Real Estate 101: Understanding the Difference Between Short Sales and Foreclosures in San Jose

Real Estate 101: What Is The Difference Between Short Sales and Foreclosures?

San Jose is a vibrant city with a booming real estate market. However, even in a thriving market, homeowners may find themselves facing financial difficulties that make it challenging to keep up with mortgage payments. When this happens, homeowners often have to consider options like short sales and foreclosures. In this article, we will explore the differences between these two options and discuss which one might be the better choice for homeowners in San Jose, depending on their situation and timeline.

What is a Short Sale?

A short sale occurs when a homeowner wants to sell their property, but the sale price is lower than the outstanding mortgage balance. This situation usually arises when the market value of the home has significantly depreciated since its purchase. For example, if a homeowner in San Jose sells their house for $200,000, but still owes $250,000 on their mortgage, it would be considered a short sale. The homeowner is “short” by $50,000.

To proceed with a short sale, the homeowner requires the lender’s approval. Once approved, the property is sold, and the proceeds go directly to the lender. The homeowner is relieved of any financial obligations related to the property. However, it is essential to be cautious of a potential “deficiency judgment” that the lender may file against the homeowner to recover the loss. While some states prohibit this practice, it is crucial to review the paperwork and seek clarification to ensure there is no personal liability.

Everyone wants to know…

The Foreclosure Process

Foreclosure, on the other hand, is a legal process initiated by the lender when a homeowner fails to make mortgage payments for an extended period. In San Jose, after three to six months of missed payments, the lender issues a Notice of Default, which is recorded with the county recorder’s office. This notice informs the homeowner that foreclosure proceedings have begun, putting them at risk of eviction.

Once the Notice of Default is received, the homeowner enters a “pre-foreclosure period” that typically lasts from 30 to 120 days. During this time, the homeowner has the opportunity to work with the lender to avoid foreclosure through various options:

  1. Paying the Past Due Balance in Full: Homeowners can settle the outstanding debt by paying the full amount owed, including missed payments, late fees, and any other charges.
  2. Modifying Mortgage Terms: Homeowners can negotiate with the lender to modify the mortgage terms, potentially reducing monthly payments to make them more manageable.
  3. Short Sale or Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure: If the homeowner is unable to resolve the debt during the pre-foreclosure period, they can opt for a short sale or a deed in lieu of foreclosure. A short sale involves selling the property for less than the outstanding mortgage balance, with the lender’s approval. A deed in lieu of foreclosure allows the homeowner to transfer ownership of the property to the lender, avoiding the foreclosure process.

If the debt remains unresolved by the end of the pre-foreclosure period, the lender proceeds with the foreclosure. The homeowner is evicted, and the property is scheduled for a foreclosure auction. If the property does not sell at the auction, the lender becomes the owner, and it is considered a bank-owned or real estate-owned property.

Comparing Short Sales and Foreclosures in San Jose

Now that we have a better understanding of short sales and foreclosures, let’s compare these two options based on various factors:

Short Sale Foreclosure
Homeowner’s Involvement Voluntary by the homeowner, but requires approval from the lender
Speed and Timing Typically takes 90 to 120 days or longer, as the bank must approve the sale
Impact on Credit Score Less damaging to the borrower’s credit score
Living in the Home Homeowners can stay in the home until the sale is completed
Payment Terms for Buyers Can be bought with a mortgage loan
Method of Sale Listed by a real estate agent specializing in short sales

Take all your equity when you move

Benefits and Considerations for San Jose Homeowners

When deciding between a short sale and foreclosure, San Jose homeowners should consider several factors:

  1. Financial Impact: While both options have consequences, a short sale generally has a less severe impact on a homeowner’s credit score compared to foreclosure. This can be crucial for future financial opportunities, such as obtaining new loans or renting another property.
  2. Control and Flexibility: Opting for a short sale allows homeowners to maintain some control over the process. They can work with a real estate agent to list the property and negotiate with potential buyers. In contrast, foreclosure involves the lender taking control, leaving homeowners with limited options.
  3. Timing and Stress: Short sales can take longer to complete, as the lender must approve the sale and find a buyer willing to meet their demands. This can provide homeowners with more time to find alternative housing arrangements. Foreclosure, on the other hand, can be a more streamlined process, but it often comes with the stress of eviction and the need to vacate the property quickly.
  4. Financial Obligations: In a short sale, homeowners can potentially negotiate with the lender to be released from any personal liability for the remaining mortgage balance. However, in some cases, lenders may pursue a deficiency judgment. With foreclosure, homeowners may still be held responsible for any outstanding debt.
  5. Buying Opportunities: After a short sale, homeowners have the opportunity to rebuild their credit and potentially re-enter the real estate market in the future. Foreclosure, on the other hand, may make it harder to obtain financing for a new home in the near term.

Navigating the Short Sale or Foreclosure Process in San Jose

Whether opting for a short sale or facing foreclosure, it is advisable for San Jose homeowners to seek professional guidance to navigate the process effectively. Real estate agents experienced in short sales can help homeowners list their property, negotiate with lenders, and find qualified buyers. For those facing foreclosure, consulting with an attorney or housing counselor specializing in foreclosure prevention can provide valuable insights and potential alternatives.


When facing financial difficulties in San Jose, homeowners have options like short sales and foreclosures to help them navigate challenging situations. While both options have advantages and considerations, it is crucial to evaluate personal circumstances and seek professional advice to make an informed decision. Whether choosing a short sale or dealing with foreclosure, homeowners should prioritize minimizing the impact on their credit, exploring available alternatives, and working towards a fresh start in their real estate journey.

Sell your home in a weekend

Check out this article next

Silicon Valley: The Hub of Technological Innovation

Silicon Valley: The Hub of Technological Innovation

Silicon Valley is a global symbol of innovation and technological advancement. Located in the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area, this region has…

Read Article
About the Author
Seb Frey helps long-time Bay Area homeowners make their next move easily the next one yet. If you're looking for a minimum of hassle, maximum net cash on sale, and certain results, contact Seb today.