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Real Estate 101: surviving a short-sale swamp


A short sale transaction is like pulling your Achilles tendon. It’s painful, needs lots of massaging, plenty of ice, and it keeps reminding you that it’s not going away for a very long time.

After working diligently with a listing agent and seller on a short sale for four months, when the bank and investor finally offered us verbal “terms” to make it happen, my client quickly accepted and was jumping with joy. But the seller had a different plan and pulled a white rabbit out of his hat. Out of left field one of his “relatives” popped up with an all cash offer and we were left high and dry.

Totally unethical, yes, but in reality something totally out of our control. So what are banks doing to avoid just these types of situations? Not much.

If you find the “Holy Grail” and the bank issues you with the final short sale approval letter, it should stipulate some or all of the following terms and conditions:

  • Notification that they will accept a short payoff.
  • An approval “exclusive” to the buyer referenced in the letter.
  • They may pursue a deficiency judgment for the difference, unless agree to otherwise or prohibited by law.
  • If the loan is covered by mortgage insurance, the mortgage insurance company reserves the right to pursue the seller for the deficiency as well.
  • The closing must take place on or before a specific date, which is typically 30 days from the approval date.
  • The approved sales price and name of the buyer.
  • Another buyer may not be substituted without the prior written approval of the bank.
  • A detailed breakdown of the closing costs associated with the transaction as of a specific date, including real estate commissions, total closing costs and any allowances for the junior lien holder, HOA liens, repairs and/or inspections.
  • The minimum net proceeds to the bank.
  • The amount of funds to be contributed by the seller, which may be in the form of a promissory note to be signed and returned to the bank upon the close of escrow, or a certified funds contribution.
  • Seller shall not receive any proceeds from the transaction.
  • The property must be free and clear of liens and encumbrances, other than those recognized on the approved HUD-1 settlement statement.
  • There are to be NO transfers of the property within 30 days of closing.
  • If the seller is entitled to receive any proceeds for insurance claim on the property, or any other proceeds, the bank reserves the right to retain or claim the proceeds.

Navigating your way successfully through Phases One, Two and Three, as some real estate professionals like to put it, is quite some task, even for an experienced broker. I am confident that any of my real estate colleagues will attest to such a bumpy ride.

My advice is to ensure that you stay on top of your seller, keep your short sale addendum valid, and you may want to consider adding an addendum giving your buyer a right of first refusal should the bank counter the terms of your contract.

It’s challenging to hold together a short sale, yes, it’s a real Florida swamp.

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