Some Good Reasons for Selling on a Short Sale

Kiki Koymarianos, M.B.A. GRI-CDPE — Broker/Associate, Keller Williams

A short sale might be better than a foreclosure, but seek legal and tax advice.

Regardless of whether you are in foreclosure, if selling your home will not net enough to pay off your existing mortgages, you may want to consider selling on a short sale. For many years, there were few reasons to sell on a short sale, apart from earning the real estate agent a commission, but times have changed.

Why Agents Recommend Short Sales

You'll hear the myth over and over: "Short sales protect credit." That's only partially true. Your credit will tank if you fall behind on your payments. Experts say agents who repeat that mantra without clarification do so out of ignorance or self interest, take your pick.

There is one exception. If you have no 60-day-plus late pays on your credit report, Fannie Mae may still offer you a loan to buy another home. However, most people who sell on a short sale are in default past 60 days, so this exception does not apply to them.

A short sale could ruin your credit rating. It might not happen right away, but sooner or later, unless the bank has specifically agreed not to report the shortage, the bank may report it as a Score Factor Code 22. That score factor relates to delinquencies, derogatory records and collections.

Here are the main reasons why agents encourage sellers to do a short sale:

  • Agents get paid by the lender to do a short sale not the seller.

Benefits for Foreclosure

  • No mortgage payments to make.
  • Foreclosure proceedings take months to conclude.
  • The home is still yours until the foreclosure is final.
  • No strangers are traipsing through your home.
  • Banks sometimes give cash for keys after the public sale.

Drawbacks to Foreclosure

  • The right of home ownership is stripped away.
  • Homeowners return to the rental market as a renter.
  • The bank may post a Notice of Public Sale on your front door.
  • Your credit takes a nose dive, and a foreclosure will remain on your credit report for 10 years.
  • Under Fannie Mae guidelines, without extenuating circumstances, you will not be eligible to buy another home for 7 years.

Benefits for Short Sale

  • Retain some dignity in knowing that you sold your home.
  • You won't suffer the social stigma of the "F" word: foreclosure.
  • No mortgage payments to make, unless you choose to make them.
  • You can meet the new owners.
  • You will be eligible, under Fannie Mae guidelines, to buy another home in 2 years instead of 5 to 7 years.
  • If your credit report does not reflect a 60-day+ late pay, under Fannie Mae guidelines, you will be eligible to buy another home immediately.

Drawbacks to a Short Sale

  • Waiting for the bank to respond to an offer is frustrating.
  • The bank will want to examine personal records such as tax returns, bank accounts, assets and liabilities, in addition to asking for a hardship letter from you.
  • Accommodating buyers will mean keeping your home in spotless condition for weeks or months until an offer is received and putting up with traffic through your home.
  • There is no assurance the bank will accept a short sale offer.
  • The derogatory credit will remain on your credit report for 7 years.

For many sellers, though, the chance to buy another home in two years is the real motivation to do a short sale. Good credit behavior can supplant bad credit after two years, even though the derogatory will remain.