Short Sale Saga

When the lender took back the foreclosed property the day before the closing, Florida-based sales associate Brenda Parish had to scramble to make sure the sale closed.

September 1, 2010

Location: Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.
Square footage: 4,181
Lot size (square footage): 31,799
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 3
Year built: 2004
Extras: Two-car garage. Wine refrigerator. Boat dock.

THE CHALLENGE: The first problem with the short sale of the four-bedroom bayfront home was the form, explains Brenda Parish, SFR, sales associate with Fort Walton Beach, Fla.–based Rosewood Realty Inc.

“I wrote the offer on a FAR-9 contract form, but the listing agent specialized in foreclosures and used a different form,” Parish says.

After getting the buyers to re-sign the offer on the listing agent’s form, the Panama-based seller agreed to the contract. With the sales contract sent to the lender, approval for a short sale in her hands, and a cash buyer ready to take possession of the fully furnished waterfront estate, Parish was feeling good on Jan. 19, 2010.

But lured by low interest rates, the Texas-based buyers decided to finance the deal with a loan from their local bank.

No problem, the buyers’ lender said. It could make the loan and close the deal by June 24. Parish got the seller’s bank to agree to a new closing date of June 30.

By June 19, Parish had a bad feeling about missing the extended close date. She suggested the buyers go back to a cash purchase. They agreed and wired $678,000 to the closing agent’s bank on June 25.

“Everyone expected to the deal to close by 2 p.m.,” Parish recalls.

At about 1:30 p.m. on June 25, Parish’s phone rang. “It was the title company calling to tell me that the house had been sold at a foreclosure auction on June 24. Apparently, one of the attorneys for the seller’s bank retired and did not remove the sale date. When the house got no bids, the property had been taken back by the lender. So the lender had the money and the house. And I had a major problem.”

How did you overcome the challenge?

PARISH: First, and I know this is hard to believe, I didn’t panic. I believed the sale was going to happen, and I was right.

The listing agent was able to get a judge to rescind the foreclosure sale and allow the short sale, for which the funds had been transferred, to proceed as planned. On June 28, I received an e-mail from the listing agent stating they had a copy of the order sent to a local judge and were expediting his signature. By June 29, I still didn’t know if my buyers would be able to move into the house, but I kept thinking positively.

The clients were coming in that weekend and wanted to know if they owned the house. I couldn’t give them an answer. But I stayed calm and kept them apprised of everything that was happening. That constant communication helped everyone stay calm.

On Wednesday, June 30, the title company called at about 4:45 p.m. and said they had the signed order from the judge. The closing was immediate.

I picked up my brokers check at 9 a.m. the next morning. This was my hardest closing ever, but well worth every effort as I watched the buyers walk through the door to their dream home.

What was the selling price?

PARISH: The house listed for $765,000. We closed for $685,000. The buyers had cash down. But because we were so far below the list price, I didn’t know if the bank was going to accept the offer.

How did you find a buyer?

PARISH: The buyers are a retired couple, friends of mine. They lived and owned property in Texas but always expressed an interest in a bayside home in this area. They never thought they could afford to buy a home like this but decided to make the move after they saw the house.

What's the biggest factor you attribute to closing the deal?

PARISH: The power of positive thinking. I never gave up. You have to have a can-do attitude in the market these days.

Another factor was staying in touch and following up with everyone.

This property had a great location. But it was a tough sale. The only way to make it happen was to stay in touch. I followed up with everyone, four or five times some days. And if I didn’t hear back from someone critically involved in the transaction, I would go to that person’s office to find out what was happening. It was the only way I was going to get this deal done.

How did you get started in real estate?

 PARISH: I was a loan officer at a bank in Georgia during the 1980s. I moved to Destin, Fla., in 1987 and spent about six years working in customer service for tool and home-improvement manufacturer Stanley Works. That experience gave me a good foundation for my real estate career.

Even before I got my license, I loved showing real estate in Destin. When friends would come to visit, I would drive them around the area, talk about the community and show off some of the homes. One day, a friend of mine pointed out that I was really good at showing the community and suggested I get my real estate license.

In 1989, I got my license and started selling real estate part time. I moved to my home state of Georgia in the 1990s, for personal reasons, and maintained my Florida license. I moved back to Florida in 2001. In 2003, I became a member of ECAR (Emerald Coast Association of REALTORS®) and started selling real estate full time. I have closed more than $25 million in sales since 2003.

Do you have a specialty or niche?

PARISH: For a long time, I specialized in condominiums, but more recently I have been working with short sales and foreclosures. And while it may sound corny, I think my main specialty is helping my clients turn their dreams into reality.

What lessons did you learn from this transaction?

PARISH: I learned two things. The first is that with a short sale, it's important to make sure the title company checks the title one last time on the day of closing. If the title company had not checked it the morning we were to close, this bizarre event would not have been known until days later [when] my buyers were in the house.

Secondly, I learned to always trust my instincts and follow up. I wanted to see this couple get this house because they were my clients and longtime friends. Friends or not, sales associates should not be afraid to go out on a limb for the client. And if going out on a limb means you have to get in the car and drive to the home or office of someone involved in the transaction, grab your keys and go. E-mail and phone calls are great. But sometimes you need to go eyeball-to-eyeball to get the deal done.