What is a Cloud on a Title Report?

As much as we all love to capture images of the beautiful and interesting “cloudscapes” above us, we know too, that clouds can signal storms. This holds true figuratively as well as literally. A cloud found on a title report during a real estate transaction can be quite disconcerting as well as potentially predictive of an impending problem.

Here at Veitengruber Law, we like to make sure that our clients as well as our blog readers have a clear understanding of as much legal language as possible. We’re the first to admit that almost every area of the law is absolutely bursting with legalese that can make many legal processes mind-boggling. We deal with these terms on a daily (dare we say ‘hourly’?) basis, but we know that you probably do not – so we always try to view legalese through your eyes.

What does it mean if there is a “cloud on title?”

If you are in the process of buying or selling real property (real estate), one crucial step in the process is the title search. This step is typically performed by a real estate attorney or a title company. The earlier in your real estate process the title search is performed, the better, because discovering a clouded title right before closing will put a real damper on your excitement.

When a title search comes back as “clouded,” one of several main reasons is generally the cause:

Issues with probate

These issues usually arise with older homes who have had a multitude of owners. There are a lot more opportunities for error when previous owners have died while still in possession of the home. Locating the necessary death certificates and other documentation can prove to be rather time consuming.

Previous foreclosures

While foreclosure on its own isn’t a sufficient reason to cause a cloud on a title, if there were problems with the foreclosure procedure or the judgement, they may appear as a cloud on a title. In order to clear up foreclosure issues, it may be necessary to resubmit foreclosure documentation or potentially re-open the foreclosure case.

Fraud

Although a rather uncommon reason for a clouded title, it is possible that the deed to the property was at one time recorded fraudulently. While rare, if fraudulent transfer of the deed has occurred, you’re in for a long road to resolving the matter.

Liens

The most common reason a property may have a cloud on its title is because the property has one or more liens attached to it. A lien is a notice indicating that the current owner of the home owes money to one or more creditor. Any outstanding liens must be cleared up before the property’s title will officially be called “clear.”

Paperwork/recording mistakes

Even though we’ve been living in the Technology Age for nearly two decades, it is only very recently that governmental agencies/bureaucracies have made the move to computerized record-keeping. This means that most past transactions of the property in question were likely done solely on paper, which is much more likely to lead to errors. Many recording errors can be relatively easy to fix, but some can prove to be quite challenging.

As you can see, a clouded title can often be rather difficult to fix. As you absolutely cannot move forward on your real estate transaction without a clear title, it is best to work quickly with a New Jersey real estate attorney who has experience with clouded titles. Attempting to fix the problem yourself or hoping it will go away on its own may very well end without the sale or purchase of your dream home.

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Can I “Cramdown” my Mortgage in a NJ Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

While it may invoke images of a young parent’s attempt to eat dinner in between meeting the constant needs of a new baby, the term “cramdown” actually has nothing to do with food (at least in our context).

Debtors who file for a chapter 13 bankruptcy have determined that they can no longer stay above water paying their monthly expenses for their current lifestyle. Chapter 13 applicants typically have a dependable job with a decent income, and they are able to pay back at least a portion of the money they owe to creditors.

During NJ chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings, a reconfigured payment plan will be laid out for the debtor that will allow them to avoid losing valuable assets. A home loan modification and a reorganization of other unsecured debts may also be part of a chapter 13 plan.

What exactly is a “cramdown?”

Another very effective strategy employed in many chapter 13 reorganization plan is called a “cramdown.” In order for a debtor to “cram” a loan down, it must be a personal property loan, like a loan for a car, home furnishings or appliances, or investment property. An important restriction here is that, unfortunately, mortgages on principle residences cannot be crammed down.

Here’s how it works:

Let’s make it easy and use a car loan as an example. These types of loans are often crammed down in chapter 13 cases due to the rapid depreciation of all vehicles immediately upon being purchased.

