Short Sales or REOs?

Over the last year, many of my clients have asked me about the feasibility of short sales…both from a seller’s perspective, as a way out of an upside down property; and from a buyer’s perspective, as a way to acquire properties below market rate. Up until recently I have advised most of my clients away from short sales…as a buyer or as a seller. The reason was simple: lots of time invested, small chance of success. As a rule, since the housing bubble burst and the credit crunch began, banks have been overwhelmed with defaults and the departments in charge of evaluating and approving short sales have been notoriously slow and inefficient. Trying to negotiate a short sale with the bank often resulted in frustration for all parties involved with a very low success rate.

As a result, I have advised my investor clients to seek out REOs as the best buying opportunity here in Las Vegas. Time, however, are changing. My recent articles on the Las Vegas housing marketing have highlighting the dwindling supply of bank-owned REO properties available. Each month the demand for these REOs and the closings exceed the fresh supply of foreclosed homes coming from the banks. This has resulted in bidding wars across the Las Vegas valley as investors and primary residents eager to capitalize on the best real estate buying opportunity in decades flock to purchase the REOs that make their way on to the market. But with the percentage of homeowners behind on their mortgages still at all time highs, why is the number of foreclosures entering the market declining? The answer may be the increase in short sales.

Brian Wargo of the Las Vegas Sun recently wrote an article discussing this increase in short sales. In it, he quote Larry Murphy, president of the real estate monitoring firm SalesTraq, who says that of the 35,742 closings through the first three quarters of 2009 75% were foreclosures and only 10% were short sales. However, of the 11,249 contingent sales currently in place in Las Vegas, 71% are short sales and only 21% are REOs or foreclosure homes. This represents a dramatic shift in banking policy.

Murphy believes banks are becoming much more willing to consider short sales because they are finally realizing that short sales generate a higher sales price for the banks than REOs. Data supports this. The median price of homes sold through foreclosure is $116,900, while the median price for homes sold through short sales is $150,000.

The federal government has also adopted standardized rules for short sales, simplifying the process. This, combined with the pressure being exerted by the Obama administration to keep homeowners out of foreclosure, is creating a much higher approval rate for short sales. This, in turn, is keeping the flood of foreclosures that we had been expecting here in Las Vegas off the books and creating the progressively lower inventory monthly of bank-owned REO homes.

All-in-all, whether you are a seller looking to get out of an upside down situation or a buyer looking to capitalize on low home prices, now may be a great time to consider the short sale as an option.

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