Short Sale Negotiation


Whether you’re considering a short sale purchase, or the short sale of your own home, understanding the process will relieve some of the stress.  So here is what you can expect in a short sale. 

The first thing to understand about a short sale is that unlike a traditional equity sale there is an all-important 3rd  party that controls the fate of the deal:  And that’s the lender.  In order for a short sale to occur, the lender or lenders must approve the transaction.  This involves 3 items for their consideration:

  1. Can the current owner show sufficient financial hardship to prove that he cannot pay his mortgage?
  2. Is the price offered consistent with comparable sales in the area?  Obviously the bank wants to re-coup as much of their investment as possible.
  3. Will the bank or investor agree to settle for less than the amount owed, or will they choose to foreclose?

Step #1 – Pre-Qualification

Before taking a short sale listing it is the job of the Realtor to understand the financial requirements and pre-qualify the seller.  This involves having the sellers complete a financial worksheet and reviewing their income and assets.  Whether buying or selling, this is a critical step and one reason why working with an agent that is experienced in short sales is important.  If the sellers don’t financially qualify, there is no point going any further. 

Step #2 – It’s all about the Documentation

Once it has been determined that the sellers qualify, the Realtor or qualified short sale negotiator, will contact the seller’s lender and determine the exact requirements for submission as they are all slightly different.  It will also be determined at this point if the lender participates in the government HAFA (Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives) program as there may be incentives for both the sellers and the lender, and certain procedures may be streamlined.  In any case, the Realtor will work with the sellers and collect all the necessary documentation.  This will include:

  1. A statement of general information
  2. Financial worksheet
  3. Handwritten letter explaining their hardship
  4. 2 months pay stubs or year-to-date Profit and Loss statement if self-employed
  5. 2 months bank statements
  6. Tax returns for the last 2 years
  7. Most current statements for all retirement accounts or other assets
  8. Authorization form to allow the Realtor or negotiator to speak with the lender.

Step #3  – Selling the Property

The house is listed for sale as a short sale.  Both listing and selling agents must agree to equally split whatever commission the lender decides to pay.  Once an offer is received the Realtor should carefully examine it and make sure that it is an offer the lender is likely to accept; the price should be consistent with comps; the offer must not be contingent on the sale of the buyer’s home; and the buyer must understand that it is unlikely that the lender will pay for any termite work or other repairs.

Step #4 – Submission of the Short Sale Package

The listing Realtor or negotiator submits everything to the lender for approval of the short sale and the listing is noted in the MLS as “Contingent”.  Again, it is important to have an experienced Realtor who makes sure that the submission is not only complete, but that it is packaged neatly and easy to read and understand.

The package goes to a special department at the lender where it is reviewed.  If there is any documentation missing or unclear, they will request additional information. Unfortunately, even this initial review can sometimes take 4 weeks or longer and often paperwork disappears and duplicates must be supplied.

Once this initial review is completed and the package confirmed as complete, a negotiator representing the lender will be assigned.  It is the job of this negotiator to carefully review the file and make a recommendation as to whether it should be approved, or not.  If there are 2 lenders (as in a 1st  and 2nd  mortgage), this entire process must be completed for both lenders. 

Step #5 – Negotiation

During the review and negotiation process, the lender’s negotiator may counter specific items in the offer including the purchase price and the requested commission.  In the case of the second mortgage holder (who stands to lose the most), they may push for a bigger contribution from the 1st  lien holder as in California they can no longer request that the sellers make a financial contribution.  Again, this is where experience counts.  The seller’s Realtor or negotiator should be in communication with the lender’s negotiator several times a week, working to move the deal along and arrive at terms that are favorable to the seller and buyer.  This part of the process can drag on for weeks, or even months, although some lenders have streamlined the process.  Also, keep in mind that many of the 2nd  mortgage holders won’t even begin the review process until the 1st  lien holder has approved the sale.

Step #6 – Approval

If the lender’s negotiator recommends approval, the file goes to upper management or the investor for final approval.  Generally speaking, if the file makes it this far, it is usually approved.  But again, this final leg of the process may take an additional two or more weeks.

