Tuesday, September 08, 2009

short sales: 7 words of wisdom

I have now have closed a lot of short sales; these are my words of wisdom for buyers, and sellers who are considering a short sale.
Short sales can be a great deal typically selling for 10-20% below current market value. But, they have a tendency to frustrate buyer, and sellers in the process. Patience, involvement and realistic goals are helpful to get a short sale closed. Either everyone wins, or everyone loses. The buyer gets a great home, for a fair price. The seller gets rid of a home that is under water, and can potentially wipe out a huge debt while avoiding a dreaded foreclosure. The market benefits because a short sale keeps one less home from becoming a foreclosure, or derelict. If you need help with either buying or selling a short sale I am here to help.

1. There is nothing "short" about a short sale.. Only your patience.

I have closed a short sale in a record 4 weeks. The buyer went to contract the day the home listed. The seller was experienced real estate assistant, who was very involved with dealing with the bank. The bank was the "servicer" and the "investor". Servicer is the bank that payments are made to, and act as an intermediary to the investor who owns the note. In this case, they were one and the same. The home was in excellent condition. The buyers really wanted this particular home. Basically everything went perfect in this deal. Still, the buyers were anxious and considered canceling the contract because it was "taking so long".

2. Most transactions take a few months to get an approval, or counter offer.

It can still take a few more weeks for the " investor" to give written approval. I have experienced negotiators for lenders that will counter, negotiate, and verbally approve a deal, before any acceptance from the investor is given. Certain lenders take longer than others to get assigned a negotiator. This is really the major hurdle to get to an approval. Getting someone at the lender to talk with about a specific deal.

3. Inspections should be done shortly after going to contract, not "LENDER ACCEPTANCE"

It is very common to sell a short sale home two, three, even four or more times before a buyer sticks to the deal. Most short sale offers are written very loosely with many outs for the buyer. MLS rules dictate that homes "under contract", even short sales have to be put pending. Many times when many hours of work have been invested to get a short sale approved by the lender, the deal dies because the buyer is dissatisfied with the home inspection report. These sales are most often "AS-IS, with right to inspect". The problem is that this is usually tied to the effective date of the contract which is the day the lender gives written approval of the short sale. Short sales are often poorly maintained, and neglected. Utilities are often disconnected, pools are green, lawns are overgrown and full of weeds. You get the idea.

My suggestion for my buyers and sellers is that the major home inspection done within 10 days of going pending. If there are major issues, the buyer can adjust their offer accordingly to account for unknown defects. Also, with a written report the defects in the home can be submitted to the lender to further encourage them to accept the offer. This will also serve to vest the buyer in the home, since an inspection can cost 200-700 dollars. Of course I would always recommend a walk through inspection, or home re-inspection close to the close date to account for any further defects, vandalism, or theft to the property.

4. Realistic list prices and reasonable offers

Some times a buyer will call me with news of a home that seems to good to be true. Most often, they are. A listing agent can under price a home so dramatically that it can bid up the price. In my experience short sale homes will sell for 10-20% under the appraised value. So, if the home would be priced at 300,000 under normal circumstances, the same home as a short sale should sell for at least 240,000 and up. Short sales are not fire sales, they have to make sense to the lender and the buyer. Of course, condition and specific market conditions apply, but for a home in reasonable condition this works. All buyers are looking for a great deal, but that does not mean the bank is going to be willing to take a loss without considering the alternative of foreclosure and resale.
To be able to "steal" a home, it would be better to first look to foreclosures, and motivated, regular sellers. A property owned by the bank (REO) has to sell. The price will be lowered until someone buys it. Also, motivated regular sellers, that can afford to sell in this market, and "NEED" to sell are sometimes willing to make a deal just to be able to move on. Short sale buyers need to be patient, and realistic with the price they are willing to pay. This means if it is worth 250,000, don't bother with the 50,000 offer.

5. Sellers need to be PROACTIVE in the closing process.

My job as the Realtor is to expose the property to the buying audience. Make the property available to potential buyers, and agents representing buyers. And negotiate a successful CLOSED transaction. I can help the willing, but if someone is drowning in quicksand, I can extend the stick, but I can't jump in to save you. A home seller has to take the process very seriously. One of the most important indicators of a short sale's success is the Sellers tenacity to follow up with the lender(s), maintain the home, organize and prepare the required documents. Of course, My team, and the seller's negotiator are going to be calling and pushing to make the deal go, and keep the buyer updated, but the ones that go quick always have a very involved seller.

6. Hire a GOOD negotiator to assist with the lender negotiations

Short sale Sellers often are having money issues, but acquiring assistance is critical to the success of a short sale. This does not have to cost a fortune either. Options include title companies, that can charge as low as a few hundred dollars, to attorneys that can charge a few hundred an hour. Some firms charge a flat rate to take on a short sale negotiation. The added help is really needed due to the tedious process of following up with lien holders. If you are a buyer and the seller does not have a skilled negotiator involved, be wary. I have closed many deals without outside help, but the cost is greatly outweighed by the benefits for the seller. I have many options for seller to consider.

If you need help getting your home sold, avoiding foreclosure, or just would like a professional consulation to way options, please call anytime. Joe Murphy, Broker-Associate 941-780-3260

Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate

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