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Why We Do What We Do

Posted on Feb 11, 2009

Tonight saw the end of a purchase transaction that is at once a cautionary tale, and a laser bright light in the darkness of a struggling economy. To really tell the story, we have to go all the way back to August 26th,  2008, when the offer on this short sale home was written. That’s right – six months from writing an offer until closing!

Knowing we were writing on a short sale, there was an explicit understanding that we were on the extended timeframe plan. As the seller’s lienholder was Countrywide (who takes longer than any lien holder to even look at an offer), we even knew to expect the unexpected. However, saying that and experiencing it are frequently two very different things.

Due to the fact that our clients had some very specific needs, including active young children and an unpredictable work schedule, it was decided early on that Jesse and I would work in tandem on this one. One of the benefits of partnering in this business is the ability to share the load, and we have found it adds a dimension to the relationships we develop that we both cherish.

There were several twists and turns on this particular road, including our buyer’s  loss of employment midway through, with a miraculous recovery in record time. Then there was the utter lack of communication from the Countrywide folks. It’s difficult enough to shepherd a ‘standard’ transaction through the myriad hoops in these challenged times, but when you have a principal to the transaction whose voicemail recording is prefaced with a warning that they may take 72 hours to respond, and in fact, they don’t respond at all, it makes the concept of speaking to a wall seem positively interactive.

A toilet overflowed about 3 months into the deal, flooding the entryway and causing the hardwood floors to swell, crack, split, and otherwise look pretty rough. On inspection, it was discovered that water from that little adventure had also flowed into the heating duct, and drained into the crawlspace, which was dealing with its own water management issues due to flooding on the heels of our extreme winter conditions. Oh, and before I forget, the LP (Louisiana Pacific) wood products siding was in failure in a couple of locations. The inspector’s recommendations included installation of a sump pump in the crawl, and replacement of the roof and siding.

Before you get the idea that this place was on the bulldozer bait short list, you should know that it has several redeeming qualities, not the least of which is a very nice sized lot with a fenced yard, which was an essential criteria to this young family. There’s also a sweeping view toward the Olympic mountains, a floorplan that would accomodate their entertaining and living needs, and a location that fits with their commute. And last, but certainly not least, a price that allowed them to achieve their budget goals. Factored into all this was a budget to address the repair issues, anticipating we could get the lienholder to agree to an offer price of $260,000- no mean feat, given that it was listed at $300k and the seller was into it for $350,000.

There were no assurances at any time that we’d make it to the finish line. The day of closing in fact, came as a complete surprise, as we had been on hold for several weeks, with multiple extensions submitted, and at least 2 extensions on the buyer’s phenomenal rate lock of 4.5%. The buyer let us know they intended to walk away from the deal if they had to put any additional funds in, as their rate lock neared expiration. In the final hour, when it appeared all our efforts were about to end in frustration, we got a call from escrow, stating that the final approval had come through – a single piece of documentation that had held up the closing for over a week! They said we should anticipate a day or so to close, and then, within a few hours, we were informed that the deal was done. As Jesse described it, the sensation was akin to the feeling you get on waking from a ‘falling’ dream, to find you’re still alive, heart pounding, suspended inches above the floor – happy to be alive, but the shock of the fall still pounding in your veins.

The real payoff, however, came when we met the family to hand over their keys. The kids were racing around the backyard as the sun set over the Olympics. Their mother stood at the kitchen sink, choking back the urge to cry as she watched her newly freed brood burn up the yard, while her husband stood on the back deck smiling, laughing, and relieving himself of the traumas of the past several uncertain months. It was a cathartic moment for everyone, as the reality of accomplishment slowly sunk in. For Jesse and I, the trip home was an opportunity to bask in the thrill that comes with seeing the results of our efforts, in the form of smiling, happy clients.

Given the nature of Short Sales, it’s difficult to overstate the need to be realistic – the stats for closed Short Sale deals are about equal with those denied by the lienholder, giving about even odds that you’ll submit several offers before reaching agreement. And the timeframe for closing them seems to keep getting longer – in fact, here in the office, we’ve started referring to them as ‘Long Sales’. The operative word for successfully navigating a short sale is ‘intestinal fortitude’. If you’re contemplating going this route, and would like some assistance, give us a call.

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