Honesty in Flipping – What to Disclose

This article is about flipping short sale properties, and the parameters associated with this are much different than other types of property sales and investment and should not be assumed to apply to other, more traditional forms of sales. Short sales, as most people are now aware, occur when a property owner is behind on his or her payments and makes an arrangement with their mortgage lender to sell the property for less than its assessed, or true, value in order to avoid foreclosure, the stigma that goes along with it, and the credit damage that can come from it.

If your client, or someone you know, is in the business of short sale investing, meaning they intend to purchase short sale homes and immediately turn around and resell them for a profit, there are legal questions that go along with the process, many of which have never been addressed, but will undoubtedly come to light in a court of law at some point in the foreseeable future.

While buying a short sale home at a bargain and turning around and selling it at its regular price, or slightly less than its assessed value is completely legal, the term 'fraud' is being tossed around lately and it may behoove the serious investor to make every effort to offer full disclosure, or at least a modest modicum of disclosure to all parties involved.

The scenario

Imagine this scenario: You're a homeowner who has fallen on hard times. You or your spouse may have lost his or her job and despite your best efforts, you can't keep up with the mortgage payments. You are facing the barrel of foreclosure and work out an agreement with your lender to go ahead with a short sale. You know your home is in great shape, the lawn is meticulously maintained and you added a new kitchen and bathroom.

You have no choice but to let go of this home because you want to buy another one as soon as you recover from your financial setback, so the short sale seems fair. Several interested buyers flock to your house immediately and within a few days, maybe even that same day, you have an offer on it. The bank agrees and you sell the home, getting out from under your financial burden.

Two weeks later, you learn that your home suddenly sold for near full value. Perhaps forty thousand dollars more than you sold it. This is enough to feel as though you were taken advantage of. Maybe it's enough to consult a lawyer. After all, if your home sold for its assessed value two weeks after the short sale, you could have made that sale directly.

Putting yourself in someone else's shoes is the best way to determine what level of honesty should be used during the process.

Letting the homeowner know the truth

In most cases, homeowners who partake in short sales don't have a choice, so whether you are going to turn around and sell their home at a profit or not, they don't have the luxury of hanging onto any longer. Being upfront may sting for the homeowner, but you are protecting yourself legally.

The same holds true for the lender. Mortgage lenders make loans based on long-term earnings through interest rates. If they are aware of the intention to flip the house, there are some lenders that would not be willing to make the loan. Posting a statement of your intentions within the contract (which, as we all know, can be upwards of 100 pages or more), will cover you legally. Remember, loan officers don't tend to read the contract thoroughly. You're covered nonetheless from any legal action that uses the phrase 'fraud' in the future.

No legal obligation

While investors intending to flip short sale homes are under no legal obligation to disclose their intentions, most, if asked, wouldn't want to become the guinea pigs in a legal dispute over a fraud allegation. Full disclosure is always a safe bet.

David Reinholtz is a professional Mortgage expert in Real Estate Industry .David is also a sales and marketing expert and trains professionals in every career field.

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