Is a Short Sale Right For You?

January 7, 2011 (Shirley Allen)
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You hear a lot about short sales these days, but short sales aren’t for everybody. Sellers aren’t entitled to a short sale just because they’ve lost equity in their home. Lenders look for other hardships when approving short sale transactions. Short sales are not the “saving grace” some home sellers would like to believe.

A short sale happens when the lender is shorted on a mortgage, meaning the lender accepts less than the total amount that is due. If your mortgage is $200,000, but your home is worth, say, $180,000, you are $20,000 short, not including the traditional costs to close the sale such as real estate commissions, recording fees or title and escrow charges.

Besides owing more on your home than what it’s worth, lenders look for other qualifying factors. So before you eagerly climb aboard the short sale bandwagon, consider the following to determine whether you may qualify for a short sale. If you cannot answer YES to all four requirements, you may not qualify for a short sale:

The Home’s Market Value Has Dropped. Verifiable comparable sales are required to substantiate that the home is worth less than the unpaid balance due the lender. This unpaid balance may include a prepayment penalty. You can’t just assume because a neighbor or two sold their homes for less than what you owe qualifies you for a short sale.

The Mortgage is in or Near Default Status. It used to be that lenders would not consider a short sale if the payments were current, but that is no longer the case. Realizing that other factors contribute to a potential default, many lenders are eager to head off future problems at the pass. Be prepared to provide hard evidence of your inability to pay.

The Seller Has Fallen on Hard Times. The seller will have to submit a letter of hardship to the lender explaining why the seller can not pay the difference due upon sale, including why the seller has or will stop making the monthly payments.

The Seller Has No Assets. The lender will probably want to see a copy of the seller’s tax returns and / or a financial statement. In addition, you will be required to provide information on any other assets you may have such as retirement accounts, savings accounts, other real estate, and stocks and bonds. If the lender discovers assets, the lender may not grant the short sale because the lender will feel that the seller has the ability to pay the shorted difference. Sellers with assets may still be granted a short sale but could be required to pay back the shortfall.

Examples for hardships that could qualify for a short sale:
– Unemployment/Business Failure
– Divorce
– Medical emergency / sudden illness
– Bankruptcy
– Natural Disasters
– Death of Spouse

Examples of hardships that do not qualify for a short sale:
– Bad Purchase Decision/Over Bought The Home
– Unhappy With Location/Neighbors
– Buy Another House – Lenders Don’t Care If You Don’t Like Your Home
– Pregnancy
– Walk Away -Lenders Don’t Care That You Want To Walk Away
– Home Value Declined/Loss Of Equity

Being granted a short sale also doesn’t get you out of the woods. There are consequences to short selling your home.

If the lender agrees to the short sale, the lender may possess the right to issue you a 1099 for the shorted difference, due to a provision in the IRS code about debt forgiveness. Many situations are exempt from debt forgiveness, according to the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007.

While a short sale will not show up on your credit report, the loan status will. For those in default, it’s a pre-foreclosure that has been redeemed, which is often reported as Paid in Full for Less Than Agreed. Short sales affect credit ratings. While the damage to your credit report may not seem as significantly bad as a foreclosure to you, creditors may not make the distinction.

Always seek legal counsel and advice from a tax accountant before attempting to pursue a short sale. A real estate agent cannot give you legal advice. Other alternatives, like a loan modification, may be a better fit for you

Tags: mortgage, short sale, lender, mortgage company, home equity, market value, credit rating, mortgage forgiveness, mortgage default