May 2019 Archives

First of all I love the information on the site. I've done some research into buying a home and have talked to several people who have bought homes and I can never believe the stories I've heard. My response is always "why didn't you just walk out . . it's only a $2000 deposit . . . you're paying that in the first year with the difference in interest you are getting now" but after reading your site it seems to me you would have to get lucky to find a good mortgage broker and get a good loan where what you are told is what you get. The rule seems to be if you want a house "getting screwed" is just a part of the process. In this market (DELETED) you would need to be especially lucky to find someone who is willing to be honest . . . it's a risk and, again, it seems to me being honest is will just lead all clients to the fibbers who, frankly, tell people what they want to hear.

Anyway, back in May 2003 I was looking for a house and a friend of mine was looking to invest $70,000 (that he got from another land sale) so he wouldn't have to pay taxes on it. We ended up buying a $150,000 home where I live now. By "we", I mean "he" because my name couldn't be on the loan for tax purposes (at least that's what they told us . . . it's hard to get good information). And, I know, I know, I have no rights and he can do whatever he wants and I understand that. If anything I've had a place to live where the rent was relatively low (but it sucks that I didn't get a house when they were affordable). I've been living in this house and paying the mortgage for more than 3 years now. I'm in a much better financial situation now and I'd like to buy the house from him. He also has another $70,000 from another land sale (I'm not sure of the details but suffice to say he is thinking about paying off the mortgage). Anyway, once all this happens I want to buy the house from him at a price way below market (similar houses are now around $300,000 but there is no way I'm paying $300,000 when I could have gotten it for $150,000 when I moved in). My question is: can a seller also be a lender? Where do I start? I've talked to a few people and they won't touch it . . . in fact, they have no advice whatsoever beside for me to move out and get my own house (which they would be happy to help me with). What are the tax implications of all this?

Thanks again.

If it was inevitable that you would get screwed as part of doing a real estate transaction, most of the information on this website would be useless and pointless. Furthermore, if it was inevitable, I'm not certain it would be appropriate to call it "getting screwed," if it happened on every transaction - it would simply be the way things are. But that is not the case - better outcomes are possible, and not uncommon. What I'm trying to do here is give folks the tools to get correct relevant information, make rational informed choices, find honest competent service providers (it is not as difficult as I may make it seem sometimes, but neither is it easy!), and in general have a better outcome, which is the target you really want to hit. How much effort you want to spend is up to the individual reader. If you want to do only the easiest and most basic items, it should still make a significant difference. If you want to go whole hog, you should see much larger benefits.

Now, as to your specific situation, here are the issues I see:

First off, I have never heard of a situation where you cannot be on the title "for tax purposes." The only tax purposes that would serve is allowing the other person to get the entire deduction, which he would anyway from being the only person on the loan. As soon as the loan is recorded, there is no reason why there could not have been a quitclaim from him to him and you (in whatever manner you desired to hold it, most likely tenants in common in this case). This would have started the clock on having you on title, and since you cannot refinance for cash out within six months of having your name put on title via quitclaim, this constrains your options as well as putting you at your friend's mercy. You may have been paying the mortgage, but even if you can prove it this is unlikely to give you any legal rights if your friend decides not to play it straight. That's what I'm told anyway - talk to a lawyer in your state to be certain.

The next issue, relatively minor, is that you have no verifiable history of paying either rent or mortgage payments at this point. Those checks you have been writing to pay the mortgage in your friend's name? Well, that mortgage is being reported as paid, but your name is not on it. Rent? Not there either.

However, assuming this really is a friend who intends to play it straight with you, this situation is very workable. If it was someone who wanted to work you over, you would be well and truly hosed. You bought for $150,000, of which your friend furnished $70k. The loan for the remainder that you have been paying for sure looks like your contribution to me! By my reading, this makes him approximately 7/15ths owner, and you 8/15ths, but if your friend has been playing it straight, he's done you a pretty big favor not just by tying up his money in the down payment, but by allowing his credit to be used for your loan. This has effects on his debt to income ratio if he wants another loan, among other things. I wouldn't mind ceding him a larger share of ownership were I in your shoes.

Whatever the amounts of ownership you agree upon, however, you are also going to need to agree on a method for valuation. Assuming you're not actually going to sell the property (in which case the net sale price would be the value) I'd probably agree to something like the average of a Comparative Market Analysis of sold properties in your area, and an appraisal. Appraisals are not what you could get on the market in the current conditions, and don't try to think that they are, but both measurements can be manipulated. Pay for each of them in equal shares. As compared to each of your investments, it's small potatoes, and a worthwhile guard.

