Investors looking to acquire houses through short sales just might be in for some good news.

One of the largest holders of second liens in the U.S., the Bank of America, says it's relaxing its policy on payoffs connected with short sales.

That's important because large banks have been major impediments standing in the way of thousands of short sales, demanding money for home equity lines and second mortgages that would otherwise be worthless if the short sale property went to foreclosure.

Bank of America had been among the least cooperative of all banks in agreeing to short sale payoff terms, according to industry critics.

The company's policy was blunt: Pay us 10 percent of what the homeowners owed on the equity line balance or second mortgage, or we won't sign off on the short sale, which is necessary for the deal to go through.

Now the bank has adopted what spokesman Terry Francisco told Real Estate-Realtor Times is "a less arbitrary, more rational" policy.

"What we're saying (to short sale proposals) is -- give us an opportunity to participate and gain at least some of the savings" that will go to the first lien holder -- the primary lender on the property -- by avoiding the high expenses and losses of a foreclosure, according to Francisco.

Bank of America is now asking for five percent of the sale proceeds on the short sale, net of realty commissions, closing and other costs.

The bank believes that should open the door to more successful transactions, as well as more fruitful negotiations with buyers and sellers to avoid foreclosures.

But not all short sale market experts are convinced that's the case. Raffi Tal, CEO of Los Angeles-based I-Short Sale, Inc., one of the largest players in the field, says Bank of America's new policy "will still jeopardize" many short sales that involve its second liens.

The bank's previous 10 percent policy meant they'd demand $20,000 on a $200, 000 equity line balance, or they wouldn't bless the deal. But their new policy still means "they want $15,000 if the net proceeds are $300,000" on a short sale, Tal told Real Estate-Realtor Times -- even though the economic value of their holding may in fact be zero.

Bottom line for investors: If there's a Bank of America second mortgage or credit line on the house you're after in a short sale, work the new numbers. At least some of the time you might be surprised that the answer from the big bank is now 'yes.'

And watch for other major banks to follow suit.

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