Connect with us


Short Sales – The Best Things in Life Aren’t Free



How much does a short sale cost?

Short Sale NegotiationsAnyone who has received a Notice of Default or has missed a few payments on a mortgage gets lots and lots of mail. Those folks get mailings that look like checks but are just teasers in order to elicit a call to a third party loan modification company. There are also postcards and flyers from real estate licensees offering to short sale the home for free.

The Beatles covered the song Money (that’s what I want) and it begins with the lyrics “The best things in life are free.” Let’s be clear, however: a short sale is not one of the best things in life and it is not free!

While it is true that in many short sales the seller may be able to participate in the transaction at little or no cost, this is not a certainty. There are potential costs associated with the short sale transaction. Those potential costs should be explained to the seller at the listing appointment or the listing consultation in order to assure that no one is under the false perception that the short sale is free.

Here are a few potential costs that can be associated with the short sale:

  • Homeowner’s Association Dues, Transfer Fees, and Document Fees. Frequently the short sale lender will not pay any of the costs associated with a Homeowner’s Association. Additionally, in some states, association document fees are required up front, are the obligation of the seller, and cannot be billed to the short sale transaction.
  • Settlement Fees. Sometimes certain investors have a cap on the amount that they will allow towards settlement fees, such as escrow services and title insurance. If the amount that the bank will pay is capped, someone will have to pay the difference in order for the transaction to close.
  • Cash Contributions. In certain circumstances, the lien holders may request a cash contribution. Sometimes the cash is required in order to meet a net amount not met by the offer itself. Other times, if the lien holders know that the seller has cash, the lien holder may be interested in a cash contribution in order to sweeten the pot. I’ve also even seen lien holders that will only waive a deficiency if they receive an additional cash contribution.
  • Pest Control, Home Warranty, Repairs. Depending upon the buyer and the contract, the seller may be asked to pay for some other costs associated with the transaction—termite inspection, a home warranty, or some repairs.

The items that I have listed here are just a few of the potential costs associated with a short sale. To state that a short sale is free to the seller or for an agent to pitch that s/he guarantees a short sale with no cost to the seller is virtually impossible. Many a short sale closes with no cost to the seller. But, there are some unknown factors that come up during the process. Sellers need to be prepared for the fact that there may be some costs involved. After all, let’s get real. Debt settlement generally involves a little bit of cash.

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.

Continue Reading


  1. Sheila Rasak

    November 23, 2010 at 9:36 am

    I mostly agree, but that being said, almost everything in life is negotiable (not death, not taxes). My transactions have mostly been with sellers who couldn’t possibly come up with some of the added costs that a lender has asked. Either the buyer agrees to cover these costs or the lender relents as a few bucks need not break a large transaction that the bank understands is in their favor. It’s all about clear communication. I can do many things, but squeezing blood out of a turnip isn’t one of them.

  2. Rob McCance

    November 23, 2010 at 9:57 pm


    Very true.

    Last year, I had a SS fall apart due to back HOA ($7k). Nobody was willing to pay it. I was representing the buyer.

    On another deal – I just read a 2nd mortgage short sale approval letter from BoA the other day and the first paragraph states we will accept $3,000 for this $47k dept and remove the lien.

    Next paragraph says “mr seller, you now will owe BoA $44k and please contact us immediately to secure this debt.”

    Two examples of it’s definitely NOT FREE!

    There are many more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


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!



magic eight ball

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.

Continue Reading


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:



short sales standoff

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.

Continue Reading


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 sales

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!

Continue Reading

Our Great Partners

American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.

Emerging Stories

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!