The term short sale is used because of the financial situation of the seller not a reflection of the process. Short sales are when a homeowner has fallen behind on their mortgage and can no longer afford the home. They need to get out from under the debt so the approach the bank and asked them if they will allow them to sell the home to a buyer for less than what they all. The difference between the sale price of the home and what the actual mortgage is, is the short. So it is not a reflection on the amount of time that it takes to purchase one of these homes.
It's important to note that short sales are the most complicated ways to purchase a home because there are so many moving parts. The easiest way to understand them is to take a look at the process itself. They're very attractive because are usually priced well under market value but that number in many cases is not realistic. Meaning it is a number that the listing agent has just arbitrarily used to attract buyers.
The bank will not even look at a short sale until several things have happened. For starters the sellers must be behind in their mortgage by several months. Second they need to have some type of hardship. Meaning a medical problem, job loss, divorce or any other type of situation that puts them in a position that they can no longer afford to pay for their home.
On average banks will take about 85% of their bottom line from what is owed after everything is said and done. This is not in stone and could change and be either more or less depending on the situation. That's exactly why every single short sale is different.
Once you've written a purchase agreement and come to terms with the seller they will then turn in the purchase agreement along with all of their personal information like bank statements, W-2s, prior-year taxes so that the bank can do a full financial analysis of the situation. This is what takes so long to get this done. This particular piece of the process can sometimes take in excess of six months.
The bank is well within their rights to come back and deny the short sale, force the sellers into foreclosure and take over the home. If this were to happen you as a buyer even with the purchase agreement have absolutely no rights. Once the homes foreclosed on then the bank owns it out right and the sellers have no other interest in it. So if your purchase agreement is with the seller and they no longer hold any claim to the property, then the banks do not have to honor that purchase agreement.
This is why they can be so problematic. So the best advice I can give you is to hire a real estate agent that can help you work through all of this to determine before you even start, if this is a good buy for you and what are the chances of success.