A “Short Sale” is when a home seller sells his home for a lesser amount than what is owed on his mortgage, and the mortgage lender agrees to accept the lesser amount in lieu of a full payoff.
By way of example, a Short Sale may be appropriate for a home seller whose mortgage balance is $250,000 but whose home wouldn’t sell for more than $220,000. Rather than pay the $30,000 difference to the lender at the time of sale, the seller enters into an agreement with the lender by which all sale proceeds are paid to the bank and the deficient balance is forgiven.
Short Sales are a preferable alternative to foreclosure but the process still harms both parties. For one, the seller is penalized with a derogatory tradeline on credit for not fulfilling a mortgage obligation. And, two, the lender is forced to take a loss on a mortgage loan. Versus an executed foreclosure, however, Short Sale damages are relatively limited on both sides.
For this reason, Short Sales are sometimes considered “the economical alternative” to default.
The process of getting a Short Sale approved varies from lender-to-lender and can be time-intensive. Home sellers should not go at it alone — speaking with a real estate agent about the proper protocol is usually the best place to start. And sellers should be aware of how a Short Sale on their credit can impact future borrowing.
Current Fannie Mae guidelines prevent short-selling homeowners from obtaining new mortgage financing for a period of 2 years.