Bridge Loans

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One of the things I'm seeing a lot of these days is blanket advice on bridge loans.

A bridge loan is a loan that you take out with the explicit intention of having it be short term. The most common situation is a loan against property A, which you own but plan to sell, so that you can put a down payment on property B (or buy it outright) right now.

The motivation for this comes from the fact that people get paid to do bridge loans, and they are typically very easy loans to do. Frankly, the people making the recommendation make more money by doing the bridge loan than by not doing it, and they are not motivated to do the calculations and legwork to see which is the better deal for the consumer.

When it comes to money, blanket recommendations of any sort are automatically suspect, and usually wrong. Every situation is different, and there can be factors that cause an ethical professional to recommend something in one case where they would recommend against in another superficially similar one.

Bridge loans are no exception. In the example above, the advantage is that they make you a more qualified buyer, and can get you better rates on the loan for the new property. The disadvantage is that their closing costs are just as high as any other loan. So you're spending about $3500 extra plus points plus junk fees (if any). They are also, by definition, cash out refinances. The rate-cost tradeoff for cash-out refinances is less favorable than for purchase money loans. In plain English, they cost more.

The next major issue that arises is that they can make it more difficult to qualify for the loan on the new property, which can often mean that you need to go stated income or NINA when you might otherwise have qualified full documentation, which means you got a higher rate on the new property anyway, and that you're going to want to refinance your new purchase as soon as Property A sells anyway, sending another set of loan costs down the drain. Don't get me wrong, I love to do loans, and my pocketbook loves for me to do loans, but it's a good loan officer's job to look after your interests first.

Finally, choosing a bridge loan can force a choice upon you: A good loan that puts you in the position of having a need to sell within a specified time frame, and a mediocre loan that may not. The best (lowest) rates are for short term loans. Always have been, always will be. However, if the market sours, this can cause you to either accept an offer you would not have otherwise considered, or flush another set of closing costs down the toilet, when if you had chosen the mediocre loan, you would have been okay indefinitely.

Let's crunch some numbers. Let's say you have a property currently worth $250,000 that you bought for $125,000 and have paid down to $100,000. You want to upgrade to a $400,000 property now that your promotion and raise have settled in.

The first thing you do is pull cash out to 80 percent. On a 30 day lock of a 30 year conforming fixed rate loan, assuming you've got good credit, when I originally wrote this was about a 6.5 rate without points, and you'll actually get about $96,500 of that $100,000 you take out. I looked at shorter term fixed rate loans as well, but with the yield curve inverted right now since you're planning to sell, anything without a prepayment penalty is about the same, and a prepayment penalty is contra-indicated, as it means you'll have to pay thousands of dollars when you do sell.

You take and put that $96500 down on a new home purchase loan on a $400,000 home. It's over 20% down, so no PMI concerns, and no splitting into a second loan. But because you've got that $200k loan sitting over there, now you have to go stated income on the loan for the new home.

Actually, at this update, I don't know of any stated income loans. What that means is there's no way to qualify without coming up with more cash or waiting for the first property to sell. This means moving twice or hoping your buyer will let you lease the property back long enough to find a new property. Or simultaneous closings, a massively stress-inducing plan, because you're betting your ability to close on someone else being on-the ball.

But when we had it, stated income was one way of making this work. This means your rate was about 6.75 without points. Soak off another $3500 in loan costs, plus purchase costs of maybe another $1000. You now have two loans, one for $200k at 6.5 and one for about $312,000 at 6.75. Now the original home sells. Let's say you got full value of $250,000. You pay 5% in real estate commission, and maybe 2% more in other costs. That's $17,500, so you get $32,500 in your pocket. You have three choices, two of them productive. You can 1) Spend the money, 2) Invest the money, or 3) Use it on the other mortgage. A paydown, where you just plop the money down and keep making your same old current payment is a good idea (Unless there's a "first dollar" prepayment penalty), but most folks are obsessed with lowering their payment. So they take that $32,500, and of which $3500 is loan expenses, and (because now they can do full documentation), they end up with something like a $283,000 loan at 6.25 percent, assuming rates don't move. Total cost of loans: $10,500 assuming you pay no points for any of your loans. Perhaps possible for someone with above average credit. Not likely if your credit is below average.

