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Calling short sale lenders: can you answer the $100,000 question?

I have a confession to make. I lost my cool the other day when I was calling a short sale lender. I probably hadn’t lost my cool when speaking with the loss mitigation reps at the banks for over a year, but this time I did. Shame on me.

The funny thing is that I have probably written well over fifty blog posts on how to speak with the lenders and how to handle the lien holder phone calls when tackling those short sale negotiations. I know better, but my emotions got the best of me on this one.

Last week I called a lien holder in order to confirm a potential foreclosure date on one of our short sale listings. About a month ago, the lender hand sent me an email stating that the sale was scheduled for August 1, 2010. I knew that this was incorrect as August 1st was Sunday. So, I wanted to call and see what was up.

I dialed the toll free number.

I waited patiently on hold. The phone representative came on the wire. I identified myself. The woman on the other end needed to confirm that I was authorized to speak on behalf of the seller. I was told that the computer system was down, but she had another way to independently me. She put me on hold. Several minutes later, she returned to the line and confirmed that I was legit.

This bank representative then asked me for all of the seller’s information. She asked for the seller’s name. (In this case, there are three individuals who own the home.) I provided her with the names of all three individuals. She then asked for the last four digits of their social security numbers; I provided all of that information. She then asked whether the property was vacant or occupied; I had that information as well. I was on a roll; I had the answers to all of the questions.

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Suddenly, we had made our way to the last question (and one that many lenders do not ask): “What is the seller’s phone number?”

Huh? What? Which of the three sellers are you talking about? I’m not sure what to say. “I have three sellers; each has a home number, a cell phone number, a fax number, and a work number. I’m not sure which one you need.” This phone rep was not in the giving mood. Despite the fact that I had several different numbers, apparently none of them was the same one that was in the computer system.

I had made it all the way to the $100,000.00 and then I heard the buzzer. It’s like when Heidi Klum tells the designers on “Project Runway” that they are out. The phone rep says, “I’m sorry ma’am. Unless I have the phone number, I cannot speak with you about the file.”

Okay… shame on me. But, that’s when I lost it. I used an expletive in order to demonstrate that I was a little bit irritated that despite the fact that I could provide lots of other information about each of the three sellers, she would not be able to help me.

When she heard the expletive, she reminded me that this call was being recorded. Like I really care. I’ve heard myself swear before.

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Funny thing is that the expletive did the trick. There is currently no scheduled foreclosure date on this property; onward and upward towards short sale approval!

Moral of the story: Use the communication log to record the sellers’ phone numbers—all of them.

Written By

Melissa Zavala is the Broker/Owner of Broadpoint Properties and Head Honcho of Short Sale Expeditor®, and Chief Executive Officer of Transaction 911. Before landing in real estate, she had careers in education and publishing. Most recently, she has been able to use her teaching and organizational skills while traveling the world over—dispelling myths about the distressed property market, engaging and motivating real estate agents, and sharing her passion for real estate. When she isn’t speaking or writing, Melissa enjoys practicing yoga, walking the dog, and vacationing at beach resorts.



  1. Sheila Rasak

    August 3, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Looks like a typical day in the life of a Realtor (sans slang). I typically use all my come backs as soon as the handset is placed on the cradle. These short sales are proving to be a battle of the wills. Even finding your negotiator weeks after the package has been submitted can feel like winning the lottery… then try to collect.

  2. Benn Rosales

    August 3, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    lol I’m sorry, I don’t mean to laugh, but professional and human is a very fine line. People get frustrated. You lived to tell about it, and so did the operator- maybe you should let them fly more often AND have all of the numbers at the same time. Two birds, one stone. 🙂

  3. Jason Improta - Calabasas Homes for Sale

    August 3, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    We typically nice them to death and it works for the most part but I have heard many associates who gain traction with expletives and anger. Guess we will use it if we have to. Sure want to sometimes 🙂

  4. Zipporah

    August 3, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Sometimes frustration takes over and you have to give in a little bit. Sounds like it would be hard to keep one’s cool in that situation. No point in beating yourself up over one incident. Sounds like you recognize it might not have been the best approach, and that’s all you can do. Oftentimes if I’m frustrated on a call dealing with someone who has no idea what I’m talking about I will get angry and remind them “I’m not mad at you, but at the situation I’m dealing with here,” and then they usually sympathize.

  5. Nadina Cole-Potter

    August 3, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    From what I have heard, verbal information from the lenders’ reps is not reliable. In Arizona we can check with the foreclosure trustee. In our county, we can also access the Recorder’s records to see the Notice of Trustee Sale online. It is usually reliable unless the sale is postponed temporarily. I suppose if no trustee sale is scheduled, then there isn’t a trustee either.

    Trust but verify.

  6. John Horne

    August 4, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Calling short sale lenders: can you answer the $100,000 question?

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