How Short Sales Make the Best of a Bad Situation

What is a short sale?

A short sale is an option for distressed homeowners to avoid foreclosure and divest themselves of an “upside down” mortgage. Homeowners who won’t or can’t make payments to the bank might be able to negotiate an agreement with the bank to allow the sale of the property to a third party for a lower price than the outstanding mortgage balance. The difference between the sale price and the outstanding mortgage balance is less than the full amount owed, thus “short sale” is the term used in the industry.

Unlike foreclosure, a short sale sells the home to another person, and is usually only present when property values in an area drop quickly, such as in the recent recession.

Homeowners are usually (but not always) forgiven on the difference between the sale price of the home and the remaining mortgage balance. However, a short sale will severely impact a homeowner’s credit score for many years to come.

A short sale is different from a deed in lieu of foreclosure, where a bank accepts a deed transfer and owns the home.

Why would someone do a short sale?

A short sale can benefit distressed homeowners and banks in a number of ways.

For the homeowner, a short sale can mean avoiding the painful foreclosure process and allow all parties involved to gracefully exit.

For the bank, a short sale is the easiest way to divest an underperforming asset because it avoids the lengthy and expensive legal process of foreclosure. Although this will mean a loss on the bank’s books, it also means the removal of a non-performing asset off those books. For banks, it’s a question of math, and the numbers are often attractive. It also lets the bank avoid owning an illiquid asset which is expensive to maintain and can be difficult to sell.

What are the tax implications of a short sale?

The seller in a short sale may be forgiven the shortage of money that should have been paid. This does, however, have some tax implications, as the IRS may consider those savings to be income. Due to the fairly recent number of short sales throughout the country, however, the IRS has usually forgiven short sellers.

A short sale is an important decision. No homeowner should enter the process without the advice of an experienced real estate attorney. If you face this difficult decision and need some help to understand the process better and to protect your rights, contact us.

Why Lower Credit Score Customers Often Pay More to Buy a Home

You may have heard that a low credit score can prevent a prospective home buyer from purchasing the house they want. Not only is this true, but even if a buyer with a lower score qualifies to buy the home, they will often end up paying more in closing costs. The reason for this is that lenders give preferential deals and rebates to borrowers who have illustrated a propensity to pay their debts on time. Banks and other lending firms want to know that if they loan out a large sum of money to a home buyer, they are likely to get it back.

Quite often, there is one lender rate sheet for customers with credit scores above a certain benchmark (typically 680-720), and another for customers with scores below that. For borrowers with scores above the benchmark, they receive a credit which can be applied to their closing costs: lender fees, title fees, and escrow fees. Borrowers below the benchmark also receive a credit, but it is usually much lower, meaning they have to pay more of the above fees themselves, out of pocket (or rolled into the loan). Customers with high credit scores also sometimes receive a bonus credit of 0.25% of the loan or more, which is deducted from their closing costs as well.

Thus, the low credit score borrower often finds him or herself facing a high closing cost loan at the rate they want, let’s say 4.25%. One option to reduce this cost is chosen a higher rate—banks are willing to give out bigger credits to cover closing costs if the customer is willing to accept paying more interest over the life of the loan. If that same customer with a lower score is okay with a 4.5% rate, the closing costs can drop by a couple thousand dollars, or even more.

The higher the interest rate, the lower the closing costs. If someone is facing the prospect of high closing costs, because their credit score is not strong enough to qualify for a large enough rebate to pay off some of the closing costs for them, obtaining a higher rate may be the only solution. Often, a borrower with only fair credit will not even be offered a lower rate, to begin with. Instead, the lending officer will immediately see that closing costs would be too high for them and offer a slightly higher rate instead. The moral of the story is to build up your credit score as much as you can—it can save you a lot in interest, over the decades that you own your home.


Looking for another way to cut closing costs? Request Pujol Law Group as the title company for your transaction. We pass Butler rebate savings on to you, and offer low, flat rates for title and escrow services.