short sale vs foreclosure

Short Sale vs Foreclosure: What is the Difference Between Them?

Experiencing financial hardship to the point of considering a short sale vs foreclosure comparison can be really tough.

But the trick is to not rush into a decision and panic.

Once you’ve been through our guide comparing these two options, we’ll hopefully remove the burden from you somewhat.

What Is the Difference Between Short Sale and Foreclosure?

The main difference between a foreclosure and a short sale lies in who sells the property. A foreclosure happens when the lender seizes and sells the property. In contrast, a short sale occurs when the homeowner sells the property for less than the outstanding mortgage with the lender’s consent.

A foreclosure can be a devastating incident for homeowners because it significantly damages their credit scores, often making it challenging to qualify for new credit in the future. Foreclosures can remain on a credit report for up to seven years, affecting the individual’s ability to buy a new home or even rent a property.

In contrast, a short sale is generally less damaging to credit scores and may not necessarily deter future home purchases.

So for example, let’s say I want to sell my house fast before foreclosure. In this scenario, I can either opt for a short sale or let the lender foreclose on my property. A quick sale may save me some credit score points and allow me to qualify for future mortgages more easily.

Another key distinction lies in the implications for the buyer…

Buying a foreclosed property often involves a longer, more complex process with less room for negotiation.

On the other hand, a short sale transaction can be a win-win for both parties involved, as it allows the homeowner to avoid foreclosure and the buyer to purchase a house for less.

What About a Pre Foreclosure vs Short Sale?

A short sale vs pre foreclosure primarily differs in the timing and control of the sale. In a short sale, the homeowner, with the lender’s approval, preemptively sells the property for less than owed, while a pre-foreclosure refers to the period after default but before the lender repossesses the home.

In a short sale, by obtaining approval from the lender to sell the property for less than the outstanding mortgage amount, the homeowner can avoid the significant credit implications that come with foreclosure. 

On the other hand, during pre-foreclosure, the homeowner still has the opportunity to make good on their payments, negotiate a loan modification with the lender, or sell their home to prevent foreclosure.

But what about pre foreclosure vs foreclosure?

Well, that’s actually quite simple as it’s just a matter of timing. A pre-foreclosure refers to the early stages of default, while foreclosure is the final stage that results in the mortgage lender seizing and selling the property.

Foreclosure vs Short Sale Comparison Chart

Use this table as a guide to comprehend the nuances and make decisions suitable for your specific situation:

ComparisonShort saleForeclosure
For buyersTypically lower prices than the market average. Lengthy and uncertain approval process. Property might need repairs.Often lower prices than short sales and the market average. Faster purchase process. Properties might be in poor condition. Negative stigma associated with buying a foreclosed home.
For sellersAvoid stigma. Better option for stress relief.Quick resolution. No more mortgage payments. Fresh start.
For lendersReduced loss compared to foreclosure. Avoids the cost and time of a foreclosure. Potential for a longer process. Might not recover the full loan amount.Complete control over the sale process. Can recover part or all of the outstanding loan balance. Costly and time-consuming. Might sell for a lower price than the owed amount.
Credit ImpactModerate impact. Less damaging than a foreclosure but still affects credit negatively.Severe negative impact on credit rating. Can lower the credit score by 200-300 points and remain on the credit report for 7 years.
Fees and liabilitiesSellers might have to pay a deficiency if the home sells for less than the owed amount.Lenders can pursue a deficiency judgment against the borrower. Also, additional fees associated with the foreclosure process.
ControlSellers have more control as they’re involved in the sale process.Lenders have full control, and homeowners are evicted.
Methods of executionRequires approval from the lender to sell the home for less than the owed amount.Legal process initiated by the lender due to missed mortgage payments.
Used whenHomeowners owe more on their mortgage than the home’s current value and can’t keep up with payments.Homeowners default on their mortgage and the lender wants to recover the owed amount.

Short Sale vs Foreclosure for Buyer

When considering buying short sale vs foreclosure, short sales tend to be less complicated than foreclosures, as they generally involve less red tape and fewer legal procedures.

Furthermore, since the homeowner is involved in the sale, they’re usually able to provide detailed property information, which can be beneficial for the buyer. 

Short sales also often result in a win-win situation, with the homeowner able to avoid foreclosure and the buyer able to purchase a property at a potentially reduced price. 

Likewise, buying a foreclosed home can offer significant financial benefits, as these properties can sometimes be purchased at prices well below market value. However, it’s essential to factor in the potential costs of any necessary repairs or renovations, as foreclosed homes are often sold as-is.

