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Consumer Watch: Looking to buy a house? HAP inventory is growing

Oct. 21, 2010 - 04:44PM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 21, 2010 - 04:44PM  |  
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BY THE NUMBERS

The most recent Homeowners Assistance Program stats:
Applicants: 11,152
Homeowners receiving benefits: 3,347
Benefits paid: $501 million
Total appropriation: $855 million

If you're in the market for a house, check out the Homeowners Assistance Program inventory.

These are homes the government is trying to sell, and you might find a good deal.

HAP helps ease financial losses of various military and civilian homeowners in areas affected by base realignments and closures, and it's been expanded to help service members and Defense Department civilians who are wounded, injured or become ill while deployed; surviving spouses of troops and DoD civilians who die of wounds suffered while deployed; and troops forced to relocate on permanent change-of-station orders during the home mortgage crisis.

In the current inventory are four BRAC-related properties in Maine — as a result of the scheduled 2011 closure of Naval Air Station Brunswick — and another nine homes from Rome City, Ind., to Navarre, Fla.

The inventory may grow as HAP officials process more applications and as the result of BRAC 2005 moves happening over the next year. But move quickly: The government tries to sell these homes as quickly as possible.

Check the inventory by visiting http://hap.usace.army.mil. Click on "Find HAP Homes" and scroll down to "Current Inventory."

Helpful change

Officials expect the final HAP rules — still winding through administrative channels — to drop an eligibility requirement that applicants in the BRAC and PCS categories live in a county where the overall housing market value has declined by 10 percent or more.

A number of people who were denied HAP assistance based on this rule appealed, and all won, said Don Chapman, assistant manager of HAP. After further investigation, officials found that although overall county home values had not declined by at least 10 percent, these homeowners' communities — cities or subdivisions within the county — had suffered higher value losses.

HAP applicants still must experience a personal loss of at least 10 percent in the value of their home to be eligible.

HAP scenarios

A sailor was unable to sell or rent his condo when he was transferred from Jacksonville, Fla. The bank agreed to a "deed in lieu of foreclosure," taking ownership of the property and releasing him from further financial obligation.

Does he qualify for HAP assistance?

Chapman said the program can cover "some of his losses," as long as the sailor meets all eligibility requirements, such as purchasing his home before July 1, 2006, under the PCS category; suffering a loss in value of 10 percent or more on his home; and other conditions.

An Air Force couple moved to Dayton, Ohio, in July 2008, after living in their Texas home for four years. Unable to sell, they've been renting it, but renters have done a lot of damage. They don't want to take the chance that renters will cost them more in repairs.

HAP requires those in the PCS category to sell their homes, and HAP will come to the closing table with a check for qualified applicants who owe more on their homes than the house sells for. The program doesn't cover all losses — only 90 percent — but that's been a lifeline for many.

What should they do?

"If they put the house on the market with a Realtor and drop the price low enough, it will sell," Chapman said. "They should document it with a Realtor and finally get to where they have a buyer. It will sell."

A sailor who was stationed at Naval Air Station Atlanta, a BRAC location, asked whether he would qualify for HAP assistance, since he purchased his home in October 2006.

No, Chapman said. To be eligible for HAP under the BRAC category, you must have bought your home no later than May 13, 2005.

An Air Force master sergeant is preparing to retire and move. Her New Jersey condo association will not allow her to rent out her condo, so she must sell it. Could she qualify for HAP?

Possibly, Chapman said, if it's a mandatory retirement for age or other reasons, and the orders are dated Sept. 30, 2010, or earlier.

"HAP is designed to help those required to relocate," he said.

Answers by RallyPoint

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