A short sale is an alternative to foreclosure. The lender allows the home to be sold for less than what is owed on the mortgage. It is usually less of a loss for the lender to allow a short sale than to let the home go into foreclosure. Once a home goes into foreclosure the lender loses even more money on a monthly basis providing for the upkeep of the home and paying the taxes. Additionally, it is less of a hit on the credit of the seller to go through with a short sale over a foreclosure. A seller should try to negotiate with the lender to minimize damage to their credit rating as part of the sale agreement. To be eligible for a short sale, the seller must be behind on payments due to financial hardship. Proof of this hardship must be established by supplying tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements and list of monthly expenses. A short sale is not likely to occur if the seller is already in bankruptcy as a short sale is considered a prohibited collection activity.
The short sale process moves most quickly if it is pre-approved by the lender for a certain amount although this is not usually the case. It is a good idea to work with a real estate agent or attorney to help negotiate the short sale process between the lender and potential buyer and ensure a timely sale. The short sale process becomes more complicated if there is more than one lender. Second mortgages or home equity lines can muddy the short sale process especially since secondary lenders stand to take the biggest loss on a short sale and all the lenders need to be in agreement with the terms for sale. Buyers stand to gain the property at a discount through a short sale but should exercise caution and do thorough research on the prospective property. All parties should be prepared to be patient with the short sale process and seek guidance/representation by an expert in the area.