A common problem with short sales is that the seller doesn’t know precisely what he or she owes after the sale is final. That’s because short sales are complex contracts and are usually only drawn up in situations that are unfavorable for the seller. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of the post-2008 market, and it’s usually the lesser of two evils (the other being the “f-word”: foreclosure).
In many short sales, the bank agrees to discount the repayment of the seller’s home loan. That is, if they bought the house for $120,000 and the sale price is $80,000, the bank will only demand $80,000 in repayment for the $120,000 loan. This sounds like a great deal—and usually it’s the only deal—but there are a couple of things to watch out for.
The first is that $40,000 you made on the loan will probably be counted as income, and the bank will issue a Form 1099 which means that you’ll be on the hook for tax on that income. If you’re really out of money, this is unlikely to cause a real problem, but if you have a little more than most short-sellers, you may be in trouble.
The other issue is that banks will sometimes seek a “deficiency judgment” against sellers. That means that the bank would like to recoup the money you owe them but are unable to pay because of the value of your home. If the seller has not requested that the bank waive its right to seek a deficiency judgment, it’s still on the table. Being unable to pay a judgment can further damage your credit.