In a traditional market, selling your home can be a stressful process. Strangers coming into your home, agents call over and over again for appointments, negotiations happen over the ceiling fan you spent countless hours searching for and didn’t plan on selling.
However, Vegas isn’t really in a traditional market. While traditional listings (Buyer and Seller, no bank as the third party) still exist, short sales rule the market. Now you have the added bonus of a three to six month timeline after you’ve already accepted an offer. Three to Six months where you wait and wait and wait often going weeks without tangible progress.
This is why choosing your agent is probably the most important decision of the transaction. Short sales take time, knowledge and most importantly, diligence. Your agent needs to be proactive and if they have more than one file, extremely organized. They need to not only know the quirks of handling a transaction, but those of each bank they work with as well. After all there isn’t a specific set of rules for how banks process short sales. They all have their own process.
Therefore interviewing your agent, before you hire them, is always strongly recommended. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, ask as many as you want. In fact the more the better. The number one hindrance to good communication in a real estate transaction is when you don’t ask causing the other to assume you already know. Remember you are hiring them to do a job, you wouldn’t hire someone at work without an interview, why would you hire an agent without doing the same?
I put together a few sample questions that are a bit more short sale specific. Don’t forget it’s okay to ask the normal questions too. How will you market my house? Will there be a lock box? Will you do any open houses? etc.
How will you communicate updates to me and how often? Remember, this is a lengthy process. You and your agent are going to be together for the better part of a year in most cases. You want to make sure up front you set your communication expectations; when you will receive updates (even if they are no news), who to call/email when there is an issue, response time on collecting any additional docs the bank might need, etc.
How will you handle offers? Hands down the most important question. Because short sales take so long to be approved, they stay on the market in contingent status for months. This means offers are going to continue to come in even after you have already accepted one and sent it to the bank. This where it becomes tricky and where it depends on what state your property is in. For example, if you’re in Nevada the offer that is accepted by the seller is what gets presented to the bank. If another offer comes in it goes into back up status. Yes, even if the new offer is higher, it still goes into back up offer status. In other states all offers have to go to the bank, regardless of what the seller wants. Again, this varies from state to state so it’s very important to ask the question.
How many short sale transactions where you were representing the seller, have you closed? I believe this is another the key question. Agents who have closed many of these types of transactions have an idea of what to expect. They know how to read demand letters (the letter that comes from the lien holder/s allowing the sale), they understand HUDs (the closing statements), and they are motivated because they understand time is of the essence. They know how to anticipate common roadblocks such as a buyer who backs out. Most importantly, they speak the bank’s language. *Closed is the key word in this question. Many agents can have any short sale listings, but have never actually closed one.
Do you negotiate your own transactions? Do you refer your negotiations out? You want to know how many people are involved purely from a personal safety standpoint. It’s always a good idea to know how has access to your personal information. Plus if your agent isn’t doing the actual negotiation, it may take more time for updates.
What do you charge? Yes, this is one of those questions you want to answer no matter what kind of sale it is; however, in a short sale situation the answer may be a little different. Depending on the price of the property, some agents might charge and up front fee. This is because short sales take a lot of time and work, plus it’s not unusual for the seller to up and walk away letting the home go to foreclosure, thus leaving the agent, who has often done months of work, without income from that work. If they do charge an upfront fee, it should be reasonable and it should be paid directly to the brokerage, NEVER THE AGENT.
These are just a few of the most important questions to ask. You will have more. Go ahead…ask away.