How to Increase the Odds That a Buyer's Sacramento Short Sale Will Close

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Gold DRE #00697006

buying a sacramento short saleIf a buyer for homes in Land Park asks me to show a short sale listing, I do investigative work before putting that home on tour. There's just no sense in letting a buyer fall in love with a home that might not close escrow. See, the problem with short sales in Sacramento is the entire short sale process is dependent upon the listing agent. The buyer's agent has no involvement after the offer has been accepted by the seller.

I check to see if the Sacramento short sale agent has other listings and whether any of those are short sales. If I discover that agent has several or more short sale listings, I might run that agent's ID number through Prospector to find out how many short sales that agent has closed over the past 12 months. An agent with no track record of closing short sales is a red flag that I pass along to my buyers. Because one of the main questions I hear from buyers is how long may they have to wait for short sale approval.

Short sales are complicated; the challenges are never ending. They change from month to month. Short sale banks are becoming more aggressive and demanding seller contributions as well, even on purchase money loans. Not every seller qualifies for a short sale, and not every agent can handle them.

I probably receive 20 to 25 calls a week from would-be short sale sellers. Each situation is different. So, I run sellers through a series of questions to determine the probability that their short sales will close. If the odds aren't 95% in favor of closing, I don't list them. A seller who falls into the 5% probability-of-closing-category said she wants to sell because she's tired of making payments on a mortgage that is twice as much as her home is worth. She has no hardship. She just wants to dump the house because she's worried about the economy, her job stability and afraid that something awful will happen down the road. If something bad were to happen, she could not afford the home anymore.

While I empathize, I needed to find a delicate way to explain that she most likely does not qualify for a short sale. Her income hasn't taken a hit, both she and her husband are, in fact, making more money than when they bought the home. Finally, I said, "I hate to say this, but what I'm saying is call me back when something horrible happens to you." At least I made them laugh.

Before showing a Sacramento short sale, I try to figure out who the lenders are, whether the loans are held by Fannie Mae, if a Notice of Default has been filed or an auction scheduled.  Handling as many short sale listings as I do, I've gained information over the years that helps me tremendously when I'm representing buyers for short sales. I also run the comparable sales to analyze the list price. Often, short sale list prices are artificial. They may be too high or too low.

This lets me make a fairly close estimate on value so I can advise the buyer how much to offer. Because if the bank won't approve the price of that short sale, the buyer can wait several months to find out that the short sale was rejected by the bank. Pricing is a huge issue. When I am the listing agent, I often meet the bank's agent at the property to review the comparable sales so the BPO comes in at the offer price. But not every Sacramento short sale agent goes that extra mile. Some just throw lowball offers at the bank, and those are rarely approved.

Of course, even after I thoroughly investigate the situation before advising my buyer to enter into contract, even though the odds may be high for short sale approval, anything can happen. Last summer, my buyers waited 3 months for a short sale home in Land Park. At the 11th hour, the listing agent called me to say that short sale seller had suddenly found employment. So, he decided to pursue a loan modification and canceled the short sale transaction. Much as I try, I can't remove all the risk for short sale buyers.

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elizabeth weintraub



Weintraub and Wallace Realtors



Elizabeth Weintraub reviews




Elizabeth Weintraub is co-partner of Weintraub & Wallace Team of Top Producing Realtors, an author, home buying expert at The Balance, a Land Park resident, and a veteran real estate agent who specializes in older, classic homes in Land Park, Curtis Park, Midtown, Carmichael and East Sacramento, as well as tract homes in Elk Grove, Natomas, Roseville and Lincoln. Call Elizabeth Weintraub at 916.233.6759. Put our combined 80 years of real estate experience to work for you. Broker-Associate at RE/MAX Gold. DRE License # 00697006.

Photo: Unless otherwise noted in this blog, the photo is copyrighted by Big Stock Photo and used with permission.The views expressed herein are Weintraub's personal views and do not reflect the views of RE/MAX Gold. Disclaimer: If this post contains a listing, information is deemed reliable as of the date it was written. After that date, the listing may be sold, listed by another brokerage, canceled, pending or taken temporarily off the market, and the price could change without notice; it could blow up, explode or vanish. To find out the present status of any listing, please go to


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Mark Lebkuchner / Home Loan Specialist
Warwick, RI

Interesting article, Elizabeth.  I was a liitle apprehensive about reading since my heart always ends up getting broken with each & every short sale I pursue.  I can get the loans approved, it's just the last minute suprises that klill me.