Additionally, the process of buying a foreclosed home can be longer and more complex than for a short-sale, with less room for negotiation. 

Winner: Short Sale

While buying a foreclosed home can sometimes offer a bargain price, the potential complications and uncertainties associated with the process can be daunting. 

In contrast, short sales tend to be less challenging, more straightforward, and can potentially offer similar financial benefits without the associated headaches inherent in foreclosure purchases. However, it’s important to note that every situation is unique, and the best choice depends on the buyer’s circumstances, risk tolerance, and financial goals.

Foreclosure vs Short Sale for Seller

For sellers, deciding between a foreclosure and a short sale often hinges on the impact on their credit score and the potential to move on more quickly from a difficult financial situation.

In a foreclosure, the lender takes control of the property when the homeowner fails to make mortgage payments. This damages the homeowner’s credit scores, making it hard to get new credit, buy a home, or rent.

Foreclosures can stay on a credit report for up to seven years, with lasting impact. The process is stressful and lengthy, leaving homeowners feeling helpless.

In contrast, a short sale offers the homeowner a way to maintain some control over the situation. By selling the property for less than the outstanding mortgage with the lender’s approval, the homeowner can avoid the stigma and extensive credit damage associated with foreclosure.

While a short sale can still negatively impact credit scores, the effects are generally less severe and of shorter duration than a foreclosure. 

Additionally, a short sale can provide a sense of closure and allow the homeowner to move forward more quickly, as the sales process is typically shorter and less complicated than a foreclosure.

Winner: Short Sale

Despite the potential negative aspects, such as a possible deficiency judgment, the ability to avoid a more damaging foreclosure and the opportunity to regain financial stability more quickly make short sales a preferable choice for homeowners facing foreclosure.

Short Sales or Foreclosures for Lenders

For lenders, the decision between short sales and foreclosures can be influenced by several factors including recovery of funds, time expended, and the overall process.

In a foreclosure, the lender seizes the property and sells it, often at a public auction. This process can be lengthy and expensive, with legal fees, maintenance costs for the property, and the possibility of the property selling for less than the outstanding mortgage.

Moreover, evicting homeowners and maintaining the property until it sells can be complex and resource-consuming.

On the other hand, a short sale can often lead to a quicker resolution. The homeowner is responsible for selling the property, reducing the lender’s management responsibilities.

While the lender may not recover the full amount they’ve invested, they may still recuperate more through a short sale than a foreclosure, once costs are factored in.

Winner: Short Sale

The potential for a higher net recovery and a quicker resolution, coupled with fewer management responsibilities, makes it a preferred choice in many scenarios.

However, lenders will evaluate each case individually, considering the borrower’s situation, the property in question, and market conditions.

Short Sale vs Foreclosure Credit Impact

Foreclosure is one of the most damaging events for a credit score. It can drop a score by as many as 100-160 points, according to FICO. The foreclosure remains on a credit report for up to seven years, but its impact lessens over time.

On the other hand, the effect of a short sale on a credit score can be slightly less drastic. Since creditors don’t typically report the amount of the mortgage that wasn’t repaid, a short sale may affect a credit score less than a foreclosure would.

The effect of a short sale on credit scores is usually a result of the missed mortgage payments leading up to the short sale.

Winner: Short Sale

While both can significantly impact your credit score, foreclosure has a more damaging effect, both in terms of points lost and the length of time it remains on your credit report for banks to see.

Foreclosure or Short Sale for Fees and Liabilities

With a foreclosure, the lender assumes all costs associated with the seizure and sale of the property. This includes legal fees, maintenance costs, and any additional expenses that come with owning and selling a property. Additionally, there can be potential tax liabilities for the lender. 

A short sale, on the other hand, may involve fewer fees for the lender because the homeowner is tasked with selling the property.

However, the homeowner may face the prospect of a deficiency judgment. This is when the lender sues the homeowner to recover the difference between the sale price and the outstanding mortgage balance.

Nevertheless, some states have laws that protect homeowners from deficiency judgments following short sales.

Winner: Tie

While foreclosures generally have higher costs for lenders, short sales can leave homeowners potentially facing a deficiency judgment.

Foreclosure vs Short Sale in Terms of Control

In a foreclosure scenario, the lender is in full control of the process. They have the authority to seize the property, evict the homeowners, and then sell the property, often at a public auction.

This process may feel disempowering for the homeowner, as they have little say in the proceedings once the foreclosure process starts. 

A short sale provides more control to the homeowner. They have the opportunity to find a buyer for their property, negotiate the terms of the sale, and avoid being evicted by the lender.

