After losing four buyers and waiting 379 days for a short sale to get approved on a Tierra Verde home, Realtor Liane Jamason asked for a Christmas miracle Tuesday afternoon.
She got one.
The agent at Smith & Associates Real Estate pleaded for help after finding email addresses of top officials at Freddie Mac, a government-backed mortgage giant that insures millions of mortgages.
She wanted them to prod officials at U.S. Bank to approve the deal.
"I am contacting all of you hoping for a belated Christmas miracle," she wrote at 1:24 p.m. to six officials. "Our 5th set of buyers are getting antsy now and are on the verge of walking away if we do not have a response to their offer very quickly."
Her miracle arrived at 3:21 p.m.
"Offer has been approved and servicer has been notified," a regulator replied.
But had earlier offers been approved, the price would not have plummeted by more than $70,000 as buyers walked away frustrated. Taxpayers also lose when federal regulators and bank officials take months or years to approve sales of houses with government-backed mortgages.
Jamason didn't expect a quick answer. She hoped only to move the deal along as U.S. Bank services the loan.
"I was shocked," she said in a telephone interview. "This clearly shows they don't have their processes straightened out. I'm still baffled. Clearly, this was just sitting on somebody's desk."
Freddie Mac officials did not return calls for comment.
The 1,729-square-foot house, with three bedrooms and two baths, was originally listed for sale at $299,000. The current price for the 33-year-old home is $229,000.
Jamason couldn't disclose the amount of the latest offer but said it is near the asking price. The deal is expected to close in about 30 days.
The St. Petersburg Times reported this month that short sales — when a bank takes less than what is owed on a home — are up nearly 25 percent in Tampa Bay. The sales should continue to rise as lenders have become more willing to work with property owners to avoid foreclosure.
The housing market, experts say, cannot recover until thousands of local homeowners get rid of their underwater mortgages, clearing a big backlog of distressed properties. Short sales bring higher prices than foreclosed homes.
Ultimately, the very definition of a recovered housing market is higher prices.
Mark Puente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.