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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Believe it or not, a Republican and a Democrat are working together!  The two Representatives are sponsors of a bill that would require lenders to provide a decision of approval or disapproval of a short sale within 45 days of submission of the file.  Hallelujah! 

For those of us in the short-sale trenches, the most painful part of the process is the long period we spend waiting for the bank’s decision.  We meticulously prepare the file and then fax it off into a nameless abyss where it seemingly lies hidden at the bottom of someone’s in box.  Weeks later, we are informed that half of the information we submitted is missing from the file and would we please re-send it, or what we sent is now outdated (because they took so long to review it), and would we please send new pay stubs and bank statements.  It is a vicious process that can make a normally calm Realtor want to jump through the phone and strangle someone.

So yes, a decision in 45 days would be a Godsend!  The Bill is sponsored by Reps Tom Rooney (R- Florida), and Robert Andrews (D-New Jersey), who believe that by imposing a deadline on lenders, more short sales would be successfully executed and fewer homes go to foreclosure.   Although a few banks such as Bank of America have made an effort to improve their processing systems by utilizing a technology platform such as Equator, most banks rely on outdated systems and under trained personnel, ill-equipped to handle the thousands of short sales landing on their desks.  Thus in the current market, many short sale transactions fall-apart because the buyer gets tired of waiting and simply moves on, often leaving the homeowner to face foreclosure.

The Prompt Decision for Short Sale Act of 2011 is currently waiting to be referred to a Committee.  A similar act with the same name was introduced last September, but never came up for debate before the legislative session ended…let’s hope the support of the National Association of Realtors will help prevent this bill from a similar demise.

At the end of the day however, even if we have a shortened time period for decisions, any short sale is only as strong as the negotiator acting on behalf of the homeowner.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me for more information on how to improve your chances for a successful transaction.

Short sales can be a real pain for everyone involved…sellers, Realtors, buyers…and because so many fail, people are often left with a negative view of the short sale process.  But, do you really know the benefits that might make it worth the effort?

As I’ve mentioned before, I work with an exceptional short sale negotiation company that has a 99% success rate in getting approvals.  The president of that company recently put together a nice chart outlining the benefits of a short sale vs. a foreclosure and I’ll share the highlights.

Future Ability to Purchase a Home:    When you apply for a home loan, there is a question on the application that asks, “Have you had a property foreclosed upon or given title or deed-in-lieu thereof in the last 7 years?”  A positive response may impact your ability to qualify and will certainly influence the interest rate you are charged.  Currently, there is no question on the loan application with regard to short sales.

Impact on Credit Score:    With a foreclosure, credit scores can drop 250 – 300 points.  Conversely, with a short sale only late payments will impact the credit score.  After a short sale, the mortgage that was paid-off short will be reported as ‘paid as agreed’, ‘negotiated’, or ‘settled for less than agreed’.  This can lower your score as little as 50 points and will usually have little to no effect in twelve to eighteen months.

Impact on Credit History:   Foreclosure remains on your credit history for seven years.  Since short sales are not specifically reported their impact is only as great as the number of missed payments, as noted above.

Deficiency Judgment:  Unless you’re in a state with anti-deficiency laws, the bank can pursue a deficiency judgment.  In a successful short sale, the bank will waive the right to pursue a deficiency judgment.

Current and Future Employment and Security Clearance:   Many employers require credit checks for all employees, and certainly for anyone hoping to attain a security clearance.  While individual companies and agencies have different requirements, a foreclosure can have a negative impact on your ability to get a job, keep your job, or get certain clearances.

Of course I’m not a lawyer or accountant, and each individual’s situation is different, and not everyone will qualify for a short sale.  You should always consult the appropriate professional for advice.  But as a real estate professional, I would definitely give the short sale serious consideration before deciding to just walk away.  For a confidential consultation just give me a call at 619-846-9249.

Negotiating a short sale is one of the most challenging jobs in real estate today.  As an agent representing a short sale client you are 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.  Not only is it often stressful, but it can be downright frustrating;  re-faxing documents to the bank that you’ve sent three times, waiting for responses to phone messages and emails, and trying to find someone at the bank who actually cares about getting the transaction completed.

