By Julie Escobar
To wrap up our series of short sale interviews, I turned to another Facebook friend who’s confidence, capability and compassion caught my eye. Known as the “Give Back Girl” because of her charity work – Gloria Commiso has much to share…
Q: First of all – Thanks so much for sharing your “secrets” with us! Can you tell us a little about yourself and why you chose short sales as your niche?
A: Yes! I’m a Keller Williams Agent licensed for six years. I was the former wife of a Real Estate Broker but I wasn’t licensed until after we got divorced. It was an easy choice to get into Real Estate because it gave me a flexible schedule that I needed as a single mom. Besides — I love it. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else except charity work. My slogan is the “giveback girl.” I give a portion of every check to one or more charities. Last year, with the support of KW and Borders Bookstores, I helped to build a small library for an organization called “School on Wheels” in downtown Los Angeles. The facility tutors foster and homeless children. I got involved in real estate because I wanted to facilitate change in people’s lives. It also allowed me to combine my passions of helping people and interior decorating.
I didn’t exactly choose short sales; they choose me through my referral partners. I have a graduate back ground in “Negotiating and Integrative Bargaining.” Short sales require so many layers of negotiating and follow up/persistence that this seemed like a good fit. One of my motivations to assist homeowners in distress was to assist my own clients. (I started assisting in modifications for a couple of past clients but luckily none of my past clients have had to sell short.) I began to realize that many agents didn’t want or know how to approach them. One by one, agents would call and ask me to co-list or assist with a short sale. Over the past three years I have closed 100% of all my standard short sales. The only one I couldn’t close was a “strategic” new construction short sale. The banks foreclosed because the construction loan was not in place for one year.
Q: What do you believe is important for distressed homeowners to know SOONER rather than later in today’s swiftly changing economy?
A: What’s really important for homeowners to know is that the longer they wait the less options and more stress they have. It’s also important for them to know that agents aren’t accountants, lawyers or financial planners so they must get advice from one or more of the aforementioned professionals before deciding to execute a short sale. They must understand all the options and liabilities.
Q: How are you reaching out to distressed homeowners and letting them know that there are options available to them? How can a new agent getting into short sales find those homeowners who really need help?
A: I’ve been reaching out to homeowners in distress through past clients, blogging and also through my referral partners by passing out contact and program information for government websites. I wouldn’t advise agents to target these people unless they have adequate training: either CDPE classes, HAFA training, SFR courses or some type of extended education. Most of my referrals come from other agents and attorneys. I haven’t advertised my services for short sales –I just take referrals.
Q: What kind of stats have you seen in terms of the rise of short sale in your market and nationwide?
A: We have seen a steady increase in short sales peaking last year. One of my standard sales was in the city of Lawndale which at the time was 98% distressed w REOs, short sales and foreclosures. I don’t see them tapering off anytime soon and it’s about the same as last year…slow and steady in the Beach Cities South of LAX. The majority of mine have been in Hawthorne, Torrance, and areas east of the beach.
Q: What kind of training has been key in helping you stand out in your community as a short sale specialist?
A: I have taken a CDPE course that my company offered and I took a HAFA certification course recently because the guidelines change very fast. I also read all the CAR and NAR legal updates and now that the FTC is involved, I have been immersed in MARS (Mortgage Assistance Relief Servicers) information. The best training though is on-the- job-training. I’ve shorted or assisted in negotiating loan modifications with Wells Fargo, Union Bank, BofA, JP Morgan CHASE, Countrywide, Kinecta, Aurora, Chevy Chase.
Q: Just as I did in our previous article with Nicole Fabiano – I’d love to do a little “myth busting” for distressed homeowners – can you give me say the top three or four misconceptions consumers may have about short sales and foreclosures and what they really should know?
A: Absolutely! Myth Buster #1: Short Sales are all a nightmare! If a seller is cooperative and motivated it doesn’t have to be painful BUT you do have to be thorough. The bank has to have certain documentation packaged (Cover sheet, listing agreement, loan authorization, short sale addendum, MLS profile, hardship letter, financial worksheet, past 2 years tax returns, last 3 paycheck stubs, last 3 checking/savings account statements, seller net sheet, HUD, most recent property tax bill, comparable sales and a property condition report if necessary. If you have retained an offer then also send the Purchase agreement, proof of funds, preapproval and FICO information.
If the agent is consistent with communication and documents all conversations you have a better chance at getting a negotiator to look at the file. There are ways you can package a file that will get the attention of the bank. A good cover sheet with Clients’ name, loan number, listing agent, broker, and settlement officer’s info and contact numbers for all parties is critical. (Loan number should be referenced on all documentation. Also, when dealing with banks on the east coast I get up at 5am to be one of the first calls to check status. If I’m dealing with an attorney or negotiator I copy him on all emails. Negotiators pay attention when attorneys are involved. In addition, request the following from the seller: all paperwork signed, completed and include all debt including pre-payment penalties, liens, back due property taxes, HOA back dues, IRS liens, etc.
