Short Sale Frequently Asked Questions
What is a short sale?
A short sale occurs when a mortgage lender allows a financially distressed homeowner to sell his home for less than what he owes on the mortgage. The short sale process varies by state, so it's very important that financially distressed homeowners who are considering a short sale contact a qualified real estate agent in their area.
Who qualifies for a short sale?
Typically the homeowner must suffer a financial hardship that has prevented him from making his mortgage payments and lacks the financial means to correct the situation; the homeowner is in or facing foreclosure; and the homeowner has little equity, no equity or negative equity in the property. Investment property owners may also qualify for a short sale as long as an acceptable financial hardship is involved. Ultimately the lender will decide whether a homeowner or investor qualifies for a short sale and each lender has their own method for determining whether a property owner qualifies for this type of sale.
What are the benefits of a short sale?
The homeowner is able avoid foreclosure, which is a stressful process that can have a significant negative effect on one's credit score. Depending on the terms of the short sale, the home seller may also be able to mitigate his financial obligations if the lender "forgives" the difference between the property sale price and amount owed on the mortgage. This would allow the home seller to walk away from the transaction free of debt related to the mortgage. Lenders also benefit from short sales because often times they are less costly and less work than the foreclosure process. The buyer also may benefit because a short sale is a distress sale and he may be able to purchase a property at a discount.
How much does a short sale cost the home seller?
The closing costs and real estate commissions are typically paid by the lender; however these details are finalized in the short sale contract between the home seller and the lender. In some cases, the lender may require that the home seller pay the difference between the property's sale price and the amount owed on the mortgage. Usually, if the home seller can afford to pay the difference, the lender will require that they do pay the difference.
What do buyers need to know about purchasing a short sale property?
Buyers interested in a short sale property must be patient. One way to expedite a short sale purchase is to be a cash buyer, but this isn't always possible. Being well-qualified with a substantial down payment and preapproved are second best. Buyers should also know that banks don't like to negotiate repairs or other contingencies. It's important that buyers considering the purchase of a short sale property hire a real estate agent who is very experienced at closing these types of transactions. Experienced agents can help alleviate much of the stress related to the short sale transaction by knowing what to look out for and how to best communicate with the lender.
How long does it take to complete a short sale?
It depends on the complexity of the sale. Short sales can take several months to process – sometimes up to 120 days or longer. Banks aren't structured to efficiently sell properties. Financial institutions have many regulatory procedures that must be completed before a short sale can be closed. Oftentimes it's just a matter of cutting through a lot of red tape following the lender's various short sale policies, which usually include many people reviewing and approving specific aspects of the sale. If more than one lender is involved, the short sale can become more complicated and time consuming.