Banks are offering delinquent homeowners $35,000 or more in cash to sell their properties for less than they owe -- all in the name of clearing troubled mortgages off their books.
Bloomberg explains that this approach is actually financially beneficial for the banks now that the foreclosure process has become long, delayed, and riddled with taxes and fees. In the end, a quick "short sale" can actually save the banks about 15%.
"Banks are nudging potential sellers by pre-approving deals, streamlining the closing process, forgoing their right to pursue unpaid debt and in some cases providing large cash incentives," according to Bill Fricke, senior credit officer for Moody's Investors Service in New York.
Bloomberg shares the story of Karen Farley, who hadn't made a mortgage payment in a year when she received a letter from JPMorgan Chase in August. It said, "You could sell your home, owe nothing more on your mortgage and get $30,000."
Farley went ahead and sold her home $200,000 short of what she owed. The $30,000 covered her moving costs and rental deposits for a new home, and received an additional $3,000 through a federal incentive program.
JPMorgan is giving the largest incentive payments, and it approves about 5,000 short sales a month. Not all the sales include incentives.
Short sales represented 9% of all U.S. residential transactions in November (the last month for which data is available) and 33% of financially distressed transactions in the same month says CoreLogic, a real estate information company.
Business section: Investing ideas
Banks claim short sales are good for their profit margins and bottom line. And institutions with clean balance sheets present an attractive offer for investors. So if short sales increase, the companies, along with some of the bigger names in finance could start to reap the benefits.
To explore that idea, we created a screen on large cap financials companies that have recently gained some attraction from institutional buyers, like hedge funds. These companies often trade with millions of dollars at a time, and have access to more market research than the average investor, so it's easy to assume some smart minds are behind these purchases.
What do you think? Can short sales help boost the profit lines and the reputation of the financial industry? Do you think the "smart money" is right to invest in these names? (Click here to access free, interactive tools to analyze these ideas.)
1. Avalonbay Communities: Engages in the development, redevelopment, acquisition, ownership, and operation of multifamily communities in the United States. Net institutional purchases in the current quarter at 5.5M shares, which represents about 5.83% of the company's float of 94.32M shares.
2. The Blackstone Group
3. Capital One Financial
4. Health Care REIT
6. Public Storage
Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the stocks mentioned above. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.
Kapitall's Rebecca Lipman does not own any of the shares mentioned above. Institutional data sourced from Fidelity.