If a debtor borrowed $30,000 to buy a car a number of years ago, and today still owes $20,000 on that loan, it’s important to learn the current market value of the car. Let’s say the vehicle is only “worth” $15,000 now (we’re using easy figures for this example – your numbers may vary). Even though the debtor technically owes $20,000 to the creditor, a chapter 13 allows them to cram that balance down to the amount the car is actually worth. In this case, the debtor will benefit from a reduction of his loan balance by $5,000, only owing the current value of the vehicle, or $15,000.

This same process can be applied to other personal property loans that are currently upside down. To be upside down on a loan means that a debtor owes more than the property is currently worth. The cramdown strategy can only be used during a chapter 13 bankruptcy.

The amount “left over” when a loan is crammed down in a chapter 13 will be treated like the rest of the debtor’s unsecured debts, which include loans for things that are not physical property. A portion of a debtor’s total unsecured debts can be discharged, but only after they have completed their chapter 13 payment plan (which is usually spread out over 3-5 years).

The most common types of unsecured debts in New Jersey today are credit card debt and medical debt. Other examples include personal loans, student loans, alimony arrears and child support arrears. Not all debt is dischargeable in bankruptcy. Discuss your specific debt with your bankruptcy attorney.

In addition to the lump sum reduction in the amount due on a loan, a chapter 13 bankruptcy cramdown allows many debtors to reduce the interest rate they are currently paying on some (or all) of their personal property loans.

There are other benefits to a loan cramdown as well as some limitations and timelines that must be closely adhered to. Talk to your New Jersey bankruptcy attorney to learn more, and to find out of a chapter 13 bankruptcy could be the answer you’ve been seeking.

Dealing with Surprise Liens on a NJ Title Report

While there are many unknowns when it comes to real estate transactions, when those unknowns become unpleasant surprises, the sale of a property can slow to a halt. One common reason for a stalled or cancelled real estate transaction is surprise liens that the seller wasn’t aware of.

What is a property lien?

“Lien” is one of those terms that gets tossed around all the time in the real estate world, but oftentimes real estate professionals find that their clients don’t fully understand what a lien is.

A property lien, in simplest terms, is a notice that becomes attached to a property (in this case, the home that is listed for sale). The notice states that the current owner of the property (i.e. the seller) is indebted to a creditor.

The reason creditors file liens on real property is because they are of public record. This means that the creditor is more likely to be able to collect the money they are owed.

How does a lien affect the sale of a home?

One of the steps in any real estate transaction is a title search – usually performed by a title company or a real estate attorney. The property up for sale must come back with what is called “clear title” – meaning no liens were found.

If your title search shows a lien on your home that you weren’t expecting, don’t panic. Mystery liens do happen, and as such, most real estate purchase agreements give sellers 30 days to address property liens without significantly delaying the closing.

Do I need an attorney to clear up liens on my property?

While it is possible for some homeowners to reconcile their debt with the creditor in question, many people need to clear up any property liens quickly in order to allow the sale of their home to continue. NJ real estate attorneys who are well-versed in handling surprise property liens can quickly and completely eradicate your lien(s), making their services invaluable at such a time.

Not only will your real estate lawyer help you with any surprise liens, he will also provide legal review of all paperwork surrounding the sale of your home, including the sale contract itself. Working with an experienced real estate attorney in New Jersey will reduce the time it takes to clear up any surprise liens and will ultimately give sellers (and buyers) an optimal result.

Additionally, if your property liens were placed by the IRS because you failed to pay your taxes properly, working with an attorney is in your best interest because of the possibility of tax fraud charges.

What are my options to contest a lien?

In the rare occasion that a lien is found on your property and you feel confident that it was placed in error, it’s possible that the debt was in fact repaid but the lien was simply never removed. While this may sound like an easy problem to resolve, it actually presents sellers and their attorneys with a challenge. Your NJ attorney will have to locate the original lienholder in order to obtain official lien release documentation.

