There are some great bargains on the MLS listed as short sales. However, short sales are unique. The MLS Listing status determines how offers are handled on short sales.
Our local MLS requires the initial MLS listing as "Active" and "Short Sale" is noted in the listing details. This means that the current market conditions will not allow the property to sell for enough to cover the balance owed on the mortgage. At this point the seller has not even begun negotiations with the lender.
Only when a buyer's offer is accepted by the seller (contingent upon lender's approval), the complete short sale application package, with the offer, is sent to the lender and negotiations begin. At this point the listing changes to "Active Contingent Short Sale" meaning negotiations are in progress. Interestingly, lenders are not party to the transaction, and therfore not obligated to approve it. But they must approve the transaction before it can close. Everyone involved is at the mercy of the lender.
You most likely still have a shot at buying this property. Your offer will be presented to the seller (defaulted homeowner) as a backup offer. Other offers can also be received as backup offers until the seller accepts the terms and conditions from the lender for settlement of the defaulted mortgage (Price, Deficiency Judgement or Taxable 1099, Release of Lien only, etc.).
If the current offer is not closed (buyer couldn't wait, offer did not meet price acceptable to lender, etc.), the seller will select the best backup offer and submit that one for the lender's approval and continue negotiating. Only one offer at a time is ever negotiated with the lender, the other offers remain with the seller as backup offers.
Once the negotiated offer gets approval from the seller and the lender, the MLS listing changes to "Pending" and no more offers are accepted.
I know it's a lot to take in, but I hope this information helps you understand offers on short sales and how they are handled. I specialize in short sales in Lehigh Acres. And remember that each MLS has it's own rules, so listing terms and procedures may vary.
Best regards, Tom
Neil G. Blair-Bennett
Alliance Realty Group
14090 Metropolis Ave #206
Fort Myers, FL 33912
Direct (239) 645-3798