Q: In the summer of 2006 I bought a condo in Las Vegas with a friend. At the time, we were both successful online poker players and we were spending a lot of time in Las Vegas for live tournaments.
We put down 20 percent and took out a traditional 30 year fixed rate mortgage. We were not reckless speculators, though we’ve been called that and it seems to be the category we’ve been lumped in with.
Three months after we bought our condo, the government restricted access to online poker and it became tougher to make money. Then the 2008 financial collapse happened.
Our property lost 70 percent of its value but we still made our payments. Our lenders would not entertain a loan modification or loan restructuring. We were often told they wouldn’t even speak to us before we started missing payments.
Now that online poker sites have been virtually shut down, my friend has no income and mine is down significantly. We owe $200,000 on our condo but it’s barely worth $85,000. We could walk away, but my friend has enough assets to cover the shortfall, so he would be on the hook. I do not.
It seems if you have any assets the banks want you to exhaust all of them, while they weren’t forced to go bankrupt before the government bailed them out. I know it’s useless complaining about the societal inequities. I would just like to know if it’s possible to do something that works for both sides.
For example, if the banks would refinance us at the current rates we’d save about $500 per month. The monthly costs are so great that if we rented the condominium, the rent would be a fraction of our costs.
Do you have any ideas for us?
A: It’s unfortunate that your condominium in Las Vegas isn’t your primary residence. While the options are limited even with primary residences, some lenders, in limited circumstances, are giving borrowers a few options to help them out.
But when I say limited circumstances, you’d have a better chance booking a free ticket with miles during peak periods than getting a lender to help a homeowner that needs help. (But perhaps this is a betting man’s game.)
In your case, the condominium is probably considered either a second home or an investment property for the two of you. As an investment property, the lenders are holding out for as much as they can possible get.
As you have come to realize, if you have assets, the lender may seek out those assets it you try to walk away from the property.
You could try to short sell the property and attempt to negotiate the short sale with the lender with a limited amount of cash to come to the closing. For example, if you are able to sell the unit for $85,000 now, you might get the lender to agree to that sales price if you and your friend add extra money into the amount that the lender will receive.
I don’t know if your lender would agree to a short sale, but some lenders are willing to recognize the realities in the market, especially in an area like Las Vegas, where property prices continue to decline.
If you are able to get a buyer for the unit, perhaps your lender will be willing to negotiate on the amount you need to come to the closing with to get out of the deal. If not, you’re out of luck. At that point, you and your partner will have to have a discussion about whether to fold and walk away from this property and assume the risk that the bank will collect whatever is owed on the debt directly from both of you.
I am in a similar situation.
Would it be in my best interest to ‘quick claim’ my assets (real estate that is paid for) to my wife?
My name alone is on the bank note(s) for the investment property. We do file taxes jointly.