Short Sales or Roulette – which has the better odds?

I constantly get buyer clients asking me about the pros and cons of short sales. In fact, I’ve received so many questions I created a Phoenix Real Estate short sale section on my website and I refer clients to that page.  I’m sure I’m not the only realtor who has done that in this market.

I’ll tell you that I’ve had my share of successful short sales, both on the selling and buying side. I’ve also had my share of short sales that have blown up because 1.) a HELOC demanded a promissory note and the seller refused to sign it OR 2.) a bank wouldn’t let go of an unreasonably high BPO. [Side note: If the realtor who did the BPO for my short sale on Desert Cove Rd in Glendale is reading this — your BPO WAS too high and the house sold for $10,000 less as a REO]. Since I have a fairly analytical mind
(which can be a curse in a marriage) I decided to see if I could figure out the statistical probabilities of a short sale closing escrow.

My bachelor’s degree is in business administration and I did well in quantitative analysis.  However, I did not want to create a thesis.  I was just seeking a simple way to convey the success rate of short sales to my clients. Here’s what I came up with: divide the number of closed short sales in one month by the combined total of the closed short sales plus the canceled short sales.  Expressed mathematically:

closed short sales / (closed short sales + cancelled short sales) = % of success

I used only canceled short sales and not those that “expired” or were “temporarily off market.”  I reasoned that expired short sales could simply be re-listed, were generally caused because the listing realtor lost track of time, and that most of them received an extension.  I did not count those that were “temporarily off market” because they would probably end up as either closed or canceled.

Here’s my conclusion based on 12 months of statistics from the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service: There is a slightly better chance closing a short sale than winning at a roulette table. Remember that roulette has a “just under” 50% chance of winning if you play either “odd/even” or “red/black” because of the “0” “00.”

The 12 month chart shown below illustrates that an average of 53.7% of short sales close. Read the chart in this manner: “4,150 foreclosures sales (bank owned and short sales combined) occurred in February 2010.  1,438 of those sales were short sales.  1,167 short sales were canceled in February 2010.  Therefore, 55.2% of short sales were successfully closed in February 2010.” You will also note that the success of short sales has been greater in the last six months than in
the first six months of the period.

Short sales success

I can already hear all of the short sale experts across America claiming a much higher success rate.  I have a higher success rate too. However, I present these numbers for your information or your humor — whichever you prefer.  Actually, I kind of like the roulette analogy and have already used it twice today.  Next time a client asks you if they should consider buying short sales say to them “red or black?”