Short sales keep two agents busy, fulfilled and on top of their game
By Dorota Wright-O’Neill
Tearful clients. Mounds of documents. Endless delays. The aspects that scare many agents away from short sales are precisely the challenges that attract Jane Santiago and Sandy Wagner to this niche.
Short sales nationwide are declining; they made up 7 percent of December 2013 home sales, according to the Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance HousingPulse survey. But that’s not the whole picture: As of November 2013, nearly 2 million mortgages were seriously delinquent, according to the quarterly CoreLogic National Foreclosure Report. Many of those delinquent homeowners might be potential short-sale candidates – and potential new leads for skilled RE/MAX agents.
Santiago and Wagner are proof that short sales are still personally gratifying and lucrative.
Santiago estimates that 60 percent of her business at RE/MAX Time in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., comes from short sales. Wagner, who works near Tacoma at RE/MAX Professionals in Gig Harbor, Wash., sometimes can’t believe her own numbers.
“In 2013, I closed 22 short sales. In 2012, I did 24 of them. With the hours and paperwork I’ve put in, that’s like closing 60 regular transactions,” Wagner jokes.
Ask Santiago and Wagner why they do short sales, and both respond in kind: the personal satisfaction they get from helping struggling owners.
“By the time they call me,” Wagner says of her short sale clients, “they’ve been through so much. It’s very gratifying to help them overcome this hurdle.”
“Short sales are a solution to the serious financial problems my clients are facing,” she says.
Financial adversity is something Santiago understands all too well. Before she became an agent, she found herself underwater with several investment properties.
“When I tell my clients, ‘I know how you feel,’ it’s really true. I’ve been that scared owner who doesn’t know where to get help. My own short sale past really helps build trust with my clients.
Streamlined, but still bumpy
Santiago and Wagner began selling short sales several years ago by handling transactions other agents were either too busy, or too reluctant,
to take on. Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) training paved the way to a full-blown specialty, but today their experience of short sales differs.
“They used to take forever,” Santiago says. “But now, many of my short sales close within two months.”
She praises the large Southern California institutions she works with for simplifying their procedures and widely implementing Equator software that helps keep track of short-sale documentation.
In contrast, Wagner’s transactions tend to take four to six months, and some regulations designed to streamline the process instead tend to complicate it.
“I work with two banks that offer quicker cooperative short sales involving less paperwork. But these banks set the list price, and it’s always too high.”
When that happens, Wagner steps in and negotiates – sometimes at length – for a lower price. She’s worked with major lenders to negotiate competitive prices by offering documentation that more accurately reflects nearby comparable sales than the original valuations.
“Agents should always be ready to negotiate with lenders,” Wagner says. “I’ve been able to extend default timelines, and twice even convinced banks to halt a foreclosure because I was close to a sale. You have to be willing to go to bat for your sellers.”
Giving sellers hope
Strong people skills are a must in short sales. Wagner says any agent who works these type of transactions must be part therapist, part Realtor and part teacher.
“Sellers need to have a full understanding of the sale’s ramifications on taxes, their ability to purchase a home in the future and other financial obligations,” says Wagner, who always advises clients to consult an accountant and an attorney before getting started.
Santiago teaches clients to see short sales as a means to an end.
“I emphasize that a short sale is better than foreclosure,” Santiago says. “It’s an opportunity for a clean start and hope for the future.”
These days, both Wagner and Santiago are seeing that hope fulfilled.
“I’m now closing on a home purchase for clients I helped with a short sale in 2010,” Santiago says with pride.
For Wagner, being a problem solver is the best reward of all.
“Working short sales sometimes makes me question my sanity,” she says, “but not my ability.”
Learn more about short sales and get your distressed-property training via RE/MAX University. To register, visit Mainstreet, click on the RU tab and select the Designation/Certification option from the drop-down menu.
CDPE – Certified Distressed Property Expert
This very popular course from the Distressed Property Institute can be taken online at a discounted RE/MAX price of $399. It will help you gain an in-depth understanding of the short-sale process.
SFR – Short Sale and Foreclosure Resource
The NAR course, offered through the Real Estate Buyers Agent Council, costs $125 and includes a class, plus three one-hour webinars. In addition to short sales, the SFR also includes training on foreclosures.