When first posted this included a doctored photo at the bottom of a Down’s Syndrome child. I am making this comment here at the top so the reader comments below will still make sense. For the record, NO amount of threats or disagreements – legal or otherwise, have ever gotten me to change so much as a comma in any other post I have ever done. I am making a special exception in this case because my only targets in this post were senior executives (and their lawyers) running Bank of America’s loss mitigation division handling short sales. Not in any way an innocent child.
Bank of America is to be Highly Commended for their complete willingness to give so many intellectually challenged people jobs as executives. Sure, year in – year out, most other banks have always been willing to hire a few people who couldn’t think straight. But those other banks aren’t getting any awards for what they did for one simple reason: what they did was so darn common. Now any buzz kill who cares to can go look and find some other division of Bank of America / Countrywide that isn’t being run totally by retards (for example, their REO loss mitigation department).
But I challenge anyone to find any other bank that even comes close to Bank of America / Countrywide’s short sale loss mitigation departments for non-stop, over the top policies and procedures that make life difficult, impossible or at least a lot less profitable for the following four groups (not listed in their order of importance and there may well be others).
- All agents – either on the buyer or seller side
- All potential buyers of any property where B of A holds a 1st lien position
- All of the sellers (their borrowers) trying to work with them to avoid foreclosure
If B of A is in a 2nd lien position, oddly enough they have workable policies in place (seller IS going to sign a note prior to close to pay the bank a small part of what they owe). They don’t flex on this issue but it is a knowable and not completely unfair rule. If they are in 1st lien position their standard and unvarying behavior (if that behavior were being attributed to an individual person) is nothing short of psychotic or completely retarded – at least down at the imbecile level. No rational judgement, no possibility at all of dealing with them the same way we deal with all the other banks on short sales.
Other than limited personal – and for the most part, completely anecdotal data, most agents doing short sales on the buy or the sell side have a very odd picture of the overall scene. Loads and loads of mostly worthless gibberish. Notice how Chase and Wells Fargo are grouped in the same category as Bank of America? Wells does not ever pay any of the buyer’s closing costs and won’t pay for a home warranty. But ….. you can routinely close an escrow from start to finish with Wells in about 30 days. Actually close, it takes less then two weeks to get an approval. Same with Chase. Try that with B of A / Countrywide (who collectively have about half of all problem loans in the U.S.) It takes a minimum of 90 days to get any response back from B of A. And if you send them anything after submitting the original package (anything, even a better offer) that 90 day clock is reset. So, with B of A four to five months to actually close a transaction is not uncommon.
It gets better. Here is a charming response we received from B of A a month or so back:
“Bank of America is now requiring most sellers to contribute to the loss in order to qualify for a short sale. Please prepare your client for that probability and be ready to let me know how much cash the seller can bring to closing. If no cash is available, the alternative is a promissory note for a larger portion of the loss. this requirement is firm–no contribution from the seller will result in the short sale being declined. There are vary few exemption made to this. The approval time once the file has been submitted will depend on the size of the loss, the investor and the MI insurer, if any.”
Arizona is one of ten states that have “anti-deficiency protection” due to the nature of how foreclosure works here – it takes only 90 days from the time the lender files for a Trustee’s Sale for them to take the house back. Therefore, the anti-deficiency protection (very basic rules – there are others: The same purchase money loan is still on the property, e.g., they never took any money out of the house via a refi and it was a residential property of 2.5 acres or less).
The response from B of A above was on a transaction where our seller would have no possible liability of any kind if the bank were to foreclose. None. In this case there was precisely nothing they could legally do to go after him and yet, even after being told this and being asked to please verify it with their legal department, they were not willing to budge – forcing the seller to let them foreclose. They get a house back that they really don’t want for many reasons, a neighborhood winds up with an abandoned home that will invariably sell for less money after the bank gets it back and so it goes.
It is as though a complete division of Bank of America executives went looking and anything they found that could slow down the process, make it more difficult for everybody involved or simply thwart the actual goal completely – they carefully noted what that was and then adopted it as firm policy. I’m impressed.
Disputing a property’s value in a short sale: turn a no into a go
During a short sale, there may be various obstacles, with misaligned property values ranking near the top, but it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker!
It’s about getting your way
Were you on the debate team in high school? Were you really effective at convincing your parent or guardian to let you do things that you shouldn’t have been doing? How are your objection-handling skills? Can you flip a no into a go?
When working on short sales, there is one aspect of the process that may require those excellent negotiation or debate skills: disputing the property value. In a short sale, the short sale lender sends an appraiser or broker to the property and this individual conducts a Broker Price Opinion or an appraisal, using special forms provided by the short sale lender.
After this individual completes the Broker Price Opinion or the appraisal, he or she will return it to the short sale lender. Shortly thereafter, the short sale lender will be ready to talk about the purchase price. Will the lender accept the offer on the table or is the lender looking for more? If the lender is seeking an offer for a lot more than the one on the table, mentally prepare for the fact that you will need to conduct a value dispute.
Value Dispute Process
While each of the different short sale lenders (including Fannie Mae) has their own policies and procedures for value dispute, all these procedures have some things in common. Follow the steps below in order to conduct an effective value dispute.
