What is a Short Sale?

If I had to name one question I get the most, this would certainly be the one right now.

When lenders agree to do a short sale on real estate it means the lender is accepting less than the total amount due. Not all lenders will accept short sales or discounted payoffs, especially if it would make more financial sense to foreclose; moreover, not all sellers nor all properties qualify for short sales.

If you are in a situation where a short sale would make sense, you should speak to an attorney and an accountant to understand how a short sale will affect you legally and financially.

Except for certain conditions in the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, be aware the I.R.S. could consider debt forgiveness as income, and there is no guarantee that a lender who accepts a short sale will not legally pursue a borrower for the difference between the amount owed and the amount paid.  This amount is known as a deficiency. A lawyer can determine whether your loan qualifies for a deficiency judgement or claim.

I found a pretty comprehensive list of what to do and expect when dealing with a short sale on About.com.  Please note that every lender has different requirements.

  • Call the Lender
    You may need to make a half dozen phone calls before you find the person responsible for handling short sales. You do not want to talk to the “real estate short sale” or “work out” department, you want the supervisor’s name, the name of the individual capable of making a decision.
  • Submit Letter of Authorization
    Lenders typically do not want to disclose any of your personal information without written authorization to do so. If you are working with a real estate agent, closing agent, title company or lawyer, you will receive better cooperation if you write a letter to the lender giving the lender permission to talk with those specific interested parties about your loan. The letter should include the following:

    • Property Address
    • Loan Reference Number
    • Your Name
    • The Date
    • Your Agent’s Name & Contact Information
  • Preliminary Net Sheet –

This is an estimated closing statement that shows the sales price you expect to receive and all the costs of sale, unpaid loan balances, outstanding payments due and late fees, including real estate commissions, if any. Your closing agent or lawyer should be able to prepare this for you, if you do not know how to calculate any of these fees. If the bottom line shows cash to the seller, you will probably not need a short sale.

  • Hardship Letter
    This statement of facts describes how you got into this financial bind and makes a plea to the lender to accept less than full payment. Lenders are not inhumane and can understand if you lost your job, were hospitalized or a truck ran over your entire family, but lenders are not particularly empathetic to situations involving dishonesty or criminal behavior.
  • Proof of Income and Assets
    It is best to be truthful and honest about your financial situation and disclose assets. Lenders will want to know if you have savings accounts, money market accounts, stocks or bonds, negotiable instruments, cash or other real estate or anything of tangible value. Lenders are not in the charity business and often require assurance that the debtor cannot pay back any of the debt that it is forgiving.
  • Copies of Bank Statements
    If your bank statements reflect unaccountable deposits, large cash withdrawals or an unusual number of checks, it’s probably a good idea to explain each of those line items to the lender. In addition, the lender might want you to account for each and every deposit so it can determine whether deposits will continue.
  • Comparative Market Analysis
    Sometimes markets decline and property values fall. If this is part of the reason that you cannot sell your home for enough to pay off the lender, this fact should be substantiated for the lender through a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). Your real estate agent can prepare a CMA for you, which will show prices of similar homes:

    • Active on the market
    • Pending sales
    • Solds from the past six months.
  • Purchase Agreement & Listing Agreement
    When you reach an agreement to sell with a prospective purchaser, the lender will want a copy of the offer, along with a copy of your listing agreement. Be prepared for the lender to renegotiate commissions and to refuse to pay for certain items such as home protection plans or termite inspections.

Now, if everything goes well, the lender will approve your short sale. As part of the negotiation, you might ask that the lender not report adverse credit to the credit reporting agencies, but realize that the lender is under no obligation to accommodate this request. Credit report status is not always negotiable.”

This can often be a stressful process, choose a real estate agent that is willing to go the extra mile to help with this process and has experience.  The same goes for the accountant and attorney.

Having sold many short sales, I can help you with the information necessary to provide to the lender and point you in the right direction with a list of accountants and attorneys to help.  Don’t take it all on your own shoulders.  Especially when there are people here to help.

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About Michelle Nantz

There are many qualities and skills that go into being an excellent real estate professional: integrity, in-depth community and market knowledge, marketing savvy, effective negotiation skills, and a high-quality professional network ~ all of which are hallmarks of Michelle Nantz. In 2003, Michelle began her career in real estate, after a successful career in restaurant and hotel management with her last position as Regional Director of Operations running 56 hotels throughout two states. She owes her success in real estate and management to her expertise in people skills, managing, negotiating, and follow-up. However, it is Michelle’s dedication to quality service that she ultimately credits her success. Michelle shared, “In my experience as a Lake Norman real estate professional, I’ve found that providing the very best service is essentially about putting my clients first. This means keeping myself accessible, being a good listener as well as a good communicator, and responding quickly to their needs.” This “client first” philosophy combined with continual personal improvement and keeping up-to-date with the latest technologies is a cornerstone of both Michelle’s and Lake Norman Realty’s business philosophy. In addition to Michelle’s extensive real estate education and her experience in the local market, she is also an Accredited Staging Professional®, which brings additional value to marketing her clients’ homes. Michelle and her family have made the Lake Norman area their home for over 10 years. In her rare leisure moments, you’ll find Michelle with her three children and husband, or unwinding with gardening or reading. “I live and work in this community and only have the best interests of our community and its members in mind,” says Michelle. Her community activities include participation in Denver Days, Relay for Life and support for Christian Ministries and area schools.
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