5 Ways to Find a Short Sale Listing Agent

Why a Short Sale Specialist is Better than a Neighborhood Specialist

Couple meeting with realtor in house for sale
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Home sellers can easily find hundreds of agents eager to list their homes, but finding a short sale listing agent is more difficult. That's because a short sale listing agent does a lot more than slap the listing into MLS and plop a sign in the yard.

The short sale agent handles negotiations with the bank. If the agent has no experience dealing with loss mitigation and short sale negotiators, the seller is the person who may suffer. More than half of my real estate closings in Sacramento from 2006 to 2011 had been short sales. I know first hand what it takes to get them closed and, quite frankly, short sales are a ton of work. Novices should not handle short sales.

Selling a short sale and successfully closing that transaction is akin at times to selling 5 regular home sales. And there are certain types in which we do need to sell that home again and again and again. Buyers flake all the time.

An important decision is whether the agent handles her own negotiations. If she outsources the negotiation portion or, worse, tries to make the buyer pay for negotiations, you might not want to hire that agent. Some agents hire a third party with less "skin in the game" to negotiate on their behalf, which I do not recommend.


Searching for a Short Sale Listing Agent

Due to rising numbers of foreclosures and short sales in certain parts of the country since 2006, many real estate agents had decided to market themselves as short sale specialists. Some of those agents have little or no short sale experience. For example, an agent told me he was a short sale specialist and had sold more than 50 short sales. I searched his name through MLS and found he has sold less than 25 over the 3 years he was licensed. He is not a short sale specialist, but I do know what else he is.

A liar.

Here are a 5 ways to find a short sale listing agent:

  • Referrals From Family / FriendsIn some areas, foreclosures are ubiquitous and more the norm than a regular sale. Sellers may already know someone who successfully closed a short sale, and that seller is an excellent source for providing a referral.
  • Ask an Agent for a ReferralAgents who don't list short sale transactions generally know which agents are short sale specialists. Agents judge each other by harsher standards, I have discovered, than buyers judge agents, so you're likely to be directed to a top-notch short sale listing agent. Plus, agents regularly pay each other referral fees, which means the referring agent has an added incentive to make sure you end up in the right hands -- because if it doesn't close, they don't get a referral fee. Not every short sale agent will pay a referral fee due to the amount of work that is involved, though.
  • Attend Short Sale Open HousesFind out if the agent hosting the open house is the listing agent. Sometimes, agents let associates in their offices hold open listings. Talk to the listing agent and try to get a sense of how many short sales this agent has handled and whether the agent is knowledgeable.
  • Use the Internet to Find a Short Sale AgentMany short sale listing agents write blogs about their experiences, because dealing with negotiators can make one want to jump off the nearest cliff, and writing a blog provides temporary relief. It's almost like reading a diary because you're given an inside peek at what goes on behind the scenes. Be careful not to get suckered into a site where the agent relies solely on repeating the words "short sale" over and over to drive Internet traffic and doesn't really list short sales.
    • Go to several agent's websites and look through the agent's listings. Are any of them short sales? Are those the agent's own listings or somebody else's in the office? Examine carefully to determine the real listing agent.
  • Run Short Sale MLS SearchesIf you have a friend in the real estate business with access to MLS, run a search by limiting the returns to short sales. Look in a wide area and not a specific neighborhood because short sale specialists sell all over town. Then, pull up each agent's closed sales for the past couple years. Pay special attention to the DOM and select a short sale listing agent with lower DOM. Then go to that agent's website for more information.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California