A Buyers’ Guide to Short Sales

January 26, 2009


Seldom Is Anyone Happy About a Short Sale

Seldom Is Anyone Happy About a Short Sale

The state of the current real estate market has made short sales more prevalent than ever before. When I started selling real estate five years ago, I rarely encountered a short sale. This past Sunday while out with buyers, two of the seven homes we previewed were short sales. Having just finalized a short sale as the listing agent, I must say that the listing agent must be in constant communication with the bank, as well as the buyer’s agent and the seller’s attorney.  Short sales take more time and effort than a regular sale, but good communication skills from the listing agent will facilitate a smoother and possibly faster transaction.

What Is a Short Sale?

A short sale is when the property’s value is less than what the owner owes their lender. Although many homes are currently down in value, a short sale may only occur when the owner can prove some kind of extenuating circumstance that has negatively affected their financial situation. A short sale may help homeowners avoid further collection activity or foreclosure.

When analyzing short sale eligibility, the value of the property, the cost of foreclosure, and the owner’s financial condition are taken into account by the lender. Sellers must submit a hardship letter explaining why they can no longer afford the property, along with bank statements, and a financial worksheet noting all income and expenses.

Should I Buy a Short Sale Property?

If you are considering buying a short sale property, there are several things you should consider. There is a notion that you can get a great deal on the price. In many cases you can pay less than market value, but short sales require a tremendous amount of patience from all parties involved in the transaction. A seller can accept your offer, but their lender must approve the sales price. Lender approval requires having the property appraised, and the entire process can take any where from several weeks to several months. If your lease is up in a month, I do not recommend attempting to purchase a short sale property. The buyer has no say in when the closing will occur. The property will close once the lender approves the sale. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage estimates that the total short sale process takes approximately 37 business days. Typically, short sale approval is good for 30 days. If the closing fails to take place within the given time frame, the entire process may need to start over.

What Does The Buyers’ Agent Have to Do?

When representing a short sale buyer, a Realtor must be patient but diligent.  Providing the listing agent with as much information as possible at the time of the offer is essential.  Be sure to include a pre-approval from the buyers’ lender for this specific address or proof of funds if it is a cash offer.  Any time there is information missing from the package to be sent to the bank, days could be added to the transaction’s timeline.  A listing agent should be in touch at least once a week with an update.  I don’t recommend calling them every day to obtain information, because they are just as anxious to hear from the bank as you are.  If you are representing a buyer and there are multiple offers on the property, I advise you to treat it like any other multiple offer situation.  Provide the listing agent with the buyers’ highest and best offer.  There may not be an opportunity to counteroffer, so go in strong at the beginning.

I’ve heard agents worry that in a short sale they would not receive their commission.  This is not typically the case.  Banks do place a cap on the amount they will pay out to for Realtor and attorney fees, but the bank is not looking to rob you of your commission.  There is a net proceed amount that the bank must receive in order to approve the transaction.  If the commissions, tax prorations, title fees, transfer taxes, and any other fees add up to more than the amount that the bank will approve, the Realtor commissions and attorney fees may be reduced in order to ensure that the property closes.  If the sales price covers the spread between what the bank receives and all of the additional fees, your commission will be what was represented in the MLS.

Find an Experienced Team

Whether you are selling a home and short sale is your only option, or you are considering buying a short sale property, I highly recommend surrounding yourself with an experienced team. A real estate agent and real estate attorney who have short-sale experience will not only make the entire transaction easier, but it will also increase your chances of closing the sale.

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About Katie Mischka

Katie Mischka is a respected and experienced broker with Koenig & Strey GMAC. A Chicago native, Katie has a wealth of knowledge about Chicago's neighborhoods and their history. Katie works with buyers and sellers and has experience selling condos, single family homes, townhomes, land, luxury homes, short sales, and relocation. She has been quoted in Crain's Chicago Business and Chicago Agent Magazine. Katie loves selling real estate and her clients are her priority! For more information, visit Katie's website: (katiemischka.com), email her (kmischka@ksgmac.com) or follow her on Twitter (@katiechicago).

View all posts by Katie Mischka

5 Responses to “A Buyers’ Guide to Short Sales”

  1. Catherine Brennan Says:

    Great article Katie! There is no doubt that patience and time is needed with these deals as many banks are back-logged with more shorts sale and foreclosures then their staff can handle – which is an unfortunate state of affairs (but one where a prepared and patient buyer can benefit!)

  2. Elizabeth Joyce Says:

    Thank you for a great guide to short sales. I am not a real estate pro but now I feel like could navigage a short sale with the best of them. Keep up the good work Ms. Mischka.

  3. Dipal Patel Says:

    I have put an offer on one of the Short Sale house. I have few questions.
    1. Can we get the attorney before bank approves the offer?
    2. if so then how much attorney charges to us?
    3. Can i negociates the closing cost with seller or buyer’s agent or bank?

    you can email me at dipal58@yahoo.com

  4. Katie Says:

    Dipal, thanks for reading this article. Definitely speak with a real estate attorney about representing you before you have an approved contract. All attorney fees are different. It is not likely that you’ll be able to negotiate closing costs, but speak with your Realtor or real estate attorney about these questions before you make the offer.
    Good luck!


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