OK, I admit it. Sometimes I play computer games. Not all the time 24/7 but a round or two of Bejeweled -- after a stressful phone call from an irate buyer's agent who can't understand that list prices of Sacramento short sales mean nothing -- keeps me in my usual calm, happy and peaceful state. For the past few months, I've been playing ZUMA, another addictive Pop-Cap game.
Zuma's premise is simple: A bunch of colored balls roll merrily along a path. A ball appears in the frog's mouth. The player aims and clicks the mouse to hit 2 or more same-colored balls in a row, which removes the balls from the path before the remaining balls fall into a hole. There are levels, and each level is more complex than the last.
Now, you may wonder what does ZUMA have in common with buying a home? To win a game of ZUMA, a player must be skilled at aiming correctly and instantly deciding whether to use the ball in the frog's mouth or to right-click to change the color of the ball. Speed, concentration and accuracy are essential. But much also depends on which balls are rolling along, and a player has no control over that aspect of the game.
Conversely, when a first-time home buyer in Sacramento decides to buy a home, to have any chance of landing the offer, the buyer must be decisive, write a clean offer and act quickly. We are faced with limited inventory and an over supply of buyers in Sacramento. Sometimes, though, no matter how skilled a buyer's agent, a buyer may need to write a number of offers to get one offer accepted.
On the other hand, sometimes a buyer can get lucky, and all the stars in the universe are aligned correctly. First-time home buyers for Natomas had been waiting for just that right moment. They called me several months ago to inquire about buying a home in Sacramento. Their lease does not expire until mid August, so I suggested they wait until mid May to begin making offers on a short sale.
We looked at homes last Saturday, but nothing really appealed. Saturday afternoon, a new short sale listing popped up in MLS. I called the seller to make an appointment, and the seller was very reluctant to give me the appointment at the time I wanted, but I was persistent. I don't take no for an answer.
The buyers loved the home. It was exactly what they wanted. But it was only one day on the market, and it was a weekend when many listing agents don't answer their phones (because unlike me, some agents actually have a life). We looked at the comparable sales to determine how high we would need to go on price. The comps dated back to December, which meant they won't be used for an appraisal. And they were $40,000 over list price.
I called the listing agent. She answered. We talked. Discussed comps. Got the information I needed and told the buyers they might get the home at $20,000 over list price. We wrote the offer and included a document that prevents the seller from accepting any other offers or sending any other offers to the bank.
The buyers were so excited by the process that they shot photographs of each other signing the purchase offer. Afterward, the husband leaped out of his chair, threw his arms around me and hugged me. It was one of those spontaneous things. Very sweet.
Yesterday morning I received the signed offer from the listing agent. The buyers are elated. We are waiting for short sale approval. The door of opportunity had been opened for these buyers, the timing was right and they made a fast decision. If any one of those elements had been changed, they might not have gotten the home.
P. S. By the way, I am up to Level 12-6 in ZUMA. At some levels, if you mouse over the main menu game bars, it will play the tune to Close Encounters and a space ship will appear. Just thought you'd like to know that.
Photo: Elizabeth Weintraub
The Short Sale Savior, by Elizabeth Weintraub, now available at Amazon.com.
Elizabeth Weintraub is an author, columnist for The New York Times'-owned About.com, a Land Park resident, and a Land Park real estate agent who specializes in older, classic homes in Land Park, Curtis Park, Midtown and East Sacramento. Weintraub is also a Sacramento Short Sale agent who lists and successfully sells short sales throughout Sacramento. Call Elizabeth Weintraub at 916.233.6759. Put 35 years of real estate experience to work for you.