Why do agents recommend short sales? The short answer is because we are in the business of selling real estate and it is always in our best interest to sell something.

I should just say yes when someone wants to sell, but when the property is distressed, so is the owner — and the owner may not have explored all of the options before calling me to ask about a short sale. Some agents are taught to recommend a short sale as an alternative to foreclosure.

Yesterday I got a call from a homeowner who wants to sell her home because she can no longer afford to make the payments. She specifically asked about a short sale.

Her situation has changed since she bought the house and she owes more on the home than she can sell it for. The story is all too common.

I first explained how a short sale works and how it may impact a credit rating. Then I explained what a deed-in-lieu is and how it affects the credit rating, and then I explained the foreclosure process in Minnesota. Finally, I asked her if she wants to keep her home.

She did want to keep it, so I gave her the phone number for the Minnesota Home Ownership Center. There are similar organizations in other areas, too.

The center is a local nonprofit staffed with counselors, negotiators and experts who have been able to help homeowners prevent foreclosure. Real estate professionals, in my estimation, rarely explain the option of a deed-in-lieu or about how to get help and avoid foreclosure. Foreclosure prevention is outside the scope of my business: selling houses. But real estate professionals can serve as resources to get people the help they need.

The woman who called me had never considered a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure because she had never heard of it. She never heard of the Minnesota Home Ownership Center either.

Foreclosures hurt credit ratings, but so do short sales and so does a deed-in-lieu. I have talked to lenders and credit experts who have told me that people who short-sell or give the house back to the bank will be able to buy a home again sooner than those who go through a foreclosure process.

Some say the difference is huge, while others say it is slight, but consistently the professionals who recommend short sales as an alternative to foreclosure are real estate agents.

I think sellers who are considering their options need to get the facts from someone other than a real estate salesperson. We are often the first call for help and are taught to use the opportunity to sell real estate by recommending a short sale.

As a real estate agent, I am not a counselor or an expert on credit. I do not have the kinds of connections and the expertise that the staff at the homeownership center have. I have represented sellers and have had successful short sales, but I have also seen homes start out as short sales and end up as foreclosures. It happens rather often.

There are currently close to 2,000 homes in our local MLS that have offers on them waiting for bank approval. Many of those homes will become foreclosures and will sell for much less than what is currently being offered on them.

As a real estate agent, homeowners expect me to be an expert on all things real estate-related, but I am not. They may expect me to be a social worker, tax adviser and credit expert, but I cannot give legal, financial or tax advice of any kind — I lack the proper licensing, so it is against the law for me to do so.

There are times when people need a good real estate agent and times when what they really need is counseling, a lawyer, or other help. Selling a home is almost always in my best interest, but it isn’t always in my client’s best interest.

I like to make sure they get the information they need to explore other options. I never want to feel like I am taking advantage of someone who is in distress.

If a homeowner has all the facts and still chooses to pursue a short sale, then we can talk.

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