And finally, the letter everyone has been waiting for – the approval letter.  Assuming all terms are acceptable to sellers and buyers the sale will now proceed as a “normal” sale.  The approval letter will stipulate a date by which the sale must close or the approval is no longer valid, usually 30 days.  Hopefully the buyer has hung-in during the approval process, and at this point the clock starts ticking for buyer inspections and contingency removals.

Navigating a short sale as either a buyer or seller can be overwhelming, and some of the items noted above may vary depending on the state you live in.  In any case, making sure you’re working with an experienced short sale Realtor is the best way to protect your interests. 

 

As you might remember, shortly after I received this short sale listing the homeowner received a notice that the 2nd  mortgage had been sold to a new investor, and the servicing was also transferred away from Bank of America. There is absolutely no equity in the home to provide collateral backing for the 2nd  TD, so it seems odd that any investor would want to buy it.

Weeks later, the transferred loan is finally in the system at the new servicing company and I was able to speak to a representative.  She informed me that we would need to submit a complete short sale package directly to them for review and approval.  Now this is very different from what  B of A told me…..they said that they would negotiate the approval with the new servicer.  Hmmm.  So, do I believe Bank of America and assume that they will take care of getting the approval for the 2nd, or do I negotiate directly with the new servicer?

Well, I think we all know what assume stands for, so there is no way I’m going to trust that  B of A will get anything done for us with the 2nd  mortgage!  I’m having my seller pull together all of their financials and required documentation for submission and I’ll negotiate directly with the 2nd lien holder.

Meanwhile, we have yet to receive an offer, so at my request Bank of America has approved a second price reduction.  I’ve been doing some heavy Internet marketing, so hopefully the lower price will help get the right buyers in the door, soon.  Will keep you posted!

Of all the articles I’ve written, posts about Bank of America and their Cooperative Short Sale Program seem to draw the most attention.  Is that because people have been disappointed in the results?  Or are they nervous about potential problems?  Well, I thought it would be interesting to share the progress of a new B of A Cooperative Short Sale that I’ve just listed to see just how good, (or bad) the process really is now that the program has been around for a while.

This sale is a bit different than most short sales I’ve done, as the owner had already begun the Cooperative program when I was hired.  Thus a lot of the initial paper work was already in the system, and the bank had ordered an appraisal.  The turn-around time on the appraisal was fairly quick, and I was pleased to see that the suggested list price approved by the bank was reasonable according to all of my research, so at least we are not dealing with an unrealistic starting price.

We did lose a couple of days as I tried to connect with the B of A representative, who will be my primary contact, but we finally spoke and she seems pleasant and knowledgeable.

So just when I thought this might be smooth sailing, the homeowner received a notice that the 2nd mortgage had been sold to a new investor, and the servicing also transferred away from Bank of America.   So how do you sell a 2nd mortgage that is upside down?  There is absolutely no equity in the home to provide collateral backing for the 2nd TD, so it seems odd that it was sold at this stage of the game.

This of course throws a bit of a wrench into the works as I will now have to negotiate a totally separate approval with the new note holder, through the new servicing company…..once they even figure out that they have the account.  Sigh.  We will have to see how this affects the B of A approval process…really not sure what to expect at this point, but I’ll keep you posted.

If you’re a California homeowner contemplating or in the process a short sale, here is some great news!  On Friday July 15, Governor Brown signed into law Senate Bill 458 which prohibits a deficiency after a short sale for any 1-4 unit residential properties, regardless of whether or not the lender is the senior or junior lien holder.  This means that neither the 1st or 2nd mortgage holder can demand that the homeowner pay for any deficiency, nor can they file a deficiency judgment.  The law became effective on the 15th and applies to all escrows closing from that day forward. 

This is a huge relief for homeowners facing a short sale.  Up to this point, it was often the practice for a lien holder to file a deficiency judgment or request payment of thousands of dollars, prior to allowing the short sale escrow to close.  This was particularly true for 2nd lien holders who seldom recoup any money from the actual sales proceeds.

The new law however, does not prohibit lenders from negotiating for payment towards the deficiency from other interested parties such as relatives, buyers, and agents.  It also allows a homeowner to voluntarily make a contribution in the hopes of gaining a short sale approval.

As 2nd lien holders will no longer be allowed to demand compensation from the homeowner, my bet is that we will see an increase in the number of requests for payment by 3rd parties…especially the buyer and the agents.  So while this law is great news for homeowners in terms of avoiding recourse, it may present new challenges in negotiating approvals that are fair to all parties. 

