Purchasing A Short-Sale Property

Purchasing A Short-Sale Property By JC San.

When shopping for a home, you may notice that certain listings are labeled as short sales, short pays or pre-foreclosures. All of these terms mean the same thing: the seller is upside-down on his or her mortgage and is attempting to negotiate a deal with the lender in the hope of avoiding foreclosure.

In this type of sale, the bank (lender) agrees to accept less than the amount owed on the mortgage. The transaction benefits the bank by allowing it to avoid repossessing the home in foreclosure, which is expensive and time-consuming, and it benefits the seller by allowing him or her to avoid the negative credit ramifications of foreclosure (and the bankruptcy that sometimes accompanies it). (For more on foreclosures, see Foreclosure Investing Not A Get-Rich-Quick Venture and Foreclosure Opens Windows For Investors.)

If you’re interested in buying a property that’s listed as a short sale, here’s what you need to know.

How It Works
Unlike in a foreclosure, the bank does not own the property in a short sale. However, because the bank must approve the sale (because it is the lender, not the seller, who will be taking a loss on the property) it will seem like the buyer is purchasing the property from the bank. Short sale transactions, however, can be much more time-consuming and patience-testing than foreclosure transactions. (Keep reading about this in Short Sell Your Home To Avoid Foreclosure.)

In some ways, buying a short-sale property is just like a traditional purchase. However, there are a couple of ways in which the purchase agreement you and your agent draw up are different. The contract will specify that the terms are subject to the mortgage lender’s approval. In a normal transaction, the only party who would need to approve the sale is the seller.

The contract should also state that the property is being purchased “as-is”. While it is acceptable to include language in the contract that allows you to back out of the deal if an inspection reveals considerable problems, in general, you should not expect the bank to lower the price to account for repairs if any problems are revealed. The bank is also unlikely to make any repairs, and the seller, being strapped for cash, is probably even less likely to help out. Given the situation, you’ll likely also need to have enough money for closing costs. (Keep reading about the closing process in Understanding The Escrow Process.)

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