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Friday, June 26, 2009

Going "Realtor"



We are all familiar with the slang term "Going Postal". It originally referred to postal employees that suddenly exploded with workplace rage and committed horrible acts of violence. But it evolved into a description of ever more common sudden, extreme, and uncontrollable acts of rage and violence towards people in the workplace and to fits of rage inside or outside the workplace.

Please understand I am not making light of the awful deaths and personal tragedies that have become a part of the term "going postal". But I am concerned that there is so much distrust of Realtors, bankers, mortgage companies, short sale negotiators, appraisers, Congress, and "investors", that the distrust and frustration will turn into similar acts of violence towards this group.

One Monday many years ago when I was a young lawyer working in a suburban Denver law firm, I arrived at work very early only to find that the glass front door to our office had a shotgun blast through it. One of the partners had been representing a woman in a nasty divorce. Her estranged husband had called the partner's house and warned that he was going to kill the lawyer. I surmise the shotgun blast was meant as proof as to how much the husband hated his wife and his wife's lawyer.

The economy is in a mess. People get crazy and do things that are completely out of character when they feel powerless. Lives are falling apart. Men may lose their self-esteem and see themselves as failures. Women have to work harder and longer and fear more for the well being of their children. Nobody knows how it all will end and everybody is fearful of what horrors may befall them. They get a legal notice posted by the Sheriff that reads "Lis Pendens". Foreclosure has been started. Consider the following.

Seller owns a property he cannot afford. Seller can no longer afford the mortgage payments, insurance, taxes, and utilities. Why should he even try because the property is not worth what it cost a few short years ago. Many neighbors are losing their houses in foreclosure or are trying to short sell them. Seller finds a Realtor to short sell the property.

The listing Realtor enters the Seller's property into the mls database as a potential short sale. The term potential short sale conjures up the image of a "deal" to many potential buyers.

Buyer looks at the property and makes an offer on the house. The Seller accepts the offer which is conditioned upon the formal approval of Seller's lenders. The contract normally requires the lender to accept less than face value of the amount Seller owes to lender and precludes the lender from pursuing Seller for a deficiency.

The contract is delivered to a short sale negotiator hired by Seller to persuade the lender to accept the short sale offer. Weeks and often months pass. Nothing happens.

Time passes and e-mails and phone calls go from principal to agent, from agent to negotiator, from him to her, and all go nowhere--slow. Very slow.

The mortgage company negotiator complains it did not receive all the documents that are needed. The short sale negotiator goes back to the Seller or Seller's agent requesting more information. Days pass. Documents get prepared and faxed, and paper trails of the financial affairs of Seller get traded back and forth between agents and negotiators. Documents get "scanned" onto the computers of the mortgage lender far away. The mortgage company is all powerful and demands its procedure be obeyed on its timetable. Piss off one peon at the mortgage company and get screwed for life. So do what they demand and shut up. You can't complain to the supervisor because everybody there is anonymous. Or so it seems.

Procedure for approval of a short sale contract includes obtaining a broker price opinion ("BPO") which is ordered by the lender. Supposedly a disinterested third party Realtor will do a drive by appraisal of the property and send an opinion of value to the mortgage lender. If the BPO amount seems reasonable, a formal appraisal is ordered. (Consider this, however. If the party doing the BPO also happens to regularly "list" bank owned properties, could that party be giving mis-information to the mortgage lender that would cause the lender to disapprove the short sale and thus permit the foreclosure to ultimately occur? Does this procedure ensure confidence or distrust?)

Mortgage lender is being asked to forgive thousands of dollars in debt. It then engages an appraiser to determine the current market value. Appraisers have their jobs on the line and are busy chasing values in a declining real estate market. Fannie Mae has drawn up new guidelines that require lenders not to have direct contact with appraisers. Third parties now select "random" appraisers. (Another level of intrusion into the process because of governmental distrust of the players.)

Key West is known for its quirky houses and neighborhoods. Out of town appraisers often have to travel here from Miami and Fort Lauderdale to appraise potential short sale properties. Makes a lot sense, I know!

The process can seemingly go on forever. Some short sale properties permit the seller to accept multiple offers on the same property which are then all submitted to the mortgage lender. That process really creates distrust by Buyers towards the Seller, the Realtors, the appraiser, the mortgage lender, and everybody else that has anything to do with the process. The process is viewed as imperfect and corrupt, and all of the players in the process may be viewed as being corrupt. And in real life there are can be some really corrupt people involved in this imperfect process.

Realtors can, likewise, be distrustful of each other. Snips and sales and unreturned phone calls, unanswered e-mails, inability to show a property because a tenant won't allow it, excuses for days and more delays--that's what little ploys are made of.

Most buyers want a deal anytime they try to buy something. That normally means that the buyer intends to gain an advantage over the seller. When you consider it, buying real estate sometimes brings out the worst in people. I just Googled the terms "real estate" and "seven deadly sins" and voila I found THIS BLOG.

I've said enough. You get my point. Like I said, I hope "going postal" does not become "going Realtor".

P.S. Interesting things happen to people who buy from me. Follow me on TWITTER today to see what just happened to one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said. Bought an Old Town home last August. Thank heaven for two things: a top-drawer Realtor who knew what she was doing and knew the players; and patience by the truckload. The process was jaw-dropping, but if one considers it a game of strategy, patience and perseverance, it can at least have an element of fascinating challenge. Can't imagine anyone would try to buy a short sale or foreclosure without a local Realtor. That would spell stupid.

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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.