Short Sale Negotiation


If you are considering selling your home in a short sale, the selection of who will represent you is an important decision. Not only will the agent be marketing your home, but they have the added responsibility of representing you in negotiations with your lender(s) and securing approval of your short sale.

So if you are wondering how to select a short sale agent, here are some questions you will want to ask when interviewing potential agents:

• Does the agent personally do the short sale negotiation or do they hire an in-house or outside negotiator? If they use the services of a negotiator, the following questions should be directed to that person or company.
• How much experience do they have? No number of certifications will make up for lack of experience.
• What is their success rate? It is likely they have had at least one unsuccessful negotiation. Ask them why it did not get approved.
• Ask them to explain the short sale process and what you can expect in terms of a timeline and the documentation you will need to provide. (They should provide you with some sort of a handout explaining the process and describing the required documents.)
• Will they request a preliminary title report? (This is important in order to determine if there are additional liens on the property that will have to be cleared).
• Do they request that the buyer deposit their earnest money into escrow BEFORE the short sale is approved? (This is a good way to make sure you have a serious buyer and keep them in the game and not out looking at other properties. If the sale is not approved, the buyer of course gets their money back).
• How often do they contact the bank during the review process? (They should be in contact with the bank at least once, but preferably twice a week.)
• How often will they provide you with updates? (You should expect an update at least once a week.)
• If you have received a Notice of Default, and/or a sale date has been set, what steps will the agent take to have the sale postponed?
• Are they familiar with HAFA guidelines? Are they familiar with Equator? (If they do short sales on a regular basis, the answer to both should be “Yes”).
• Can they supply you with a reference from at least one client that was happy with their short sale services? Just because they advertise on TV doesn’t mean their clients are happy.
• And finally, are they empathetic regarding your situation, or is their only concern getting the listing? A short sale can be emotionally tough for you the seller and you should work with an agent who cares about you and what you are experiencing.

Do NOT believe them if they tell you they have an inside connection at your bank and can guarantee that your short sale will be approved. That is simply not true. Investors have the final say on approvals and it is highly unlikely that the agent even knows who the investor is at this point, not to mention that investors do not speak directly with negotiators.

If you have any questions about how to select a short sale agent for your San Diego County home, please don’t hesitate to give me a call for a confidential consultation.

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For any real estate professional negotiating a short sale, the moment you receive that magical approval letter there is usually a sense of celebration and relief. Not so on Monday when I received an approval letter for a standard short sale I am negotiating for another agent in my brokerage.

All of the terms looked fine, EXCEPT there was no allowance for relocation assistance. This is a Freddie Mac loan serviced by Bank of America that I am managing through the Equator platform, so I messaged back immediately. Money for relocation assistance has been an expectation since day one of the short sale process as the homeowner is a single mom with four children under the age of eleven who is currently off the job and receives disability as her only source of income. If anyone ever needed help with the expenses of moving, it is this poor woman!

The reply back from B of A was that the “borrower did not meet the investor guidelines for relocation assistance.” Are you kidding me? She is penniless! So I requested further clarification regarding the specific guidelines. I was told that “any borrower with a loan with MI (mortgage insurance) is automatically disqualified from receiving relocation assistance.”

Does that make ANY sense? I scoured the Internet and contacted a couple of fellow brokers who are short sale experts and no one could find anything to support this “rule”. In fact, everything I discovered supports that fact that as of 11/1/12 Freddie Mac would pay up to $3000 for relocation assistance, with no mention of an MI exception.

So yesterday morning I called Freddie Mac directly. They were incredibly responsive and helpful. The gentleman I spoke with put me on hold for quite a while as he researched the question, finally coming back on the line to tell me that he needed some additional time to investigate and would get back to me before 5:00 pm. At 4:45 he called to report that in all of his inquiries, no one he spoke with at Freddie Mac could find any reason why MI would disqualify a borrower from receiving relocation assistance. So Freddie Mac has opened an internal investigation to determine if the ruling by Bank of America is within guidelines or if they have overstepped the limits of their authority by denying relocation assistance. Ha!

I was told it might take up to a month to receive results of the investigation, but I feel better knowing that we are doing everything we can to help get our client the money she so desperately needs. And I have to admit it felt pretty good to have my hunch regarding this rule, somewhat vindicated by a giant like Freddie Mac. I’ll be letting Bank of America know about the investigation this morning 🙂

I guess that if it just seems wrong, it never hurts to question.

