Definition of a Short Sale
A short sale is a sale of real estate in which the proceeds from selling the property will fall short of the balance of debts secured by liens against the property, and the property owner cannot afford to repay the liens’ full amounts, and whereby the lien holders agree to release their lien on the real estate and accept less than the amount owed on the debt. Any unpaid balance owed to the creditors is known as a deficiency.
Real estate professionals know that a short sale transaction can take months for it to be approved and closed. The reality is that short sales usually take three to four times as much as a regular sale to finally get to the closing. From the time the Realtor actually gets the property under contract to the time the lender approves, it could take anywhere from 30 days to six months, depending on how fast the borrower provides critical information for lender and investor approval.
Also, lenders generally will only agree to a short sale if the seller is many payments behind and has received a default notice.
Even then, you still have one more variable to account for which is the buyer waiting for all this time to get the contract approved by the lender. For this, setting the expectations is a key factor in any short-sale transaction.
Buyers who make an offer on a short-sale property need to know that lenders have to “reverse underwrite” a short-sale and make sure that they are allowing the sale to happen close to market value. I say “reverse underwrite” because instead of determining affordability, they will look for “un-affordability.”
They will check the seller’s financials to verify that they can’t afford the house anymore and consequently, they will order a price opinion from a broker or certified appraiser, commonly known as BPO (Broker’s Price Opinion) to make sure the house is being sold close to market value. If the offer is too low compared to what is owed, it will make more financial sense to the Lender to just foreclose the property and re-sell it as an REO (Bank-Owned Property). All this will happen while the buyer is still waiting for a response so it is very important to set the expectations correctly from the beginning to avoid losing the buyer close to the end of the process.
On the other hand, it is important to also educate the Seller and set the expectations with them from the beginning. They need to understand that the Lender takes its time responding, but when they do, they usually give a 72-hour timeframe to respond or provide the missing documentation. If the documentation is not provided within the specified timeframe, it usually ends up in a closed file and countless work-hours lost. Another common situation that is happening very often is borrowers being served with foreclosure paperwork from either the lender or homeowner’s association while the short-sale is being processed. It is crucial to let them know that this might happen so that they are prepared for it and receive the documents knowing that they are in the best hands. Foreclosure and short-sale are parallel processes and one does not cancel the other. Sometimes a short-sale might delay a final sale date, but it will definitely not stop the Lender from starting the foreclosure proceedings.
Short sale success comes from educating not only the seller but also the buyer and everybody else involved in the transaction. Setting the right expectations is the most crucial part of a short sale. There are many hours involved in processing a short sale and the last thing you want is a seller or buyer walking away because the expectations were not set correctly.