One woman's short sale tale

When Noemi Rodriguez bought a two-bedroom, 830-square-foot condo in the San Fernando Valley of LA, for $307,000, she had good credit and a steady job as a data processor.

Then came the recession. Home values started tanking.She lost her job. The bills stacked up, and she was falling behind on her single largest expense: her mortgage payment, which was $1,680 a month.

Cash-strapped and desperate for relief, but looking to avoid foreclosure or bankruptcy (and the more detrimental effects these other options would have on her credit score), Rodriguez looked into doing a short sale.

These complicated transactions -- which allow homeowners to sell their home for less than what is owed on the mortgage, often with the bank forgiving the remaining debt -- are now one of the hottest things around in real estate.