You have an agreed valuation, and an agreed upon share of ownership. Out of that, you currently have a loan on your share, but that should probably be your issue, not the partnership's. So from that, you can figure what your friend's current share of ownership is, and therefore what he is due upon buy out. You should still have a pretty good ownership equity, roughly $80,000 by the rough amounts and ownership shares in the previous paragraph. So you need to come up with about $80,000 to pay off the current loan, plus about $140,000 (again, by the computations as to ownership share above, subject to revision per your agreement) to pay off your friend. Total owed: $220,000.

Your friend actually wants to go from owner to lender, and I don't know of anything wrong with that, although in all truth I've never encountered it before in this context (seller carrybacks happen all the time in this market). Furthermore, he wants to invest an additional $70,000 in being the lender. Whereas this will not qualify for 1031 tax deferred treatment as far as I can see (consult a tax professional), this means you are going to have two loans on the property, one from a regular lender, and one from your friend. The specifics of this are difficult to see without more information, and shopping your situation around (I'm not licensed in your state, so I can't put my wholesalers through that for no potential pay off!). It could well be that your friend's loan ends up in second position, but it strikes me as more likely appropriate for a first, as the guidelines for Home Equity Loans and Home Equity Lines of Credit are more likely to have this whole situation be acceptable to your lender for the balance.

As to the structure of the transaction, it's going to look like a sale, but don't expect real estate agents to want to work through that without a commission, which you are probably not going to want to pay, because all of the hard work to the transaction is kind of irrelevant in your case. On the other hand, good loan officers do these all the time. However, the commission structure for Home Equity Loans and Lines of Credit leaves them not making a whole lot of money unless you agree to pay them a flat fee for going through all of this, and for all the times I tell people that transactions aren't as difficult as some loan providers would have you believe, this is a very difficult transaction. I normally work on less than one point of total compensation for loans but I'd probably want to see about $6000 in order to put this transaction through, and that's if everything else is perfect. I don't know about your state's predatory lending law (most states have one, limiting total loan costs to a certain percentage of the loan), which may well prevent them from getting paid enough to make the transaction worthwhile for them. By comparison, on a loan of about $80,000 plus transaction costs, which is what the computations above suggest, California's predatory lending law limits total cost of the loan (and also total lender compensation via another law) to $4800. In most cases, direct lenders can basically ignore this by jacking the rate up so that they can sell the loan for more on the secondary market, but brokers cannot. And whereas that's way more than plenty in most situations, in this case it is not.

On top of everything else, this is a related party transaction. You are effectively selling from a partnership to one of the partners. That is going to mandate shopping lenders not only for price, but for willingness to do the transaction based upon the situation.

When I first wrote this, the loan was difficult but possible in that way. Today, I wouldn't even try without an upfront compensation agreement. You're going to need a very flexible lender. A paper Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac is right out, and due to changes in the market flexibility in lending standards is mostly a thing of the past. I might be able to find a portfolio lender that'll do it, or maybe not. We are going to have to document an awful lot of stuff, and there are a number of points on which the loan can fall apart. You're also probably going to want this to be a short term loan without a pre-payment penalty, so that you can refinance after you've been on title six months or so, because you'll be able to get a better rate then (unless rates have skyrocketed). All this stuff adds to the complexity, and whether the loan will get funded or not is not something I can control by paying attention to underwriting guidelines like I can in other cases. This requires a lender who's willing to issue some waivers and exceptions, and I might have to submit this loan several times to different lenders over a period of months before it actually funds. That's probably the reason nobody wants it: They can't get paid enough to make it worthwhile. The predatory lending law may have good intentions, but in this particular case it's making life difficult for the consumer because brokers and correspondents can't get paid enough to make it worth their while, and any given direct lender (especially the ones that consumers see, which tend strongly toward the A paper cookie cutter loan tailored to the pickiest of secondary market guidelines) is unlikely to have sufficiently flexible guidelines. You could go to a hard money lender, of course, but those rates are about fourteen percent or so, which causes most consumers to say, "Never mind!"