If you refuse to make good on a lien that exists on your property (that has not been paid off already), you will be found in breach of contract. It is rare that a buyer decides to handle paying of a seller’s lien(s), but it does happen if a buyer is very motivated to purchase your property. Upon your refusal to clear up any liens, your buyer is more likely to simply walk away from purchasing your home.

 

 

 

 

Understanding a NJ Home Inspection Report

For those who are looking to buy or sell a home, the home inspection is a crucial part of the process.Whether you are the buyer or the seller of a property, you must have a solid understanding of all of the details found in your New Jersey home inspection report. This report will ultimately determine the overall condition of the property in question, and will specifically itemize any problems, both large and small.

Typically, the home inspection is ordered by the home buyer after they have signed a purchase contract. It is important to work with a professional, licensed and well-respected home inspector to ensure that nothing substantial is missed.

While the seller is required to disclose any and all existing issues with the house, they can only disclose problems that they are aware of. The job of the home inspector is to dig beneath the surface to find problems that may not be visible to the untrained eye, such as damage to any area of the home including: the foundation, pipes and plumbing, HVAC system(s), electrical systems, roof, walls, attic, ceilings, floors, doors and windows.

After he has inspected your potential future home, your NJ home inspector will provide you with a detailed report. This report will explain any and all findings of the home inspection. Some home inspection reports can run upwards of 30 pages, which can be a little bit intimidating to the novice home buyer.

Understanding Your Home Inspection Report

Home inspection reports can also come in different formats. Some home inspection teams report with a checklist, while others use a summary along with a longer narrative portion explaining the summary in detail.

Typically, home inspection reports will include a table of contents for ease of navigating through each portion of the report. Professional home inspection teams will include an introductory portion that provides important industry definitions along with details about the report, including: date completed, home address, age of the home, weather conditions during the report, and people who were present during the inspection.

Following any introductory sections will be the meat of any home inspection report. This portion of the report should be divided into areas of the home or home components that the inspector evaluated. Here, notes will be made and details will be listed about the condition of each home area/component (roof, plumbing etc.) along with suggestions, recommendations and any applicable photos and or videos that the home inspection team acquired during their review of the home.

Is a Home Inspection Really Necessary?

It is extremely important that anyone looking to purchase a home invests in a home inspection during the contingency period of the home purchase. Any New Jersey real estate contract/purchase contract is conditional until the home inspection has been completed. This means that the contract is not official until after the home inspection and can be terminated if there are significant issues discovered by the home inspector.

Many times, minor issues can be negotiated between the buyer and the seller, allowing the sale to proceed. Aesthetic changes, such as fresh paint or minor kitchen repairs can be added to the contract as the seller’s responsibility. Before closing, the buyer will have a final walk-through of the home, at which time they can determine whether or not all of the requested repairs have been made as agreed to in the contract.

 

Image by Andy Piper – licensed under CC 2.0

How the New Jersey Senior Freeze is Making a Difference

Property taxes are defined as taxes that are collected by the local jurisdiction in which a real property is located; the amount of property taxes any homeowner owes is based on the assessed value of the home(s) they own multiplied by the current tax rate in their local jurisdiction. New Jersey’s average property tax rate is one of the highest in the United States.

Owning a home in the Garden State has a lot of benefits, and those of us who are living and raising a family here wouldn’t dream of doing it anywhere else. We may have to grit our teeth every time the quarterly tax bill makes its appearance, but pay it we do. Life in New Jersey is worth it – offering tight-knit neighborhoods, reputable public schools, and, of course, the Jersey Shore! However, as NJ homeowners reach retirement age, many have begun struggling to keep their homes, in many cases because they’ve fallen behind on their property taxes.

As New Jersey’s real estate market continues to take hits, lawmakers are now taking steps to help struggling seniors so they don’t have to leave the state in order to afford to own a home. The Property Tax Reimbursement Plan, commonly called the “Senior Freeze,” is one of the programs that is making a real difference.

Under the Senior Freeze, or the PTRP, New Jersey seniors who meet a list of requirements will be eligible for reimbursement of the cumulative increase in their property taxes since the first year they became eligible, which is called the base year.

