First Time Homebuyer Word of the Day Short Sale
As a Minnesota REALTOR®, I have received many calls in recent weeks from excited first time homebuyers and/or their parents as they assist their children looking for a first house. A lot has changed since dad and mom bought their first home a decade or so ago so are many questions.
A few days ago a call came from an excited first time homebuyer who has been scouring the internet for the perfect property at the ideal price. He calls and wants to set up some showings for the homes he has found. With a quick email, he forwards a list of a half dozen MLS listings and I bring up an array of his dream homes. With five of the six properties, there is an agent note that indicates the home is in short sale. When I pass on the information, I hear a puzzled silence and pause.
What exactly is a Short Sale?
Even after the abundant media coverage of the mortgage crisis over the past few years, many people still do not understand exactly what a short sale is....And more importantly, how it affects the home buying process. In a nutshell, a short sale is when the seller owes more on the home than it can be sold for in today’s market. In order to sell the home and avoid a possible foreclosure, the homeowner must ask the bank to take a loss on the sale by approving the purchase at the lower value. It is also know as a pre-foreclosure home and can be a way for a homeowner to avoid being foreclosed upon if they can no longer pay their mortgage.
Why should a homebuyer care if a home is in short sale? When a homebuyer writes and offer on a short sale home, the offer is submitted with earnest money to the property owner selling the home just as in any other real estate transaction. The sales price and terms are negotiated and agreed upon by the homeseller who then signs the purchase agreement. But the agreement is contingent upon the bank who holds their home mortgage agreeing to accept less money than is owed on the market to clear the title for sale. Some larger banks have hundreds, if not thousands, of these files waiting for short sale approval. It is normal to wait 12-16 weeks for an answer from the bank. Adding to the problem, many sellers will have more than one mortgage on their home and therefore more than one bank will be involved in the approval process. In some cases, the purchase price might cover enough for the first bank to receive most of its money back so it will be willing to approve the sale. But the second bank, who is in a subordinate position, will get nothing and not approve the deal. It can be frustrating for a home buyer to wait for a closing to be scheduled when there is no guarantee as to when the bank (or banks) will respond.
How does a short sale compare to a foreclosure? In a foreclosure, the bank has taken back the home from the owner. The seller is now the bank and homebuyers along with their agents, deal directly with the bank when an offer is written. A bank representative did not reside at the home so cannot fill out a disclosure with information about the condition of the home. While negotiations are easier and much faster, buyers must accept the risk and purchase the home in as-is condition. While it is always recommended to have a home inspected, it becomes extremely important to be diligent and inspect everything thoroughly when buying a bank owned property.