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RISMEDIA, January 15, 2011—Everyone involved in a short sale has some accountability for successes and failures at each stage of the process. Regardless of where fingers are currently pointing, there’s good reason for real estate agents to take a long, hard look at whether they’re helping or hindering progress. Just two years ago, short sales were a niche market. Only a fraction of homeowners in distress were even aware of foreclosure alternatives, let alone that there were agents trained to assist them. Now, because of efforts on the real estate and lending sides, the short sale option is more visible and increasingly viable.

There’s still a long road ahead for lenders who are trying to streamline decisions, manage stakeholder expectations and reach more positive outcomes. Unfortunately, you can’t help what’s holding up the process on their end, but you can minimize roadblocks on yours.

The Right Clients
Are you bringing qualified sellers and patient buyers to the short sale transaction? This requires early conversations with clients about their goals in pursuing a short sale. Sellers must be open with you about their financial and personal situation so that you can create the most compelling case and most complete short sale package. On the other side, buyers must be prepared for a longer-than-typical wait. If there are early signs of a rush, suggest a different route. At least discourage offers that are submitted as shots in the dark, further clogging the bank’s process.

Upfront Negotiations
Overall, you should operate in a way that shows you’re solution-oriented. Take the lead early in the process to define terms of the short sale. Lean on the bank’s representatives for insight on acceptable terms. Front-end bank decisions help you deliver the right offers, give sellers an opportunity to plan their next step, and minimize the workload later in the process.

Your Skills and Mindset
Your level of preparedness and training will correlate with your success in closing short sales. If you have little training or low motivation to make the distressed property market a priority, you could sabotage what might be a homeowner’s last chance and cause unnecessary frustration for everyone involved. Conversely, you’re much more prepared to close short sales if you’ve invested in your education. You can shadow an expert in the short sale market or take courses such as the Certified Distressed Property Expert, Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource and various classes offered by the Five Star Institute.

One thing is certain: The short sale machine has to operate more efficiently. We owe it to consumers who are heading down this road because they’ve been told it works. It’s time for agents to help prove it by doing whatever they can to make a difference now.

Margaret Kelly, CRB, is chief executive officer of RE/MAX LLC.

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