short sale approval

Why the Buyer Matters for a Natomas Short Sale Offer

natomas short sale offer

A good Natomas short sale offer involves a committed buyer.

Although it is rare nowadays to list a short sale because there are so few in Sacramento anymore, it doesn’t mean I change how we handle a Natomas short sale offer. The same rules apply, same principles and same practice. I know there are other listing agents who might grab the first Natomas short sale offer that comes along, but that’s not how I advise my sellers.

Having sold more short sales than any other agent in a 7-county area over the past 10 years, my experience as a top Sacramento short sale agent speaks volumes. We don’t want to drag the process out any longer than necessary. If the buyer refuses to conform to the practices we put into place, they are not a viable buyer for us. It blows my mind that buyer’s agents fight us, but they often do. They don’t think ahead, they don’t stop to consider the harm they cause, to the seller and the listing agent and everybody else in the transaction, when their buyer is not fully committed to the process.

But that’s true about a lot things. They want the world to conform to them and not the other way around. We don’t work with buyers like that. If they want to make unreasonable demands, submit lowball offers, fail to deposit earnest money, they can go make somebody else’s life miserable and not my seller’s.

We spent 8 days working with a buyer’s agent, who was wonderful, and her buyers, who were lovely and qualified, before going into contract. The buyers started out by asking for a shorter time period. We expect a commitment for 90 days and, if we get it done sooner, we look like heroes. But short sales can sometimes take 3 months. My experience has shown if a buyer won’t commit to 3 months, they are not candidates for a short sale. They are the type who might bail when the first shiny object diverts their attention.

They also thought the list price was negotiable. I am so freakin’ skilled at estimating market value and what a bank will take, that my sellers can rely on my estimate. If anything, prices could go up, not down. Eventually, though, after 8 days of negotiations, the buyers elected to accept our terms and our price. It was worth waiting for the buyers. It meant they were worth fighting for with the bank.

Sure enough, we got short sale approval for the parties within 6 weeks. We were also able to obtain a 10-day closing extension for the buyers since Trump’s FHA loan policy changes at the last minute messed this up. These buyers were a perfect match, and that’s what you need to close a Natomas short sale offer. We closed escrow yesterday, and the buyers now own a delightful home for $225,000 in Natomas. The most important component of many short sales is the buyer, next to choosing the right listing agent, of course.

Crazy Escrows in Sacramento Mean We Stay to the End

sacramento short sale are not always easy closings

Crazy escrows are not uncommon in Sacramento short sales.

Of all the crazy things that could fan the flames in an escrow, this particular case I’m about to discuss was exceptional, but then many Sacramento short sales are unique. This was also a small transaction as compared to selling luxury homes in Sacramento or in Davis — but as a Sacramento Realtor, I really don’t look at the sales price and tally my potential commission or I’d never list and sell half of the properties that I do. Or, as my husband likes to point out, still much more than his paycheck.

The property itself was somewhat unusual in that deferred maintenance and dry rot was evident, among some nice upgrades. That makes it hard to appraise because some BPO agents struggle with repair issues. It’s easy when all the homes within a half mile are similar to each other like those homes in Elk Grove or Natomas, it’s quite another thing when the neighborhood is distressed and the homes are not so new.

We received a few offers during the first 2 1/2 months this home was for sale, but none at the price we needed to gain an approval from the bank. Agents seem to think we should be grateful for their buyer’s lowball offers and send them to the bank on the off chance they might get accepted, and I guess they seem to forget that we don’t work for their buyers. We work for the seller, and if we’re gonna work, by golly, we’d also like to get paid for it, however small that paycheck might be. We’re not interested in hearing why the buyers feel the home is worth less, in many cases we know what the bank expects. Meet it or you don’t go into escrow. Finally, a buyer who would occupy the home wrote an acceptable offer.

Wells Fargo sent us an approval within 8 weeks, which is a little bit longer for Wells Fargo than normal, but it was also a HAFA short sale. We still had the second lender to contend with, which wasn’t budging from its high demand and, on top of everything else and typically par for the course, vandals broke in to steal appliances and wreak havoc. The sellers handled much of the repair though their insurance company, thank goodness. Then we went through 4 or 5 rounds of proposed approvals from USAA until we were down to the last 400 bucks.

