Understanding Motivations in a Short Sale Transaction

One of the key differences between successful investors and agents and ones that struggle (and a key factor in improving your successful closing rates) is quite simply putting yourself in all involved parties shoes and finding common ground. You need to think about the motivations of the bank or lender, the homeowner, the real estate agent, the buyer(s), and any 2nd lienholders that drive the decision making process. Understanding how these motivations conflict with each other will help you find common ground to get deals closed.

The Bank or Lender (Primary Lienholder)

This is it – the big kahuna. The bank has the keys to the castle, so don’t underestimate their motivations when it comes to a short sale transaction. The bank’s short sale decision making process is driven by a single factor – money. Remember – the bank’s ideal situation is that you continue to make your payments on the agreed-upon schedule. This ensures that they make the interest on the loan and get the balance paid in full.

Let’s circle back to motivation. What motivates the bank to accept a short sale offer? If you guessed Money, you are right! It’s a bit of an inverse situation though – banks get into loans expecting to be repaid the principal balance plus interest. In this case, you are asking them to take less money – and the only way that is going to work is by demonstrating that the alternative is even MORE less money. In other words, the burden of proof is on you to motivate the bank to accept your offer by proving to them that their financial position will be worse if they do not accept the short sale. This is typically done by carefully explaining to the bank what the outcome will look like if they go all the way to foreclosure, and then additionally proving that foreclosure is imminent.

So, let’s recap on how to motivate the bank –

  1. Prove that foreclosure is a more financially damaging than a short sale and back it up with evidence!
  1. Prove that foreclosure is imminent and cannot be prevented and back it up with evidence! ( A good  hardship letter helps)

The Homeowner

The homeowner is in a different situation. They are falling behind on their payments, are hopelessly underwater, and it appears to them there is no way out!

Similar to how the bank is mitigating their losses in a short sale, the homeowner also wants to mitigate the damage to themselves and their families. The motivating factor for a homeowner to pursue a short sale is getting themselves out of a bad situation that is going to get worse. The interesting thing about a short sale from a homeowner’s perspective is that, unlike a typical home sale transaction, the homeowner / seller really does not care any more about the sale price of the house. This is because they are already underwater – and to them, getting out of $50,000 or $75,000 really isn’t significant – it is the getting out that is significant.

The only time that changes is when the lender is looking for the homeowner to assume a deficiency judgment. In that case, the homeowner will still be motivated to minimize the loss, since they will be responsible for it after the sale completes.

Use the homeowner’s motivation to get out of their situation to get them to play their part in the transaction – including providing necessary supporting documents about their financial situation and a good, strong hardship letter. It is best if you can negotiate away any deficiency judgment (HAFA properties will automatically have no deficiency) to keep the motivation of the homeowner strictly on leaving the property – but recognizes this directly conflicts with the bank’s motivation – money. Our recommendation in this scenario is to try to work for the homeowner’s benefit – carrying a deficiency without having any asset to back it up is not a fun situation to be in.

The Realtor

Like any real estate transaction, realtors want to close the deal and make commissions (under the guidelines of NAR or other realtor ethics codes). It’s their job, after all!

A motivating factor for agents is most certainly the time involved in a transaction. Time is money, and many real estate agents despise working with short sales because (yes, it is true) they take more effort than a standard transaction. Being in the middle of a real estate transaction is enough work, now you have to throw in the multi-month bank approval process and due diligence phase and deal with additional red tape, for the same commission.

Motivating realtors, then, can be done by improving their processes or saving them time. If you are the real estate agent, then your motivation should also be to save more time. If a particular home nets you a commission check of $2000, and it took you 30 hours to make it happen, vs. 60 hours for a similar check on a short sale, you worked for half the rate on the short sale! ($66 an hour vs. $33 an hour, respectively).

How do we improve time? By building efficiencies and work flows into the process, especially for repetitive tasks. Short sale software is certainly one way to improve efficiencies. So is a simple spreadsheet. Another one is simply making win-win situations right off the bat by reading blogs like this and understanding how to meet the motivations of the parties involved in a transaction to improve both rate of a successful close as well as reduce the effort needed for each transaction.

Another motivating factor for agents is simply business. They just want business – quantity is important! Even if agents do not like short sales, the bottom line is being a successful agent in today’s market depends on understanding and working the short sale process successfully. If you want to have a good pipeline of work going, then you need to include short sales in your portfolio.

The Buyer

The buyer’s motivation is the same in a short sale transaction as a normal transaction – it is all about getting the best price! Whether the buyer is an investor looking to eventually flip the property or a family looking for a place to live, the price is what matters. Many buyers are attracted to short sales and are motivated to work through one despite the onerous timelines and red tape simply because they often represent a good deal.

We again have a conflict here – the conflict that in a normal transaction exists between the Buyer and the Seller, in a short sale transaction is between the Buyer and the Lender. In a short sale, the buyer still wants the lowest price possible, but this time the lender, not the seller, wants the highest price.

Like any other real estate transaction, keeping a buyer motivated depends on their needs. For a family, it might be demonstrating a property to be a good family home, in a good neighborhood, or demonstrating a great value. For an investor, it might be demonstrating the ability to improve the value of the property and resell it at a future point in time, or keep it and rent it out. In any case, there is really nothing unique with the motivations of an end buyer in a short sale transaction to differentiate from your typical transaction.

The 2nd Lienholder or Subordinate Lender

The second lienholder, if there is one, has the exact same motivation as the first lender – money. So the same rules apply. The only additional wrinkle with the 2nd lender is that their „loss“ in a short sale is typically much more than the first lenders. For example, a second lienholder may have a principal balance of $25,000 and only expect to recieve $1000 at closing – a measly 4% of the principal balance in such an example.

This is why the case needs to be ironclad that foreclosure is imminent (in which case, the 2nd lienholder would get nothing). The bottom line though: if there is any doubt as to the validity of the hardship, a $1000 check may not be enough to keep the lender motivated to accept the terms of the short sale arrangement. So it is doubly important to make your case well to these parties!

Keep the motivations of everyone in mind

The bottom line: when handling a transaction, you are effectively juggling the motivations of all parties involved in the short sale transaction. Keep that in mind when you are dealing with individuals, and you will close more deals and be able to find common ground when disputes occur quicker. Flexibility and some political posturing apply!

Immobilienmakler Heidelberg

Makler Heidelberg