There is one other alternative. He could use that cash to buy you out, at which point he is left with basically his current loan, and I think this might even qualify for 1031 deferral (but consult a qualified tax professional before doing anything). If he can't rent it out for enough to have a positive cash flow under those circumstances, something is very badly wrong. He verifies that you've been paying rent/mortgage/whatever, and away you go with $70,000 or so in your pocket and all the leverage a qualified buyer has in a very strong buyer's market, and yours becomes a very easy transaction. I think you could do very well for yourself, given what little I know of your particular market at this point in time.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

This visitor came from a search engine on this search:

amortization of real estate loans early payoff based on a lump sum payment

This is one of the smart things you can do. Not necessarily the smartest, mind you, but smart. Unless you have a pre-payment penalty, you can always pay more than your minimum payment, and often even if you have penalty, you can pay some extra without triggering it. The question is if there's a better way to get a return on that money, whether by paying down a higher interest debt or by investing the money in a new asset. If you owe thousands of dollars on a credit card at twenty-four percent when your mortgage is at six, why would you want to pay down a tax deductible six percent instead of a non-deductible twenty four?

Similarly, if you can earn ten percent somewhere else with the money, why do you want to pay your six percent loan down? Net of taxes, a six percent loan costs you about 4.5 percent, depending upon your tax bracket and other deductions. Even if the return is not tax deferred, the return net of taxes on ten percent averages somewhere over seven percent for most folks. Say you are in the twenty-eight percent tax bracket and the ten percent is completely taxed every year. A lump sum of $10,000 will over the course of 15 years turn into $28,374 if invested. If it's fully tax deferred, it turns into $41,772. For comparison with other numbers later on in the essay, at twenty-seven years the numbers are $65,352 and $131,099, respectively. Not half bad.

Suppose you've got the cash flow to instead buy another property? That puts the power of leverage to work for you, and if you can rent out one of your properties or something, possibly multiply your money by a factor of ten within a few years. When you put ten percent down, and your new property appreciates ten percent while giving you a few dollars per month of cash flow, that's smart investing. At seven percent annual appreciation (historical average), you've doubled your purchase price in a little over ten years. A three hundred thousand dollar property will likely be a six hundred thousand dollar property in about ten years (It's just numbers), while you've paid the loan down from $270,000 to about $226,000. Even if your expenses of selling are seven percent, your gross is $558,000, less the $226,000 you've paid the loan down to, and you've come away from the property with $332,000, not counting those few dollars per month you netted after paying your expenses. Sure there are places and properties that don't pencil out, and being a landlord is a headache, but as you can see the potential rewards are substantial if it does "pencil out".

Now, let's say you do this every nine years on a three to one split, and 1031 Exchange the first two at least. After nine years you have $281,267 pre-tax, net in your 1031 account. You then turn around and buy three $600,000 properties. You end up with three loans of about $506,000 each. Assuming net zero cash flow on the properties, after nine more years, you have three loans at $434,100, netting you $1,775,286 into your 1031 accounts, which you then roll into three more properties each at $1.2 million purchase price. Your loans are $1,000,000 each, but let's say you rent them for enough money to break even on expenses. After nine years, you sell all of these properties, and end up with just a little under $10,750,000 net of sales costs in your pocket before tax, which at long term capital gains rates (15%) nets you $9.13 million or thereabouts. Admittedly in this example you did start with three times as much money, and nobody in their right mind sells off nine highly appreciated properties in one year, and you did have the headaches of being a landlord on an increasingly widespread basis for those twenty-seven years, but this illustrates the money to be made for the same investment. Patience and leverage working for you over time are far more powerful than any quick flip.

But assuming there are no better alternatives, it is a smart idea to pay down your mortgage. Here's why: Let's say your balance is $270,000 at six percent, and you pay your loan balance down by $10,000. Your regular payment was $1618.78, and it still is, but interest is $1350 of that. Only $268.78 would normally be applied to principal. Yeah, you've just sent them about six months of payments - but it just paid your loan down by three years of principal payments. Assuming you never sell and never refinance and never pay an extra penny again, you will be done in month 324 - saving yourself thirty-six payments for a total savings of $58,276. Although you need to time discount the money significantly, that's still a pretty decent return on the money. Not to mention that if you do refinance, you'll pay lower fees. Not in the league of some of the alternatives above, but still a nice return on investment. From a financial management standpoint, it definitely beats just spending the money.

Caveat Emptor

Original here


I got this email the other day, responding to one of my Hot Bargain Properties posts on my other site:


I am currently working with a coworker with no agreement. However, she has offered to rebate 50% of her commission. Are you negotiable with your commission?

I am very ready to buy a place at a bargain or discounted price. I have been pre approved by DELETED for $550 but I do not want to spend more than $525, preferably around the $450 range.

I have sufficient liquid funds for 10% down and have an excellent credit score...score 3 months ago was 752.

Let me know.