I pleaded, cried and practically wept out loud to the negotiator about the sellers’ particular medical condition. Think about the worst health thing that could possibly happen to a human being, apart from maybe cancer, and that’s what the seller was going through. Then February 1st rolled around and the 2015 HAFA short sale guidelines changed, so I resubmitted the package to Wells Fargo and requested a revised approval letter to include the $10,000 relocation incentive to the seller and to pay the second $12,000. It took Wells Fargo another month to release the revised approval letter, which was finally, finally followed by the approval from USAA.

The appraiser then requested a pest report and a pest completion. Fortunately, the buyers agents, super team that they were, stepped in to help the buyer handle it. We were all ready to fund and close when the appraiser went back to confirm the pest work was completed, and she decided, on a whim, to make the crazy escrow even crazier. She noted that the floors were buckling and presented a trip hazard. Bam, the buyer’s agent was over at the home on his knees with a belt sander, fuming and mentally cursing that appraiser, I’m sure. Who knew an appraiser was also a home inspector? There’s a special place in hell for those kinds of people. If the appraiser had a problem with the floors, why didn’t she note it in the first place instead of waiting for the funding and preventing a timely closing?

Yet, close we did. From start to finish on this short sale, over 8 long months, we dealt with hostility from other agents, rejections from the lender, vandalism, inept appraisers, repair requests for the buyer, and yet in the end we prevailed. I don’t give up. As the seller mentioned yesterday when I called to congratulate, that couple would hate to think what could have happened in some other agents’ hands.

The thing is this crazy escrow was gratifying in many ways to me. A first-time homebuyer got a great deal on her first home, and the sellers received their release of liability, plus $10,000 to help ease the transition into a new life elsewhere.

Purchase Offers Under False Pretenses Can Backfire

Purchase Agreement For HouseWhen you list and sell as many homes in Sacramento as I do, you might begin to wonder what’s up when a buyer suddenly offers more than list price when there is no apparent reason to pay more than list price for a particular home. Even a full price offer can raise a red flag in Sacramento’s fall real estate market. It can make an agent a tad suspicious that the buyer might be trying to slip that home into escrow with intentions to later renegotiate. This is a bad practice with purchase offers known as locking out other buyers in an attempt to later force the seller into a price reduction.

I’m no lawyer, but that’s probably not a good faith contract if purchase offers are entered into under false pretenses. There are many buyers who think this way or it’s possible their agent may assure them they will always have the opportunity to renegotiate when they are presenting the purchase offer for signature. In some cases, it might even work. But it doesn’t work in a short sale at all. And it rarely will work when the seller has hired an assertive Sacramento listing agent because that kind of agent will fight hard for the seller’s rights.

The reason this type of underhanded approach does not work on Sacramento short sales is because once the bank has approved the short sale, there is a slim-to none-chance that the bank will renegotiate. Now, I have had short sale banks reduce the price when the buyer’s appraisal came in less than the contract price, which can happen when banks are unreasonable or the BPO agent messed up, yet not always. However, just because the buyer found a defect in the home or suddenly decided he no longer wished to pay the contract price, well, that is insufficient and not grounds to request a price reduction.

Negotiating with a short sale bank is not like shopping at Nordstrom. A collection agency, for example (which is where the bulk of short sales today land) won’t give the buyer a credit nor try to make the customer happy because they don’t give a crap about the buyer. Nordstrom doesn’t really give a crap either but it’s good policy for them. A happy shopper is likely to return to Nordstrom and buy more useless junk that will go out of style in a few months, but the short sale bank / collection agency has no relationship with the buyer.

A buyer asked a few weeks ago if we would ask the bank to reduce the agreed-upon sales price after receipt of short sale approval. The buyer struck me as the sort who would send back a pizza as the poor delivery guy is ringing the doorbell with his nose and juggling several steaming boxes of pepperoni pizza because the buyer suddenly decided he prefers ham with pineapple. He could have been delusional, too. Dunno.

The fact is the buyer probably would have lost more than the price reduction he requested if he canceled. That’s what it came down to, and I pointed out those facts to him. He had already removed all of his contingencies, and when a buyer releases contingencies, it puts the buyer’s earnest money deposit at risk.

A cancellation at that point could mean the seller might ask that the earnest money remain in escrow and file a suit in Small Claims Court to retrieve it. The seller would also lose the relocation incentive under the circumstances because the seller had already vacated the premises. If the home went back on the market, second-time around the bank won’t pay relocation if the seller doesn’t live in the home. The seller might sue the buyer for that loss, too. It’s not expensive to file these types of cases in Small Claims Court.

