Handling a Short Sale Counter Offer

When a short sale bank issues a counter offer, it’s not really a counter offer. Except that it is. It’s just not the type of counter offer that most Sacramento real estate agents recognize. Confused? A short sale counter offer arrives in different forms. Sometimes it looks like Buddha, and other times you’d swear it’s sporting a black cloak and wielding a scythe.  It can be in writing or it can be verbal. The counter can be negotiable or non negotiable.

An agent in my office called yesterday about a Chase Bank short sale. I realize that my company has managers who answer these sorts of questions, and they do a bang-up job. But agents also get antsy and don’t always want to wait for a response. Imagine that. An impatient real estate agent! So, every so often, the brave ones call me. I don’t mind helping out a fellow Lyon agent now and then as long as they don’t make it a practice, although I wish they would email and not call.

The agent who called, a super sweet guy, was bent on explaining his entire short sale woes. As I’m listening to him, I’m watching phone calls come across my cellphone screen like a CNN scroll. I ponder whether I should send text messages to the unanswered phone calls and, if so, should I choose the response that says I’m at the dentist or is it better to simply say I’m busy, or don’t they already know that since I didn’t pick up my phone? Do I have to tell them I am awake? Is it any of their business what I am doing?

I like the prepared response choice that says I’m at the dentist because it sounds more respectable than to text my real GPS location, which is I’ve got my head stuck in the frozen dessert section at Safeway, fogging up the freezer. Finally, in my distractions and attempt to focus on my fellow agent’s question, I found myself needing to  pull him in that direction as well. I cut to the Chase. Ooo, a pun. I interrupted him and said, “Phone messages are piling up while you are telling me your story, exactly what is your question?”

He wanted to know how Chase issues its short sale counter offers. It felt weird to him that the short sale agent would just call and tell him the price had changed and that the buyer had to pay some other miscellaneous fee. Maybe he expected the counter offer would be hand delivered by white gloves with a juicy JP Morgan Chase insignia seal on the envelope. Nope, it’s verbal. Chase short sales are still old school. Documents are faxed to a central location and then lost, just like the old days at Bank of America.

Speaking of which, I received a counter from Bank of America yesterday on a Cooperative Short Sale. Most of the time a buyer’s agent never knows that a counter offer has been accepted unless he or she reads my short sale updates on my website. That’s because counters don’t often involve the buyer. The bank is simply approving or rejecting fees the seller must pay from the proceeds of sale to close. The bank authorizes the expenses of sale. The lower the fees, the higher the bank’s net. It is the seller who pays the fees, not the bank.

This was unusual because the accepted sales price exceeded the preapproved listed price of this Cooperative Short Sale. We had received a number of multiple offers on this short sale. We picked the best offer, which is not necessarily the highest offer. I imagined the buyer would be somewhat stunned to receive an addendum increasing the price and paying a few additional fees. But the bottom line is we want to close this short sale. The bank’s investor has guidelines.

Bank of America stresses that in a Cooperative Short Sale, the preapproved short sale price is precisely that: preapproved. It doesn’t say it will accept that list price. The bank’s investor calls the shots.  The buyer, naturally, wanted to know if she could negotiate with the bank, and see, this is the thing. Will another buyer pay that price? In a heartbeat. I know this; it’s not speculation. So, the buyer accepted the Bank of America short sale counter, which is a good thing. Smart buyer, smart buyer’s agent. You know what we call a buyer who doesn’t want to accept a bank’s counter offer like this one? Let’s just say the term doesn’t have buyer attached to it.

Elizabeth Weintraub

About Elizabeth Weintraub

40+ years of experience in real estate, Sacramento real estate broker working at Lyon Real Estate in Midtown Sacramento. Author of The Short Sale Savior. Home Buying Expert at About.com. Top Producer, ranks in the top 1% of all real estate agents in Sacramento Region. Life Member of Master's Club awarded by Sacramento Association of REALTORS.
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