I do have lower cost and commission rebate packages for when buyers bring me transactions that have the property at least settled upon. The reason is that not only is there much less work to be done done, but I'm providing a lot less value in those circumstances. I'm not going out and going over dozens of properties, eliminating eighty percent of them before taking them around to see the good stuff. I'm not doing background checks on all those properties, looking for issues. At the point that the property is settled on, at least half of the value a good buyer's agent brings in is already moot. We've already dealt with the issue of which property (or properties) are worthy of making an offer on. Now we're down to negotiations, where I still provide a lot of value, facilitation of the transaction, which any real estate agent worthy of their license can do, and looking out for problems, which starts earlier when I'm locating the property, but when you have title companies and building inspectors and appraisers getting into the act and getting paid, it becomes easy. It's no longer a matter of spotting the issue before an offer is made, it's a matter of dealing with the issue if and when it pops up. Much easier, much less time consuming, and much less liability on my part. When you've decided to make an offer before I even come into the picture, there is no issue with whether my representations caused you to make an offer on the property when you would not otherwise have done so. I haven't been sued yet, but that's the number one cause of real estate lawsuits. Sometimes it's an unscrupulous agent telling the folks that the airport is going to close, but sometimes it's also people who think the agent said something they did not in fact say, and sometimes it's people who make something up due to buyer's remorse. If you've already decided to make an offer, that whole issue is gone. Liability? Much less. Amount of work done and time invested? Way less. Amount of value provided to buyers? Also much lower. So yes, I'll work for less in those situations.

When I'm responsible for finding the property, I retain the entire commission.

Yes, consumers getting half the buyer's agent commission seems like a good idea on the face of it. One to 1.5 percent of a purchase price in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But how much value do those agents really provide? Consider: Did that agent find them something as interesting as the property they emailed me on? If the agent they were working with was finding them properties like that, there would be no need and no interest in working with me, and they wouldn't be asking about this property I found. If that agent spent enough time shopping the market that she even knows what is and is not a bargain, this person would never have contacted me. Does she look for problems and issues or does she just say "Here is the living room," and try to talk you into making an offer on every property? What value is that other agent providing you? If the answer is, "not much," then no wonder she's willing to rebate half the commission! As far as she's concerned, the half she does keep is free money for going around and looking with you. My goal is that my clients end up with at least 10% they would not have had without me - either a better property for the same money, or the same value property for a lower price, or some combination of the two. Now, if getting half of a two point five percent commission via rebate sounds better than saving 10% of the value of the property, or getting a property 10% more valuable for the same price, by all means keep shopping agents who rebate commission. If getting a property that is worth more, or paying less for the same property, is what you are after, you need someone who is likely to deliver that, and those discounters business model does not allow them to invest the time and energy to do so. Quite frankly, if they don't make a habit of it, they aren't likely to have the necessary expertise, even if they wanted to.

You may ask about how this squares with my attitude about loans. Yes, I'm one of the deepest loan discounters there is. That's because a loan is a loan is a loan, as long as it's on the same terms, and most folks qualify for better loans than they get. A thirty year fixed from National Megabank is the same loan as a thirty year fixed from the Bank of Nowhere in Particular, provided the rate, costs, and terms are the same. Only difference is who you make the check out to.

Real estate is on the polar opposite end of that scale. No two properties are alike. Especially in the current market, the difference between shopping smart and not doing so is multiple tens of thousands of dollars, far more than a commission rebate. I don't rebate buyer's commissions because I provide more than that in value. In my estimation, and that of the people who are working with me, it's money well spent. You get what you pay for.

Good buyers agents make a habit of looking for real bargains, whether or not they have a client it's appropriate for. It's called market knowledge. With market knowledge, a good agent can not only identify the ones that are bargains, you are able to negotiate better terms on those bargains. Good buyer's agents usually have bargains they know about that they just haven't found the appropriate client for yet. If you'd like to work with them and get shown these bargains, or have them go looking for bargains specifically for you, there is a price to be paid, and that price is that they make a little more money than the do-nothing discounter. You don't pay it, at least not directly, the listing agent does, and through them, the seller. If you believe that the final price might be somewhat higher to reflect that, you would have some justice on your side, provided you don't consider the value in locating the bargain property, the value in negotiating for a better price, and the value in avoiding problems before they happen, or dealing with them in initial negotiations rather than at the end of escrow. If you don't see the value, then not only are you saying that you don't see the solution, but that you don't understand that there is an issue. This indicates someone on the first level of competence: The unconscious incompetent. Not only do you not know how to do it, you don't realize that there is acquired knowledge and acquired skill involved.

