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Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Short Sale

When the economy tanked a few years ago, the number of homeowners who could not afford to stay in their homes skyrocketed. As a result, many debtors have considered foreclosure or selling their homes through a short sale.

When debtors go through the short sale process, they make an agreement with their mortgage lenders to sell the home for less than the balance of the mortgage in order to avoid foreclosure. In many cases, the homeowner will not have to pay the difference between the short sale price and the amount owed on the mortgage.

Pros and Cons of a Short Sale

If you are considering a short sale of your home, you should keep in mind the following pros and cons as you weigh your real estate options:

  • Pro: Short sales do not have the same stigma as foreclosures. While it is difficult to go through a short sale, experts say that, in addition to the hit to your credit report, a foreclosure can really be a blow to your self-esteem.
  • Con: Time is not of the essence with a short sale. Although lenders like Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America are working to streamline the short sale process, it can still take several months to get a buyer for your home. During that time, you will have to keep the house’s curb appeal high and deal with prospective buyers coming to look at your home. And when you do find a buyer, there is no guarantee that your lender will accept the offer made on your home.
  • Pro: Lessening the blow on your credit report. Although your credit will take a hit after a short sale, you will be in a better position to get a future mortgage than you would if you went through a foreclosure.
  • Con: Tax ramifications. Since your lender may not require you to pay the balance of your mortgage after a short sale, the Internal Revenue Service may view the amount as a gift – in which case, you may be required to pay taxes on the balance. There is a government program in effect right now called the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act which provides tax relief for owners who sell their principal residences through a short sale, and receive the benefit of the discharge of a portion of their mortgage debt. It is always best to discuss the tax ramifications of a short sale with your accountant.

Making a Decision

Clearly decisions about short sales can be tough decisions to make. Talk about them with an experienced real estate attorney to know where you stand.