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My Short Sale Strategy

Rising foreclosure rates across the nation have prompted a the use of the "short sale" to save home owner's credit. However, the short sale process is a complicated process and if it's not done correctly, could cost home owners dearly.

I have a simple strategy that I use when I want to get a short sale sold. Here is the process:

1. List the Property
2. Get an Investor Offer on the Property
3. Collect current Financials & other Short Sale Documents
4. Submit entire short sale packet to lender(s)
5. Order BPO/Appraisal and lender's BPO/Appraisal
6. Start a "Dutch Auction" list price weekly reduction
7. Negotiate lowest acceptable net price to lender
8. Compare Highest & Best offer with lender's approved price/value
9. Close transaction

Here is a short summary of the reasoning behind each step:

1. List the Property For Sale
The lender wants to know that we are doing everything we can to facilitate a sale. If the lender knows that it is listed and marketed on the MLS then we have the best chance of finding a qualified end buyer. They also know that the offers from a listed property represent "market value" and are more willing to negotiate a good settlement value.

2. Get an Investor Offer on the Property
Investors will always offer a low price on any property in order to get the best deal available. At this stage of the game it doesn't matter, we just need a legitimate offer that we can submit to the lender to get the short sale process started (we are always honest and never fabricate an offer). We also want that offer to be low so that we can find the lowest acceptable value that the lender will approve.

3. Collect current Financials & other Short Sale Documents
The financial information needs to be current so it is collected when we have an offer. I have a network of investors so I know I'll have an offer within a couple days of listing the property so I begin to collect this information immediately. The short sale documents include all the financial information to "prove" to the lender that the seller can no longer afford to keep the property and that they need to sell it. These documents also show what happened to the seller because they could afford the property when they bought it and now they can't they afford it. All information needs to be truthful and honest.

4. Submit entire short sale packet to lender(s)
All the information is submitted in one packet to the lender. This keeps information from becoming lost and allows the process to move forward more quickly. Since most lenders are backed up with other short sales and foreclosures, the first several calls to the lender will just be checking on information and making sure that all information then lender needs has been submitted. Any missing information can quickly be resubmitted.

5. Order BPO/Appraisal and lender's BPO/Appraisal
While almost no one does this, we order our own BPO on each property. We want to have an independent opinion of value and price. The 1st mortgage lender will almost always order their own BPO (an appraisal if the loan is over FHA limits) to establish value. With our own BPO in hand we will meet the BPO agent and show them the property and give them a copy of the BPO as a second opinion. We will point out those things which are important to the value of the property but that may not be obvious to someone not already familiar with the property. Our main objective is to get an idea of where that agent feels the value of the property will be (although they never tell us their value). We also use our BPO to send to any junior lein-holders so they are also aware of value (which makes negotiations with them go more smoothly).

6. Start a "Dutch Auction" list price weekly reduction
To get the best price available we need to have competing offers. Once the BPO has been completed by the lender we start to lower the price each week until we start to get offers on the property. If we don't see any offers during the week we lower the price. (I like to lower the price on Thursday so that anyone looking for homes to view over the weekend will see the price change and come to see the home.)

7. Negotiate lowest acceptable net price to lender
Once all of the paperwork has been received by the lender the case/file is assigned to a negotiator who then orders the BPO/appraisal. (Note: We hold any subsequent offers until the negotiation is concluded to establish the best possible pay-off/settlement the lender will allow for the seller.) Once the BPO has been received by the lender we begin the actual negotiations. We know that the lender's BPO value represents the price that the lender believes they can sell the property for (should they take the property back through foreclosure). We know that the lender's bottom line is below that number because the foreclosure process is very expensive (attorney's fees, property insurance, loan interest to Fed, selling costs, commissions, concessions, and dropping property values...not to mention the problems the lenders are having with too much bad debt on their books). Those costs generally add up to 15-20% of the property value (they can be significantly higher in upper-end homes). The lender will negotiate a value that is as high as possible but at least higher than their bottom line through the foreclosure process. Once they agree to a net value it is logged into their system.

8. Compare Highest & Best offer with lender's approved price/value
Once we have determined the lender's bottom line we will compare that value with our highest & best offer on the property. If the H&B offer is significantly higher than the lender's approved bottom line then the investor will buy the property and resell it to the buyer with the H&B offer. However, if the H&B offer is not significantly higher then the lender's bottom line then the H&B offer is submitted to the lender for approval and that buyer will close a single transaction. (Significantly higher means about 12-15% of the property value. The investor will have costs associated with 2 closings: 1% 1st closing costs, 3% money costs, 1% 2nd closing costs, 3% commission to 2nd buyer's agent and the investor's profit. So if the investor finds their own buyer they can reduce the sales price by 3% and still be profitable.)

9. Close transaction
Finally we close the transaction, either with or without the investor. The seller should be done with this settlement and no further negative reporting from the lender (our agreement with the lender states something to the effect of "satisfaction in full to seller"). Because the lender is writing off the "bad debt" lost in the negotiations, the seller may see a 1099 tax form which shows the lender's loss as income for the seller. If the property was the seller's principle residence then that "income" may be excluded from their taxes (some restrictions apply so consult your tax advisor).

At the end of the day this process is not 100% successful. HoweverFind Article, it is a process that gives the seller the best chance of getting an approved short sale from their lender that is sellable in today's market.

Article Tags: Highest Best Offer, Lender's Bottom Line, Short Sale, Other Short, Lowest Acceptable, Highest Best, Best Offer, Lender's Approved, Lender's Bottom, Bottom Line, Significantly Higher

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Khayyam Jones is a real estate investor and Realtor in the State of Utah. He specializes in distressed property investments including fixer-uppers, foreclosure/short sales, and small infill development.

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