Short Sales: What They Are, and How They Work

Short Sales 101: “What are they and how do they work for me?”

 A short sale is nothing more than negotiating with your lender to pay less than the balance owed. We’re hearing more about ‘short sales’ as an alternative to foreclosure, especially in this shifted real estate market. Now, if you owe more than what your property is worth – and you need to sell – a short sale may be a good option. Will your lender accept a short sale? Do you qualify for a short sale? 



Who Qualifies for a Short Sale?

In order to qualify for a short sale, the seller must prove to the bank one or more of the following conditions:

– Loss of job, and difficulty in finding new suitable job
– Job Relocation, when equity is deficient
– High medical expenses due to disability, injury or illness in family
– Divorce
– Unable to afford the loan from the beginning
– House needs unexpected major repairs
– Overextended Credit
– Changing Economy
– Adjustment in mortgage payment due to interest rate or an unforeseen increase in living expenses
– Incidentally, these are also the most common reasons for a foreclosure.

Why Would a Lender Accept a Short Sale?

Why would a lender accept less than they are owed? Simply stated, the alternative is a foreclosure. Just as with the borrower, there are significant consequences to the lender if they foreclose.

– The legal costs of eviction and repossession,
– The loss of loan payments during the foreclosure process until it is re-sold
– A foreclosed house will need work before it can be resold
– After the foreclosure, the bank has two options: Sell it at the courthouse steps, or try to resell in the market.

If they resell in the market, they are penalized by the government by freezing 3-10 times the loan amount so that the lender cannot lend those funds to another borrower.

Will my lender consider a Short Sale if the mortgage is current?

Sometimes, some lenders will accept a Short Sale file for approval on loans that are not delinquent. Other lenders will not accept the file until the loan is delinquent.

What if a property needs work, can I still apply for a Short Sale?

Yes. In fact, lenders are more motivated to do a Short Sale on a property that needs work than on a property that doesn’t. The lender knows the risk of loss goes up when they foreclose on a property that needs lots of work.

What is a Short Sale Packet and What Needs to be in it?

A short sale package it used to determine whether a homeowner can afford the property. Our team will work with you and your realtor to gather the information needed to meet the bank guidelines and streamline the process as efficiently as possible. Below are some of the standard items needed to complete a short sale proposal:



– The Listing Agreement
– Authorization to Release form (to allow agent to discuss with bank)
– Hardship Letter (see “How to Qualify” above)
– Financial Statement
– Seller Net Sheet (a copy of the HUD form with offer)
– Contract (when offer is accepted)
– Buyer’s Proof of Funds (with offer)

I have more than one mortgage on my property . Is that a problem?

No. Subordinate lenders are more flexible than 1st mortgage holders.

What if I have 2 mortgages held by different Lenders?

When you have 2 loans with the same lender, it is more beneficial to them, as there is no need to negotiate
with another lender. When the two loans are with different lenders, the process is a little longer, but the second lender is the one who has more to lose if they don’t reach a settlement. This is because if the property goes to foreclosure, the first loan is the first one to be paid and the second usually nets nothing.

Do I have to be past due on my mortgage to be able to get the benefit of a short sale?

No, but it is likely that the lenders’ guidelines will prevent them from formalizing a short sale if the loan is not past due. This means, for them, that the borrower has the means and can continue to pay on the loan each month. Please understand, however, I AM NOT RECOMMENDING THAT ANYONE STOP PAYING THEIR LOANS. In the current market conditions, it is possible that a bank would accept a short sale, even when the borrower is current.

What is a hardship letter?

This is a letter that explains the borrower’s current financial circumstances. Which circumstances have changed from when the house was purchased, and why the mortgage payments can no longer be made. These circumstances are what led to a borrower’s inability to make payments and to pay off the loan in full. This letter must be written by the borrower, and be sincere in demonstrating (with documentation) that it is the truth.

How long does it take to complete a short sale?

The time frame for the lender to receive and evaluate the short sale proposal is about 8 weeks from the time the offer and Short Sale Package are received. Buyers need to realize that this is a lengthy process. This is why it is very important to work with a Short Sale Specialist who knows how to manage the transaction. The other agent and the buyer may get cold feet at the end, and the transaction may fall through.

Why does the bank accept less than they are due?

They lose less on a short sale. On average, lenders lose tens of thousands of dollars less on a short sale versus a full foreclosure. It is simply in their best interest.


Harrisburg PA Real Estate Expert


Ken Huebsch is your premier real estate agent in the Greater Harrisburg area.  I am a specialist in Harrisburg real estate  as well as the communities of Palmyra, Hershey, and Hummelstown.  My wife Leslye and I have a combined 40 plus years experience serving our clients -We KNOW Harrisburg. When you plan to buy or sell Harrisburg area real estate, allow us to work for you.  We are dedicated professionals and are here for your success.  For more information on how we can best serve your real estate needs, please complete our online contact form or give us a call.  Also, check out what our fabulous clients have to say about us on our testimonials page!


Cell: 717 514-1793


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