Despite industry and government efforts to make short sales - transactions in which the lender agrees to accept less than the mortgage amount owed by the homeowner - easier and more quickly accomplished, improvements are coming up, well, short. In some cases, the difference between the two numbers is being forgiven by the mortgage lender. In others, the homeowner must arrange with the lender to settle the rest of the debt. Theoretically, short sales are less costly to a lender than foreclosures. There are fewer legal costs involved, for example. But the chief attraction of a short sale is that there is a buyer for the house, while a foreclosed property can sit in a lender's portfolio for months.