In conversations with Donna Henry, a highly regarded Spokane realtor, she enforces the fact that foreclosures and short sales continue to be a key part of the housing activityin their area. Many analysts feel that the pace of short sales is likely to increase, especially given market conditions and the opinion that short sales are an alternative to foreclosure that can benefit the borrower and the lender. The lender sees potentially lower losses on the loan, and the borrower avoids the stigma of having a foreclosure on their credit history. The government continues to use various tools, such as modifications or foreclosure moratoria (moratoriums?) to prevent more loans from entering the REO market.

The short sale option is mostly offered to borrowers who are ineligible for or have failed to succeed in loan modifications, or just choose not to be modified and are certain to enter foreclosure (or are already there). The program can be economically beneficial to both parties involved.

For the servicer, the four main costs involved in selling the house are:

  • Possible further depreciation in a declining market
  • A discount to the overall market when sold
  • The cost of principal and interest advanced to the trust until the house is sold
  • Repair and maintenance costs.

Foreclosures, which turn into REO situations, typically take longer than a short sale, exposing the parties to more possible depreciation, and few banks & institutions are in the business of owning real estate. In a foreclosure, servicers find that the expenses associated with the liquidation and repair costs are significant, given that foreclosed upon borrowers are unlikely to maintain the property. Most of the benefits of a short sale are due to the shortened timeline and cooperation from the resident. The house would also potentially attract better bids, as it is being actively maintained and lived in.

From the troubled borrower’s viewpoint, they have to decide among a foreclosure or short sale, staying in the house for free until evicted, staying in the house until it is sold in a short sale. A short sale will have a lesser hit on their credit history, and probably be able, if they really want, to buy a house after a few years. Of course there are emotional differences between a foreclosure and a short sale, potential deficiency judgment issues, the stigma of having been foreclosed upon, and tax implications of forgiven debt. The lender typically reports a successful short sale differently from a foreclosure to the credit bureaus although if the loan had gone deeply delinquent prior to completion of a short sale, the hit to credit history would already be significant and, thus, not much different from foreclosure. The biggest advantage to a borrower when opting for a short sale is the timeframe within which a new mortgage loan can be taken out: two years versus (I believe) five for a foreclosure.

Kevin J. Lawson