The first step to take is to find a knowledgeable real estate agent. Yes, it may be a bit of a challenge, but short sales are quite different than standard purchases, and you need someone experienced and well-versed in the short sale process. Let the newbie agent find someone else to practice on. To find this super agent, ask friends, colleagues and neighbors who they recommend. Look at short sale homes currently on the market and pay close attention to any agent names that pop up repeatedly.
Next, put the agent to work finding you a short sale property according to the criteria you have determined works best for you. While he’s doing that, concentrate on getting a loan. Visit lenders to find the best rates and terms. Although short sales are notoriously slow, once your offer is approved by the seller’s lender the pace may pick up, and you want to be ready to close when it does.
Never assume that just because a house is listed as a short sale, it’s bargain-priced. When you find a house that you are interested in, have your agent compile a comparative market analysis (CMA) to determine its market value. Often, its value doesn’t match the asking price, so a CMA gives you a basis from which to determine how much to offer on the house.
Ensure that your agent includes language in the offer that allows you an out under certain circumstances. Some of these include finding another home or a home inspection that turns up needed and costly repairs. Lenders typically won’t negotiate the price because of considerable problems with the house. It’s imperative you are able to walk away from the deal when faced with huge problems with the home.
Keep looking at houses. There is absolutely no guarantee that the lender will accept your offer or that the sale will conclude successfully. If you find another home that you like, that is easier to purchase, you may want to walk away from the short sale.
It seems as if everyone involved with the short sale, from the homeowner to the listing broker to the lender, wants you to believe that the short sale is the very best bargain opportunity of a homebuyer’s lifetime. The reality may be quite different, depending on region. In Las Vegas, for instance, the prices of short sale houses average $2,500 more than the median price of other homes on the market. Foreclosures are the bargain in Sin City. The lesson here? Don’t buy into the media’s hype. Do your homework and pay close attention to research pertinent to your specific region.
Short sales do offer the chance to purchase a home at a discount, but buyers should proceed with caution. It’s a long process, full of pitfalls. Going into it with a savvy agent, and your eyes wide open, puts you a step ahead of the game.