A Distressed Homeowner: One Agent's Story

The following guest post was written by Justin Lindsey of Ben Slade Realty in Niceville, FL

I am one of five real estate agents in a brokerage that specializes in assisting distressed homeowners.

An inability to keep up with monthly mortgage payments may seem like a no-win situation. I, however, pride myself on being able to help my clients sell their homes on their terms, as homeowners, rather than losing them to foreclosure. It may seem like a small distinction but, in the long run, it may help salvage my clients’ credit, improve their future home-buying power, and maintain their self-respect.

Recently, I was privileged to guide a family through this often painful and emotional process. When this family first approached our brokerage, we helped them apply for a loan modification and provided guidance on how to request a chain of title; we examined reinstatement and repayment options. Our goal was to keep them in their home but the time came when we realized there were really only two choices: foreclosure or short sale.  The family decided to move out on their own terms, so we opted for a short sale.

Their house was structurally sound with a lot of cosmetic issues, in a less than desirable neighborhood. I listed it at $104,000, and immediately began marketing the property on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Craigslist with links directing people to Zillow’s “charts and data” section. I was confident this credible, third-party data about the property would be of interest to potential buyers. I also knew I could count on Zillow’s page view statistics to illustrate the amount of visibility the listing had received when it came time to prepare my short sale packet.

In the beginning, the property was being viewed like crazy, but no offers were coming in. I got feedback such as:

  • the house is a mess
  • needs a lot of work
  • strong animal smell
  • priced incorrectly

Then the bomb hit – our Final Summary Judgment hearing would be held in one month. We’d already dropped the price and were forced to lower it again, this time to $70,000.  I needed an offer and I needed my clients to go to court to petition for more time to complete this sale. As the hearing date approached, I coached the homeowners on facts regarding their property, the status of their short sale, and how to represent themselves in court. But I still had no offers.

With five days left until the hearing, I dropped the home’s price by another $20,000 and turned to social networks to announce:  “INVESTORS SPECIAL! This place will be under contract by Monday afternoon.” I again provided a link to the home’s listing on Zillow.

This time, my phone started ringing and didn’t stop; showings were constant. Over the weekend, I updated verbal and written offers via social networks. The hearing was on Tuesday, and by 8:00 Monday morning, the property had elicited 49 phone calls; I had five offers with the promise of another half- dozen “on the way.”

The morning of the hearing, I met my clients at the courthouse. They were armed with their  short sale packet, offers, a note about offers still coming in,  my property and neighborhood analyses, listing history from the MLS, and Zillow’s  page view data showing the property information had been viewed more than 500 times in a four-day period.

The judge reviewed the binder, pausing on the page view chart by Zillow. After some discussion between the homeowners and the judge (the bank didn’t attend the hearing), my clients were able to walk out of that courtroom not as people who lost their home, but rather as educated, prepared homeowners – dignity intact – who have a signed contract to sell their home.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.