Editor’s note: This is the latest installment in a series of columns.

Is your potential short sale falling apart or never got off the ground due to a lack of approvals, communication, and/or not knowing who to turn to for help?

While some real estate professionals may offer a list of excuses for why they aren’t closing short-sale transactions, those excuses may wear thin if your multiple listing service is working with a Fannie Mae short-sale assistance program.

Fannie Mae calls it the Short Sale Assistance Desk, and it has been receiving rave reviews from some real estate agents across the country during the eight months or so it has been available through MLSs.

"The Fannie Mae Assistance Desk is amazing," said Marty Hunt, a Realtor with Florida Home Team Realty LLC in Altamonte Springs, Fla.

"I submitted a request Tuesday and had two calls from the lender the next day. I was in the field showing houses but she called the second time because I had not called her back quickly. That is what I call responsive! And she couldn’t have been more helpful."

I am not making this up.

Michele Herdon of Keller Williams in Tampa, Fla., said, "This was a fantastic experience. Reps were helpful and responded quickly to emails and phone calls. We got this issue resolved quickly and painlessly — many thanks to this process!"

Carol Schaul of Re/Max Suburban in Libertyville, Ill., closed two short-sale transactions with help from the program. "On one the lender kept coming up with more and more roadblocks. Once I got Fannie Mae (Assistance Desk) involved, they cut to the chase and we closed.

"The second deal closed after getting an approval within days of submitting a complete package. The Fannie Mae response on both deals was super accommodating."

Think of the Short Sale Assistance Desk as a presale transaction management service, where FNMA does most of the work, with access to MLS-reliable pricing data.

According to Marcel Bryar, Fannie Mae vice president, the program provides a team of trained professionals "who resolve the frustration, complexities and delays that are so common in short-sale transactions. At the same time, we are able to use MLS data to help streamline pricing issues that have been so difficult to evaluate."

Russ Bergeron, CEO of the Midwest Real Estate Data MLS, which serves 38,000 Realtors, said, "This partnership with Fannie Mae helps provide an improvement in the accuracy of Fannie Mae’s property valuations and a related gain in the efficiency of short-sale approvals.

"Currently, gaining an approval to proceed with a short-sale transaction can take months. The Assistance Desk expedites the process so that a real estate professional will receive an initial response within one week confirming that the case has been reviewed," Bergeron said.

Damian Janssen of Keller Williams Group One in Sparks, Nev., said he will probably be using the Assistance Desk again.

"The Fannie Mae Short Sale Assistance Desk helped my seller and me get results even after we felt like we had hit a dead end with the lien holder," Janssen said.

"We were at the point where we could not even get through on the phone and were about to give up hope. After we engaged the Assistance Desk, a senior negotiator from the lien holder contacted me, falling all over himself with apologies and promises to help. We had short-sale approval just 27 days later, and my client is thrilled that he gets to open a new chapter in his life."

Give the much-maligned Fannie Mae some credit: Its short-sale assistance program is getting the job done.

Escrow agents are making the extra effort to understand the short-sale process, and are offering to help agents even during the negotiation process for a short sale.

Again, I am not making this up.

Michael Spickes, co-founder of America’s Home Rescue, which has trained more than 40,000 agents to close short-sale transactions and offers a certification program for agents and teams, saw it coming.

America’s Home Rescue offers short-sale certification service for closing officers and attorneys. Its program is designed "to give them complete knowledge of what a Realtor has to do before placing the order for title insurance."

Sylvia Smith, president of Western Title & Escrow in Reno, Nev., became certified — along with all of the company’s closing officers.

"We felt that it was very important for the (real estate professionals) who refer business to us to know that the title company with whom they are closing has taken the certification course. Real estate agents take the time to learn how to sell short-sale properties. We took the time to make sure we understand what they are required to do." Smith said.

Spickes said that a national title company has been beta testing the certification program and may be announcing a national rollout in January.

The deeper we get into this series about help in navigating the housing crisis, the more we realize that the housing industry is figuring it out — on its own, in some cases.

In our last series, we showed examples of lender solutions. Today we talked about short-sale solutions.

While technology will continue to drive solutions, the real estate agent is still the driver for sales — short or not.

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