Short Sale in a Changing Market

Boy, it is rough out there for anyone who bought a house in the last 12-18 months and now has to sell. Whether because of a job relocation, or simply to get out from under unexpectedly high loan payments, or a job loss, etc, a lot of sellers are seeing a big drop in their home values.

Some clients of mine bought a house last year for $1,382,000 but decided to move back to their old house that they had rented. We listed it for $1,399,000 but had no action. It wasn’t until we dropped the price to $1,349,000 that we got an offer for $1,300,000. After a few rounds of negotiations, we settled at $1,340,000. The sellers weren’t happy, but at least it wasn’t any worse.

Another client of mine didn’t do so well. She bought her house from another agent just 10 months ago for $599,000, with a $500k first loan and a $100k loan from her mother. But due to some change in life circumstances, she found the monthly payments too stressful. I listed it for $575,000 but there was absolutely no action. Then, the house right next door to it came on the market as a REO, a property owned by a bank after having foreclosed on the prior owner. . It wasn’t as nice a house architecturally but it wasn’t horrible. But it had almost twice the square footage and was listed for just $550,000. Bad news. So we dropped our price to $545,000 but still no action.

After commission and closing costs, even a $545,000 sales price would have meant the seller’s mom would have lost her entire $100k investment. But it was clear that the market in this neighborhood was really suffering. I gave the listing back to the seller, who relisted with a family friend for $499,000, subject to short sale approval. But now 4 weeks later, at a price 20% lower than what she paid, she still has no offers.

A Short Sale is when a lender agrees to accept less than what is owed on a mortgage instead of having to foreclose. Given the huge rise in foreclosure rates across the country, and the fact that home values have fallen, lenders realize that it is in their best financial interest to accept 80-cents on the dollar, or some other percentage, just to avoid the also costly foreclosure process.
(published August 2007)