By Tara Siegel Bernard
Tracy S., 59, a technical writer for a large bank, divorced her husband just as the
housing market spiraled downward. They were forced to sell their home, just
outside Phoenix, for less than they owed, and the bank agreed to absorb the
difference, about $25,000.
“Our ability to pay and our credit was perfectly fine, but neither of us could
keep the house individually,” she said. Ultimately the house sold for about
$175,000, or 21 percent less than they originally paid.
Three years after the short sale, Tracy is a homeowner once again. She bought
a three-bedroom house for $190,000 in another Phoenix suburb this year, and
qualified for a traditional mortgage with a 20 percent down payment.
“I believed and was told that I was not going to get a mortgage for the first two
years after the short sale,” she said, asking that her last name not be used to
protect her privacy. “But after that, I hadn’t really planned and didn’t think I
would be able to get a mortgage.”
So far, she has been in the minority. Through the end of last year, only a tiny
sliver of borrowers tarnished by foreclosures and short sales during the economic
downturn had bought homes again, according to a study by Experian, one of the
Big Three credit reporting bureaus. These borrowers are generally locked out of
the mortgage market for two to seven years, depending on their circumstances.