Short sales – a real estate transaction in which the homeowner needs to sell the property, but owes more on the mortgage than the home currently is worth – continue to dominate the housing market, but these real estate transactions aren’t for everyone.
Typically with a short sale, the homeowner is underwater and has experienced a financial hardship such as a job loss. To limit the damage to his credit rating, a homeowner may attempt to work with his lender to negotiate a short sale. Not only must the bank approve of the short sale itself, it also must agree to the price, since the bank will accept the difference as a loss.
Unlike foreclosures, in which the owner has walked away and the bank is looking to unload a vacant – and sometimes vandalized – property, a short sale isn’t a distressed home that will sell at an extremely low price. According to data from RealtyTrac, short sales typically sold for nearly 10 percent less than the market price in the first quarter of 2011, whereas foreclosures sold at an average discount of 35 percent.
Home buyers wanting to purchase a short sale must have patience. In most cases, when a buyer makes an offer on a house, he receives a response from the seller within a few days, or even hours. With a short sale, the bank must approve of the sale and bank representatives are overloaded with cases. It may take 30 days or longer for a buyer to receive a response from the bank.
In a traditional real estate transaction, it is common for a home buyer who currently owns his home to make his offer contingent on selling his current home. In short sales, most banks will not approve an offer that is contingent on the buyer selling his current home, as too many things can go wrong.
Banks also typically won’t consider short-sale offers that have inspection contingencies in them, so buyers can either do an inspection prior to making an offer or forego an inspection altogether.
Even with the challenges associated with short sales, buyers should not avoid these transactions. Being prepared ahead of the time and working with an experienced REALTOR® can help buyers avoid frustration and surprises down the line.
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