Real estate agents aren’t crazy about short sales. Those transactions can stretch on and on for months – and then fall through. Agents say it’s tough to communicate with lenders in a timely manner – and nearly impossible to reach someone who’s actually willing to make a firm decision.
A short sale, of course, is the sale of a house for less than the owner owes on the mortgage. The lender must agree to take less and must approve the sale.
I’ve heard such complaints from dozens of agents and their clients and since the housing downturn began.
The latest comments came from Larry Falcone of C2C4U Realty, who said Realtors and clients are increasingly frustrated. “It seems to be getting worse instead of better,” he wrote in an email.
As I looked around for the latest information on short sales, I came across a recent report from the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents. It’s based on a survey of association members. The nine-page paper spells out in clear, stark terms some of the potential pitfalls of short sales.
If you’re a prospective buyer who’s considering a short sale, read to the bottom of this column. You’ll appreciate the warnings – and the association offers some tips for success, too.
The report lists 51 “critical things” buyers need to understand about short sales. They include:
Only about half of homes offered as short sales end up closing as short sales. The rest end up in foreclosure or loan renegotiation.
It’s not unusual for a short sale to take five or six months from contract to closing. That means lots of things can happen, including foreclosure, or the seller’s divorce or bankruptcy.
As a buyer, you face additional risk that you’ll lose appraisal fees, inspection fees, even earnest money if a short sale contract falls through.
Since the lender is not the seller, the report says, the lender is not bound by the terms of the purchase contract. “Many buyers are not clear on this.”
The buyer may have to pay for repairs if they’re required before the sale can go forward, because the seller and lender have little incentive to pay. The buyer risks losing that investment if the sale falls through.
If you’re buying a short sale and want to negotiate to include appliances and personal property, as you would with a normal sale, good luck. Personal property is not part of the transaction with the lender, and the seller may want to sell items for cash.
Buyers, sellers and agents may never communicate with anyone in authority to make a decision. “The actual decision makers at the seller’s lender are usually totally isolated.”
More from Larry Falcone: “I guarantee you, when we sit around and talk business at lunch, every one of these 51 items has been brought up.”
Hadas Kasher, who works for Falcone at CTC4U Realty, adds that “It's hard to see who really benefits from it.”One alternative for the owner that gets overlooked, she said, is renting the house. There's growing demand for rentals. If the owner rents, instead of turning to a short sale, the house will be occupied and maintained.
You can find the full report on the association’s Web site: www.naeba.org. Click on “Our Blog” to download a copy.
The report offers tips for sellers, who must prepare properly for any short sales. And, as I said, it offers advice for buyers who’re considering short sales. As a buyer, limit deposits and include contract provisions that will free you if the lender is slow or unresponsive.
The report lists plenty of critical warnings for buyers – but only six strategies for success.
No. 1: “Think seriously before you consider looking at short sale homes.”