As a busy short sale listing agent here in Las Vegas, I am asked this question all the time by prospective sellers. Legitimate sellers in a short sale are usually in a serious financial bind, but I do recommend that they keep their home owner association (HOA) dues current whenever possible.
One key to getting a short sale to close successfully is to limit the number of liens that will be recorded against the property.
Sellers already have at least one mortgage to clear, many have two. Having to extra liens is time consuming and can endanger the viability of a short sale.
Remember the order of priority when it comes to liens on a property; HOA’s, Taxes, 1st mortgage, 2nd mortgage holder, and any judgments for additional debt placed against the property. While this is the pecking order, remember that ALL must be cleared in order to transfer the property to a buyer. The 1st mortgage will get the lion’s share of the proceeds, but even their portion is a negotiated settlement. Junior liens further down the chain generally receive even worse settlements, but an HOA and the government will get exactly what is owed to them.
If a lien is placed on the property for HOA dues and fines unpaid, the listing agent will be forced to try and clear yet another lien, and usually has to deal with collection agencies to do it. I am sure all of you are aware of what it is like to deal with that lot. For most people the HOA is a relatively small cost and letting it spiral out of control into a large debt is often unnecessary and can threaten your short sale’s ability to close.
If you have a condo or something similar with very high fees, then you’ll just have to make the call whether or not you feel it is worth it to keep them current, but the majority of sellers should not let them lapse, considering their cost is usually modest.