REMAX Broker Jennie Hillard has a new real estate certification that she said will allow the agency to better assist clients during the economic downturn.

Hillard recently became a "Certified Distressed Property Expert," or CDPE.

The credential allows Hillard to work with banks and clients to handle "short sales," where properties sell for less than the amount of their original mortgage.

Such sales are usually the last step before foreclosure, and allow sellers in a financial bind to fare better in terms of their credit rating than they would if the transaction ran its course.

Hillard said many people are struggling with homes that are now worth much less than their previous purchase price; increasing unemployment is another factor.

She said these days more and more properties meet the criteria for short sale status. Sellers must be unable to continue making payments and be headed for foreclosure to qualify.

"It's the biggest thing we're dealing with," Hillard said of short sales locally.

She said distressed sellers need knowledgeable help, and a ahort sale is one way to provide it. "It feels better to see this than foreclosure."

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