Book Review
Title: "How to Use a Short Sale to Stop Home Foreclosure and Protect Your Finances"
Author: Robert Irwin
Publisher: McGraw-Hill, 2009; 208 pages; $18.95 list ($14.21 on

If you’re an active participant in today’s real estate market, you know that the recent drop in housing values — right after a couple of years of unprecedented borrowing against home equity — has forced us all to get much more familiar with short sales than ever before.

(A short sale, for your information, is a transaction in which the homeowner is selling the home for less than he or she owes on it. This requires that the lender or lenders involved agree to forgive some portion of the outstanding mortgage debt in order to consummate the transaction.)

Short-sale feasibility is the issue of the day, and seems to run on a roller-coaster of extremes, depending on how the wind blows on any given day, week or month.

First, the banks didn’t want to do them. Then, they were agreeing to forgive the upside-down debt, as needed for these transactions to close. Then, they were agreeing to do the short sales but placed a bunch of infeasible conditions on the seller, buyer and even agents involved, blocking the progress of the transaction.

And always, it has seemed that sellers didn’t have a huge amount of control over whether and on which conditions their lender would allow a short sale. Frankly, the short sale process can seem so complicated, convoluted and opaque that many sellers would just prefer to let the home go into foreclosure.

In "How to Use a Short Sale to Stop Home Foreclosure and Protect Your Finances," author Robert Irwin provides a sense of hope and control in the form of a short-sale action guide for homeowners facing foreclosure. Several things about this book will render it appealing and useful to upside-down homeowners who need to sell their homes.

First off, it is a quick and easy read, and does not assume a huge amount of advance knowledge, nor does it assume that you want to become a real estate expert. As such, if you’re considering walking away from your home, but feel like you can spend an hour and a half exploring and empowering yourself with an alternative to foreclosure, this book is the ticket. …CONTINUED

Secondly, the chapters addressing "Will a Short Sale Work for You?" "How Do I Find a Good Short Sale Agent?" and "Preparing Your Home to Show When You’re not Going to Net a Dime" provide clear, cogent advice on topics of unique relevance to those considering a short sale.

In particular, Irwin’s preliminary net sheet (PNS) worksheet discussion of how the expenses of a sale are handled forces readers to confront the brutal facts of their situation, but helpfully so. On the other hand, the chapters on loan modification and preparing the short-sale application itself provide little usable information beyond what you could find via a quick, free Internet search.

Similarly, Irwin’s treatment of possible responses from the lender and tax and other implications of short sale is perfunctory, but does at least flag that these issues exist for the reader who is totally unfamiliar with short-sale considerations.

Irwin might underestimate how simple it is for a seller to have a short sale accepted by the bank, and especially how feasible it is to pull off and close a short-sale FSBO (for sale by owner). In fact, I’m not sure I understand why he doesn’t discourage FSBOs, given his awareness that the hassle factor is a huge deterrent for sellers contemplating short sales in the first place, and that "hiring" an agent who specializes in short sales does not actually cost a seller a dime.

Of course, I am a real estate broker, so this might just be a case of my own bias rubbing against do-it-yourself real estate advice, but I’ve also seen do-it-yourselfers crash and burn time and time again in their dealings with lenders’ loss mitigation negotiators (the same folks they’d have to work with on their short-sale applications).

While some topics are oversimplified, or the ease and simplicity of some of the endeavors ingredient to a short sale might be underestimated, Irwin does a fine job of comprehensively covering the breadth of alternatives to, reasons for, and success strategies for short sales from a seller’s perspective.

I would strongly recommend this book as a primer for a seller who is just realizing the depth of her mortgage troubles and wants a quick-and-dirty aid to analyzing whether a short sale might be the right path for her to explore.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Ask her a real estate question online or visit her Web site,


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