Please feel free to contact me with any questions about this new law or subscribe to stay on top of the latest short sale news.

No secret, actually.  The success of your short sale all comes down to your listing agent.  Really.  Negotiating a short sale is one of the most challenging jobs in real estate today. An agent representing a short sale client is responsible for helping them get out from under a huge financial burden and save their credit, and responsible to the new buyers for closing the deal in a reasonable length of time.   Without the right agent representing your interests it’s easy for the deal to fall apart and your home go to foreclosure. 

Here are some important questions to ask a perspective agent before listing your home as a short sale: 

1)      What is their short sale experience and what percentage of attempted sales have they successfully closed?  This is not the time to hire an inexperienced agent as short sales are an intricate process that requires an understanding of lender procedures and requirements.

2)      Do they do their own negotiation, or do they work with a professional negotiator?  An experienced, professional negotiator may be a real plus as that leaves the agent with more time to focus on marketing your home and finding a qualified buyer.  Also, a professional negotiator will have established relationships with a greater number of lenders which can often help expedite approvals.

3)      Will the agent pre-qualify you for the short sale?  Although the lender will have the final word, an agent should be familiar with all required documentation and be able to pre-qualify you for a short sale.  If economic hardship cannot be proven it is unlikely that the bank will approve a short sale.  They should also be able to let you know if you might be eligible for HAFA.

4)      How will the agent determine the list price of your home?   Listing your home too low may get you a quick offer, but it’s likely the bank will counter and you may lose your buyer.  Remember, the bank needs to recoup as much of the loan amount as the market will bear.

5)      What is the process?  An agent should be able to explain the entire process and timeline and describe exactly how and when you will be updated on progress.  They should also be able to provide information about the pros and cons of moving early in the process or staying in your home until closing.

6)      How will they market your home?  Over 90% of buyers begin their home buying search online.  Make sure your agent can provide an extensive online presence for your listing.

7)      What is the outcome that you can expect?  The agent should be able to discuss the potential outcomes including 1099s and deficiency judgments. They should also make recommendations to you about seeking the advice of other professionals, such as a lawyer and accountant.

8)      And finally, can they provide you with references of past short sale clients?   Hearing from a satisfied client can go a long way to easing your concerns.

A short sale is a complicated transaction, but it needn’t be stressful.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me with your questions or concerns.  I have a 100% short sale success track record and look forward to hearing from you.

You have a buyer and their offer is submitted.  The bank has accepted the financials and reviewed the BPOs.  You’re happily waiting for a short sale approval, when out of the blue, the bank drops a bomb in your lap:  They counter with a sales price that is $25,000 more than the offer submitted.  What now?

Agents can find this very discouraging, and with lack of experience as to how to proceed, a counter can often kill the deal.  For the novice short sale agent, the first thought is often, “I’ll never be able to convince the buyer to pay that much more!”  But digging deeper into the buyer’s wallet is not the place to start.  Get ready to go to work; it’s time to prepare for negotiation. 

  • Make sure the price of the initial offer submitted is realistic.  Yes, short sales often do sell somewhat under market value, but the bank is not going to accept a ridiculously low offer.  Save everyone’s time and don’t even bother to submit a seriously low-ball offer unless you’re prepared for a counter.
  • Gather your ammunition.  Check current comps and make sure that your price point falls within range of active and sold listings.  If needed, do an additionalBPO, pointing out items that add or detract from value in all of the comps.  The comp that is most similar should also be closest in price.  Often times, bank BPOs are performed by agents who are from outside the area and might be unaware of certain neighborhood conditions that have a negative impact on value.
  • Make sure you have a list of all items that need repair on the property, or other concerns that might take away from the value.  For example, un-permitted room additions or proximity to a noisy business.
  • Speak with the buyer and the seller.  Before going any further in the negotiation it’s important that you carefully explain the situation to both the seller and the buyer.  Don’t let your seller panic.  Explain the steps you are taking to justify the original price to the bank and keep the buyer on board.  And likewise, make sure your buyer understands the price range of the comps and come to an agreement about how much more they might be willing to pay, if any.

Armed with solid comps, a list of repairs, and some wiggle room to negotiate price, your chances of getting the deal done are great!

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