Taking short-sale hit and moving on may be best for young couple

Our daughter and son-in-law are looking into using a company that sells new homes while agreeing to lease a buyer’s current residence for six months.

My daughter has asked us for advice. I’ve read nothing but bad reviews about this company, and although it is ultimately their decision, we think it’s a bad idea to go with this company.

The house they live in now is owned by our son-in-law, which he bought before meeting our daughter. He bought the property with an $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax break. It is well past the time he had to own the home, so he can sell without a penalty.

The neighborhood they are in has numerous foreclosures and he owes about $104,000 on the property, but the houses in the neighborhood are selling for around $80,000. They do not want to stay in this area, as they want to have a baby and not raise it in this neighborhood.

What do you know about this company and what would you suggest? We’ve also conveyed the idea that “if it’s too good to be true,” then it’s a bad decision.

A number of companies do what you are describing. We aren’t directly familiar with the company you named in your e-mail (which we removed prior to publication), although it has received national press that is both positive and negative.

The point is, if you’ve read nothing but bad reviews, it doesn’t sound promising. Your daughter and son-in-law should look into selling this property in a short sale and walking away. If they have the cash, they will probably have to kick in something or pay off the loan in full.

While this seems like a bad idea, or at least an expensive one, in reality it’s best not to live in an area that seems unsafe or is inappropriate somehow, and where home values don’t have a chance of improving over the next two years. If there are a lot of foreclosures, it could take your kids 10 years to break even in the neighborhood, and that wouldn’t be helpful. Certainly, paying the bills for six months would be just a drop in the bucket, especially if the property can’t be rented and your kids would be stuck paying two mortgages.

Your children should look for an agent who has a track record of successful foreclosure sales with their current lender. Or, if it seems impossible to sell, then look into renting the property — hopefully at a rate that covers all or most of their costs.

Completing a short sale will affect their credit negatively, unless they figure out a way to pay off the loan in full. And, it may mean a delay in purchasing a new home (unless they purchase first and then try to sell).

Despite the drawbacks of a short sale, moving to a new home where they feel comfortable to raise a family is important — even if that new home is a rental property.

In normal times, the IRS would treat the difference between what your daughter and her husband owe on their mortgage and the amount that they receive after the home sale (also known as a deficiency) as income and would tax it at their marginal tax rate, even if they didn’t get a penny from the home. Under current tax code, the IRS is ignoring the deficiency. So there is no additional federal income tax due. But it’s unclear whether this change in IRS tax code will be extended beyond the end of 2014. If your children unload their house this year, they’ll be protected. Otherwise, there could be a hefty tax penalty to pay.

While the tax angle should be considered, it’s only one of a number of factors that will play into the decision on what to do next. We recommend that they talk to a real estate attorney and to their tax preparer to get a full understanding of the financial ramifications of each option.

Good luck.

Ilyce R. Glink’s latest book is “Buy, Close, Move In! Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. If you have questions, you can call Ilyce’s radio show toll-free (800-972-8255) any Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Contact Ilyce and Sam through her Web site, www.thinkglink.com.

 
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