Buyers pursue short sales to get a good deal. So when you see a price listed for a home that you think is too low for the neighborhood, before you jump on that price like hot fudge on a sundae, ask your agent to call the listing agent to find out if the home is a short sale.
What is a Short Sale?
A short sale means the seller's lender is accepting a discounted payoff to release an existing mortgage. Just because a property is listed with short sale terms does not mean the lender will accept your offer, even if the seller accepts it.
Be aware that the seller need not be in default -- to have stopped making mortgage payments -- before a lender will consider a short sale. A lender may consider a short sale if the seller is current but the value has fallen. The seller may have over-encumbered, owe more than the home is worth, so a discounted price might bring the price in line with market value, not below it.
Check the Public Records
This is where if you are working with a buyers agent, their expertise will be vitale.Do your research before making an offer to purchase. Your agent can find out who is in title, whether a foreclosure notice has been filed and how much is owed to the lender(s). This is important because it will help you to determine how much to offer.
If there are two loans, you could have a problem. The first mortgage lender's position is protected by the second lender, unless the second lender does not want to foreclose. If a seller owes $160,000 on the first and $40,000 on the second, offering $160,000 leaves nothing for the second. The first will need to give something to the second to gain its cooperation.
Submit Documentation and Purchase Offer to Lender
Once the seller has accepted your offer, send it to the lender for approval. You do not have a deal until the lender accepts. Also, send the lender a copy of your earnest money deposit. Do not be astonished if the lender asks you to increase it.
In addition, the lender will want to see that you have your own loan available and you are preapproved. Send a preapproval letter to the lender. It will help if your agent sends a list of comparable sales that support the price you are offering to pay for the home.
Give the Short Sale Lender Time to Respond
Make your offer contingent upon the lender's acceptance. Give the lender a time frame in which to respond, after which, you will be free to cancel.
Some lenders submit short sales to committee, but most can make a decision within two to three months. Get a name and phone number for the appropriate contact at the lender. Don't send an offer blindly to a department.
Reserve the Right to Conduct Inspections
Generally, the lender will not pay for customary items that a seller would pay. These include home protection plans for the buyer, buyer credits of any kind and pest / termite inspections. A buyer will be asked to purchase the property "as is," which means no repairs.
It is extremely important that a buyer obtain a home inspection.