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09/04/2013 - Susan Miller
Short sale or foreclosure, whats the difference?
In todays real estate market, potential buyers are finding many short sales and foreclosures. Generally speaking, both occur when the homeowner no longer can afford to make mortgage payments.

With a short sale, the mortgage holder owes more than what their home is worth in the current market. During the height of the real estate boom, many people purchased homes at exorbitant prices. When the bottom fell out of the market and prices plunged, their homes no longer were worth what they paid.

Rather than continue to pay a mortgage on an underwater home, some opt to list it for the current market value. However, once they get an offer, they will need approval from their lender to sell it. And, the lender doesnt have to accept the offer. So, basically if you are conducting a short sale you will have to negotiate with two parties -- the buyer and then with your mortgage company.

If you are interested in buying a short sale, its always a good idea to do your research. Find out how much is owed to the lender: That can give you an idea of how much to offer. Also, check out the comps in the area. You dont want to end up paying too much. However, dont be surprised if the lender comes back and asks for more.

The process can be very time consuming. Remember you are not dealing with one individual on a short sale, you are dealing with a lender and it can take weeks or months for a decision to be made.

A foreclosure also happens when a homeowner no longer can afford to pay the mortgage, stops making payments and the lender takes possession of the property. In this case, the homeowner no longer has a say in the sale.

A foreclosure is a legal process. In Florida, it starts with the lender filing a lis pendens or suit pending. As with a short sale, the process is a lengthy one. In Florida, the average foreclosure can take two-and-a-half years to complete.

During this time the homeowner can try to work out an agreement with the lender. If no agreement is reached, then the foreclosure continues and the lender can put the home up for sale. It can be sold either through a real estate agent or at an auction.

The good news is the supply of foreclosures is vast and wont go away soon, which means plenty of opportunities for those looking to buy a home to live in as well as for investors. As with a short sale, its a good idea to learn about the comparables in the area before making an investment.

Because the homeowner is in foreclosure and not making payments on the mortgage, there is a good change they also arent maintaining the home, so if you are in the market to purchase a foreclosed home, you definitely should get a home inspection.

Also, many disgruntled homeowners who are foreclosed upon will either do damage to the home before leaving or strip out everything from appliances to fixtures. Hiring someone who can tell you how much of an investment you will need to make the needed repairs is always a good idea so there are no surprises.

Liens or back taxes often create challenges with the property's title so its important for anyone looking to purchase a foreclosure to make sure the title is clear.

The best bet for anyone looking to purchase a short sale or foreclosure is to work with a real estate professional who has been through the process. They can help to make it less worrisome and steer you clear of any problems down the road.
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