First, the listing agent may not have asked the questions needed to determine if the home was worth more than the outstanding balances owed on the property. This is a must and I'm shocked when I hear of these cases...more than 50% of the listings are short sales so how could you not know??
If the seller won't tell you, assume it is..and then don't take the listing if full disclosure is not given.
If the home has no equity and the seller is still current with payments, a short sale could be avoided if the seller can make up the difference in the sale to payoff the mortgage. If the seller does not have the funds to fund the difference to allow the sale to occur outside of a short sale, then if you want the home, yes you will have to go through the short sale process. Can't change that part - only can change your willingness to stick with the purchase based on the new information.
Tom Hinz www.shortsaletosell.com