In order to qualify for property tax increase reimbursement under the Senior Freeze program, New Jersey seniors:

  • Must have lived in New Jersey for at least ten consecutive years – either renting or owning their own home
  • Have resided in the home they currently own for a minimum of the last three consecutive years
  • Should be at least age 65 or have a spouse who is at least 65 year of age – ALTERNATIVELY – those who do not meet the age requirement but are receiving Federal SSDI (disability) benefit payments can also qualify
  • Must meet specific income requirements

The year in which New Jersey seniors are able to meet all of the above eligibility requirements is considered their base year. The base year is essentially the year in which their property taxes will be “frozen,” so to speak. Any increase in their NJ property taxes that they have paid out since the base year will be repaid to them.

Ex: Ruth turned 65 in the year 2010. She has lived in and owned her current New Jersey home with her husband for 20 years, and she also met all of the additional requirements in 2010. Ruth will be reimbursed using this formula: The property tax amount she paid in 2017 (current year) minus the amount she paid in property taxes in her base year (2010). The difference equals her reimbursement amount.

Every year forward, Ruth’s property taxes will remain frozen at the amount she paid in her base year of 2010. Combined with assistance from the Homestead Benefit Program, New Jersey senior citizens have a better chance at maintaining their standard of living into retirement, and they can continue to enjoy the wonderful Garden State for many years to come.

 

 

 

 

What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Close

Now that you’ve invested extensive time and energy into the process of buying a home in NJ, it can feel a bit overwhelming to realize that you still have one hurdle to clear – the closing. Most people have at least a vague, general knowledge of the fact that you have to “close” on a property before it officially becomes yours. But what exactly does this mysterious “closing” entail?

The How (to prepare):

To ensure that your closing (or settlement, as it is often called) goes smoothly, it’s best to be fully prepared in advance. Because contract language can be confusing and lengthy, it is in your best interest to have an experienced New Jersey real estate attorney review all of your loan statements and the purchase contract during your three day attorney review period, which is required by law to begin within three business days of your official closing date.

Along with having your attorney carefully review all of your paperwork, you should be allowed to do a last walk-through of the home 24 hours before the closing. This walk-through has two main purposes: to ensure that everything is in the condition that the seller agreed to in the contract, and to make sure that the seller has fully and completely vacated the premises (unless it has been otherwise negotiated in the contract).

The Who:

State laws dictate who must be present at a real estate closing. In New Jersey, the buyer(s) must be present to sign all of the official paperwork and final loan documents. The buyer’s attorney can be present if there are any questions still left unanswered, but your NJ real estate attorney is not required to attend the closing. Your real estate agent and/or title company representative will typically handle all of the closing details.

Other people who may attend the closing include: the seller, the seller’s real estate agent and occasionally, a representative from your lending institution.

The Where:

New Jersey real estate closings most often take place at the buyer’s attorney’s office or at the buyer’s realtor’s office. The location is negotiable so that it is as accommodating as possible for everyone involved.

The What (to bring):

On the day of your closing, you’ll to bring proof of your identity, proof of your homeowners insurance policy, any home inspection reports and a copy of the contract that you have reviewed with your attorney. You’ll need this copy to verify that no changes have been made to the official contract that you will be signing.

This is also the time to fork over your down payment and closing costs. You cannot make these payments with a personal check, so be sure to verify with your closing agent beforehand what form of payment is preferred. It will likely be a cashier’s check or, in some cases, a wire transfer. If there are any smaller surprise fees that need to be paid at closing, you should be able to pay for those with a check.

The What (to expect):

Once you arrive at your closing or settlement meeting, you can expect to do a lot (and we mean A LOT) of signing your name on all of the closing documents and final loan paperwork.

The transaction will be recorded by a representative from the title company, who will then file the deed with the appropriate township/municipality.

