In 2005, at the height of the housing-market boom, real-estate agent Greg Markov met with a woman who had gotten in over her head with a large loan and mortgage she couldn't afford.
Phoenix Heritage Real Estate Group
Where: 17235 N. 75th Ave., Suite C-150, Glendale.
Interesting stat: Short sales increased 33 percent from January2011 to January 2012, according to RealtyTrac, a provider of real-estate information.
Details: (602) 253-4030, phoenixheritage.com.
It was Markov's first short-sale transaction, and it planted the seed for Phoenix Heritage Real Estate Group, his Glendale firm that specializes in short sales.
At the time, Markov was doing well as an agent for another company. But there weren't many colleagues who could advise him on the challenges with this type of sale.
"The reaction at the firm was, 'OK, what do we do with this?' We were in an up market. It was an anomaly," Markov recalled.
In a short sale, the lender agrees to let the home be sold for less than the full amount still owed.
After navigating the bank maze, managing the expectations of the seller and buyer and working through other details specific to a short sale, Markov started to notice a pattern with homeowners in what was, at the time, a pleasant housing climate. He knew that his first short-sale client, who "had no business getting a loan in the first place," was not a unique situation.
In 2006, Markov, a sailing enthusiast, anticipated the wind shift. He left the firm and started Phoenix Heritage, which is licensed by Arizona-based brokerage HomeSmart Real Estate, with the intention of focusing on short sales.
Markov and his former business partner put their company's signs around abandoned facilities. Soon, they were getting 100 calls each day. By the start of 2007, Markov's new business was getting busier.
In the firm's first year, Markov had five listings. By the end of 2007, he had 100. Currently, he has 30-50 on any given day.
His team consists of agents who specialize in certain aspects of the process. For example, Markov realized early on that potential buyers had needs that were just as important as those of the sellers. He brought on specialists to handle that dynamic.
Markov said he has received considerable business from buyers who had met with other agents who didn't understand the process and tried to steer them away from short-sale properties.
A native of Moscow, Markov emigrated from Russia to the United States with his family and settled in Phoenix, where he graduated from North High School. He attended Grand Canyon University but left before graduating to enter the software-development industry.
After a few years, Markov got burned out and started going to real-estate school.
A year later, the software company he was working for was sold, and the new owners let all employees go. He used his severance as capital for getting started in his new career.
When Markov started Phoenix Heritage, his was among the first local agents to deal with short sales. Finding experts to learn from was difficult, but he found an agent in Michigan who agreed to coach him over the phone for a fee.
"We would say, 'short sale,' and people asked if it was like short-selling in stock. That's how little we knew about it," Markov said.
That's when Markov started teaching short-sale classes to agents.
"If you can't get a good education, then start offering it," he said. "There's no better way to learn than to teach."
Markov also faced skeptics who believed Markov's business model was based on a fleeting trend and who didn't think the housing crash would last. Some agents thought it was a fluke and decided to wait it out.
"Some took a longer vacation and thought it would go back to business as usual," he said.
Other real-estate veterans were hesitant to learn about short sales.
"Some looked at me sideways and said, 'That's for you youngsters,'" said Markov, 35, who was 30 when he started teaching short-sale classes.
Today, Markov teaches classes of 50-150 agents across the country and tailors his curriculum to the state he visits. He recently published a free online short-sale book.
Phoenix resident Patrick McNamara contacted Markov after hearing about him from real-estate agents who took Markov's class. McNamara was faced with a residential short sale and hoped to avoid the horror stories he heard from others who had gone through the process.
McNamara was so pleased with how smoothly the transaction went, he has recommended Phoenix Heritage to friends and colleagues.
"They were absolutely phenomenal. He has a well-oiled machine in place where each person on his team has a certain set of responsibilities and each excels at what they do," McNamara said. "With all of that, the client benefits."
A combination of diligence and creativity has been vital to Markov's success, he said.
"Short sales can be a mine field. You need to commit to doing them well, doing them right. Only a couple of bad things need to happen before you get a bad reputation," he said.
"You need to constantly reinvent yourself and figure out how to do it better."
By Georgann Yara, Special for the Republic|azcentral.com Aug 21, 2012
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