This can provide a sense of empowerment during an otherwise challenging time. However, it’s crucial to remember that a short sale does require the lender’s approval.

Winner: Short Sale

While both processes can be stressful and challenging, a short sale offers homeowners more influence over the process, allowing them to actively participate in finding a solution to a difficult financial situation. 

Short Sale vs Foreclosure on Methods of Execution

A foreclosure is a largely unilateral process driven by the lender, typically through legal proceedings.

The lender initiates the foreclosure, ejects the homeowner, and then sells the property, often through a public auction. This process can be protracted, and the lender must navigate various legal requirements.

Conversely, a short sale involves a higher degree of cooperation between the homeowner and the lender. The homeowner initiates the process, lists the property for sale, and finds a buyer.

The lender’s primary role is to approve the sale and the selling price. While this can be a complex process with its own set of challenges, it’s often quicker than a foreclosure and involves fewer legal hurdles.

Winner: Short Sale

A short sale involves less legal complexity and a quicker resolution, making it a more attractive option for both the homeowner and the lender.

However, the success of a short sale heavily depends on the homeowner’s ability to find a buyer and negotiate a deal that the lender will approve.

Short Sale or Foreclosure: When Is It Used?

A foreclosure typically comes into play when a borrower fails to make mortgage payments for an extended period, leading the lender to reclaim and sell the property to recoup the unpaid loan.

However, this often happens as a last resort, after all other payment arrangements or solutions have failed. 

On the other hand, a short sale is done when the property’s value has declined below the outstanding mortgage balance.

In such a scenario, the homeowner initiates the process, seeking the lender’s permission to sell the property at a price that falls short of the mortgage balance. This is usually done to avoid foreclosure when the homeowner is unable to keep up with the mortgage payments. 

Winner: Tie

While both options have their pros and cons, the most suitable solution varies on a case-to-case basis.

However, neither are ideal situations and can have grave implications on your credit score and ability to secure a mortgage in the future. Therefore, it is advised to explore all possible options and seek professional advice before proceeding with either.

Short Sale vs Foreclosure Pros and Cons Recap

Let’s now take a moment to recap the pros and cons of both foreclosure and short sale:

Short sale


  • Avoiding foreclosure
  • Credit score impact
  • Control over the sale
  • Possibility of deficiency waiver


  • Lender approval required
  • Potential for deficiency judgments
  • Long process
  • Impact on credit
  • Tax implications



  • Elimination of mortgage debt
  • Possibility of a fresh start
  • Time


  • Credit score impact
  • Difficulty getting new mortgage
  • Deficiency judgments
  • Emotional stress
  • Tax consequences

We Can Help With Short Sales and Foreclosures in California

If you are grappling with the decision of a short sale vs foreclosure in California, remember, you are not alone. At SoCal Home Buyers, we have years of experience navigating the nuances of both foreclosures and the short sales process in California.

Our dedicated team of professionals is here to provide you with personalized solutions that align with your unique circumstances. Don’t let the complexities of foreclosures and short sales overwhelm you. Call us today, and let’s explore your options together!

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Doug & Andrea Van Soest | SoCal Home Buyers

If you’re interested in learning more about the foreclosure process, then we recommend checking out our California foreclosure timeline chart.

Is It Better to Short Sale or Foreclosure? Our Key Takeaways

Choosing between a short sale and foreclosure largely depends on your specific financial situation and personal. Ideally, if you can negotiate with the lender and have time to wait for the process to complete, a short sale is often the better choice.

It will give you more control over the process, and it typically has a less severe impact on credit scores.

On the other hand, foreclosure might be the only option if  you cannot wait for the lengthy short sale process or negotiate with the lender. While foreclosure can drastically reduce credit scores and impact future loan approval, it does eliminate the existing mortgage debt, allowing for a fresh financial start.

Additional reading: Our guide on how to stop foreclosure in California outlines various strategies and tips to help you avoid foreclosure, including the option of a short sale.


Is a Short Sale a Foreclosure?

A short sale is not foreclosure; they are different options for homeowners who can’t afford mortgage payments. In a short sale, the homeowner sells the property for less than the mortgage balance.

Foreclosure is a legal process where the lender repossesses the home due to missed mortgage payments.

Quick Sale vs Short Sale, What’s the Difference?

A quick sale involves selling a home rapidly, without considering the mortgage balance. On the other hand, a short sale happens when a homeowner can no longer meet mortgage obligations and negotiates with the lender to sell the property for less than the outstanding balance.

So while both quick sales and short sales involve selling a property under specific circumstances, they differ in terms of the seller’s motivation and the involvement of the lender. 

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