Some Vail Valley brokers can help with ‘short’ sales |

Some Vail Valley brokers can help with ‘short’ sales

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

Sometimes opportunity knocks. Sometimes you have to go looking for it. With the Vail Valley real estate market as slow as it’s been in years, some local brokers have decided to add some new pages to their playbooks.

Joan Harned and Barb Hogoboom of Keller Williams Real Estate’s Eagle office have started helping homeowners with “short” sales, a way to get someone out of a home for less than they owe on their mortgage with as little damage as possible to the seller’s credit rating.

At the REMAX Vail Valley office in Edwards, managing broker Bill Wilto and two of his colleagues have also gotten into the business of helping homeowners who have hit tough financial times.

While foreclosure numbers in Eagle County don’t come close to the hardest-hit parts of the country, Harned said a growing number of locals are working less, and earning less than they did even a year ago. A drop in income, and a serious slowdown in the real estate market, have hit people who have been buying and selling ever-more-expensive homes over the last several years.

“A lot of people have gotten caught in that,” Harned said.

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Harned and Wilto both said they see their role as finding ways to keep people in their homes.

“A lot of times we’re counseling people,” Wilto said.

But if there’s no way to make a deal with a mortgage company, short sales are starting to be more acceptable to lenders, who basically have to agree to take less money than they’re owed to stave off a foreclosure.

Short sales, though, are complicated, and involve lawyers and bankers as well as brokers, buyers and sellers.

Wilto and colleagues Cynthia Kruse and Nancy Schmidt have taken classes in Florida ” one of the states hardest-hit by foreclosures ” and received “Certified Distressed Property Expert” certificates.

Harned and Hogoboom have also taken classes to learn the fine points of short sales.

Harned said by the time a short sale is prepared and fully documented, the package can easily approach 100 pages.

“What the lender is looking for is something in the range of a fair market offer,” Harned said. “But bankers don’t want to own your house.”

Still, she said, it’s important to have an offer in hand before going to a lender. Then, there needs to be a legal agreement between the lender and seller that the sale of the house will satisfy the mortgage. That’s where lawyers come in.

While the Keller Williams and REMAX agents will help homeowners at no charge to avoid a forced sale, lawyers generally don’t work for free. In the case of a short sale, the buyer will pay attorney’s fees associated with hammering out an agreement with the lender.

But, Hogoboom said, the buyer is usually getting a pretty good deal on a home, so attorney’s fees are a fairly minor item to put on that side of the ledger.

While there are some short sales happening, there still aren’t many. The two real estate offices together have closed fewer than 10 of the deals since the first of the year.

Still, short sales are a way to help homeowners in trouble, and a way to get buyers into homes they may otherwise have been hard-pressed to afford.

This is the first buyers market we’ve seen here in two decades,” Harned said. “But supply and demand is going to kick back in one of these days. If you’re a buyer, this is a great market.”

Still, no one wants to see a forced sale. Wilto said his hope is that by helping a family stay in a home now, he’ll earn their business when they’re ready to get into the real estate market in better times.

“We just want to be a resource for people,” Wilto said.

Harned agreed, saying, “We’re all here to take care of each other. We just want to point people in the right direction.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

It’s essentially selling a home for less than the amount owed on the mortgage. Lawyers and bankers are often involved in order to salvage the seller’s credit rating.

Call the Keller Williams Real Estate office in Eagle, 970-328-2327, or REMAX Vail Valley, 970-766-7355

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