What’s a Real Estate “Short Sale” and Why Should I Buy One?

The best way to explain a short sale is with an example:

Assume a homeowner has an unpaid loan mortgage balance of $200,000, but the property will sell for only $175,000. The lender holding the mortgage agrees to sell the house for the $175,000 amount, which, of course, leaves it “short” of the full amount of $200,000. Thus, the name “short sale!”

Obviously, lenders don’t like short sales since they’re not in business to lose money. But such situations do occur for various reasons often related to “hardship” situations. Examples include:

• Permanent injuries
• Financial insolvency
• Job layoffs, etc.

This is a sad situation for the homeowner, but it does offer an opportunity for you to pick up a bargain. However, there are several potential downsides you should be aware of before you make an offer.

Pitfall 1: Allow time for the lender’s decision.
Once your offer is accepted by the seller, the contract will be sent to the seller’s lender for approval. This process can take anywhere from 2 to 12 months, and there’s oftentimes no way to know beforehand exactly how long the lender will take.

Pitfall 2: The lender is under no obligation to accept the short sale.
Often times, lenders will come back with a counter of a higher price, or will sometimes reject the offer outright. There is no way to know beforehand exactly what the lender is thinking. This risk can be reduced by pre-qualifying the seller and making sure he or she has a genuine hardship, and by making sure you offer close to market value.

Pitfall 3: The seller must be committed to the process.
A great deal of paperwork and commitment will be required of the seller. There have been cases where the seller does not complete everything that is necessary and causes the lender to reject the deal. Additionally, there have been cases where the seller backs out to declare bankruptcy. Make sure the seller is committed to the process before you begin!

Summary

You can pick up great bargains in the short sale market, but you have to be very knowledgeable and very patient! And, as mentioned earlier, there are risks and often times you will face disappointment. Hiring a professional realtor who has experience with the ins and outs of short sales can help reduce these risks.

If you would like to contact me to talk more about the short sale process, you can reach me by phone at 973-214-0691 or via email at Shannon@ShannonAronson.com. I look forward to speaking with you about short sales or about any real estate questions you may have!