Your best bet is working with Private Sellers on Options and Assignable Contracts. Banks have cracked down the last 4 years on assignable contracts and options; they are a no-go on all REO and Short Sale properties. There might be a couple loop-holes that can used in short sales, but they are a little too lengthy to explain here. And again, Banks don't like to see investors make money on their portfolio's usually.The inventory is SO low, that any property with a margin for profit, is almost certain to be a distressed property as well.That being said, it "can" be done, but personally speaking, we have seen very few investors be successful with creative terms the last couple of years. Because we have to conform the new market standards, it is better to find 'creative' lending or hard-money to purchase properties.For the most part the assignable contract and option to sale is all but dead. Better to approach it from the other side of the equation.Good luck!
Most of these answers have been right-on: Non-refundable Earnest Money in the FIRST 95-days of a ratified contract is not out of the ordinary in our area (as long as you get it back after that 95-day period if you do withdraw the offer for reasons allowed per the contract). Check the short-sale addendum to make sure you're interests are being represented.If the Listing Agent owns a debt-collection company, then they have the right to be compensated as well, outside of the real estate commissions. Chances are they are taking a higher commission than your Agent as well, and controlling the majority of the sale-details. That may or may not be in your best interest as the Buyer to deal with that Listing Agent/Company.Required Pre-Approval is a joke (in my opinion). Most of the large Banks have even moved away from this in their REO transactions. They 'Encourage' preapproval with a specific lender (usually the Selling-Bank/Investor) to recapture loans, but don't 'Require' them anymore due to Buyer-Backlash from this language in contracts.The Listing Agent your dealing with might impose a 'penalty' for not using their 'approved' lender if the transaction closes late (which goes to the Listing Agent if they are a debt-collection company as well). Or they might just have a partnership with a specific lender in the area they are working with. These practices might help control some the uncertainties of the Short Sale process, but it's also a little 'bull-doggish" in the market place. Use the Lender you prefer, you'll be happier in the end (and build/sustain a better relationship with the professionals you know).Don't fear the Earnest Money issue if you love the house. Ask plenty of questions. Choose your battles.Best of luck!
If you're going to self-manage this property, try doing some research in the area by calling other property management companies with similar rentals. Or check on other advertised, similar, rentals. Craigslist can even provide decent rental 'comps' when rates are advertised.Depending on the area of Santa Clara/River Road, you may find yourself competing with a higher vacancy rate and supply (for instance along Helen St, Division, Autumn, and Jasmine; a neighborhood of duplexes) which may cause a bit of "rent control" in the neighborhood. That area has been renting for around ~$950-$1050 for a 3 bedroom unit.If you're interested, any Realtor in the area can provide a quick comp-check of past sales in the area that had published rental amounts in the MLS system as well. The other option of course would be to turn the property over to a professional Property Manager that has a good track record in the 97404-area.Hope that helps!