Saturday, October 11, 2008

More about foreclosure and short sales

October 12, 2008 By Henry B. Nathan

For the last couple of years or so, the new terms “short-sale”, “pre-foreclosure”, “bank-owned” have become very familiar to any active realtor.

Yes, there are courses and classes and conferences to make us aware of the opportunities of this new sector in real estate. And I am continuously receiving emails offering leads on foreclosures and short sales and “BPO’s”.

I have been involved in a few short sales and I even lend occasionally advice to people who ask me what I know about the subject. The fact is that there is not so much to explain about it. It’s just a logical way that a lender can use to handle bad or problem-loans and cut its losses.

So far so good. However, every time I get involved in a short sale or “pre-foreclosure” deal, the bizarre takes over the rational, and weirdness supersedes common sense. Let me explain why I think so:

1) There are some conventions in how we usually handle a real estate sale in the US. Usually we list a property when a seller designates us as his “listing agent” and we place it on the MLS. There are some requisites to do that. He must give us an exclusive right of sale; otherwise we wouldn’t put it on the system.

2) If we have a buyer looking for a property, we will search on the MLS system and establish a relationship with its “listing agent” by asking to show it to our buyer, or requesting additional information.

3) Once an offer is made, an answer is received within a short term, usually 2 or 3 days. It can be an acceptance, a counteroffer, or a rejection. A non-reply within the given term is considered a negative answer.
Now let’s compare this to what a bank involved in a short sale, or foreclosure sale usually does:

A) After talking to his bank, the seller of the troubled property agrees with a real estate agent to list his condo for sale in the MLS. The agent will place a special clause in the listing, stating its special status as a short sale and its contingency to a bank’s approval.

B) When an offer is received, the bank sometimes requires that it must be accompanied by a loan approval or a proof of funding if it’s a cash offer.

C) The buyer’s agent will often find a clause in the listing, stating that no commission is guaranteed. It is known that banks do not like to pay co-operating brokers more than a 2.5% compared to the usual 3%, but even this is not guaranteed. You must accept whatever the bank will definitely wants to pay you. No discussion.

Do you think that this is the perfect way for the banks to attract the best and most motivated realtors? Work double for less money?
Usually, in a buyers' market, a smart seller often increases the commission, so buyers’ agents are motivated to give him some priority. But apparently, banks have discovered that they can dictate their conditions, nickel-and-dime us so that they can save a few pennies after sinking billions of dollars in dubious transactions. Naming a listing agent who lives 200 miles away from the property isn't the smartest move either.
But let's not discuss their marketing skills.
They must know what they are doing.

D) When an offer is presented, the bank does not answer within any agreed period.

E) First difference: the listing agent does not remove the property from the MLS.

F) Second difference: the bank can take many months to reply. Meanwhile other offers are frequently received and presented to the bank by the listing agent. The process gradually resembles an auction and the higher bidder might get finally an answer. Or not.

G) Third difference. When a buyer’s agent contacts a bank-owned or foreclosure sale, and even some short sales, we often observe that the same agent or broker has his name on a lot of listings. This agent is sometimes based in a location that is distant from the property. I have seen brokers in Tampa handling listings in Miami. Do these guys have some special connection with the bank? What is the criteria of the banks when they choose their listing brokers?

Frankly, I don’t get any calls from any bank offering me listing business. And I have called a few of these “loss-mitigation” departments! I haven't seen many of the best agents in my area involved in this kind of transactions, either.

H) Fourth difference: Frequently, many of these listing agents don’t even bother to show the property. They designate a “showing company” to take the buyer’s agent call and arrange a showing, usually by means of a lock-box key.
The “showing company” does not usually provide information about the property.
So much for great sales techniques, indeed.

I) Fifth difference: these listing agents very often do not respond at all to phone calls or emails. Perhaps because of the sheer amount of listings they carry, or because they are just disgusted by the whole process. It was transparent to me in some of the cases where I was involved that these listing agents didn’t care too much. In all truth, it looked like nobody cared, except me and the buyer. Some business must result though, and I am not trying to mock or belittle those agents; it's just the whole system that looks so unprofessional.

K) In the case of a short sale, the listed price doesn’t mean too much. It can be very low to attract offers. The listing can sometimes falsely indicate that the price was “approved by the bank”. Correct me if I am wrong but It often bears the mark of “bait and switch”.

L) Now let us study the short-sale transaction from the seller’s point of view: he has possibly initiated the case providing the information required by the bank, often with the assistance of the real estate agent who will list it on the MLS.

M) The seller starts calling the bank. He will get all kind of conflictive information. A different employee will respond to his call every time and everybody looks completely disconnected from what has been done so far. They hang up promising him to call him back the next day, which of course never happens. In many cases, when the seller asks to know what is the exact pay-off of his mortgage, he can get different amounts every time.

N) The seller often gets simultaneous calls from the bank, threatening foreclosure. He sometimes tries to explain that there is a short sales procedure going on. But in spite of having spoken to dozens of bank employees, nobody seems to have any idea of what has been done the day before.

Does this look like a comedy? You bet.

Everybody chasing his own tail in a mad dance. That’s what it looks like.

My personal opinion: Complete disaster. Ridiculous. Tragic. Catastrophic.

A waste of my time, and everybody’s time.

They are the reason I lost a couple of possible sales, and gained the frustration of a few good buyers with cash in hand. I now try to discourage my clients of getting involved in this joke. Am I wrong? Maybe.

But if these banks expect to get out of this mess, they’d better get their act together.


Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.Visit my website: you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condos,
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