For homeowners who fall behind on their mortgage payments, mainly due to a sudden financial crisis, such as unemployment and other income loss, unexpected debts, interest rate hikes, or economic downturn, among others — the two main options available are either a short sale or foreclosure.
In both cases, the owner is forced to part with their hard-won investment, turning their homeownership dream into a nightmare.
Let's take a closer look at what these things are, their differences, and which is the better option for any homeowner depending on their situation and timeline.
A short sale occurs when the homeowner or property holder owes more on the mortgage balance than the sale price of the property at the point they want to sell. It happens when the home has substantially depreciated in market value since its purchase. For example, if the homeowner sells a house for $200,000, but still has a remaining mortgage loan balance of $250,000, that would be a short sale. The homeowner or seller is technically “short” by $50,000.
No short sale may happen without the blessing of the lender. Once the short sale is approved by the lender and the property is sold, all proceeds from the sale go to the lender. The homeowner gets nothing and ideally will be free of any financial obligations for the home.
However, one thing to watch out for is the so-called “deficiency judgment”, which the lender can file against the homeowner to make up for the loss. While many states outlaw this practice, it's critical that you read over your paperwork or ask about it to ensure you won’t have any personal liability.