What Are Real Estate Short Sales?

by : Real Estate Advisor

In many parts of the country, home prices doubled during the period from 2000 to 2005. During this same time, creative financing programs (e.g. zero down payment, adjustable rate loans, interest only loans, option ARMs loans, negative amortization loans, etc.) gained popularity and helped some people buy homes who would not normally qualify based on their income, debt level and credit history.

Most real estate markets are now cooling, and some are even experiencing declining prices. In times of dropping real estate prices, the amount owed on a loan by some homeowners may actually exceed the value of a property. If homeowners cannot make their monthly mortgage payment, there is a potential for default on the loan and foreclosure of the property by the lender.

The term "short sales" is used to describe a situation in which a homeowner is at risk of defaulting on their loan, and the lender agrees to sell the property below the original appraisal price in order to avoid foreclosure. Most lenders do not readily agree to short sales, although exceptional circumstances such as a homeowner losing his/her job or the death of a wage-earning spouse may make some of them more open to doing so.

If a property is sold as a short sale, the lender recoups at least a portion of the original loan amount, the homeowner avoids the stress and stigma of foreclosure, and the new homebuyer gets a property below its original appraisal price. If a short sale doesn't work, then the property usually goes into foreclosure.

Short sales may be an emerging trend as the rate of foreclosure is rising dramatically across the nation. According to Business 2.0 Magazine, the top 10 foreclosures markets are:

1. Greeley, CO
2. Detroit, MI
3. Miami, FL
4. Indianapolis, IN
5. Fort Lauderdale, FL
6. Denver, CO
7.Dayton, OH
8.Dallas, TX
9.Fort Worth, TX
10.Atlanta, GA

The credit of homeowners may be impacted after a short sale, but it all depends on how the lender reports the outcome. Some lenders report a partial loan repayment as full payment of the debt due, which does not adversely impact the credit of the borrowers. Other lenders report the sale as "settled," which adversely and significantly impacts the borrower's credit. The other problem is that the portion of the loan amount forgiven by the lender may actually count as taxable income by the IRS.

In summary, a successful short sale has some potential positive benefits (e.g., homeowners avoid foreclosure, lenders recoup at least a portion of the loan amount, new homebuyers gets a property at below the original appraisal price, etc), but there are also many negative consequences. Some of these potential negative consequences include: the negative impact on borrower's credit, negative impact on the value of other similar homes in the neighborhood, and that the amount forgiven by the lender may be taxable event. Homeowners having difficulty making their monthly mortgage payment may benefit from talking to a real estate agent who is experienced in short sales.