Short Sale Shows Slice of Life – Reprint from Billerica Atty James Haroutunian Blog

This was originally posted on August 2, 2011.  However with all the short sales currently on the market and the potential for more over the next few years, the information bears repeating:

While government officials take their political standoff to the streets, seeking to affect public opinion and gain sympathy, a quiet example of real economic struggle occurred in my office.  The tale spans six years and aptly summarizes the fallout and effect of america’s economic woes.

In 2005, a young family sought my help with their purchase of a home in Billerica.  Gleeful to move their family to the suburbs, the couple paid top dollar at the height of the real estate market.   Their first and second mortgage carried temporarily fixed rates.  The couple, assumed they would simply refinance when the rate changed in a few years.  After the market crash of 2007, this was no longer an option.

To keep up with payments, each spouse took multiple jobs.  This worked for a couple of years.  Financial stress ultimately took a toll on the couple, leading to separation.  The couple moved out of the home, leaving it in disrepair, while the banks began foreclosure.  As a last alternative, the broken family turned to a Realtor to help with a short sale.  By avoiding foreclosure, a short sale would minimize credit damage.

The realtor struck a deal with a new young couple, eager to rehab the house.  Aggressive negotiation ensued with both banks, until they reduced the amount of their debt.  This took months of hard work, during which the dilapidated house caught the eye of the local Board of Health.  The Realtor valiantly absorbed threats from local officials and ire from neighbors.

Further calamity struck, when pipes froze and burst in the house, causing major damage.  The Realtor literally and figuratively bailed out the property by negotiating a major price reduction.  After seven months of struggle, the house finally sold.  The former owners now close the curtain on six tumultuous years, starting their lives over separately.

Meanwhile, a new young couple enters the home to improve the neighborhood blight left in the resulting wake.  As I write this column, a dumpster is being dropped at the property to begin the clean out.

What awaits this new couple?  Will their next six years offer greater opportunity without being saddled by high housing costs?  The house remains the same, but will the story change in a more optimistic economy?

Attorney James Haroutunian practices real estate estate planning and probate law in Billerica at 630 Boston Road.  Contact him with questions at, 978-671-0711 or email him at

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