- Inquire about forms. Ask your short sale lender if there are specific forms that you need to complete in order to conduct a value dispute. Obtain those forms if necessary.
- Gather information. Your goal is to convince the lender to accept the buyer’s offer, so you need to demonstrate that your offer is in line with the value of the property. Collect data that proves this point, such as reports from the MLS, Trulia, Zillow, or your local title company.
- Take photos. If there are parts of the property that are substandard and possibly were not revealed to the lender by the individual conducting the BPO, take photos of those items. Perhaps the kitchen has no flooring, or there is a 40-year old roof. Take photos to demonstrate these defects.
- Obtain bids. For any defects on the property, obtain a minimum of two bids from licensed contractors. For example, obtain two bids from roofers or structural engineers if necessary
- Write a report. Think back to high school English class if necessary. Write a short essay that references your information, photos, and bids, and explains how these items support your buyer’s value. This is not something that you whip up in five minutes. Spend time preparing a compelling appeal.
It is entirely possible that some lenders will not be particularly open-minded when it comes to valuation dispute. However, more times than not, an effective value dispute leads to short sale approval.
Short sale standoffs: how to avoid getting hit
The short sale process can feel a lot like a wild west standoff, but there are ways to come out victorious, so let’s talk about those methods:
What is a short sale standoff?
If you are a short sale listing agent, a short sale processor, or a short sale negotiator then you probably already know about the short sale standoff. That’s when you are processing a short sale with more than one lien holder and neither will agree to the terms offered by the other. Or… better yet, each one will not move any further in the short sale process until they see the short sale approval letter from the other lien holder.
Scenario #1 – You are processing a short sale with two different mortgage-servicing companies. Bank 1 employees tell you that they will proceed with the short sale, and they will offer Bank 2 a certain amount to release their lien. You call Bank 2 and tell them the good news. Unfortunately, the folks at Bank 2 want more money. If Bank 1 and Bank 2 do not agree, then you are in a standoff.
Scenario #2 – You are processing a short sale with two different mortgage-servicing companies. Bank 1 employees tell you that they cannot generate your approval letter until you present them with the approval letter from Bank 2. Bank 2 employees tell you the exact same thing. Clearly, in this situation, you are in a standoff.
How to Avoid the Standoff
If you are in the middle of a standoff, then you are likely very frustrated. You’ve gotten pretty far in the short sale process and you are likely receiving lots of pressure from all of the parties to the transaction. And, the lenders are not helping much by creating the standoff.
Here are some ideas for how to get out of the situation:
- Go back to the first lien holder and ask them if they are willing to give the second lien holder more money.
- Go to the second lien holder and tell them that the first lien holder has insisted on a maximum amount and see if they will budge.
- If no one will budge, find out why. Is this a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan? If so, they have a maximum that they allow the second. And, if you alert the second of that information, they may become more compliant.
- Worst case: someone will have to pay the difference. Depending on the laws in your state, it could be the buyer, the seller, or the agents (yuck). No matter what, make sure that this contribution is disclosed to all parties and appears on the short sale settlement statement at closing.
- In Scenario #2, someone’s got to give in. Try explaining to both sides where you are and see if one will agree to generate their approval letter. If not, follow the tips provided in this Agent Genius article and take your complaint to the streets.
One thing about short sales is that the problems that arise can be difficult to resolve merely because of the number of parties involved—and all from remote locations. Imagine how much easier this would be if all parties sat at the same table and broke bread? If we all sat at the same table, then we wouldn’t need armor in order to avoid the flying bullets from the short sale standoff.
Short sale approval letters don’t arrive in the blink of an eye
Short sale approval letters may look like they’ve been obtained simply by experts, but it takes time and doesn’t just happen with luck.
Short sale approval: getting prepared, making it happen
People always ask me how it is that I obtain short sale approval letters with such ease. The truth is, that while I have more short sale processing and negotiating experience than most agents and brokers, I don’t just blink my eyes like Jeannie and make those short sale approval letters appear. I often sweat it, just like everyone else.
Despite the fact that I do not have magical powers, I do have something else on my side—education. One of the most important things than can lead to short sale success for any and all agents is education.
Experience dictates that agents that learn about the short sale process
have increased short sale closings.
Short sale education opportunities abound
There are many ways to become educated about the short sale process and make getting short sale approval letters look easy to obtain. These include:
- Classes at your local board of Realtors®
- Free short sale webinars and workshops
- The short sale or foreclosure specialist designations
As the distressed property arena grows and changes, it is important to always stay abreast of policy changes that may impact how you do your job and how you process any short sale that lands on your plate.
The most important thing to do is to read, read, read. Follow short sale specialists and those who blog about short sales on AGBeat, Google+, facebook, and twitter. Set up a Google Alert for the term ‘short sale’ and you will receive Google’s top short sale picks daily in your email inbox. Visit mortgagor websites to read up on their specific policies and procedures.
Don’t take on too much
And, when you get a call from a prospective short sale seller, make sure that you don’t bit off more than you can chew. Agents in most of America right now are clamoring for listings since we are in the midst of a listing shortage. But, if you are going to take on a short sale, be sure that it is a deal that you can close. And, if you have your doubts, why not partner up with a local agent that can mentor your and assist you in getting the job done? After all, half a commission check is better than none!
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