``Troubled homeowners prefer short sales because the banks generally forgive the remaining debt -- the difference between the sale price and the amount owed on the mortgage. The $30 million from the settlement represents that forgiven debt.

That raises the question: Would the banks have forgiven that debt even without the settlement? Have banks found a nifty way to reduce the amount $25 billion they agreed to pay to settle the suit over their foreclosure practices?''

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