RISMEDIA, February 25, 2010—For Mark Stark, success means confronting reality and seizing the situation at hand. By doing so, his firm, Prudential Americana Group, has been able to thrive, despite the challenges of the Las Vegas marketplace.
“We ended up with a strong 2009 and we’re ready for an uptick in our business overall this year,” says Stark, CEO and owner of the seven-office, 1,100-agent firm. “We’re looking for a positive year overall.”
Continuing on a positive path means finding a way to excel within current market conditions, which, for Prudential Americana, means cultivating a strong expertise in short sales.
Short sales have had a “huge” impact on the Las Vegas market, says Stark. Statistics from GLVAR (the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors) put short sales at 19% of all residential solds, month to date (at press time). However, at Prudential Americana Group, as well as the overall marketplace, approximately 68% of pending sales are short sales.
According to Stark, Prudential Americana has been able to maximize short sale business by being the “value player” in the market, providing honest consultation and professional guidance to clients.
“The days where a consumer could buy anything, and do anything and everything would work out fine are gone,” he explains. “Today’s consumer really needs good, quality information. We need to go in and say to distressed homeowners, ‘Look, before you make any decision, let’s sit down and organize your thoughts and see what your goals are.’ Consumers need to work with seasoned professionals, be it a real estate sales executive, attorney or CPA. We recommend our clients review their entire situation prior to moving forward. We enjoy being the ‘value player’ in the marketplace. Consumers have learned very quickly in this market environment that all real estate agents are not created equal.”
Part of being that value player involves advising clients on the importance of home warranties, explaining the benefits and the value the home warranty provides, especially in short sale situations. HSA Home Warranty is Prudential Americana’s largest home warranty provider. “We have worked with HSA Home Warranty for more than 18 years and they do a tremendous job servicing and protecting our clients,” Stark says.
“Short sales are different than foreclosures because you still have someone living in the house and the goal is to have the house in the best shape for the new purchaser,” says Stark.
Securing a home warranty for a potential short sale property helps ensure that the home is protected during the listing period. Sellers can use the warranty to take care of problems that may arise before the buyer moves in.
“When you have a homeowner who realizes that this is not going to be their house forever, they often adopt more of a renter’s mentality,” Stark explains. “They’re not going to put $3,000 into a new air conditioner if they’re not going to live there much longer. A home warranty offers both seller and buyer protection in short sales. It minimizes risk for the seller because the more money they can sell the house for and offer the bank, the less pressure the bank will put on the homeowner. So we tell short sale clients, ‘even though we know you’re not going to be here, let’s work to minimize your losses.’ We want to create every opportunity for our clients to be in a category where a bank can decide to forgo any deficiency.”
HSA home warranties are just part of the larger system Prudential Americana has created to handle short sales. Developing a system is critical for providing sellers with the best opportunity to get their home sold while encouraging the bank to release them from as much of the liability as possible. Prudential Americana’s comprehensive system also includes a recommendation that homeowners consult with an attorney before pursuing a short sale or other course of action to ensure the client is taking the best course of action.
While some of Stark’s agents have chosen to pursue short sale courses, he doesn’t leave anything to chance. Prudential Americana offers in-house training for all agents. “To be blunt, we’re forcing classes regardless of any outside certification an agent may receive. We want our agents to be trained,” he says.
Company-wide training is critical because there is a lot of education to be done among the home buying and selling public when it comes to short sales. According to Stark, many homeowners in a distressed situation feel bad or embarrassed, but it’s important for them to realize they are not alone.
“For some people, a short sale may not be the best option for them. For some, it might be best to let the home go to foreclosure; for others, a loan modification might be the answer. This is another reason why we strongly advise clients to not only talk to us, but to an accountant and attorney as well. We