Just as your hand starts to cramp uncontrollably from all of the signing you have to do, it will be over and you’ll be handed the keys to your new NJ home!

 

 

 

 

Hiring the Right Professionals for Your NJ Real Estate Purchase

When it comes time to purchase a home, whether you’re a first-time home buyer or an experienced home buyer, you want to put together a superior professional team. In doing so, you will give yourself the best chance at landing the home of your dreams within your price range and ideally, within your desired timeframe.

Living in the technology era makes it extraordinarily easy to access information regarding almost any topic – and this includes the real estate market. While any tech savvy home buyer can access a home’s stats, asking price and any other information associated with the listing, does this mean that you don’t need to hire a realtor? And while were at it, who else do you need to hire help you bring this thing “home?”

Real estate professional/agent

While it’s true that you can easily access listing information about virtually any property that is listed on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), it is imperative that you take the time to research, interview and select the right real estate agent.

Real estate agents have so much more to offer you than what you can find with the click of your computer mouse, namely: experience. The right real estate agent for you will become your advocate and will help you get the best deal possible. Experienced real estate professionals can also make the home buying process more effective by helping you narrow down specifically what you are looking for in a home.

While it is possible for you to go it on your own without a real estate agent, it is not advisable unless you have solid experience in the real estate field yourself.

Lending agent/mortgage company

Naturally, you’re likely going to need to mortgage this significant purchase, and choosing the right mortgage company can make a big difference in your overall satisfaction with the home buying process.

Look for a lender who is highly reputable in your area and has solid reviews from customers as well as a good BBB rating. The ideal lender will present you with a variety of different mortgage programs and down payment options. They should be able to tell you rather quickly how much house you can afford. Quick response time and a history of in-house processing, underwriting and funding are also important factors that many home buyers find invaluable.

Real estate attorney

The process of buying a home is a very serious transaction with a plethora of details and minutiae. A financial decision as large as buying real property has many legal issues that only an experienced New Jersey real estate attorney is qualified to answer properly. No real estate agent should be giving you legal advice about your home purchase. Everything from translating legalese within the purchase contract to tax obligations and any existing or surprise property liens is best handled by your lawyer.

Working with a real estate attorney is especially crucial if you are purchasing a home via NJ short sale or Sheriff’s Sale (foreclosure). The added legal implications surrounding these types of home buying cement your need for a New Jersey real estate attorney who also specializes in foreclosure defense.

Title agent/company

Most experienced real estate attorneys can also perform title searches, but title companies have one job and one job only: making sure the home that you purchase has a clear title search. You will probably still want to purchase title insurance, as there is no guarantee that long-lost liens on the property will pop up in the distant future, but this is a decision that your real estate attorney can help you make along with your title agent.

Home inspector

Soon after you sign a purchase contract, you will be given the opportunity to do a professional home inspection on the property before the contract becomes official. In order to avoid making a significant financial blunder in purchasing a house that is wrought with problems, it is essential that you hire a home inspection company or professional home inspector who has substantial experience under his belt. Your home inspector will be able to discover any existing structural problems with the home that either weren’t disclosed by the seller or weren’t known to the seller. You will then be able to work with your real estate agent to either negotiate to have repairs made (at the seller’s expense), or, cancel the transaction if a satisfactory compromise cannot be made.

 

 

New Jersey Title Insurance: Do I Really Need it?

Purchasing real property in New Jersey (or in any state, for that matter), is definitely not a time to take short cuts. While most home buyers acknowledge this fact, some may still question the necessity of some of the steps along the journey to home ownership. The process of buying a home involves a pretty long checklist – if you’re doing things the right way.

