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BROKER AGENT MAGAZINE
Real Estate Services
A short sale is a process that permits a homeowner to get a discount on their home mortgage, allowing it to sell at today's deflated values without owing the difference to the bank, while preserving the seller's credit. It is definitely no small undertaking and nothing the novice should even consider taking on.
It can all fall apart quickly and irreparably if not done correctly from the start. Timing is everything, second only to satisfying the required criteria.
The agent who specializes in short sales must be extremely knowledgeable and well versed in federal laws, banking guidelines, loss mitigation negotiations, tax issues, real estate procedures, sellers' financial situations, and property
appraisal status. Should any one of these factors be calculated incorrectly, or if the clock has been ticking for too long before appropriate action was taken, any hopes for a successful sale become irreversibly positioned.
While many agents attempt short sales, the achievement rate at rescuing these hardship situations and turning them into completed, closed escrows is extremely low when they are randomly done. Fortunately, however, there is one company in Sacramento who sole purpose is to execute successful short sales. Staffed by experts, AMC Real Estate Services can boast a 90 percent success ratio in the last four years, because short sales are all that they do.
It's no coincidence that AMC does it best, or that they are the only company flourishing in the short sale arena. Sterling Watkins, licensed broker, brings 20 years experience in the Sacramento real estate market to the firm. Having developed the unique expertise to market and appraise distressed properties years before short sales became the buzz word of the nineties, Sterling realized the need for teaming up with others who understood negotiations in the banking end of the transactions. AMC was born and committed to this end in 1992 when Michael Toste and Derek Kirk, both from First Nationwide Bank's Loss Mitigation department, joined forces with Sterling Watkins. The combined strengths of these three individuals are second to none.
Understanding the lenders and the differing requirements regarding various types of financing is paramount. Michael Toste and Derek Kirk are both leaders in blending and approaching key banking players. They know that losses of certain amounts simply wont work. Some require defaults when others don't. This duo is able to preapprove sellers in a way that renders the whole transaction successful, where most other realty organizations do not posses this expertise anywhere in their midst.
Larry Henderson, former colleague of Sterling Watkins at Caminiti Real Estate, passionately affirms that no one can accomplish short sales like the team at AMC. Even though Larry has 10 years experience in real estate himself, he declares that he would never attempt a short sale. "It's a real ethical problem. This is an area of specialization and there's a tremendous disadvantage when an agent tries to do this on his or her own. It's complicated. AMC has been doing these for a very long time, and they know how to negotiate and service the client. Very few other agents succeed when they try short sales. It's the same thing as my trying to give tax advice. I don't do it and I don't expect general brokers to either."
Larry Henderson went on to say that he refers all of his short sale clients back to Sterling Watkins. "He's very gracious and always communicates the results to me... Unless you have half the experience that these guys have, you wont succeed and you'll hurt the client's ability to get out of that home. You'll hurt your reputation as a agent in the long run, also, by taking on a listing that you can't handle."
"We go out and destigmatize listings by doing a lot of talk radio shows and presentations to other real estate offices," says Watkins. Another down side to a failed short sale is the bad taste it leaves in the mouth of brokers. That's because not many agents understand the dynamics involved.
Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of watching these ultra-specialized masters at work can do nothing but sing their immediate praises. Annette Metcalf of Chicago Title exclaims, "They are awesome... the cream of the crop for negotiating short sales. They make a very good presentation to the lenders; they are personable, accurate and they get results. When agents are not familiar with short sales, things are not communicated properly, and do not get done at the last minute. AMC puts together a full packet from the beginning and there are never any surprises."
What so many agents don't seem to understand is the tremendous disservice that can be done to the homeowner who is suddenly faced with this situation of potential loss of his or her home. The seller has come to realize that he can't make the payments any longer in a home that has lost value in today's tight marketplace. What the homeowner does next and how he does it is crucial. With the clock ticking, valuable time can go by when an untrained agent accepts such a listing and does not have the expertise to make appropriate decisions at the various crossroads of the situation. The critical part is positioning the client correctly with good planning up front. Proper paperwork must be executed initially and if any facts are misstated or portrayed incorrectly, leaving the homeowner's hardship improperly documented, there can be an irreversible, devastating denial. Only a pro can prevent this.
In addition to the extensive knowledge base and experience at AMC, what this team is able to do differently is in the initial analysis and preparation. The homeowner's documents are studied for two weeks in review. They don't just rush out and take a listing.
AMC believes so strongly in proper specialization that they pay a referral fee to any real estate agent who works a property and realizes that it might meet the criteria for a short sale, thus directing it to the team at AMC.
Community service is of particular importance to AMC as well. The company sponsors the weekly segment, "Deal of the Week" on the popular Sunday afternoon "Real Estate Talk' show, on Talk 650 AM. In this way, AMC makes the Sacramento community aware every week at 1 PM, of a listed property that is truly thousands below appraised value and ready to be accepted by the bank at its new terms.
Real Estate Talk's hosts, Paul Burgess and David Oldenburg have frequently highlighted Sterling Watkins as a featured guest on their show. "We were impressed by how many short sales AMC has done -- over 500 -- when most area agents are lucky to do just one. What a great system they have for analyzing whether a person is a candidate to be considered for a short sale. The average agent would have no idea what to look for as far as the asset - liability package goes. There are great professionals at AMC is really great with confidentiality issues, and they are very sensitive to the seller's needs. Most people don't have this kind of expertise to know how to best manage the more delicate matters."
Handling people who find themselves in this position is definitely an art that AMC has mastered. Tom Perry is only one of hundreds of satisfied customers, who said, "I was more than surprised at the positive way it all turned out. I had no experience with this kind of situation, and I felt I had to have fast and expert advice. I was able to leave immediately after meeting with Sterling, Derek and Mike with a decision in mind of what I wanted to do. I knew time was limited or I'd be in serious trouble. As soon as I agreed to proceed, the team at AMC took over. It was entirely in their hands.
That alone was a surprise, because I had dealt with other agents in the past who needed to be reminded what to do repeatedly along the way. I couldn't have asked for anything quicker or more worry-free."
Judy Thompson of Judy Thompson REALTORS® and past president of the Sacramento Board of REALTORS® probably said it best. "AMC is the company I recommend hands down. I'll continue to recommend them at every chance I get. It's a very stressful time, both emotionally and financially, and they have the ability to handle it. It's their niche. Although I have been a REALTOR® for 28 years, I recognize my limitations. No one can know it all. Anymore than I would try to sell a house in Los Angeles or perform brain surgery, I also wouldn't attempt a short sale. Real estate agents should never take that lightly. There is a proficient, highly specialized team at AMC and they have distinguished themselves as industry leaders in this arena."
It's a matter of ethics, of doing what's right. There's no way around it. Tackling a short sale should only be done by the best. And the best is Sterling, Derek and Mike.
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