A short sale is when the mortgage lender(s) agrees to sell the property for a lower amount than the loan-balance remaining.
During the worst moments of the 2006 to 2008 real estate crisis, homes sold as short sales for a fraction of their value. Lenders had so many properties with loans in default that they could not manage the ones that they had in foreclosure.
Foreclosure is an expensive legal process that causes a lender to lose more money on a property. This is one of the motivators that encourages lenders to accept a short sale because sometimes through a short sale the foreclosure process is avoided.
Are Short Sales Still Available?
The number of short sales peaked in 2012. The inventory of homes available for a short sale transaction is much lower than the massive numbers caused by the 2006 to 2008 real estate crisis; however, they still do exist.
Short sales are still worth exploring as long as a qualified buyer has enough cash on hand or is pre-qualified with home-purchase financing that is acceptable for a short sale transaction.
A short sale may be a bargain; however, the buyer must be careful because there are some pitfalls to avoid in short-sales transactions.
The Challenging Dynamics Of A Short Sale
There are three (or more) parties in a short-sale transaction. They are the seller, the buyer, and the lender(s). All must agree to the closing sales price of the home and the terms and conditions of the sale in order for the transaction to succeed. The lender(s) forgives part or all of the mortgage loan that is secured by a lien on the property and agrees to take a loss on the sale.
A short sale only occurs when the home cannot sell for the amount of the mortgage loan(s) on the property. The home is considered to be “underwater,” which is a colloquial term for a home, with a loan(s) that is more than the home is worth.
Short sales do not close quickly because the paperwork is complicated. If there is more than one lender on the property, the process is even slower. Buyers in short sale transactions need to be patient. They must be approved for financing and also approved by the existing lien-holder(s) on the property that is for sale by making a successful short-sale application.
A buyer may need to make a “good faith” security deposit to initiate the short sale application process. The deposit, which is refundable, may sit in a trust account for quite some time before the deal is approved.
Even with proper planning, a short sale deal can still fall apart. Buyers must also take on the risk that the property may need significant repairs and buy the property “as-is.” Homeowners who cannot pay their mortgages usually are not very diligent at taking care of their properties.