In this instance, the buyer needed to ponder whether he wanted to give that money to the seller and not own the property — or — if he wanted to own the property instead. Because it could cost him the same amount either way. Fortunately, he chose wisely.

Closing a Bank of America Short Sale After Two Years

Bank-of-America short saleIt’s not really fair to call this a Bank of America short sale when in reality it is actually a Bank of America short sale with Fannie Mae as the investor, which is a different kind of animal from other types of Bank of America short sales. When Bank of America is merely the servicer, it means Fannie Mae short sales are handled differently. In fact, Fannie Mae now has its own website for submitting short sales, which tremendously expedites the process.

But the procedure and short sale process still needs to follow Fannie Mae guidelines, which at times, I realize, can be difficult for sellers and buyers to wrap their heads around. The valuation placed on some Fannie Mae properties astounds other real estate agents. I suspect it’s because we work under the premise that valuation means market value, like an appraiser would do it, but that’s not how Fannie Mae seems to work. Its valuation, I suspect, has more to do with whether it is more economically feasible to sell at its suggested valuation over being paid to do a foreclosure and, yes, banks make money on foreclosures.

This supposed simple short sale began life as a Cooperative Short Sale. I met with the sellers in August of 2012. We listed the home and signed the paperwork for the Bank of America short sale to proceed as a cooperative, with no financials, sort of a short path to a preapproval. REDC was involved as the third-party vendor, which added a bit of red tape, and what usually would take Bank of America 10 days ended up taking 45 days, but we eventually received a pre-approved price for a Cooperative Short Sale that was $80,000 over the comparable sales. Not yay for us.

That Fall 2012 Sacramento real estate market was one of the hottest markets I had seen for 7 years. We held numerous open houses that should have resulted in a half dozen offers and nothing. No nibbles. No offers. We finally accepted an offer we believed to be reasonable and submitted. It was rejected. Over the next two years, we submitted a total of 5 offers, each a little bit closer to the price Fannie Mae expected. At one point, on Thanksgiving Day, I kid you not, a guy from REDC called the sellers and threatened to close the file if the sellers didn’t immediately submit a document he suddenly wanted.

The home needed work. On top of this, the roof was shot and at end of life. This meant either we needed a buyer who would pay cash or a buyer able to obtain an FHA 203K loan. Investors called and begged us to take their offer. These buyers felt we were being obtuse and cruel but in reality, after 4 rejections from Fannie Mae, it became pretty clear even to the most dense of us that we had better the submit the offer Fannie Mae expected if we wanted to receive short sale approval.

At another point in this short sale, I made a deal with the third-party vendor hired for this Bank of America short sale and obtained verbal approval for a lower price from Fannie Mae. We submitted an offer at the slightly slower price, and Fannie Mae then promptly demanded another $5,000 on top of it. The investor walked. Over $5,000. I couldn’t believe it. This is a fabulous neighborhood in Carmichael, and many of the homes around this particular home are much larger and in better condition.

It was a little disheartening, listening to buyers after buyers yelling and screaming at me on the phone about why we refused to accept their offer. They called me names. They swore at me. They wrote mean emails about me. They insisted I was prejudiced against investors. They just could not understand that this was not my call nor my decision. They felt they knew better how short sales operate, even though they may have never dealt with a Bank of America short sale through Fannie Mae, and this Sacramento short sale agent has worked on Fannie Mae short sales for years.

We finally got to the point this summer when market value had moved up enough, even with the mounting repairs and required new roof, that a buyer who wanted to live in the home decided to make an offer. At list price. A foreclosure notice had already been filed and we were in the final 21-day countdown to a trustee’s auction. I cried, I pleaded. We then received approval from Fannie Mae on this Bank of America short sale in 18 days. It was a miracle.

And you know what’s really odd about this? This was the first time ever in which we were able to stop a trustee’s auction due to short sale approval. We were literally days from foreclosure, but once we received that short sale approval letter, all foreclosure proceedings had to cease due to the California Homeowner Bill of Rights. We were saved in the nick of time. I’ve always felt that the dual tracking portion of the law passed in 2013 was pretty useless about stopping foreclosure during a short sale because it doesn’t apply to short sales until January of 2018 (when we probably won’t need the law) unless we get short sale approval. Generally, by the time we get approval, we still have plenty of time to avoid the foreclosure, so it doesn’t matter.