One standard task that you need to accomplish before the closing date is purchasing title insurance. Buyers who aren’t familiar with title searches and title insurance may be caught off-guard when they discover another fee that they are responsible for in their quest to own a home. Important questions you may have include:

What is the purpose of a title search?
The person or persons listed on a property’s title are the rightful owners of the home. When the title insurance company (or your NJ real estate attorney) performs a title search on your intended home, they are looking for anything in the history of the property’s ownership that suggests there may be a problem in transferring the ownership of the home. This preliminary examination combs through records surrounding the previous ownership of the home, i.e: deeds, trusts, wills, divorce agreements, judgments, bankruptcies, tax records and liens. Any minor encumbrances (a lien that needs to be paid off, missing signatures) can usually be cleared up, allowing the sale to proceed.

Why do I need to buy title insurance if the title search was clear?
The reason title insurance is necessary is because it is virtually impossible for any initial title search, no matter how thorough, to foresee a claim to ownership that was filed incorrectly and/or is long-buried in a pile of dusty paperwork. Misspelled names, long-lost relatives, estate planning snafus and other problems can pop up at any time in the future – after you’ve already closed on the property and have moved in.

If a title problem arises after I’ve moved in, how will title insurance help me?
Your title insurance lender’s policy will act as a safety net if a buried problem turns out to present a real claim to the property even after you’ve closed on it. If a long-lost co-owner turns up and wants to enforce his claim of ownership, he can take the matter to court, however, even if he wins and is granted ownership of the home, your title insurance lender’s policy will pay your lender the balance on your mortgage. If you also purchase an owner’s policy, that will kick in to reimburse some or all of the money you already paid, such as a down payment and any initial mortgage payments.

How much does title insurance cost?
Purchasing title insurance is going to cost you a one-time fee of around $1,000, give or take, for the lender’s policy, and less than $100 for an owner’s policy. This is money well spent even if you never make use of the coverage. That may sound strange, but here’s why it’s true: on the very small off-chance that a missed claim surfaces and you are without title insurance, you could lose your home and a significant amount of money.

Virtually all lenders will require you to acquire title insurance before they agree to approve your mortgage. In addition, most NJ real estate attorneys won’t represent you if you attempt to refuse title insurance because of the inherent risks involved in your future as a property owner. Title insurance may seem unnecessary, but it is absolutely, without a doubt, a crucial piece of any New Jersey real estate transaction.

 

NJ Senate Bill 1593: A Proposed 6 Month Foreclosure Stay

Because the number of New Jersey foreclosures continues to rise even as we are now reaching the mid-point of 2017, the NJ Senate and Assembly have proposed new legislation with the goal of generating positive change for underwater New Jersey homeowners.

Senate Bill 1593 proposes that a six month stay of foreclosure proceedings shall be implemented in New Jersey if such action is agreeable to the homeowner and lender. The bill also proposes that the court can impose the six month stay if it has been determined that it would be possible for credit counseling and/or negotiations to occur during the six months that would potentially eliminate the need for a foreclosure.

Homeowners who are offered a reasonable and feasible mortgage loan modification by their lenders prior to beginning foreclosure proceedings will not be eligible for the six month stay. If an acceptable loan modification agreement is reached between the parties during the six months, the forbearance will be lifted and mortgage payments will resume. Additionally, if at any time during the six month forbearance, the homeowner moves out of the residence or advises their lender in writing that they have no intention of participating in the formal foreclosure mediation program (required during the six month stay), the stay will be lifted immediately and foreclosure proceedings will commence.

This legislation is an attempt by the Senate Committee along with the Urban Affairs Committee to drastically reduce the overall number of NJ foreclosures that continue to plague the Garden State a full decade after the Mortgage Crisis that began in 2007. While most states’ real estate markets have bounced back, several states are still struggling with high foreclosure rates.

In addition to NJ, the following states still have excessively high foreclosure numbers as of May 2017: Florida, Nevada, Oklahoma, Illinois, Maryland and Delaware. New Jersey tops the list with a foreclosure rate of one in every 515 residential housing units. Delaware, in second place, has a foreclosure rate of one in every 753 housing units. As you can see, New Jersey is the clear “winner” by a landslide.

