- What is a short sale?
A short sale is the process by which a homeowner can sell a house for less money than he actually owes on the mortgage(s). This is done by the buyer or investor providing proper documentation to the mortgage lenders to convince them to reduce the mortgage balance to allow the sale. The mortgage lender (or bank) actually takes a loss (or write-off) on the mortgage because the value of the home has fallen below the mortgage balance AND the homeowner is in a poor financial condition that will not allow him to continue to pay on time. If the bank approves the discount on the mortgage, the home can be sold for a lower price without the seller having to come up with cash to cover the shortfall, and the mortgage is satisfied and the foreclosure process stops.
- What type of situation is the short sale best for?
Most short sales are done on properties in foreclosure. This means the homeowner is at least 3 payments behind and the foreclosure suit has been filed by one of the mortgage lenders. Recently, more mortgages that are simply behind or “in default” are considered short sale candidates without actually being in foreclosure. Also, the homeowner typically has negative equity or no equity in the home. In other words, the total balance owed on the mortgages is equal or greater than the price at which the house can be sold. This situation is growing increasingly common due to the easy availability of 100% mortgages (no money down) as well as the recent decline in prices.
- How does a homeowner benefit from a short sale?
First and foremost, it relieves the stress of being in foreclosure and being hounded by the mortgage lender; and it allows homeowners to get rid of their big mortgage payment and move on with their lives. A short sale allows you to stop the foreclosure and get a fresh start. In my experience, this is the primary benefit to homeowners. A short sale also prevents additional damage to your credit. Having some late payments and a foreclosure filed has already done damage to your credit. However, a completed foreclosure will do much more damage and lower your credit score tremendously. A short sale results in the mortgage actually being paid off, which reflects positively compared to a foreclosure.
- Why would a bank or mortgage lender want to do a short sale?
A common saying is that banks are in the business of lending money and do not want to own real estate. This is slightly misleading but is essentially true. When a bank takes a property back via foreclosure, it is a long and expensive process and often results in holding the property in their inventory as a non-performing asset. Banks have a limit to the amount of non-performing assets they want to hold. Once this limit is exceeded, they have strong incentive to get rid of the properties at discount prices. For a lender, doing a short sale avoids many of the costs associated with the foreclosure process. Attorney fees, delays from borrower bankruptcy, damage to the property, costs associated with resale, property tax, insurance, etc. In a short sale scenario, the lender is able to cut its losses by getting rid of the property faster.
- Will a short sale “save my credit”?
The answer is yes and no, a short sale can save you from the worst credit disasters. By defaulting on mortgage payments and having a foreclosure filed against your property, you have already done damage to your credit. Your credit score has declined and those negatives will stay on your credit report for some time. However, it will get much worse if you allow the foreclosure to continue and do not try to short sale the property. Once a foreclosed property is sold at auction, your credit score is further reduced and when the foreclosure is completed via eviction and repossession of the home, your credit is even further damaged. If you can complete the short sale BEFORE either of these takes place, then you can prevent that further damage to your credit. In addition, when the short sale is completed, it shows up on your credit as a “Paid” mortgage and a canceled foreclosure, which shows future creditors that you did take care of your obligations.