The Difference Between A Short Sale And A Foreclosure

You know what a foreclosure is. You are familiar with short sales. But what are the true differences between them?

authorOlga Ronis
Sep 26, 2023
Photo by todd kent on Unsplash

Do you wonder what happens to a property when its owner experiences financial hardship and can no longer afford to pay their mortgage? In a time of economic uncertainty, it is not unusual for people to run into problems that put their property at risk.

Short sales and foreclosures are two prevalent choices in these situations. But what do these words signify, and how are they different?

This article explores the fascinating world of real estate financing to help you understand the key differences between a short sale and a foreclosure. Get ready to learn all there is to know about these procedures so you can handle distressed property transfers with ease.

What is a Short Sale?

Simply put, a short sale is a property sale in which the earnings are insufficient to pay off all the debts and encumbrances attached to the property. Short sale and short payoffs are used interchangeably and mean selling a home for an amount that is less than the remaining balance on the mortgage.

It is impossible to complete a short sale unless the bank agrees to take less than the total amount owed on the mortgage loan as a “short” payment in full.

A short sale is bound to happen when the value of a house is less than the amount still owed on the mortgage. For example, if you bought your home for $500,000 but now it’s only worth $400,000, you may qualify for a short sale as the money you get won’t be enough to pay your mortgage in full.

What is Foreclosure?

A foreclosure occurs when you are in default. This means you fail to make payments on your mortgage, and the lender submits a claim to the court to seize the property for nonpayment. The foreclosure procedure is the last step of legal action and usually involves a lawyer. After a foreclosure, you will no longer have any legal claim to the property and will be forced to leave.

Once the lender obtains possession of the property, it will request an appraisal and sell the home. Since the lender wants to liquidate the asset immediately, foreclosure often moves more quickly than a short sale. Alternatively, residences that have been foreclosed upon may be sold at public auctions known as “trustee sales.”

Short Sale Vs. Foreclosure – The Difference

Foreclosure and short sales help homeowners get out from under mortgage obligations, but they go about it differently. Here are some key differences:

  1. Time Duration 

Short sales require much more time than foreclosures to finish. The bank’s primary goal during a foreclosure is to recuperate its investment. Therefore, the process usually moves swiftly. However, in the case of a short sale, banks often need many layers of permission before moving through with the transaction. This is why closing a short sale may sometimes take up to a year.

  1. Financial Ramifications

A seller’s financial status might take a hit in both processes. But the impact might be very different. A short sale can result in a dip of up to 150 points in your credit score, but it does not prevent you from purchasing a new house immediately. In contrast, there is a seven-year period after a foreclosure before purchasing another home. Additionally, it will show up on your credit report for up to five years.

  1. Seller’s Involvement

The seller has a significant role in the closing of a short sale. The process is comparable to a standard sale, except for deciding who will purchase the house. On the other hand, during a foreclosure, the bank has significant control over the process. The seller’s options are limited, and they can only attempt to negotiate a repayment plan with the bank prior to the foreclosure.

Here’s How Short Sales and Foreclosures Work for Buyers

In the real estate market, purchasers might find rare bargains in short sales and foreclosures. Buyers can make better selections and more easily navigate these transactions if they have a solid grasp of how these procedures function.

Let’s take a look at the buyer’s side of the short sale and foreclosure processes.

Short Sale

Finding short sale listings is the first step for buyers considering a short sale. The listings can be found on the internet. Consult with real estate brokers specializing in foreclosed homes, or watch local newspapers.

Once a possible short-sale property has been identified, purchasers should conduct extensive research and exercise due diligence. This involves considering the property’s current state, estimated market worth, outstanding debts or encumbrances, and potential repair or maintenance needs.

Patience and adaptability are essential to a successful strategy when dealing with short sales. These deals are difficult and time-consuming to execute since lenders can take some time to assess bids and negotiate arrangements, which might cause delays for buyers.

The deal is considered closed once the lender accepts the short sale offer. To ensure a smooth closing process and proper handling of all necessary documentation, buyers should seek the assistance of a reputable real estate attorney or experienced realtor.


Foreclosed homes are sold at auctions or listed as real estate owned (REO) by banks and made available to the general public. Buyers can find homes up for foreclosure by searching internet databases, perusing public announcements, or enlisting the help of real estate professionals who focus on such properties.

Buyers should do their homework and due diligence on the foreclosed property before making an offer. Checking for unpaid taxes and liens and calculating the cost of necessary repairs are all part of this process. Whether you want to know how much a piece of real estate is worth or if it’s a good investment, you need to inspect it or get expert advice.

Foreclosure acquisitions should be made with careful attention to financing and cash flow. Potential buyers should have access to funding or be able to acquire financing. Some auctions only accept cash, whereas bank-owned homes can be eligible for special financing. The best way to find out what financing choices are available is to go to lenders or financial consultants.

In foreclosure auctions, potential purchasers compete by making bids, with the highest bidder usually taking home the prize. The acquisition price of a bank-owned property may need discussion and negotiation with the bank. Purchasers must set a budget and stay within it throughout the bidding or negotiating process.

Once the buyer’s offer has been accepted, the closing procedure will follow the same steps as in a standard property sale. Buyers should use experts to deal with the myriad of tasks involved in a purchase, including the contract, inspections, title searches, and closing.


Both homeowners experiencing financial difficulties and potential buyers interested in purchasing foreclosed homes would benefit from a clear understanding of the differences between these two types of sales.

Buyers should thoroughly research and work closely with sellers or lenders to ensure a successful purchase. Seeking advice from a real estate agent or lawyer specializing in distressed property purchases can provide valuable insights and simplify the process. For those looking to buy a home that meets their needs and is not in foreclosure or a short sale, it’s recommended to seek the help of a professional.

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