When lenders agree to do a real estate short sale, it means the lender is accepting less than the total amount due. Not all lenders will accept short sales or discounted payoffs, especially if it would make more financial sense to foreclose; moreover, not all sellers nor all properties qualify for a short sale.
If you are considering buying a short sale, there could be drawbacks. For your protection, I suggest that all borrowers:
- Obtain legal advice from a competent real estate lawyer
Call an accountant to discuss short sale tax ramifications
Only work with realtors / investors who fully understand the process.
As real estate agents and investors, we are not licensed as lawyers or CPA's and cannot advise on those consequences. Except for certain conditions pursuant to the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, be aware the I.R.S. will consider debt forgiveness as income, and there is no guarantee that a lender who accepts a short sale will not legally pursue a borrower for the difference between the amount owed and the amount paid. In some states, this amount is known as a deficiency. A lawyer can determine whether your loan qualifies for a deficiency judgment or claim.
Although all lenders have varying requirements and may demand that a borrower submit a wide array of documentation, the following steps will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect.
Call the Lender
You may need to make a half dozen phone calls before you find the person responsible for handling short sales. You do not want to talk to the "real estate short sale" or "work out" department, you want the supervisor's name, the name of the individual capable of making a decision.
Submit Letter of Authorization
Lenders typically do not want to disclose any of your personal information without written authorization to do so. If you are working with a real estate agent, closing agent, title company or lawyer, you will receive better cooperation if you write a letter to the lender giving the lender permission to talk with those specific interested parties about your loan. The letter should include the following:
- Property Address
- Loan Reference Number
- Your Name
- The Date
- Your Agent's Name & Contact Information
Preliminary Net Sheet
This is an estimated closing statement that shows the sales price you expect to receive and all the costs of sale, unpaid loan balances, outstanding payments due and late fees, including real estate commissions, if any. Your closing agent or lawyer should be able to prepare this for you, if you do not know how to calculate any of these fees. If the bottom line shows cash to the seller, you will probably not need a short sale.
The sadder, the better. This statement of facts describes how you got into this financial bind and makes a plea to the lender to accept less than full payment. Lenders are not inhumane and can understand if you lost your job, were hospitalized or a truck ran over your entire family, but lenders are not particularly empathetic to situations involving dishonesty or criminal behavior.
Proof of Income and Assets
It is best to be truthful and honest about your financial situation and disclose assets. Lenders will want to know if you have savings accounts, money market accounts, stocks or bonds, negotiable instruments, cash or other real estate or anything of tangible value. Lenders are not in the charity business and often require assurance that the debtor cannot pay back any of the debt that it is forgiving.
Copies of Bank Statements
If your bank statements reflect unaccountable deposits, large cash withdrawals or an unusual number of checks, it's probably a good idea to explain each of those line items to the lender. In addition, the lender might want you to account for each and every deposit so it can determine whether deposits will continue.
Comparative Market Analysis
Sometimes markets decline and property values fall. If this is part of the reason that you cannot sell your home for enough to pay off the lender, this fact should be substantiated for the lender through a comparative market analysis (CMA). Your real estate agent can prepare a CMA for you, which will show prices of similar homes:
- Active on the market
- Pending sales
- Solds from the past six months.
Purchase Agreement & Listing Agreement
When you reach an agreement to sell with a prospective purchaser, the lender will want a copy of the offer, along with a copy of your listing agreement. Be prepared for the lender to renegotiate commissions and to refuse to allow payment of certain items such as home warranty plans or termite inspections.
Now, if everything goes well, the lender will approve your short sale. As part of the negotiation, you might ask that the lender not report adverse credit to the credit reporting agencies, but realize that the lender is under no obligation to accommodate this request.
CALL TRS "Your Short Sale Specialists" 407-705-2210
Before You Buy a Short Sale
Because you might want to think twice about making an offer on a pre-foreclosure, short sale home. It's not as simple as you may believe, and very few can close in 30 days or less.
What is a Short Sale?
Be aware that the seller will need to be in default, to have stopped making mortgage payments, before a lender will consider a short sale. Also, the seller might have over-encumbered, owe more than the home is worth, so a discounted price might bring the price in line with market value, not below it.
Check the Public Records
If there are two loans, you will probably deal with the second mortgage lender. The first mortgage lender's position is protected by the second lender unless the second lender does not want to foreclose. For example, if a seller owes $160,000 to the first lender and $40,000 to the second lender, you cannot offer $160,000 because it will wipe out the second lender. An experienced short sale negotiator will know exactly how to handle the process, and can advise you of what to offer, and will handle all negotiations on your behalf.
Hire an Agent with Short Sale Experience
An agent with experience in short sales will help to expedite your transaction and protect your interests. You don't want to miss any important detail due to inexperience or find out your transaction is not going to close on time because no one has followed up in a timely manner.
Prepare the Seller for Lender Demands
A seller I know once demanded that the buyer slip the seller $1,000 to be given the right to purchase the seller's property. We said no. This is fraud. The lender legally pursued that seller. Do not be lured by sellers who suggest this practice. In a short sale, the seller receives no money because the lender is losing money.
Submit Documentation & Purchase Offer to Lender
In addition, the lender will want to see that you have your own loan available and you are preapproved. Send a pre-approval letter to the lender. It will help if your agent sends a list of comparable sales that support the price you are offering to pay for the home.
Give the Lender a Deadline
Some lenders submit short sales to committee, but most can make a decision within two to three weeks, providing you have submitted the offer to the individual in decision-making capacity. Get a name and phone number for the appropriate contact at the lender. Don't send an offer blindly to a department.
Expect Commission Negotiations
If you have signed a buyer's broker agreement with your agent, ask if the agent will waive the difference due or you might have to pay it out of your pocket. Some brokers feel it is unfair to penalize the agent, but the lender is calling the shots.
Reserve the Right to Conduct Inspections
It is extremely important that a buyer obtain a home inspection and pay for other types of inspections such as pest, roof, sewers, septic tanks, chimney or fireplace inspections. Do not waive your right to obtain these inspections and make your offer contingent on approving them.
CALL TRS "Your Short Sale Specialists" 407-705-2210