In fact, the country’s two most foreclosure-stricken cities are also in New Jersey, with #1 being Atlantic City and #2 being Trenton. Jersey’s neighbor across the bridge, Philadelphia isn’t far behind, coming in at #5 even though Pennsylvania’s overall foreclosure rates are down.

New Jersey’s continued inability to pull out of what can now only be described as a foreclosure emergency has led to damaging effects like neighborhood blight, which greatly reduces property values. This, in turn, leads to more homeowners who are ‘underwater’ (owing more money on their mortgage than their home is actually worth), which then leads to more foreclosures. The cycle seems unending in NJ, and drastic measures are needed to put a stop to the deleterious effects on the state’s economy. We have high hopes that New Jersey will be able to come out ahead of foreclosure, and this bill is one giant step in the right direction.

 

Purchasing a New Jersey Home from a Bankrupt Seller

In today’s housing market, there are still a significant number of homeowners who are in danger of foreclosure. These homeowners usually owe more than their home is currently worth, so they are said to be “upside down” or “underwater.” If they are unable to refinance, and cannot keep up with their payments, they will be foreclosed upon, and are likely to declare bankruptcy at that point.

Should you pursue a short sale on a home that is awaiting foreclosure?

If you already own a home, are pre-approved financially, have plenty of available cash, and at least several months to spend devoted to the complicated process that is a short sale on a foreclosed home, only to have the seller declare bankruptcy and possibly even cancel the whole thing, then yes, a foreclosure might be the right gamble for you.

Beware, though, because as stated, it is highly likely that the seller will declare bankruptcy before the sale is completed, greatly reducing the likelihood that a short sale will close. Short sales rarely yield substantial profits for the seller, so the seller was likely pursuing a short sale in order to reduce the damage to their credit that would result from a foreclosure. However, if they’ve decided to go ahead and file for bankruptcy, the negative effect it will have on their credit is likely to overshadow any benefit from the short sale.

If they were to continue with the short sale despite having filed for bankruptcy, the seller could actually be negatively affected. Their filing for bankruptcy places their belongings, including their house, into a bankruptcy estate, so they don’t have the power to close a short sale easily. If the owner is determined to complete the short sale–normally against the recommendation of their bankruptcy attorney–they will need to pay said attorney an extra fee to pursue permission from the court.

If they obtain permission to close on the short sale, the owner will need to move out of the home much more quickly than if they were to wait out their bankruptcy proceedings. The only potential benefit to the owner comes from the peace of mind that may result from having avoided foreclosure.

With all these complications, it may seem like it’s not worth it to pursue short sales in foreclosure situations at all. However, there are a number of benefits that might be quite appealing: competitive pricing, smaller down payment and closing cost, and a shorter escrow period, to name a few major advantages.

So, if you are going to attempt to purchase a house that has been foreclosed upon, or a house that is in bankruptcy court, don’t go it alone. You will need the expertise and guidance of an experienced bankruptcy attorney. Your real estate agent will be happy to help you find advantageous listings, but consult with a bankruptcy attorney to have help navigating the complicated process to follow. A real estate agent is NOT an attorney, and can in no way fill that role.

Never skip inspections! They may be even more necessary in a short sale situation, but never less so. A 2011 survey conducted by Harris Interactive reported that 72 percent of U.S. homeowners agree the home inspection they had before they purchased their current home helped them avoid potential problems; 64 percent of respondents reported that their home inspection saved them money.

While it is a bit of a gamble to invest in an inspection when you don’t yet have signed contracts, it’s a much bigger gamble to sign papers on a home you haven’t had inspected. If a homeowner didn’t have the money to pay their mortgage, it’s unlikely that they’ve been able to keep up with regular maintenance. If you can’t arrange an inspection, and you don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on potential repairs, don’t close the deal on a property, no matter how enticing the price tag.

The takeaway: if you have the time and money to spend on a home that may never be yours, and you find a house that is listed at a price that might make it all well worth the hassle, then take your attorney with you–and buckle up for a wild ride!

Image: “Mortgage Rates” by Mark Moz – licensed under CC by 2.0