What is a Short Sale Anyway?
An increase in foreclosure rates will inevitably bring with it an increase in short sales. But what is a short sale?
A short sale happens when you sell your house for less than your remaining mortgage balance, the proceeds of which go to the lender and in return the lender forgives the remaining balance. Selling your home as a short sale is one way to avoid foreclosure.
As a general rule, lenders lose money when they foreclose on a property. Consequently, they would rather not have to foreclose if it can be avoided. A short sale represents an opportunity to cut their losses because a short sale usually allows them to recoup more of the cost of the loan than a foreclosure process would.
However, don’t think that a short sale is an easy thing to accomplish. In order to get permission for a short sale, you must provide documentation showing a genuine financial hardship. And don’t think that the decision for accepting a short sale is solely in the hands of the lender. Sure the lender must first agree, but this is not the final word. If there is mortgage insurance involved, this company also gets input on the decision. If there is an investor backing the mortgage, they also get input as to whether to accept a short sale.
The transaction process for a short sale can be rather cumbersome as well, whether you’re on the buying or selling side. Many short sales fail due to additional demands by the lender, such as requiring the broker to reduce his or her commission and/or that the seller signs a document requiring him or her to pay back the shortfall.
If you’re on the selling side of a short sale, consider having your agent or other experienced professional negotiate with your lender for a better deal. And remember, if the lender does accept a short sale and forgives part of your debt, that is considered taxable income and you must declare it as such to the IRS.
Setting the Price
The price is the first thing buyers notice about your property. If you set your price too high, then the chance of alienating buyers is higher. You want your house to be taken seriously, and the asking price reflects how serious you are about selling your home.
Several factors will contribute to your final decision. First, you should compare your house to others that are in the market. If you use an agent, he/she will provide you with a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis). The CMA will reflect the following:
- houses in your price range and area that were sold within the last half-year
- asking and selling prices of houses
- current inventory of houses on the market
- features of each house on the market
From the CMA, you will learn the difference between the asking price and selling price for all homes sold, the condition of the market, and other houses comparable to yours.
Also, try to find out what types of houses are selling and see if it applies to your area. Buyers follow trends, and these trends can help you set your price.
Always be realistic. Understand and set your price to reflect the current market situation.
Plan of Action
- Analyze why you are selling - If you understand your motives, you will be able to better negotiate and to get what it is that you want, whether it be a quick sale, high price, or somewhere in the middle.
- Prepare your home for the buyer - Maximize the strengths of your property and fix up its weaknesses. You want the buyer to walk away from your home with a lasting good impression.
- Find a good real estate agent that understands your needs - Make sure that your agent is loyal to you, and can negotiate to help you achieve your goals. In addition, they should be assertive and honest with both you and the buyer.
- Be prepared for negotiation - Learn and understand your buyer’s situation; what are their motives? Can you demand a big deposit from them? Try to lock in the buyer so that the deal goes through.
- Negotiate for the best price and the best terms - Learn how to counter offer to get maximum value from every offer.
- Make sure the contract is accurate and complete - Be honest with your disclosures; you do not want to lose the deal because you were lying or diminishing your home’s defects. Insist the buyers get a professional inspection. This will protect both you and the buyer.
Making a Good First Impression
If you want buyers to be interested in your home, you need to show it in its best light. A good first impression can influence a buyer both emotionally and visually, thus prompting them to make an offer. In addition, what the buyer first sees is what they think of when they consider the asking price.
A bad first impression can dissuade a potential buyer. Don’t show your property until it’s all fixed up. You do not want to give buyers the chance to use the negative first impression they have as means of negotiation.
Ask around for the opinions others have of your home. Real estate agents who see houses everyday can give solid advice on what needs to be done. Consider what architects or landscape designers have to say. What you need are objective opinions, and it’s sometimes hard to separate the personal and emotional ties you have for the home from the property itself.
Typically, there are some general fix ups that need to be done both outside and on the inside. As a seller, you should consider the following:
- Landscaping - Has the front yard been maintained? Are areas of the house visible to the street in good condition?
- Cleaning or Redoing the driveway - Is your driveway cluttered with toys, tools, trash etc.?
- Painting - Does both the exterior and the interior look like they have been well taken care of?
- Carpeting - Does the carpet have stains? Or does the carpet look old and dirty?
Know Why You are Selling
If you know exactly why you are selling then it is easier for you to follow the right plan of action for getting what you want.
If you are a seller who needs to close a sale as quickly as possible, then you should know that getting the highest price possible is not one of your priorities. It does not mean that you won’t or cannot get the highest price, but it means that the price is not the deciding factor. A buyer who can give you a quick closing time will appeal much more to you than a buyer who can offer you more money but the negotiation and closing time drag on.
It’s always good to know how low you will go in terms of selling price. This will help to eliminate some of the offers that you find simply offensive or ridiculous. Even though you should consider all offers seriously and take into consideration the terms of each offer, sometimes, if you know the bottom line and are strict about it, you can save yourself time.
Once you know what your limits and reasons are, discuss them with your agent so that they can help you set your goals realistically. If you decide to list your home on your own, make sure you do research on the current market, and you get the proper advice you need in terms of legal issues, etc. The key is to be realistic and to know what your goals are so they can be met.