Short Sales – Working with Those Who Can


When I am representing a buyer in a short sale transaction, I am certainly hoping that the short sale listing agent falls into the category of those who can get the job done and those who are fast. Those who can have successfully closed a fair number of short sales, have significant experience in real estate, and know real estate contract law better than the back of their hand. Those who are as fast as the fastest racecar driver can get that short sale approval lickety-split. If I’m on the buyer’s side, I’m hoping for a tenacious soul who is detail-oriented and will do anything necessary to get the deal closed.

Why are all of these character traits so important to me? Well, I’ve got my buyer sitting patiently (or impatiently) waiting on this particular property. If s/he waits three to six months and the deal goes south, my buyer is going to be very angry, and nobody wants an angry buyer.

Unfortunately, I do come across a fair amount of listing agents in the those who can’t category. Usually (and I do not mean to generalize) those agents reveal themselves by their answers to a few questions:

  1. Have you submitted the short sale package to the bank? (If the answer is yes, this means that they already have an offer in play. If offers are still being accepted, then my buyer will probably not be in first position. Time to move on.)
  2. Who are the lien holders? (If the listing agent does not know and cannot find out the answer quickly, then the short sale package-the nuts and bolts of the transaction-has probably not even been collected yet from the seller. This is not good because you want to work with someone who is ready to send a complete package to the bank.)
  3. How many short sales have you successfully negotiated? (If this question is met with some hemming and hawing, this may indicate that the listing agent has not closed too many short sales and is a little bit uncomfortable with that line of questioning.)
  4. What is the status of my buyer’s offer? Why haven’t you sent it back to me with the seller’s signature? (If this response to this question is something like ‘I’ve sent all the offers to the bank and they will choose’, run like the wind. It is NOT common practice for the bank to select the offer or to review contracts that are not fully executed.)

There are many experienced agents who can get the job done and successfully close those short sales. The key is for a short sale buyer and his/her agent to ask questions of the listing agent prior to submitting an offer on the property. The answers to those questions will alert you as to whether or not the short sale is going to close fast.

Photo: flickr creative commons by Martin Pettitt

About Author

Melissa Zavala is the Broker/Owner of Broadpoint Properties and Head Honcho of Short Sale Expeditor®. Before landing real estate, she had careers in education and publishing. Many folks say that Melissa is genetically pre-disposed to success with short sales. In fact, last year she and her staff obtained over 500 short sale approval letters! When she isn’t speaking with lien holders, Melissa enjoys practicing yoga, walking the dog, and vacationing at beach resorts.


  1. Interesting article. Having worked a lot of short sales as an investor, it is interesting to see it differently as a licensed realtor now.

    I still boggles my mind after short sales have been around for what seems like forever that the listing agents still haven’t caught on yet. I certainly don’t disagree with any of your list. Found #4 hilarious! Who do they think they’re working for 🙂 Some people will just never learn I guess.

  2. Great article and dead on. We list many short sales and have taken the time and spent the money to educate ourselves on the process. I do get nervous when I see things in the listing that lead me to believe that the listing agent has done none or few. I also find it off-putting when there is a statement like “Buyer to pay a 1% fee for a negotiator”. In those situations I usually council the buyer to move on.

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