Any investor or homebuyer that has worked through a short sale in the last year knows what a lengthy process this can be. I actually bought a new personal residence in 2011 and it took 8 months for the bank to finally approve our offer. Of course, this was after multiple denials and re-offers, appraisals, inspections, etc. Because the process took all of 8 months, we eventually resolved that the bank wasn’t going to approve the offer and had mentally resigned ourselves to this fact. As far as we were concerned, if the short sale eventually did get approved, it was going to be a pleasant surprise. While 8 months isn’t the norm with most short sales, waiting multiple months to get an approval (or denial) is not uncommon.
For many investors or wholesalers, it’s very difficult to build a business model around an acquisition strategy that can take months just to get a “yes” or “no” decision. I have found that many of the short sales we are involved with as investment properties take upwards of 3 months to get approved. At first, I was hesitant to use short sales as an acquisition strategy because I didn’t want to get muddled down for months at a time waiting for a bank approval that may or may not come. However, as a turn-key provider always looking for rock bottom bargains, I couldn’t overlook the opportunity that the short sale market presented.
Once we committed ourselves to the short sale market, it became a matter of building a pipeline of short sale contracts. The idea being that after a few months of filling up the pipeline, we would get to the point where we are consistently closing on approved short sales. Of course, this requires that we are continually adding short sales to the pipeline as well. Keep in mind that for every 2 or 3 contracts that get put into the pipeline, we may end up closing on only one of those. Thus, if I want to consistently close on 3 short sales a month, I probably need to have 6 to 9 submitted every month as well.
As an aside, 3 months can be a very long time in a real estate submarket. Some of our short sales don’t go through because we choose not to move forward, not necessarily because of a bank denial. If a neighborhood experiences decline over a 3 month period as a result of foreclosures and there aren’t any newer comparables to work with we may choose to walk away from a property. It’s very important to keep a close eye on the submarkets and neighborhood you are buying in. In this volatile market, it’s not uncommon to have a detrimental shift in values in a short period of time that can kill your numbers.
Whether you are new to investing or a seasoned professional, working in the short sale market is a very viable strategy right now. While the thought of getting entangled with a bank for a one to three month period of time may not sound like fun (especially for a single deal), the principle of building a pipeline of short sales can make the time investment worthwhile.