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Short sale primer – what to say when you call the lien holder

I’ve written all sorts of posts about all things short sale. Many of those posts discuss problems that arise during the course of the short sale. But, before you encounter the problems that may occur in the midst of the short sale, you need to know where to begin. Here are some ABCs of short sale processing.

This is a primer for those individuals who have taken (or are about to take) their first short sale listing and are unsure as to where to begin. First and foremost, you need to obtain an offer to purchase the property. Then, you will need to prepare and submit the short sale package to the seller’s lien holder(s).

After those milestones have passed, it is time to start calling the lien holder to follow up on the status of the short sale package. And, that’s where many folks get stuck: they’re not sure what to say.

No matter what . . . you have to call the bank, and you have to follow up regularly. It may be a little bit scary or intimidating at first because you are not sure about the kinds of questions that you need to ask when you call.

Here are a few questions that may help you get started:

  1. Have you received the short sale package? (Hopefully, the answer is yes. If the answer is no, send the package again.)
  2. Are you missing any items that you need to process the short sale? (You’ll want to send those missing items a.s.a.p.)
  3. Has a Notice of Default been filed? Is there currently a foreclosure date scheduled? (Important questions, because if the foreclosure is set for tomorrow, your job is going to be tough.)
  4. Can you tell me about the process and time frames at your bank? (Good learning opportunity. Listen and take notes.)
  5. How soon will a negotiator be assigned? (Write down the answer. This is another good learning opportunity.)
  6. When will be the BPO (Broker Price Opinion) be ordered? (Write down the answer.)
  7. When would you recommend that I call back to check on the status of the short sale? (Call back the date that is recommended or sooner, if necessary.)

Starting by asking those questions will help you to get your feet wet and become accustomed to working the short sales. They are tough transactions, and you may not like the answers that you get when you make the call. But, keep on going and be happy! You have a listing! That’s one more than some of your colleagues!

(Sidebar: The procedure for Bank of America is a little bit different since they use the Equator system. Also, you can refer to my previous post with a Communication Log, if you would like more information about documenting this part of the short sale transaction.)

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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. Joe Loomer

    November 1, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Excellent post Melissa – very simple and very important things to ask!

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  2. Paula Henry

    November 1, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Melissa – Great Write!! Having the answers to these simple questions sets a foundation from which to work. Knowing the banks timetable and how they work is crucial to our success.

  3. Sheila Rasak

    November 14, 2010 at 1:46 pm


    We can never be over-advised on this important subject and even the seasoned Realtor needs to be reminded of the follow through that needs to be done with the lender.

    Again, thank you for what you add here.


  4. Missy Caulk

    November 14, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Melissa this is the same process we follow. Many times they won’t tell us then when the BPO will be ordered but at least they know we we know we are doing. I love it when they tell me the file is perfect. Then we still wait.
    Since Michigan is a 6 month redemption state we still close many after the sheriffs sale. But, in other states once it is sold at the sheriffs sale it is over.

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