Jan 23, 2010 01:12 AM #1
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

Just curious here Elizabeth as to an approximate number and how long you've been doing short sales?  You certainly seem to be the "queen" of short sales... just wondering how long it took you to get it down to the science you have it down to?  I've only done one, because frankly most of the homes I sell are second homes and folks just qualify and rarely do we have an upside down owner here, values didn't drop but about 20% in this down turn and while I've had a seller or two have to bring a few thousand dollars to the closings that's been about the worst hits my sellers have seen.

Jan 23, 2010 01:50 AM #2
Mary Douglas
United Country Ponderosa Realty, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado - Red Feather Lakes, CO
REALTOR, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado

Hi Elizabeth, I was following along fine, until the last paragraph where the seller cancelled the contract.  Most of the time, sellers here are under specific performance, is it different in CA or different with short sales?

Jan 23, 2010 04:01 AM #3
Barbara S. Duncan
RE/MAX Advantage - Searcy, AR
GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR

I'm still trying to get the courage for a short sale if one comes along.  Not many are happening in our area.

Jan 23, 2010 06:44 AM #4
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Elizabeth:  I think short sales in every market live and die by their listing agents.  I do the same as you.  I interview and investigate short sale listing agents, and find out all I can from the listing agents about the banks involved. 

Jan 23, 2010 09:29 AM #5
Jim Hale
Eugene Oregon's Best Home Search Website

Great short sale advice in Sacramento ...or anywhere.  As usual.



Greetings from Taipei, Taiwan.

Jan 23, 2010 09:40 AM #6
Robert Machado
HomePointe Property Management, CRMC - Sacramento, CA
CPM MPM - Property Manager and Property Management

You earn your money on short sale deals.  I am glad not to have had too much contact in that sport.

Jan 23, 2010 04:22 PM #7
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

Elizabeth - Your opening sentences say it all - "If a buyer for homes in Land Park asks me to show a short sale listing, I do investigative work before putting that home on tour. There's just no sense in letting a buyer fall in love with a home that might not close escrow." 

Other than you, I can't imagine too many agents in our area as adept at ferreting out homes that will close from those that won't.

Jan 23, 2010 10:55 PM #8
Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate

I research too, some don't qualify like your seller in Land Park, nothing has happened yet.

Most of the time here we have one member loosing a job, which cuts the income in half.

I also never list UNTIL all the documents are in my files. I'm not going to chase sellers to get me one last form.


Jan 24, 2010 12:10 AM #9
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Realtor Top 1%
RE/MAX Gold - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

Hi Mark: Short sales are a tricky beast. But if you choose your short sales carefully, they do close.

Hi Tammy: To answer your question, last year I did about $11.5 million and half of that business was short sales.

Hi Mary: The reason the seller could cancel the contract was because short sale contracts are contingent on bank approval. If the seller withdraws his request for a short sale, it won't be approved. You can't force a seller to do a short sale.

Hi Barbara: If you ever get into a short sale situation, and you may, just call me. I will help you.

Hi Chris Ann: I agree that there's no sense putting a buyer into contract on a short sale if the odds against closing are slim. If the listing agent isn't a short sale pro, the odds are it won't close.

Holy cow, Jim, what are you doing in Taiwan? You're always somewhere fun.

Hi Robert: I just sorta fell into short sales. It seemed to be the way the market was moving. Plus, they are challenging, and I like challenges.

Hi Myrl: Oh, I bet there are lots of other agents who do investigative work, but maybe not the way I do it. I know you do.

Hi Missy: When I take a short sale listing in Sacramento, I gather all the seller documentation upfront. In fact, I recently bought a mobile scanner that I take with me so I can scan their docs to my hard drive right then and there. When a buyer makes an offer, that offer and the entire package go immediately to the bank. It cuts down on the waiting time.

sacramento short sale agent

Jan 24, 2010 12:48 AM #10
Mary Douglas
United Country Ponderosa Realty, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado - Red Feather Lakes, CO
REALTOR, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado

One more question - if the lender had already approved the short sale, could the seller still cancel?

Jan 24, 2010 01:33 AM #11
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Realtor Top 1%
RE/MAX Gold - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

Hi Mary: Yes, the short sale is also subject to the seller's approval of the terms and conditions in the short sale approval letter.

sacramento short sale agent

Jan 24, 2010 02:47 AM #12
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