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Short Sale Myths You Believe Are True

The Top 5 Misconceptions About a Short Sale

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Woman choosing between two houses

Don't pass up a great deal just because it's offered as a short sale.

© Big Stock Photo
Some people will tell you that short sale bank negotiators are dragons, and that's simply not true. They are ogres. But that's not a reason to avoid a short sale. Even ogres have to eat.

Short sales get a bad rap from agents and, likewise, sellers and buyers, due to a plethora of myths and misconceptions. For every horror story detailing a nightmare short sale, you'll also find success stories.

Here are the Top 5 Misconceptions About a Short Sale:

Short Sale Myth #1: Short Sales Take 12 to 18 Months to Close

The fastest I have been able to close any of my Sacramento short sale listings has been in 14 days. But I've also represented buyers who were able to step into another buyer's position, after that buyer walked away prior to short sale approval, and close within 28 days.

Here is the time frame for an average short sale when the loan is held by a cooperative bank (and is not a former Countrywide loan):

  • Seven to 10 days for the lender to acknowledge receipt of the complete short sale package, which consists of personal seller documents and related real estate items, including the buyer's short sale offer.

  • A negotiator is assigned. An additional 30 to 45 days for a BPO or appraisal.

  • Another 2 to 3 weeks for management / investor review and short sale approval.

The thing is every short sale is unique and every set of investors different. The bank who is servicing the loan might not actually own the loan, and therefore the bank must follow the investor guidelines. You really cannot point a finger at any short sale bank and call it a bad short sale bank because that would be ridiculous, much as you might hate that particular bank at that particular time.

Short Sale Myth #2: Short Sale Buyers Pay Too Much

In some metropolitan areas, listing agents may deliberately price a short sale below market value. It's a tactic short sale agents use to attract multiple offers.

After all, a listed price on a short sale is fabricated, because you won't know how much a bank will accept until the offer is submitted. But many banks will consider a price at a minimum of 90% of market value. Some banks reject short sales because the offers are unreasonable.

Short Sale Myth #3: Short Sale Banks Won't Accept a Severely Discounted Payoff

Sellers are often astonished to discover that in markets where prices have fallen over a 5-year-period, a home might be worth 50% or less of its original value when the seller bought it. Banks understand declining markets.

Moreover, banks will conduct their own research about value and come to the same conclusion. The value of the home is not based on the amount of the mortgage; it's based on recent comparable sales. This means a bank will accept market value because if the home went through foreclosure and then back on the market, it would still sell for market value.

Short Sale Myth #4: Short Sale Sellers Must Be in Default Before the Bank Will Approve a Short Sale

Banks approve a short sale based on the seller's hardship and the value of the home. Some sellers may struggle to make the monthly mortgage payment, yet have not fallen behind in their payments.

While it is true that sellers in default receive immediate attention, a seller can also pay a mortgage payment on time each and every month and still qualify for a short sale. An added benefit for being current on the mortgage is a seller may qualify under Fannie Mae guidelines to immediately buy another home.

Short Sale Myth #5: Agents Get Paid a Lower Commission

In the early days of the short sale boom, during the years of 2005 to 2008, banks were treating short sale commissions abominably, often reducing the agent's commission to peanuts.

Most banks now pay a traditional commission to agents. On top of which, Fannie Mae established a compensation policy on February 24, 2009, to pay the amount of commission agreed to between the listing agent and the seller, providing the fee does not exceed 6%. This fee structure holds for HAFA short sales as well.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, BRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.

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