Suppose instead, that you just leave that $100,000 loan sit on your original property. You're still going to have to do stated income on the new loan on the new property. But instead, you go with a 80 percent first, 15 percent second (another thing you can't do at the update because no second mortgage holder will go over 90% loan to value ratio) because you can come up with $25,000 until the first property sells. Same 6.75 rate on the first, and the second is an interest only at about 10.25, just to use the same lender whose sheet I happened to pull from the stack for the exercise. Loan costs, $4000 without points, which I priced the loan to avoid. First house sells, you get $132,500, replace the $25,000, and pay off that second, leaving you a $320,000 loan and about $47,500, holding cost assumptions constant ($1000 in non-loan costs). You could do a paydown, leaving $272,500 balance on a 6.75 loan, or you could take $3500 in closing costs and refinance to 6.25, just as above, leaving a balance of $276,000 if you don't pay any points. Total loan costs, $7500 and you only have to avoid paying points twice (once, as opposed to twice, if you take the paydown option. It takes a little under 37 months to break even on your interest savings). Furthermore, in less than hot markets, it gives you greater leverage with your seller to pay some part of your closing costs: "Do this, or I don't qualify". They have the home on the market for a reason, and they can help the buyer in hand or they can hope for another buyer to come along.

In this example, not doing a bridge loan saves you about $6500, less the additional interest (about $512/month) for the second mortgage until your first home sells, but plus approximately $541 per month interest every month between the time you initially refinance your original property and the time it finally sells, a longer period of time. Plus one set of possible mortgage points. So it's not difficult to construct scenarios where it's a good idea not to.

Let's look at a different scenario, however. Let's say instead of upgrading, you're already in the $400,000 home, and looking to downsize to a $100,000 condo. Furthermore, let's say you bought for $200,000 and are now down to $160,000 owed, just to keep the proportions consistent. You borrow out to $265,000 (paying $3500 in loan costs), which you qualify for full doc at 6.25. You then pay cash for the condo (including $1000 for purchase transaction costs, and you've still got $500 in your pocket). Furthermore, an all cash, no contingency transaction is a powerful negotiating tool for a seller to give you a good price. Then when your original property sells, costing you say 7%, or $28,000, in selling costs. You net $107,500 in your pocket. If you did no bridge loan, let's still assume you can come up with $25,000 on the short term, and you still qualify full documentation. Your rate on the condo is 6.375 without points, holding assumptions consistent. Then you sell the first property for the same $400k, paying the same 7% ($28,000) and paying off the $80,000 loan on the condo as well as replacing the $25,000. Net still $107,500 in your pocket, less additional interest charges for a little longer period, but you cut your stress level and put yourself in a stronger bargaining position, which is likely to be worth doing.

There are any number of reasons and factors to do a bridge loan or not to do a bridge loan. You may not have a minimum down payment without a bridge loan. That's probably the most common, as not all properties and purchases are eligible for 100 percent financing (at this update, the only way I know to get 100% financing is with a VA loan, and some require as much as a forty or even fifty percent down. The way a necessary transaction is structured. The presence or absence of 1035 exchange considerations is often a factor. Your credit score may limit you, or your ability to qualify full documentation may dictate the advantage lies in a different direction. Every situation has the potential for factors that may dictate an answer other than that given by pure numerical computation, and there are therefore, no valid blanket answers to the question of whether or not to do a bridge loan.

Caveat Emptor

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on January 25, 2014 8:30 AM.

Loan Rates for Low Income Families was the previous entry in this blog.

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