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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- In an effort to cut their losses, banks are paying some struggling homeowners as much as $35,000 to sell their homes before they end up in foreclosure.
The deals are aimed at incentivizing homeowners who owe more on their home than it is worth and who are seriously delinquent on their payments to sell their homes in a short sale.
In short sales, homes are sold for less than what is owed and the bank forgives the excess debt. Banks have been reluctant to approve such deals in the past -- since they take a loss on the home -- but in certain cases, it's become a much better proposition than letting the homeowner fall into foreclosure.
This new approach by the banks has startled plenty of homeowners, according to Elizabeth Weintraub, a Sacramento-area real estate agent who specializes in short sales.
"Initially, the homeowners are skeptical," she said. "The bank may have already turned down their request for a modification. Then, one day, they call and say, 'Let us give you some cash.'"
When Chase Mortgage told Angelique Pierce, that she would receive a check for $25,000 if she sold her house, she couldn't believe it.
"I got the offer in the mail," said the Rancho Cordova, Calif. resident. "I called my bank to ask if it was real."
After Pierce became disabled a few years ago and had to stop working work, she fell behind on payments on both her first and second mortgages, valued at $250,000 and $50,000, respectively.
Now, she's trying to sell her three-bedroom ranch for just $95,000 -- almost half of the $179,000 she paid for the place in late 2002.
From the bank's point of view, the offers make sense, according to Tom Kelly, a spokesman for Chase Mortgage, who would not comment on Pierce or other individual cases. "The first choice is a modification but if that's impossible than a short sale is a faster, more efficient solution," he said.
For the banks, foreclosure has become an increasingly difficult and expensive option. Homeowners have learned to fight the banks tooth and nail, dragging out cases for years.
And as the cases drag, expenses grow. Homeowners not only stop paying their mortgages but they stop paying property taxes and conducting normal maintenance as well. Roofs, siding, plumbing and other parts of the home deteriorate and the property loses value. By the time banks take possession, they're out tens of thousands of dollars.
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