Monday, October 29, 2018

Attention Brokers - What should you do if your prospective seller has a Lis Pendens on their property with public records?

Most importantly, a Lis Pendens does not necessarily mean that there is a foreclosure on the property. Instead, a Lis Pendens simply means that a lawsuit has been filed against the property. This lawsuit could be a foreclosure, but it could also be a lawsuit for partition, adverse possession, prescriptive easement, constructive trust, specific performance, as well as many other topics.

So, first and foremost don't assume that there is a foreclosure on the property, but instead make inquiry as to the Lis Pendens.

  • Step 1 - Ask the homeowner the nature of the lawsuit on the property.
  • Step 2 - Inquire if you can talk to the homeowner's attorney to learn whether the lawsuit will be an impediment to selling the property (e.g., a specific performance lawsuit by a prior purchaser can make it impossible to sell the house whereas a foreclosure lawsuit with a house with equity remains a viable sale and a foreclosure lawsuit with a house without equity can be sold as a short sale).
  • Step 3 - Assuming the lawsuit is a foreclosure, determine when the lawsuit was filed with the county clerk because if it was years ago its going to be very hard to sell the house before the auction (i.e., you can sell up until the auction as long as the seller can payoff the loan or if the lender takes a short payoff) and the homeowner likely defaulted on the lawsuit (i.e., they lost for inaction).
  • Step 4 - If it is a foreclosure, help the homeowner to order payoff letters from their lenders in order to ascertain the precise amount owed (i.e., its not just the loan, but also the penalties, interest and attorneys' fees that are owed when the property is in foreclosure).  
  • Step 5 - Workup a brokers' price opinion for the house as a distressed sale.
  • Step 6 - Calculate closing costs for your seller.
  • Step 7 - Determine if the seller has enough equity to close without dipping into their own pocketbook (i.e., compare the BPO with the payoffs and the closing costs). 
  • Step 8 - If there is enough equity, list the house fast; if not, advise the seller that you can only list the property as a short sale (i.e., subject to bank approval with a short payoff).
REMEMBER - the bank doesn't stop the foreclosure process when a short sale is being sought, so you must insist that your listing is subject to the seller fighting the foreclosure with a competent foreclosure defense attorney - otherwise you will likely waste your time / money on this listing.

The advantage of a short sale over a foreclosure is #1 avoiding a deficiency judgment (i.e., judgment that can be enforced for 20 years for the amount the property is underwater). 

To learn about foreclosure / short sales / Lis Pendens and more - take our CE course, Foreclosure & Short Sales ONLINE.


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