What Does a Short Sale Listing Agent Do?

short sale listing agent
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Question: What Does a Short Sale Listing Agent Do?

A reader asks: "Being first-time home buyers, it seems that every home we want to buy is a short sale. We have friends who bought a short sale, and they said if they had to do it over, they would have never done it. They said the biggest problem was not knowing what was going on, and their agent told them his hands were tied because everything was left up to the listing agent. What does that mean? What does a short sale listing agent do?"

Answer: It can be very frustrating to be a buyer of a short sale. That's because there is very little that you can do as a buyer in a short sale to make it move any smoother or faster. There are a lot of things you can't do. Things that only the short sale listing agent can do.

What Can a Buyer Do in a Short Sale?

Before we talk about what a short sale listing agent does, let's look at what a buyer can do to make a short sale move along. There are buyer duties in a short sale. They are:

  • If your purchase contract is signed electronically, print it out and sign it with an ink pen. Just sign above your initials and signatures. Give it to your agent to deliver to the listing agent. The bank might demand it because not every bank accepts digital signatures. Even in this day and age.
  • Make sure your preapproval letter has a current date, within the last 30 days. Many preapproval letters are good only for a limited period of time. Do not let your preapproval letter expire.
  • When the short sale agent asks you to sign an addendum or get a document notarized for the bank, do so promptly. A delay in returning such a document could delay or close the short sale negotiation.
  • Do not alter or change your financial situation while you wait for short sale approval. If you make a major purchase, you could cause a problem with your loan. Do not deplete savings nor put any unusual charges on a credit card.
  • Be patient. Do not tempt yourself by looking at homes online or going to open houses. You've made your selection. You'll drive yourself nuts if you don't focus on this purchase. If you are not committed to buying this home, don't buy it.

What a Short Sale Listing Agent Does to Process a Short Sale

You should find out if the short sale agent handles his or her own negotiations or if the agent hires a third-party for negotiation. It is almost always better for the short sale agent to personally handle the negotiations. A third-party negotiator rarely represents the seller well and might not know how to handle conflicts, problems or irrational demands, all three of which are prevalent in short sales.

Here are the typical duties and responsibilities of a short sale agent:

  • Packages the documents required by the seller's bank and sends those documents to the bank.
  • Requests updated bank statements and payroll stubs from the sellers and sends those documents to the bank.
  • Orders the estimated closing statement and sends it to the bank.
  • Coordinates the bank's efforts to obtain a BPO.
  • Prepares and delivers a CMA to the bank.
  • Negotiates offer price and second-lien payoffs with the first lender.
  • Negotiates demands of second lender, if any.
  • Checks in with the lender weekly to inquire about status and whether other documents are needed.
  • Delivers updates to the buyer's agent as they happen.
  • Orders the preliminary title report.
  • Complies with demands from the short sale bank that may appear ridiculous but nonetheless are required.
  • Advises the seller to seek legal and tax advice when the short sale agent recognizes such advice is warranted.
  • Reviews short sale approval letter to make sure it matches the estimated closing statement.
  • Obtains a release of liability for the seller, if such a release is possible.
  • Delivers the short sale approval letter to all parties involved in the short sale.
  • Coordinates access to the home for the buyer's home inspection.
  • Reviews closing documents and / or attends the closing.

Any little upset along the way can throw the short sale into chaos. It is the short sale agent's responsibility to put it back together, keep all the parts humming along and manage the expectations of the parties through communication and updates.

This is not a simple task, even if it sounds fairly simple. It is the reason many agents would rather drink a bottle of cod liver oil while beating themselves on the head with a hockey stick than do a short sale. Short sale agents who specialize in short sales know how to handle unpredictable events and are prepared to deal with the unknown. Every day is different.

It requires patience, skill and never letting go of the big picture: closing that short sale.

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