One of the short sales that I’m currently working on is especially trying as there are two different lenders involved on a 1st and 2nd mortgage, and as in similar cases, the 2nd mortgage holder won’t really look at the file until we have approval from the 1st.  After weeks of sending documents the 1st lien holder comes back to the table with an offer of approving the short sale, if the borrowers paid them $9,000.  Impossible!  If my clients had an extra $9,000 they wouldn’t be selling their home!  We counter at $1,000.  The bank then comes back at $3,000, insisting that according to their financial statement the borrowers can afford to contribute $3,000.

Hmmm…..my clients are insisting that as much as they would like to sell their house short and avoid foreclosure, they can’t afford the $3,000, especially as they just did their 2010 taxes and learned that they owe close to $10,000!  Aha!  More ammunition to make their case!  We submit their tax return and two days later have a short sale approval from the 1st lien holder with a $1,000 contribution!  Exactly what we countered!  The approval has been submitted to the 2nd lien holder and we’re pushing for a speedy response.

The bottom line is that my clients are thrilled and half seriously asked if I could help them negotiate their tax liability!  Ha!  I think I’ll stick to short sales.  Banks are tough enough…..I can’t imagine negotiating with the IRS!

Over the past two years we’ve seen an increase in the number of short sales as underwater homeowners try to avoid foreclosure.  Realtors and Federal policy makers have applauded this movement as a means to encourage sales and spur the market recovery.  Too often however, 2nd lien holders are blocking the short sale and forcing homeowners into foreclosure.

In a short sale, the property is offered for sale for less than what is owed.  Provided the final sales price is reasonable, and the homeowners can prove that they are unable to continue to make mortgage payments, most lenders will accept the short sale as it costs them far less to take the loss than to foreclose.  However, if there is a 2nd mortgage on the property it becomes a much more complicated transaction.

When there are two or more liens on the property, the 1st mortgage is in the primary position and when reviewing a short sale, the lender will generally approve only a token payment of $2000 – $3000 to the junior lien holder.  So on a sale of a $320,000 property with a $400,000 1st mortgage and a $50,000 2nd mortgage the lender in the first position will recoup approximately 80% of the original loan amount (less fees and expenses), but the 2nd mortgage holder will recoup only about 5 – 6% of their investment.

As a result, 2nd lien holders are in no hurry to approve a short sale and what develops is a sort of “chicken game” between the negotiator for the first mortgage, the negotiator for the 2nd, and the Realtor or negotiator representing the homeowner.  The poor buyer who is trying to purchase the home is at the mercy of everyone involved.  Often the lender in the 2nd position will ask either the homeowner or the buyer to come up with additional funds to at least get them a 10% return.  Although this might only be a few thousand dollars, that might be enough to kill the deal.  For the 2nd lien holder, they might choose to just wait for a better offer where the buyer will agree to pay, or they will agree to the sale but file a deficiency judgment against the homeowners.

According to CoreLogic, a company that tracks foreclosure data, of the 1.33 million homes that are in some stage of foreclosure, over a third have a 2nd mortgage.  Many of these 2nd mortgages were underwritten to allow the homeowner or buyer to borrow 90 -100% of the home’s inflated value.  Sorry if I’m not sympathetic, but it was a risk the banks knowingly took.  The strategy back-fired as values plummeted, but now the banks holding these 2nd mortgages need to just write-off the loss and get out of the way. 

How to protect yourself in a short sale transaction with a 2nd mortgage?  Make sure your Realtor knows how to play the game.

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.

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:  The lender(s).  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?  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

Let’s start with pre-qualification of the homeowner.  Before taking a short sale listing it should be 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 – 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 Realtor or negotiator to speak with the lender(s)

Step #3 – Sale of the Property

The house is then 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 the offer 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 sale is noted in the MLS as “Contingent”.  Again, it is important to have an experienced Realtor or negotiator 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.

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 (a 1st and 2nd mortgage), this entire process must be completed for both lenders. 

Step #5 – Negotiation

During the actual 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 also request that the buyers 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 week or two.

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.  Making sure you’ve got an experienced professional on your team is the best way to protect your interests.  Questions?  Just give me a call.  619-846-9249.