HAMP Tier 2 if it has been more than five years since the HAMP Tier 1 modification. Once a homeowner accepts a HAMP Tier 1 loan modification, he or she cannot obtain another one in the future if that loan goes into default again. HAMP Tier 2, however, would still be available to this homeowner as a loan modification option (even if the property is a primary residence) as long as it has been more than five years since the original HAMP Tier 1 modification date. Since the Home Affordable Modification Program is the federal program to help homeowners cure their default, it always has priority over Lender in-house modifications.

Also included in this Supplemental Directive are updated guidelines regarding post-modification counseling, assistance for homeowners with limited English proficiency, and notice of interest rate step-ups. Although these guidelines are important as well, it is crucial that real estate agents focus on the new HAMP Tier 2 guidelines, especially if their clients own rental properties that are in risk of default or are currently in default. The more knowledgeable you are able these guidelines, the more your clients will trust you in other aspects of real estate.

Again, these updated guidelines will be effective July 1, 2014, and it is important that you understand and prepare for these changes. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Brand New Fair Housing CE Course Offered in Southampton

Property Manager Liability: 

Requirements, Responsibilities and Fair Housing

Maximize your client's investment while minimizing your exposure to great liability. Be cautious, property management is a serious business that has many liability landmines for the weary. Do not just dabble in property management. Do not just help out a landlord brokerage client in dealing with their tenants. Learn why the Department of State considers property management to be a licensed activity in this State. Understand how to mitigate exposure to license law liability, premises liability, and fair housing liability. Get real life examples of what can go wrong. Most importantly, learn what must go into your Property Management Agreement and why a top property manager should get paid.

Credits: 3.0 CE Hours **Satisfies DOS Mandatory Fair Housing Requirement

Date: May 7th, 2014 in Southampton

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Fredrik’s Fiduciary Duty – Million Dollar Listing New York

Fredrik Eklund: Photo

Spoiler Alert: The below is a legal analysis of Fredrik Eklund's role in the April 2, 2014 Season 3, Episode 1 of Million Dollar Listing New York.

The premier of this season of Million Dollar Listing New York, The City Will Eat You Alive, places Douglas Elliman's Fredrik Eklund, in an ethical quandary and he comes out looking as professional as ever while making the deal for his client and getting a commission along the way.

In the episode, "Fredrik lands his dream listing, only to find out that the seller may be his worst nightmare". The Seller is a micromanager; sound familiar? He knows what he wants, $9.5M, and he makes it clear that he doesn't want to be bothered for anything less. However, Fredrik got an offer of $8M.

What should he do?

As a Licensed Real Estate Salesperson in the State of New York, an agent can have one of five types of agency with differing corresponding Fiduciary Duties dependent on the applicable agency type, to wit:

  1. Seller's Agent
  2. Buyer's Agent
  3. Dual Agent
  4. Dual Agent with Designated Sales Agent
  5. Broker's Agent

An agency relationship means the duties of a licensed individual in representing the interests of its principal in this context. Here, Fredrik was clearly a Seller's Agent, as his interests were aligned with the Seller; he was trying to get the Seller the most possible money in the transaction. In fact, the Agency Disclosure Form in the State of New York, states as to a Seller's Agent, the following: "A seller's agent does this by securing a buyer for the seller's home at a price and on terms acceptable to the seller". Conversely in the situation displayed in the episode, where Fredrik was receiving the $8M offer at the restaurant, Fredrik was meeting with a Buyer's Agent who had previously viewed the property at a Broker's Open House. The Buyer's Agent was clearly aligned with the Buyer's interests, offering a significantly lower number than the Ask. In fact, the Agency Disclosure Form in the State of New York, states as to a Buyer's Agent, the following: "The buyer's agent does this by negotiating the purchase of a home at a price and on terms acceptable to the buyer". As a result, in the episode, the Buyer's Agent owed his Fiduciary Duties to the Buyer and Fredrik, the Seller's Agent, owed his Fiduciary Duties to the Seller.

To clarify, a Buyer's Agent and a Seller's Agent cannot work at the same brokerage company by operation of New York State Law. Instead, where two agents at the same company work an In-House Deal, representing the interests of different parties to the transaction, that type of agency is called a Dual Agent with Designated Sales Agent in New York State. However, where an agent represents the interest of the Seller and a different agent represents the interest of the Buyer there are two possible types of agency that can apply, with the dispositive factor as to the appropriate agency being whether the opposing agents work at the same brokerage company. If the agents work at the same brokerage company, the agency is called a Dual Agent with Designated Sales Agent. If the agents work at different brokerage companies, one agent would be the Seller's Agent and one agent would be the Buyer's Agent, which is the situation Fredrik was engaged in during this episode.

