In the world of real estate, two common terms that often come up are “short sales” and “foreclosures.” While both involve the sale of properties under certain circumstances, they differ in significant ways. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the differences between short sales and foreclosures, highlighting their unique processes and implications for buyers and sellers.

Understanding Short Sales

What is a Short Sale?

A short sale occurs when a homeowner sells their property for less than the outstanding mortgage balance. This situation typically arises when the homeowner is facing financial hardship and is unable to keep up with mortgage payments. To proceed with a short sale, the homeowner must seek approval from their lender, as they would be accepting a loss on the loan.

The Short Sale Process

  1. Listing the Property: The homeowner, with the assistance of a real estate agent, lists the property for sale, indicating that it is a short sale.
  2. Accepting an Offer: When a potential buyer submits an offer, it is subject to approval from the lender. The homeowner must provide necessary documentation, including a hardship letter, financial statements, and the proposed sale price.
  3. Lender Approval: The lender reviews the homeowner’s application and the proposed offer. They assess whether accepting the offer is more beneficial than initiating foreclosure proceedings. If approved, the short sale process can proceed.
  4. Closing the Sale: Once the lender approves the sale, the transaction moves forward, with the buyer and seller completing the necessary paperwork and closing the sale.

Understanding Foreclosures

What is a Foreclosure?

Foreclosure is a legal process initiated by the lender when a homeowner defaults on their mortgage payments. It involves the lender repossessing the property to recover the outstanding loan balance. Foreclosures usually occur after a homeowner has missed multiple mortgage payments and failed to rectify the situation.

The Foreclosure Process

  1. Notice of Default: After a homeowner defaults on their mortgage, the lender issues a Notice of Default (NOD), informing them of their intention to begin foreclosure proceedings.
  2. Pre-Foreclosure Period: During this period, the homeowner has the opportunity to resolve the default by paying the outstanding balance or negotiating with the lender for alternatives such as loan modification.
  3. Auction: If the homeowner fails to resolve the default, the property proceeds to foreclosure auction. At the auction, the property is sold to the highest bidder, often for a price below its market value.
  4. Real Estate Owned (REO): If the property does not sell at the foreclosure auction, it becomes Real Estate Owned (REO). The lender takes possession of the property and may sell it on the open market.

Foreclosure Process in Virginia

Notice of Default

In Virginia, the foreclosure process typically begins with the lender issuing a Notice of Default (NOD) to the homeowner. The NOD notifies the homeowner that they are in default on their mortgage and provides a specified time period to rectify the default.

Right to Cure

Virginia law grants homeowners a “right to cure” period, allowing them an opportunity to bring their mortgage payments up to date and avoid foreclosure. During this period, the homeowner can work with the lender to negotiate a repayment plan or explore other options to resolve the default.

Notice of Sale

If the homeowner fails to cure the default within the specified time frame, the lender can proceed with the foreclosure process. The lender must issue a Notice of Sale, which includes details about the foreclosure auction date, time, and location. This notice is typically published in a local newspaper and posted at the courthouse. In Virginia currently the bank gives 60 days notice of a sale.

Foreclosure Auction

The foreclosure auction in Virginia is a public sale conducted by a designated trustee. The property is sold to the highest bidder, usually for cash or a cashier’s check. The winning bidder receives a trustee’s deed, transferring ownership of the property.

Right of Redemption

Virginia law does not provide homeowners with a statutory right of redemption. Once the foreclosure auction takes place, the homeowner generally loses the right to reclaim the property.

Deficiency Judgment

In some cases, if the proceeds from the foreclosure auction do not cover the full amount owed on the mortgage, the lender may seek a deficiency judgment against the homeowner. A deficiency judgment allows the lender to pursue the homeowner for the remaining balance.

It’s important to note that the foreclosure process and specific timelines may vary depending on the circumstances and individual cases. Seeking legal advice or consulting with a real estate professional familiar with Virginia’s foreclosure laws is advisable for homeowners facing foreclosure in the state.

Remember to always consult the most up-to-date resources and legal guidance to ensure accuracy and adherence to Virginia’s foreclosure regulations.


In summary, short sales and foreclosures are distinct processes that occur when homeowners face financial difficulties. A short sale involves selling the property for less than the mortgage balance with lender approval, while foreclosure is a legal process initiated by the lender to recover the outstanding loan balance. Understanding the differences between these two options is crucial for both buyers and sellers in the real estate market.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Can a homeowner still owe money after a short sale?

Yes, in some cases, a homeowner may still owe money after a short sale. This is known as a deficiency balance, and it occurs when the sale proceeds do not fully cover the outstanding mortgage balance. The lender may pursue the homeowner for the remaining amount.

2. How long does a foreclosure process typically take?

The duration of a foreclosure process can vary depending on several factors, such as the state’s foreclosure laws, the complexity of the case, and the homeowner’s response. On average, it can take anywhere from a few months to over a year to complete the foreclosure process.

3. Can a buyer obtain financing for a short sale property?

Yes, buyers can obtain financing for a short sale property. However, it is important to note that the lender’s approval is required for the sale to proceed. Buyers may need to be patient during the approval process, as it can take longer than a traditional home purchase.

4. Are short sales always a good deal for buyers?

While short sales can offer buyers an opportunity to purchase a property at a discounted price, they are not always a guaranteed good deal. Buyers should conduct thorough inspections, research the property’s value, and consider any potential repairs or outstanding liens before making an offer. Buyers need to understand the potential extended timeline of buying a short sale as well. Banks tend to take longer to accept offers and proceed to closing.

5. Can a homeowner prevent foreclosure by filing for bankruptcy?

Filing for bankruptcy can provide temporary relief and stall the foreclosure process. However, it does not guarantee that the homeowner can retain the property. The outcome depends on various factors, including the type of bankruptcy filed and the homeowner’s overall financial situation.