But in this case, our California short sale law made all the difference in the world.

We closed today, 30 days later. See, this Sacramento real estate agent does not give up, regardless of what I have to go through to close a short sale, I hang in there and make it work for the seller. But no short sale should have to drag on for more than two years like this Fannie Mae / Bank of America short sale in Carmichael.

Why Home Buyers Won’t Buy a Short Sale in Sacramento

Sacramento Short Sale Agent Elizabeth WeintraubLike any other home on the market today, even the few short sale homes need to be highly desirable in some way to entice a home buyer to buy a short sale in Sacramento. Price alone won’t do it because the short sale lenders will demand market value. I get emails from agents who ask if I would consider wasting my time and the seller’s time to submit garbage offers on behalf of their greedy little buyers who love to lowball, and you’ve got to wonder what planet these agents live on. As additional information, the agents might offer up the fact they’ve been successful with this approach once years ago, like anybody cares.

Oh, geez, thanks for telling me. I smack my head. Dang-nabit, I had no idea.

They might say let me tell you about my buyer. No, don’t tell me. I don’t care. I don’t want to hear about his or her motives, angles, mission. I care only if the buyers are willing to do what it takes to get the lender to approve the short sale. Will they wait for approval and not cancel? An agent asked yesterday if it was OK for the buyer to cancel after I worked my tail off to obtain the short sale approval letter, in the event there was something about the property the buyer didn’t like. Sure, I replied, but be aware that I will then drive over to that buyer’s home and slash the tires on his car. Oh, he laughed and laughed.

Wow, we really want to take that offer. The buyer sounds so dedicated.

Today’s buyers, most of them, don’t want to wait for the short sale process. If they do decide to buy a short sale, it’s because the home is unique and it’s the only one like it on the market for miles around. Other short sale buyers are those who have a home to sell, and they are are buying contingent on selling. No fuss, no muss, no risk. If the contingent home is my listing, for example, I know their home will sell because they will be realistic, so those generally work out. But there is not a flood of buyers for short sales today.

I sold a Victorian short sale home in downtown Sacramento a few days before I left for my long winter vacation early last December. I worked on that short sale while enjoying an oceanfront view and warm breezes. Everybody was happy at the inception. We submitted all of the required paperwork to both banks: to the Bank of America short sale department and Chase. Chase had recently joined Equator but was not yet in Equator for this type of Chase short sale. Before the end of January, we had HAFA short sale approval from Bank of America. Eureka!

Chase Bank, because its HELOC department wasn’t yet in Equator, dragged its feet for another 60 days, despite repeated requests and hammering. The negotiator at Bank of America refused to give us an extension on the short sale and instead insisted on starting over. An unusual shitty move when the servicing was not sold. When Bank of America re-opened the file, it somehow messed up processing it as a HAFA. A logical person would think Bank of America vendors look at the previous file, but that would be like expecting a Sacramento real estate agent to study the history in MLS of a previous listing — just ain’t gonna happen.

Despite the HUD identifying this transaction as a HAFA and the notes I routinely slipped into Equator as a reminder, nope, it was processed as a traditional. A short sale agent doesn’t ordinarily discover these types of bank screw ups until the counter is issued in Equator. The seller didn’t care about HAFA by that time.

At several points, the buyer wanted to cancel. She was tired of waiting and didn’t really understand the delays. She delivered ultimatums, which don’t work. At another time, the sellers wanted to cancel. They had moved out and no longer cared about receiving the HAFA incentive; they just wanted it closed. The opportunity to eat the negative cash flow and rent it was beginning to look attractive to the sellers. In between, neighbors called to ask if was OK for them to steal the seller’s cats and take the critters to city animal control. Like wha? My main concern was the amount of time it would take Bank of America to process this as a traditional short sale after Chase finally got its act together.

I find my way around stumbling blocks. It’s what I do. The short sale closed this week, with the original buyer happy as a clam, extremely excited and relieved. The sellers are ecstatic. They appreciated my calm demeanor and keeping them on track. Approval from both banks took 5 months. That’s unusual and a long time.

Although I have closed hundreds of short sales in Sacramento, there is never a guarantee that we can get both of the short sale banks to cooperate and issue approvals at the same time. Often issues and delays pop up, regardless of how streamlined we make the process. If something can go wrong on the other side, it often does. Patience is the key to a short sale. And buyers in Sacramento don’t have a lot of patience in today’s real estate market.

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