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There is no easy or painless way to handle a mortgage that has gone into default. Most people who are going through this feel alone and confused. "How could this have happened to me?" But the truth is that it's happening to more than one third of the homeowners in the US!
If you want less credit damage (or to save what's left of your credit) and you would like some day to own another home, then we would recommend doing a short sale.
A short sale will affect your credit score negatively, but only 50 to 150 points and only for 12 to 24 months. With a short sale, you will be eligible for a Fannie Mae backed home loan after just two years and deficiency judgments are negotiable between the Seller and the bank. One other great advantage to a short sale is that there are no costs associated with it for you to pay. Surprisingly, your bank will pay all Real Estate fees and closing costs.