Selling Real Estate Under the Shadow of Foreclosure

Selling Real Estate Under the Shadow of Foreclosure

  • The CREM Group RE
  • 07/27/23


The CREM Group is an attorney-owned real estate brokerage specializing in trust and probate properties in Southern California. The company’s owner, Mark Cianciulli, was approached by a trust attorney to solve a complex property sale in foreclosure. The professionals involved included trustees, lenders, and servicers. The CREM Group team successfully sold the property by working to extend the auction date and navigating various challenges. Good communication, trust, and efficiency were critical to the property sale's success. The CREM Group displayed exceptional problem-solving skills—unique to this case but applicable to similar situations. The trustee was ultimately able to sell the property at fair market value.


In 2015, The CREM Group founder, Mark Cianciulli, created The CREM Group as a real estate brokerage devoted to one specialty: to set a new standard in court-supervised real estate sales. As a licensed real estate broker, attorney, and CPA, he has designed every aspect of The CREM Group to assist families, fiduciaries, and their trusted attorneys in maximizing the value of each real estate sale.

The CREM Group is well-versed with real estate investors and buyers throughout Southern California, including Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Newport Beach, Ventura, and San Diego.

The Challenges: Foreclosure, Beneficiaries in Disagreement, Property Condition, and Time

In this case, the trust attorney came to The CREM Group with a client’s property they wanted to sell before it went into foreclosure. The notice of default had been issued. The beneficiaries were fighting about what they were going to do with the property, and the property had been neglected for years. All three of these situations are normal in many trust property sales, but usually not all at the same time. A foreclosure would mean the property would be auctioned off in order to repay the bank, typically at a lower price than if sold on the open market, resulting in diminished proceeds for the family.

Extending the Foreclosure Date

The trust attorney knew The CREM Group had experience and a track record of success with handling difficult real estate transactions. The CREM Group created a strategy to begin by delaying the date of the auction, which had already been set and was critical to stopping the foreclosure process. That along with the transaction’s other moving parts had to be squeezed into an almost impossible timeline. Initially, focusing on actions that would prevent the looming auction was vital.

Having What It takes

The legal details of selling probate or trust properties can derail the sales process even with a generous lead time. Probate and trust sales can take a long time! Therefore, in a short timeframe, the answer is to have excellent communication skills, a deep knowledge of how the system works, someone who knows who the players are, and perseverance.

In this case, The CREM Group’s listing manager and sales representative, Erin Ward, had to perform a market analysis to determine if there was any equity in the house. In addition, the trustee had to give The CREM Group authorization to sell—which was a little touch and go. It worked out, and Erin contacted the lender and the loan servicer, all of which had to be done quickly to let them know the intent was for a regular trust sale to replace the foreclosure sale. The lenders needed to cooperate promptly because of the deadline, and that’s not always easy. Erin explains, “Each lender has its idiosyncrasies, and we anticipate a unique experience with each transaction and each company.” 

Knowing the Difference

Probate and trust sales are harder to navigate than straight real estate sales because the event is triggered by a deceased family member or loved one. Emotions are high. Beneficiaries are usually distraught but frequently at odds with each other—wanting a bigger share of the estate, a different way of handling the sale, and the like. Lenders are often in a hurry, and the servicer and the lender don’t always know what the other is doing or has done. Erin was often on the phone for hours, making sure every party had the information they needed to stall the foreclosure and list the property. 

Communication is the trick, but the magic comes from meticulous record-keeping. Every conversation has to be logged, with lenders in particular, as you’re rarely talking with the same representative. People are busy. People forget. These types of statements, while time-consuming, can make or break a deal: “According to my records, I talked to Mrs. Smith at 10:05 a.m. on June 11, 2022, and she agreed to extend the foreclosure date if we met this requirement.” Erin recalls, “One day, we were on the phones continuously for four hours.”

Every transaction at this level might have multiple sellers because numerous people can be involved with the trust or will. And the law says everyone has to be notified.

Going the Distance

In the midst of keeping the servicer and lender informed, The CREM Group had to find and qualify a buyer. Many deals have fallen apart at the eleventh hour if the buyer was not properly vetted, and in this case, it was critical that the selected buyer could and would complete the transaction on time.

As it related to the actual selling of the house, Erin says, “Once we were finally cleared for the sale, we had to make sure the property was ready. We involved our company’s network of resources to clean out the entire house…in three days! Fortunately, we have trusted contractors that prioritize our work, and it was done on time.”

Trusting the CREM Group

The trust attorney had worked with The CREM Group and knew their competencies. They trusted The CREM Group’s ability to market, negotiate, and facilitate a sale in this context. The CREM Group has an excellent reputation in the marketplace for knowing how to deal with the risks and benefits of pursuing complex probate and trust sales. Owner Mark Cianciulli says, “Since homes can sit on the market for months in any economic climate, it’s vital to use all of the professional services in our tried-and-true network of experts.” For this involved, time-sensitive sale, The CREM Group had the skillsets to work with lenders, servers, and the courts. And with their network of contractors, they arranged to clean out the property quickly and prepare it for sale.

Saying Yes

From the beginning of the “Can you do this?” conversation between the trust attorney with The CREM Group founder Mark Cianciulli and his team, the answer was, “YES, I believe we can.” 

Even though the time to foreclosure was very short, Mark was confident they could get the property sold at market. Tight. But not impossible.

Seeing the Results

It was an all-around win. The house sold at market value, and the family yielded the maximum proceeds from the sale. The buyer was thrilled, and the attorney had another happy client. The CREM Group did what they do best: dealing successfully with marketing, negotiating, and facilitating a particularly complex sale for their client’s client. 

After the successful sale of the trust property, the attorney said,

"Thanks for everything, Mark. You certainly did what others aren’t capable of doing, which separates you and your team from other agents and brokers. We really appreciate your efforts and hard work."

Replicating Success

The trust and estate attorney marketplace is a challenging work environment. They adhere to the laws, help their clients, and find the best people to help them negotiate a stressful time in their lives. The CREM Group is an excellent choice for trust and estate attorneys and anyone faced with selling their trust or probate property in Southern California. Because an attorney/CPA/broker owns The CREM Group it’s a good place to call before you call anywhere else.

This sale under the shadow of foreclosure was a tough case. Let The CREM Group help you with an easier one…or a harder one. They will try to say yes. With representation in five Southern California counties, The CREM Group can help facilitate regular real estate sales and more complex probate property sales.

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