Short Sales are still very much the "wild west", with different lenders having different rules. If you don't have a time line that you HAVE to move by it may be an option for you...BUT...find a professional Realtor to walk you through it. Basics you need to find out from the listing agent, even if this is your agent also:
1. Does the Seller qualify as a hardship case for a short sale and have they filled out their financial package?( If they have not don't get involved. If they are not willing to provide the information up front it only gets worse later.)
2. How many loans are on the property? More than one greatly reduces your chances of closing. More than 2 serioulsy consider running.
3. Have lis pendems been filed and by who? HOA's and PMI companies can be some of the most difficult to work with. They have lost money too and have to sign off to approve the deal. They are all going to look at what method loses them the least.
As far as TIME...it is a guess on Short Sales...90 days is good. Most lenders want to see the Buyer commit to at least 90 days for them to even look at the package. This does not mean closing in 90 days. Remember each lien holder will go through the process.
4. Is there an attorney negotiating for the Seller with the lender? Some agents will disagree with me. I will not list a short sale without the Seller having an attorney. The legal liabilities are too great. If I am working with a Buyer I explain how this effects them. Only an attorney or a licensed mortgage broker can negotiate a loan amount legally in Florida. Watch for the next wave of lawsuits from Sellers who got legal advice from those other than lawyers. For a Buyer this can mean a Seller backs out at the 11th hour. Releasing the mortgage does not in itself remove the note. The debt of the note must be negotiated.
5. How does the Comparative Market Analysis of other like homes compare to this one? If it is priced too low the lender will not accept it. I use to hear they were looking for 83-92% of market value. Now they are getting stricter and I am hearing 92% to market value. You want to make sure the realtor is not just looking to get any offer to get the bank to talk to them...aka wasting your time, knowing it will not sell at this price..
As for your question regarding the AC, the Seller still owns the property, so lenders will not pay for the AC to be left on. It is not their asset yet. If the Seller has already vacated the property there is little to no motivation to do so, and they may truly be unable to afford it. You could check with the agents to see if it could be put in your name from contract to close. The financial liability would be yours. This may not be allowed because if the deal does not close and you leave a bill unpaid, the owner has additional liens to worry about from the utility company. As for keys to maintain the property before closing....big NO NO in the real estate world, due to insurance and other legal liabilities. You might be able to have an attorney draw up a rental contract where you pay all utilities and any rent money above the utilities cost would go directly to paying HOA fees (if any), which may also be in arrears or rent goes to the lender. This could require you to get insurance also. Present these questions to your Realtor. Only you can decide if these additional expenses still make it a good deal.
Sometimes the best deal is just a motivated Seller that has to move. Keep all your otions open. Good luck.
Broker Associate, GRI, SFR, NHS
Real Estate Consulting, Marketing & Sales
Prudential Tropical Realty
2539 Countryside Blvd #3 Clearwater, FL 33761