Well they’ve done it again.  B of A has figured out one more way to stall a deal, and waste the time and money of all parties.  I’m furious.

We have an approved Bank of America short sale that is currently in escrow and scheduled to close on June 20th.  The only condition for final loan approval for the buyers is an IRS form 4506T, which basically just confirms that their tax return has been received and processed.  The buyers have checked with the IRS, and it appears that their 2011 return has not yet been processed so the 4506T probably won’t be issued in time to close on the 20th.

I asked Bank of America for a 10 day extension and was told that they don’t allow extensions on VA short sales and that if we don’t close on time we must start the entire process all over!!  From the very beginning!  This means re-submitting the seller’s financial information, listing agreement, and offer to purchase and then waiting to be assigned a negotiator.  The VA would then order another appraisal and we would again wait for approval. The entire process will take at least 2-3 months.  All of this extra effort and wasted money because they won’t extend our closing date for 10 lousy days!

And of course during this process, there is no guarantee that our buyers won’t get frustrated and just walk away…..how can anyone run a business like this???

Wells Fargo Incompetence Spells F*O*R*E*C*L*O*S*U*R*E*

 

I am livid.  Seeing red, as they say.  Here’s the short version:

  • Steele Group Realty took a short sale listing  because the sellers were in a loan modification program, but the husband was still unable to get a job, so the payments were not possible.  They listed as a short sale on 5/11 with  a scheduled foreclosure sale date of 5/30.
  • All seller documentation was submitted on 5/16.
  • 5/23 an executed offer with a full price, market  value offer was submitted.
  • Offer was uploaded into the Wells Fargo system by an employee who labeled the file “Customer Correspondence”.
  • 5/25 – 5/30 I am in contact with Wells Fargo short sale and foreclosure department nearly every hour to obtain a  postponement of sale date.  I made  sure that the review of the file by the short sale set-up department was  escalated.  Once they approved that this was indeed a viable short sale offer, the foreclosure would be  postponed.
  • 5/29 a processor in the short sale set-up  department reviewed the file, and did not see a file labeled “Offer”  in their imaging system, despite the fact that I had already confirmed with supervisors that the offer and all supporting documents were there.
  • 5/29 the processor who was apparently unwilling,  to look through all of the files, no matter how they were labeled,  determined that there was no offer and therefore declined the short sale option and approved the foreclosure.
  • House went to sale this morning at10:30 a.m.

I honestly can’t get over the failure of this system.  I have been on the phone since 7:00 a.m.this morning, trying to push through another review….to no avail.

This is just wrong, on every level.  Had the file been correctly labeled originally this would be a different outcome. Had the person in the set-up department taken an extra five minutes and reviewed all files, this would be a different outcome.

Buyers and sellers are devastated.  I spent hours and hours, and everyone loses, even Wells Fargo, who will now have to pay to re-market the property.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  A clerical error by a non-decision maker has changed the lives and business outcomes of many. There is no excuse for this level of incompetence in my book.   I have never lost a short sale and this doesn’t sit well.

Short sales are tricky at best, and negotiating a successful resolution can try the patience of even the most experienced agent.  With the foreclosure clock often ticking, it’s important that the listing agent keep the transaction on track. Here are a few things agents should avoid that can be real deal killers:

  1. Accepting the wrong  offer.  If you know that the property has termite issues, doesn’t have a working heater, or has other significant repair issues, look carefully at the type of financing  the buyer will use.  VA will not allow the buyer to pay for repairs and it is unlikely that the lender will  pay.  FHA also has fairly stringent rules about the condition of the property, unless it’s a rehab loan.  If there are issues with the condition,  selecting a buyer that is using conventional financing, or cash and agrees  to buy the home “As Is” will improve your odds of success.
  2. Failing to  communicate.  As we all know, short sales are anything but short in terms of the time it takes to close.  Having a buyer that stays the course and doesn’t wander off to buy a different property is critical.  The listing agent should be in touch with the buyer’s agent at least twice a week and provide  updates as soon as they are available.    I also have the buyers deposit their earnest money into escrow within 3 days of acceptance of their offer by the sellers – we don’t wait for short sale approval.  Buyers that have put their money into escrow and receive regular progress reports tend to be much more committed to completing the purchase.
  3. Assuming….anything!  Just because you faxed in your seller’s tax returns, doesn’t mean that they were received and made it  into their file.  For most banks, allow 48 hours for items faxed to the loss mitigation department to be  posted into your seller’s file, then call and confirm.  Failure to provide documents when requested can kill the deal.  Also, don’t assume that the 2nd lien holder will accept whatever  pay-off, the 1st lien holder offers.  Don’t wait for the 1st to be  approved to start negotiating the 2nd .  Better to know what they want early in the game.

