Sacramento housing market sees rise in short sales

SACRAMENTO — For years real estate agents have steered buyers away from "short sales," labeling them a mind-numbing, difficult experience that could exhaust the patience of the biblical Job.

Now buyers can hardly avoid them.

"When it's 50 percent of the inventory you don't have a choice," said Scott Williams, a Roseville-based ReMax broker. Williams specializes in a complex transaction that may be the next evolution of the real estate market in Sacramento.

Banks, with their balance sheets battered after 40,000 capital-area foreclosures since early 2007, are finally warming up to short sales, a traditional marker of soured real estate markets. Increasingly, so are buyers. Some analysts believe short sales – those transactions in which banks accept offers below what they're owed to avoid the higher costs of foreclosing – may help avert a few thousand new foreclosures in the capital region.

"I still see a ton of defaults coming down the line … but a large percentage, 50 percent or more of these, will get done as short sales and keep the flow of repos to a manageable level," said Williams. "I don't see us getting flooded."

Industry analysts say half the for-sale signs in El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties that aren't bank repos are short sales.

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