In a Dual Agent with Designated Sales Agent situation the agents have compromised Fiduciary Duties because they both report to the same supervisor. In fact, the New York State Agency Disclosure Form states, as to this conflict, the following: "The designated sales agent must explain that like the dual agent under whose supervision they function, they cannot provide undivided loyalty". Yet, Fredrik was a Seller's Agent, and as such, had the following Fiduciary Duties to his client, the Seller, including: (1) Confidentiality; (2) Obedience; (3) Loyalty; (4) Accountability; (5) Disclosure; and (6) Reasonable Care.

Which Fiduciary Duties were at play in the scenario faced by Fredrik when he received an $8M offer while his client didn't want to hear about anything below $9.5M?

Fredrik had two competing Fiduciary Duties in this scenario, one to be obedient to his Client's instructions and one to give full disclosure to his Client. So, on the one hand Fredrik had to listen to his client's direction to not bother him absent a full Ask offer, but on the other hand, Fredrik lacked the authority to reject the $8M offer without his Client's authority, which first required him to fully disclose the offer to his Client.

So what happened?

Fredrik chose right and advised his client of the offer in the face of knowing all the while that he was going to be lambasted for making the call. To know that Fredrik's decision was correct an agent only needs to do a Cost / Benefit Analysis of the choices. The worst case scenario in telling your client that they received an offer below the Ask is that they are unhappy and give you grief about wasting their time. However, the worst case scenario in not disclosing an offer to your Client is that the Client claims that you breached your Fiduciary Duties and makes a complaint to the Department of State charging you with a License Law Violation. In fact, the Department of State has previously suspended a real estate agent's license for a period of six months for failing to transmit an offer and also failing to provide an agency disclosure form in a matter called Lemcke v. Department of State. So, it seems like a rather simple choice for a real estate agent faced with this predicament.

In Million Dollar Listing the choice was not only the safest, but the best for the agent and the Client as well. You see, by making the call and engaging his principal, the Seller, Fredrik initiated a dialogue that resulted in a deal at $8.8M. A win for the Seller, Buyer and the agents involved.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Title Insurance Reform in NYS Budget

Accordingly to a Press Release entitled, Governor Cuomo and Legislative Leaders Announce Passage of 2014-15 Budget, NYS now has significant changes to our title insurance industry.

Title insurance insures against defects in title to real property and is required if a purchaser obtains an institutional mortgage as part of their purchase of the real property. Some private lenders do not require title insurance. However, its always a good idea to not only get title insurance in the form of a lender's policy, but also to obtain a fee or homeowner's policy as well because purchasing property is quite expensive in this State and insuring that you own what you thought you bought is a great idea.

According to the Press Release, the Title Insurance Reform coming to NYS is as follows:

The Budget includes measures to provide stronger oversight for the title insurance industry, which will help better protect consumers and lower costs for New York homeowners. The Budget provides the Department of Financial Services (DFS) with authority to issue licenses to title insurance agents for the first time, just as it licenses all other insurance agents and brokers. Licensing will require agents to meet qualification standards and undergo regular training. DFS will also have the authority to monitor abuse by agents and to revoke licenses accordingly, as well as help root out conflicts of interest that drive up costs for homeowners. Together with other measures including regulations DFS will soon issue on title insurance, these reforms are expected to result in a 20 percent reduction in title insurance premiums and closing costs for new home purchases and a more than 60 percent reduction in costs on refinancing transactions.

The 2 keys in this reform is:

  1. Licensing requirements for title closers
  2. Reduced costs of title insurance
As the Department of Financial Services issues the applicable Regulations we will update this blog with more information. 

Stay tuned. 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

April is Fair Housing Month

Today is the beginning of Fair Housing Month. The Fair Housing Act was enacted on April 11, 1968, making it unlawful to discriminate against any person based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap in the sale or rental of a dwelling. Although brokers must comply with the Fair Housing Act every day, it is in the month of April that the Fair Housing Act should be commemorated. Print out the Fair Housing Declaration and hand it out to your fellow agents. Reread the Fair Housing Act, and do not forget to sign up and attend our Lieb School class on the Fair Housing Act on September 18, 2014 or December 10, 2014.