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From REO Trans to Equator: A Mighty Morphing Platform

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Short Sale Software Platform

Perhaps you have heard of Equator, a short sale software platform used primarily by Bank of America. Recently, the real estate network has been abuzz with all sorts of real estate blogs about Equator.

If you are not working short sales but have worked foreclosures before, you may have heard of REO Trans. REO Trans was the software platform used by many asset management companies to service REO listings. You see, asset managers and REO listing agents were able to use REO Trans to communicate and process massive amounts of REOs very efficiently via the Internet and the Internet-based software platform.

Well, as the market began to change, REO Trans morphed their software platform into Equator, and you do not even need to travel to Ecuador, Brazil or Colombia to see it! Currently Equator is used by Bank of America for all Bank of America short sale transactions. It is also used by GMAC, but in a slightly different manner.

If you obtain a short sale listing and plan to negotiate the short sale yourself, than the first thing you want to do is find out who the lien holders are for the property. If any of the lien holders are Bank of America, than you will want to visit the Equator website. At the website, you will need to create an account. Once you have created your account, you can login and use the dashboard to initiate a short sale. What is great about the Equator system is that you receive emails and assigned tasks with deadlines for completion. For novice short sale listing agents, Equator can “hold your hand” as you negotiate the short sale.

Personally, I have read plenty of blog posts written by folks who were complaining about the former Bank of America short sale negotiation process. It was tedious, time consuming, and required significant expertise to navigate the bumps in the road to lien holder approval. I’ve also personally experienced telephone hold times in excess of one hour just to check status on a short sale file. The great news is that most transactions that go through the Equator process can be completed without a single phone call to the bank!

Personally, I love the Equator platform. Short sale approvals come much more quickly; in fact, one of my colleagues got an approval in just 24 days! So, if you have been a bit nervous about venturing into the short sale market because you have heard a few horror stories, you may want to reconsider. Things are getting better with the mighty Equator system.

(Sidebar: GMAC also uses the Equator platform. Currently, they are using it a bit differently. At GMAC, the negotiators initiate the short sale and then it appears in your Equator account. Whatever the case, the Equator system is definitely a plus when working short sales!)

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.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Dawn

    May 5, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Equator is a wonderful platform, however I have a Bank of America short sale I am working and since the seller has a FHA loan, it can’t go through Equator. So unfortunately it is the same old Bank of America “no we didn’t get one of the pages that were faxed with the other 22 you sent that we do have” song & dance.

  2. Justin Boland

    May 6, 2010 at 10:41 am

    There was a long and very entertaining thread on Active Rain where an Equator rep asked people for feedback. I left a few questions, and thus had all the replies sent to my inbox, and I quickly realized something that…well, it didn’t shock me at all: they were simply deleting the negative feedback. Not abusive, not profane, just people who were authentically frustrated with the system and listed the reasons why. I was getting these messages in my inbox, but they were deleting from the blog itself. (I was also seeing much angrier “why did you delete that??” follow-up messages, too, which obviously didn’t get to stay up for long either.)

    Nick Reuter @ Short Sale Artisan had to work for two weeks to get a simple answer out of them about the existence of API tools. They were deleting his question!

    I contribute this because I think it says a great deal about their approach and their interest in ANY of our feedback.

  3. Buyer

    August 31, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Equator as a software solution is buggy and lacks critical features. I develop software solutions for a living and happen to be a potential buyer in a short sale transaction and have witnessed multiple deficiencies with Equator.
    * Once the transaction details are entered, there is no way to go back and correct or change any of the data entered.
    * Automated workflow processes that are supposed to take place within hours take days instead.
    * Uploaded files nearing completion have simply disappeared, requiring agents to completely start over again with the process.

    It is remarkable to me that one of the Planet’s largest banks uses Equator when it is so buggy given the astronomical costs they must be incurring. Amazing!

    • Hugo Albert

      March 2, 2011 at 5:48 pm

      Do you know what the solution to solve this issue is. Currently I know of 3 agents including myself whose transactions have dissapeared several times. Since they started dissapearing from equator we have not been able to close any transactions at all with Bank of America. I have spent months trying to contact many departments at B of A as well as Equator and no one seems to know the problem. They all tell you to initiate the transaction again but it is no help. Contacted an attorney he said he cannot help.

      • Melissa Zavala

        March 2, 2011 at 7:43 pm

        One thing that I would pay attention to is the due date for a specific task. Many tasks in Equator have due dates. If you do not meet a due date, the file can be closed. I’m not sure if that is what happened in the situations you describe, but I have heard of similar situations and it was an issue with the due date. Hope that helps.

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Coaching

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!

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magic eight ball

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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.

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Coaching

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:

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short sales standoff

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.

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Coaching

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.

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short sale approval

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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