Approximately 38% of existing home sales in 2009 were distressed sales and 12% were short sales, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Foreclosure sales accounted for two-out-of-three distressed sales and the rest were short sales, NAR spokesman Walter Maloney said.

The NAR began tracking short sales in October 2008 and by February and March short sales peaked at 18% of sales. Lately, short sales have been averaging 12% to 13% of sales on a monthly basis.

In a short sale, the lender or servicer allows the defaulted homeowner to sell the property to avoid a foreclosure.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac completed 17,400 short sale transactions in the third quarter, up from 4,900 in the same period a year ago. Fannie alone completed 11,100 short sales in the third quarter, compared to 10,400 for all of 2008.

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