Although all lenders have varying requirements and may demand that a borrower submit a wide array of documentation, the following steps gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect.
Call the Lender
You may need to make several calls before you find the person responsible for handling short sales. You do not want to talk to the “real estate short sale” or “work out” department, you want the supervisor’s name, the name of the individual capable of making a decision.
Submit Letter of Authorization
Lenders typically do not want to disclose any of your personal information without written authorization to do so. If you are working with a real estate agent, closing agent, title company or lawyer, you will receive better cooperation if you write a letter to the lender giving the lender permission to talk with those specific interested parties about your loan. The letter should include the following:
- Property Address
- Loan Reference Number
- Your Name
- The Date
- Your Agent’s Name & Contact Information
The sadder, the better. This statement of facts describes how you got into this financial bind and makes a plea to the lender to accept less than full payment. Lenders are not inhumane and can understand if you lost your job, were hospitalized or a truck ran over your entire family, but lenders are not particularly empathetic to situations involving dishonesty or criminal behavior.
Proof of Income and Assets
It is best to be truthful and honest about your financial situation and disclose assets. Lenders will want to know if you have savings accounts, money market accounts, stocks or bonds, negotiable instruments, cash or other real estate or anything of tangible value. Lenders are not in the charity business and often require assurance that the debtor cannot pay back any of the debt that it is forgiving.
Copies of Bank Statements
If your bank statements reflect unaccountable deposits, large cash withdrawals or an unusual number of checks, it’s probably a good idea to explain each of those line items to the lender. In addition, the lender might want you to account for each and every deposit so it can determine whether deposits will continue. Be prepared to provide detailed financial documentation, including pay stubs and tax documents.
Preliminary Net Sheet
This is an estimated closing statement that shows the sales price you expect to receive and all the costs of sale, unpaid loan balances, outstanding payments due and late fees, including real estate commissions, if any. Your closing agent or lawyer should be able to prepare this for you, if you do not know how to calculate any of these fees. If the bottom line shows cash to the seller, you will probably not need a short sale.
Comparative Market Analysis
Sometimes markets decline and property values fall. If this is part of the reason that you cannot sell your home for enough to pay off the lender, this fact should be substantiated for the lender through a comparative market analysis (CMA). Your real estate agent can prepare a CMA for you, which will show
- Prices of similar homes
- Active on the market
- Pending sales
- Homes sold from the past six months.
Purchase Agreement & Listing Agreement
When you reach an agreement to sell with a prospective purchaser, the lender will want a copy of the offer, along with a copy of your listing agreement. Be prepared for the lender to renegotiate commissions and to refuse to pay for certain items such as home protection plans or termite inspections.
Now, if everything goes well, the lender will approve your short sale. As part of the negotiation, you might ask that the lender not report adverse credit to the credit reporting agencies, but realize that the lender is under no obligation to accommodate this request
Broker Price Opinion
The way mortgages are sold, the mortgage holder can be anywhere and certainly not aware of local real estate conditions. If the package is complete, the Lender will order a BPO, or Broker’s Price Opinion, from an independent Realtor. The BPO is the key to the whole process. If it is too high,the Lender will not accept a low offer. Your Realtor can meet with the Agent doing the BPO and offer information supporting the offer, such as the average time on market of comparable homes, recent selling prices and point out any defects in the home.
Most Lenders will accept an offer lower than the BPO, but usually not much more than 10% lower, though that will vary depending on the company. The sales contract should specifically state that the offer is contingent on the Lender accepting the purchase price in full and forgiving the Seller the deficiency on the mortgage. Yes, there can be tax consequences. The Seller does receive a 1099 on the forgiven part of the mortgage, but there are provisions in the tax code for the offset of the phantom income due to insolvency. Most Short Sellers will satisfy the insolvency requirements or the Lender would not be allowing the Short Sale in the first place. Be aware too that if the home goes to foreclosure, a 1099 is received for the FULL amount of the mortgage, plus late fees, legal fees etc. Obviously every individual situation is different so a CPA or tax attorney should be consulted.
The process does all take time and Lenders are swamped, expect at least 2-3 months before a sale can be finalized, even if the Lender accepts the first offer. If they do not, the price can be negotiated.
The Short Sale is a detailed but fairly straightforward process that can work to benefit Buyer, Seller and even the Lender. The Buyer gets a good price on a home, the Seller gets to avoid the disruption and credit hit of a foreclosure and the Lender avoids the delay and expense of foreclosing on a property they don’t want to own and that would negatively impact their ability to make more loans.