Short Sale Lender Listing Assignments
There’s a conversation going on right now in one of those social media groups, and it’s pretty interesting. You see, in certain parts of the United States, short sale lenders have a list of “preferred” short sale listing agents. The topic of the conversation is what to do when you as a Realtor are assigned a listing (because you are a “preferred” agent), yet the property is already on the MLS and listed by another Realtor®.
- Contact the other Realtor®, explain the situation, and negotiate to take over the listing (perhaps paying a referral fee)?
- Tell the short sale lender that the property is already listed with another Realtor® and that you cannot intercede?
- Contact the seller and conspire to fire the current listing agent?
While this is certainly not the topic of a game show and the correct custom and practice may seem fairly obvious, it brings up an important point about short sales, fiduciaries, and fiduciary duties. I’m not an attorney and I don’t pretend to be one, but I am aware that a short sale transaction involves a seller (represented by an agent), a buyer (also represented by an agent), and a short sale lender (who ratifies the terms and conditions of the contract).
Parties to the Short Sale Transaction
Why is it that a short sale lender (not technically a party to the real estate transaction) can dictate how the parties behave and whom they can hire?
Short sales can be challenging for this very reason. Since the short sale transaction is a form of debt settlement, often both parties (the buyer and the seller) feel that they are at the mercy of the short sale lender if they want to get this short sale closed. Sometimes lenders say that they are looking for certain terms and conditions (for example, they won’t pay for termite work or back HOA dues). Because the buyer and seller are so desperate to get the transaction closed, they agree to the terms and conditions suggested by the lender.
The key is that the short sale lender does not own the property. The seller, whose name is on the title, owns the property and can make all decisions about who is hired as the listing agent in the transaction. The lender does not own the property, and cannot and should not make decisions on behalf of the short sale seller.
The Irony of the “Preferred” List
The truth is, however, that short sale listings are not for the inexperienced and faint of heart. And, once in a blue moon, a listing agent may bite off more than he or she can chew and take a listing out of his or her area of expertise. Even though the lender may make a better recommendation, the seller still has the right to make that ultimate decision as to the listing agent.
One alternative would be for the short sale lender, when contacted by prospective short sale sellers, to provide an online list of preferred agents—agents with the proven experience necessary to get the job done. And, therein lies the final rub; some agents on those “preferred” lists are there because they are “in the know” and not necessarily because they “know” short sales.
With respect to preferred short sale listing agents, you may be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Overall, this is a tricky topic with a lot of varying details. But, no matter what, never steal another agent’s listing out from under them. It’ll come back to haunt you some day—for sure!
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