In addition, cooperation is a must the agent has to insist on the following: a lock box, showing hours, a clean home at all times, access for showings/open houses. Next, agents should carry their phones at all times so they don’t miss a call. Program the bank numbers in your phone and set a ring tone for the negotiator! (Don’t miss a call!) If you do call back ASAP. Call response time is critical to converting a short sale to sold! If the seller is difficult to get a hold of or travels, see if you can get a power of attorney. Scan all documents so you have remote access in case the bank needs a copy of something. Get the short sale approval document signed as soon as the bank sends it and send it back w signatures from all parties. Have access to a mobile notary. Make sure you have an escrow officer that is familiar with short sales and can correct a HUD at a moment’s notice.
Myth Buster #2: Your agent can decide for you whether you should short sale. The best way to find out who the professionals are is by hearing this come out of the agent’s mouth before even putting pen to paper. “Have you talked to a tax advisor, accountant or attorney about your liabilities?” In the case of HAFA an agent isn’t even allowed to give the paperwork to the seller. The seller has to call to initiate the HAMP and HAFA and download paperwork from the website.
Myth Buster #3: The bank approves the short sale! The bank in many cases is just the loan servicer. Actually, many loans were sold to investors and it is the investor that makes the decision to approve the negative. That’s part of the reason that it takes so long. First you apply for the short sale then the bank processes your offer internally. Next they contact the investor to see if he will agree. If there are two loans w two different banks it takes time.
Myth Buster #4: The bank doesn’t want to cooperate! Well this is true in some cases — but the reality is that most banks want to do everything they can to come to an agreement – many just don’t have the manpower to deal with the volume of people in crisis. Also, since no one really understood the magnitude of the housing crisis, banks just weren’t staffed and training was happening simultaneously while the banks were deluged with a high volume of short sale and modification requests.
Myth Buster #5: If I short sell, I can just walk away. Not true. Some banks are asking for seller contributions in a promissory note. Also, the mortgage debt tax relief applies to people who are short selling their primary residence and has other criteria’s that a seller must meet.
Q: Great information! What’s your best advice for agents coming into the field of short sales in terms of arming themselves with the right information to not just succeed in their market – but truly protect their client’s best interests as well?
A: My advice to any agent getting involved in short sales is to get CDPE training and continue getting extended education because the laws keep changing. Also, shadow an agent that is actively negotiating several short sales at a time. Set expectations with the seller in regards to time frames and processing requirements. Take really good notes and keep a good communication log. If you use a third party negotiator make sure you are both MARS compliant. Have the negotiator copy you on every deal. Have regular updates so you always know what’s going on with the file. Program dates into your calendar, contingency periods, nod periods, short sale approval date and expiration date. Use a system and stay organized. Stay in touch with the client. Know the laws in regards to marketing and be MARS compliant.
Q: What’s the best part about being a short sale specialist for you? What’s most rewarding?
A: The best thing about closing a short sale is relieving someone of the debt that is causing stress and crisis in their lives. In essence, closing a short sale is giving someone their life back and helping them make a fresh start!
Here’s some resources you may find useful: MARS includes any service, plan or program offered or provided in exchange for consideration on behalf of the consumer (I’m assuming consideration to be “money”), that is represented, expressly or by implication, to assist or attempt to assist the consumer” in negotiating a modification of any term of a loan or obtain other types of relief to avoid delinquency or foreclosure. For more info go to http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/11/mars.shtm
Our jobs are to both to sell and assist homeowners in retaining their homes when possible. Here is some contact information to pass along to distressed homeowners who want to know what their options are.
Free counseling www.hud.gov Or call the hope hotline: 888-995-HOPE press one for English. Home ownership preservation is in partnership w the government. Have the loan number and mortgage details available. You can also file a complaint here if you feel you have been a victim of a foreclosure prevention fraud. I called this morning and i got through in a matter of minutes.
Federal modification, refinance and short sale programs:
The HAFA program gives sellers up to$3k credit at the close of escrow for relocating. If a servicer is participating in HAFA they must also offer HAMP (loan modification application). If a seller is denied a loan modification they can automatically apply for HAFA. The seller must contact the servicer to apply
Agents looking for answers – visit: www.realtor.org/shortsales and contact your local board for accredited courses in short sales.
Wow Gloria – you’re a treasure trove of information! Thank you so much for your time and insights!