Realty Times - Housing Counsel: What's a Short Sale
The first step is to contact your financial and legal advisors. Do not contact the lender until you fully understand the potential risks involved. Under Federal law, when a debt is forgiven, it can be treated as ordinary income on which tax must be paid. Thus, if your lender allows you to sell the property to $475, less a 2 percent commission, you will pay off your $500,000 mortgage and have a deficit of almost $35,000. According to many tax professionals, you will have to pay income tax on this amount even though you did not actually receive the money.
Furthermore, you want to make absolutely sure that even should the lender approve the short sale, you will not be obligated to make up this difference, which is called a deficiency. Unfortunately, most lenders will not put their agreement in writing, so your legal advisors will have to satisfy themselves -- and you -- on this matter.