The list could go on and on, as each sale has its own peculiarities that could spell trouble.  The key to short sale success is a combination of patience, education, organization, tenacity and a crazy instinct to anticipate obstacles and leap over them before the deal dies.  Good luck out there!

For a no-obligation consultation regarding a short sale inSan Diego County please give me a call at 619-846-9249.

I attended a webinar on Tuesday that was presented by the Charfen Institute, all about the changes that are occurring in short sale processing at Bank of America, effective tomorrow.  As I currently represent the sellers in two B of A short sales, and the buyers in two other B of A short sale transactions, I logged-in wanting to see if there was anything I had missed in reading the information at their short sale resource center.

The information in the webinar was well presented, including a slick commercial for the Charfen Institute CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert) Designation Course.  However, I didn’t really learn anything new….

But the thing that really got me steamed was the marketing “call to action”.  If I signed-up to take the CDPE course before 5:00 p.m. Thursday, I would receive $900 in FREE Resources – a CDPE short sale success bundle.  Here is one of the items included:

“Bank of America Add-On Kit ($200 value) – Get the five newly-required documents that MUST be submitted with all short sale offers, effective April 13.”

My problem with this is that the list and actual documents available for download are offered for FREE at the Bank of America short sale site….so how is this a $200 value??? 

And the other two items valued at an additional $700 and included in the “success bundle” are all things that are available online from the various lenders, or with a phone call – all at no charge.

Now I’m all for free enterprise, understand incentives, and the take-away tactic in sales.  And I am not knocking the CDPE course, of which I’ve heard good things.  But come on!  I just don’t think it’s right to assign a dollar value to something that is not under your copyright, that is free, readily accessible, and a necessary component to our job representing clients in a short sale.  Why not just share the links?  I would have been more impressed. Is the $200 value assigned because of convenience to the agent?  In my book, if an agent is too stupid or lazy to figure out how to get lender forms, they shouldn’t be doing short sales, with or without any certification!

 

 

Last March, I participated in a Bank of America webinar where they introduced their Cooperative Short Sale Program.  I remember being cautiously optimistic because the speaker promised that the Bank would respond to offers in 10 days.  Well, it’s now been five, yes five months since I uploaded an offer for the Cooperative Short Sale purchase of one of my listings.  We are finally in escrow and set to close on April 6th, but this has been, to say the least, a rocky road and not what I would call a “cooperative” negotiation.  Here are a couple of the low points:

  • The amount that B of A was offering to the 2nd lien holder was incorrectly communicated to  me.  They offered one amount and  then later came back with a much lower figure. I had to escalate the issue  and get pretty angry to make them stick to the original amount offered.
  • Shortly after finally getting  an approval in the first week of February, our buyer lost her job and we had to substitute her husband as the buyer.  Same transaction, no changes except the loan and sale were now going to be in the husband’s name.  It took over a month to get a new approval, and that was after I again had to escalate the issue.

Here is what I see as a big problem with the whole system:  Although the Equator platform is supposed to keep all parties in communication, it really doesn’t work that way.  Bank of America farms out the work of negotiating their Cooperative Short Sales to Asset Management Outsourcing, Inc., AKA, AMORecoveries.  So during the whole “negotiation” portion of the short sale, the agent for the seller is only in communication with a case worker at this company.  If you do need to escalate a matter to B of A directly, they might not be in the communication loop as far as the file and Equator are concerned.  Additionally, I find communicating through Equator sketchy at best.  Every step of the process is a “task” that gets accepted, completed or denied, and let me tell you, a short sale is simply not that black and white.  The only way I really got anything accomplished was when I could actually speak to someone.

Once you finally get an approval, the file becomes the responsibility of a “closing specialist” back at B of A.  So the person you’ve been dealing with throughout the whole process is now out of the picture.  When we had to substitute the new buyer, the file went from our “closing specialist” at B of A, back to AMORecoveries, to a different negotiator who thought it was an entirely new file!  I thought I was going to tear my hair out!

So I’m not a fan of the Bank of America system or the Cooperative Short Sale program that was supposed to streamline the approval process.  And I know that without going up the food chain and fighting for my seller this deal wouldn’t be closing.

 

Got a tough short sale in San Diego County?  Give me a call!

 

 

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