This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.
By Melissa L. Watkins, Esq.
Just recently in October 2022, the average long-term U.S. mortgage rate topped 7 percent for the first time in more than two decades, a result of the Federal Reserve’s aggressive rate hikes intended to tame inflation not seen in some 40 years.
It is anticipated that rates will continue to rise, at least through the early part of 2023. While the increase in mortgage rates has led to many individuals delaying the purchase of homes, some have opted to move forward with home purchases, accepting the higher rates. Unfortunately, with the housing market tightening in terms of inventory, home prices have not fallen commensurate with the increase in rates.
This means that buyers purchasing now are often accepting higher monthly payments than they would have been only a year or two ago. While the future is impossible to predict, some economic forecasts are suggesting that a housing market crash, or a broader recession, could be forthcoming. If this does happen, we could see homeowners forced into circumstances similar to those that were occurring in 2008 and the years thereafter, mainly foreclosures or short sales of their homes.
While there hasn’t been a significant jump in foreclosures to date, foreclosure starts have been on a steady quarterly rise since the federal government ended the Covid-19 foreclosure moratorium in September 2021. However, a key difference now compared to the last housing crisis is that many homeowners, and even those struggling to make payments, have had a large boost to their home values in recent years. That means they still have equity in their homes and are not underwater — when you owe more than the house is worth.
However, if home prices continue to decline, as has been the trend in recent months, homeowners could start to face a decline in home equity, bringing us back closer to the events taking place in 2008. One of the fastest ways to end up with a security clearance issue is have a significant, negative event take place with finances. In light of the uncertainty in the housing market, and economy more broadly, clearance holders should be cognizant of their options and how those options may impact their security clearance.
Foreclosure vs. Short Sale
If an individual gets behind on mortgage payments or if their mortgage is underwater (the home is worth less than the amount owed on the mortgage), homeowners have two primary options: a short sale or a foreclosure. The owner is forced to part with the home in both cases, but the timeline and other consequences are different in each situation. A short sale is a voluntary process. When the homeowner sells the property for an amount that is far less than what is owed on the mortgage, it is called a short sale.
For example, if a homeowner owes $300,000 on the mortgage, but a financial crisis forces them to sell the home quickly for $250,000 — the remaining amount on their mortgage ($50,000) plus any costs associated with the sale are still owed by the homeowner. A short sale requires the approval of the lender in advance, and generally, the approval comes with an agreement by the lender to forgive the remaining balance owed on the mortgage after the sale, but this is not required.
A foreclosure, on the other hand, is involuntary. In this case, the mortgage holder (the lender or the bank) takes legal action to seize the home after the borrower fails to make a specific number of monthly payments. In a foreclosure, the lender takes ownership of the mortgaged property and sells it to recover the amount owed to them on the mortgage. Another major difference between the two is the impact on one’s credit.
Generally, short sales are not significantly detrimental to a homeowner’s credit rating, while foreclosures are. A homeowner who has gone through a short sale may, with certain restrictions, be eligible to purchase another home fairly soon. A foreclosure, on the other hand, is kept on a person’s credit report for seven years.
How Does a Foreclosure or Short Sale Impact a Security Clearance
While both foreclosures and short sales can impact a security clearance, it is generally the case that a short sale is far less detrimental to a clearance holder than a foreclosure. There are several reasons for this difference.
One reason is that a short sale provides the homeowner with the ability to obtain forgiveness, or a deficiency waiver, of any balance that remains on the mortgage after the sale. Short sales also do not show as negative credit actions in the same way that foreclosure do. While a credit report will show that the mortgage was not paid in full, there will not be a foreclosure entry specifically.
The Department of Defense, Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals, an entity that decides cases related to security clearance issues, has made decisions over the years suggesting that short sales are viewed more favorably in the context of clearance adjudications. One basis for the more favorable view of short sales is that a homeowner seeking a short sale, rather than allowing foreclosure to occur, generally shows financial responsibility and a willingness to play by the rules. Those are crucial traits during any security clearance investigation and will significantly suppress any questions about one’s ability and/or willingness to live within his/her means.
Other considerations that clearance adjudicators rely upon for financial issues include the circumstances and the amount of control an individual had over the circumstances leading to the financial issue, the likelihood of recurrence of the financial problem, and whether the individual acted responsibly under the circumstances. For each consideration, a short sale places the clearance holder or applicant in a better position to argue that he/she is not a security risk than a foreclosure would.
If you are an employee in need of security clearance representation, please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook and Twitter.
Today (Thursday) marks a decade of community service, youth leadership, political activism and civic engagement in Virginia by the Hamkae Center. Over the last 10 years, the local nonprofit has…
The Faith Baptist Church that has occupied 301 Center Street South in Vienna for about seven decades will officially be torn down. Faced with increasing maintenance costs, the Vienna Town…
Arrowbrook Centre, an anchoring mixed-use neighborhood near the Innovation Center Metro station, is moving one step forward to completion. Several pieces of the 54-acre development, which is bounded by the…
Annandale diners could soon see more outdoor seating at Izakaya Khan in Seoul Plaza (4231 Markham Street). To make room for year-round outdoor dining at the Japanese restaurant, the center…
Camps are just the beginning of what’s in store at Art House 7 this summer. We’re thrilled to offer an array of exciting classes for both kids and adults!Rediscover your creativity with some of our AH7 favorites, such as drawing, hand-sewing, modern embroidery, and our popular 3-week Jump into Crochet classes. But that’s not all! We’ve added some fresh and exciting options to our summer class selection, guaranteed to spark your imagination.
To enhance your artistic journey, we have intensified some of our Ceramics: The Wheel classes to a full 3-hour duration. This extended time allows for more creativity and skill development in each class session. If you’re eager for a captivating twist, give Contemporary Still-Life Drawing & Painting a go. Or why not try an immersive outdoor painting adventure? We have a unique opportunity for you to bring your painting skills to life while learning and creating in the great outdoors with our Landscape Painting: Studio and Plein Air class!
We invite you to visit our website and explore our full Summer Session schedule, brimming with a diverse range of classes and camps. Classes and camps begin June 20th. Unleash your inner artist, broaden your horizons, and embark on a summer adventure like no other. Let’s make this a summer to remember at Art House 7!
Potomac Harmony Chorus has a new director! We’re ready
to kick off the season with new music, a new approach, and YOU!
Potomac Harmony is one of 500 choruses in Sweet
Adelines International. We’re a vibrant,
contemporary, inclusive, welcoming, and open community of women singers who
perform four-part harmony, barbershop style, committed to a high level of
achievement through teaching, mentoring, personal growth, and performance. Our vision is to entertain, educate, and
enrich lives through musical expression while promoting the barbershop art
Potomac Harmony recently had our first performance
with our new director, receiving rave reviews! We invite you to stop by any Wednesday
evening and be part of the fun and harmony!
Army Birthday Festival – Free and Fun
Make Saturday, June 10, 2023 a great day!
Come celebrate the Army Birthday Festival at the National Museum of the U.S. Army from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Rain or Shine!
• Experience outdoor and indoor fun activities, for all
Unveiling of West Ford historical highway marker
Gum Springs will be celebrating 190 years of its founding by freedman West Ford on Saturday, June 17, 2023. To kick-off the celebration, there will be an unveiling of a Virginia historical highway marker for West Ford on Fordson Road