What are deficiency judgments?

Deficiency judgments are legal obligations to pay after a court proceeding. They arise when a person fails to repay the entire amount due on a promissory note. This is, of course, common after the foreclosure of a home in today’s real estate climate, because foreclosed homes typically do not sell for enough to cover the mortgage loan balance at the time of default. The difference between what was owed and what was realized through the sale is called the deficiency.

Unless the (former) homeowner agrees to make payments on that deficiency, the bank can sue and obtain a judgment for up to the full amount owed. Then they’ll take steps to collect the debt through seizing bank accounts and other assets or by wage garnishment.

In some states, deficiency judgments can also result after a short sale. Fortunately for San Diego homeowners, deficiency judgments are something you don’t have to worry about after the short sale of a California home. This threat was removed via SB 931 and SB 458, both passed in 2011.


The rules are not the same for foreclosure. If you have a second mortgage and the bank forecloses, you could be liable for a deficiency on the second mortgage unless it was made as a part of your purchase. In other words, if you took out a home equity line of credit at a later date, the bank will attempt to collect that debt.

Thus, you still do need a strong agent to negotiate for you – to assure that the short sale of your San Diego home does close.

As you might expect, second lien holders are sometimes reluctant to cooperate with a short sale when they stand to gain more through a foreclosure.

Even if you have only a first mortgage… Since they can’t ask for a deficiency payment, asset managers are now pushing harder for higher selling prices and/or lump sum payments from purchasers. Without a strong negotiator on your side, your home could go into foreclosure even with a buyer standing by, ready to purchase.

Our specialists stand ready to help you avoid foreclosure – just as we’ve helped hundreds of other San Diego homeowners. So reach out today…

Every short sale situation is different. If you’d like specific answers that relate to your situation, call 619-929-1413 or write td@tomdunlap.com to arrange for a no-obligation consultation.

Please note that the information provided on this San Diego short sale page is generic, academic information used for general information purposes and may not be construed as or relied upon as a promise for a specific outcome.

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