Now a good agent who knows they provide value should have no difficulties asking only for a non-exclusive buyer's agent contract. if you don't like what that agent does, if you do not agree that there is value in that agent's approach, this leaves you free to stop working with them at any time and go work with someone else. If the agent doesn't perform, as in find and deliver a property that you agree is more "bang for the buck" than you would otherwise have gotten, by all means go work with the bump on a log who splits the buyer's commission with you.

If you want a Yugo agent that breaks down in the middle of the transaction and leaves you stranded, that's no skin off my nose, but you are not the client I'm looking for and the bargains I find are for my clients. I am neither obligated nor inclined to share them with people who want to use some other agent. Go find them yourself if you don't think I'm providing value. Just the knowledge that something like that is available should be a large amount of help. But if you can't, perhaps you might consider that perhaps I might be providing a certain amount of real value for my pay?

Very few people reading this are likely to be receiving minimum wage for their employment. If you are not prepared to concede that it is possible for more skilled, more knowledgeable people to deliver a more valuable product, whether that product is service or commodity, what possible justification do you have in making more than minimum wage? For that matter, unless you are one of those people whose work has to be done on site, why isn't your job being done by some subsistence level worker in a Fifth World hellhole? Even if we limit ourselves in the application of this principle to qualified and licensed people here in the United States, my guess is that your boss could probably hire other people to do your job more cheaply, but his additional investment in you probably makes him more money than that cheap replacement worker would save, and that's the reason you are worthy of your pay. This very same reason is why I am also worthy of my pay.

By the characteristics they are claiming, the person with the email at the top of the article is a very qualified buyer. Don't you think that should be working with someone who knows how to use that as leverage to get them a better bargain? Suppose they weren't so qualified. Don't you think it might be in their best interest to have an agent who knows how to structure a transaction so that it can work, and can help avoid wasting time and money on properties and transactions where it can't and sellers who do not have the option of working with them in the requisite way?

Or you can pay full price for a mediocre property, and console yourself with a rebate for much smaller amount of cash, that when you consider the entire situation, is a fraction of the money that came out of your pocket but didn't have to. Pay too much, and get a check back for at most a fifth of it in cash. Sound like a good deal to you? Maybe you didn't pay cash for the property, but then you've got a loan, and you paid additional fees based upon the size of that loan, and interest because you borrowed that money, and more in property taxes because you paid more than you should have. All of this eats away at money you would otherwise have in your pocket and equity that you would otherwise have in the property. Just because there's no explicit dollar figure on it doesn't make it any less real. How would you feel about writing a check drawn directly on your net worth for some unknown amount? Not so hot? That's what you are doing by using some bump on a log discounter who basically allows you to keep a percentage of what they provided no real value to earn. This is one of the largest transactions of your life. Scrimping on the compensation of the person who has the knowledge and skills to save you many times what they cost is almost as intelligent as OJ Simpson hiring a cheap lawyer. Even though I hope that you haven't been accused of murder, using a less skillful agent means you wasted money. Even though that's not a crime and you did it to yourself, it's still nothing beneficial to your overall financial picture.

Caveat Emptor

Original here


No, I never was a David Letterman watcher, for reasons having to do with turning into a pumpkin before his show started. I'm going to treat it a little more seriously than he did, as this is a serious subject, but I'll do my best to inject a little humor into it.

10. Surrounding Environment - These are environmental factors arising from areas beyond your property, and therefore, beyond your immediate control. Freeway noise 24/7, being downwind of a hog or chicken farm, being next door to a strip club with a huge neon sign constantly flashing, "LIVE NUDE GIRLS" - all of these and many more neighborhood factors can prevent people from even looking at your property. They see what's around it, and decide they're not interested in living there, or that the investment potential for the property is limited (to be charitable). The only real way to fix problems of this nature is not to buy the property in the first place. Look at all of the issues. Just because it doesn't bother you now doesn't mean it won't bother prospective purchasers later. Blame your buyer's agent. If you didn't have a buyer's agent, that leaves only one candidate for blame. You'll find them hanging around any mirror you might check.

9 HOA: This is closely related to surrounding environment, and condos and PUDs are the poster children of what a lot of people don't want. People want the property to be theirs to do with as they please. It's a sad fact of life that in an increasing number of places, they are going to be disappointed because they can't afford anything without a homeowner's association. Homeowner's Asssociations really are a good guardian of property values, but they have a tendency to give way to much power to the busybody and the would-be dictator. Unfortunately for a lot of people, the newer developments they crave all have homeowner's associations because while everyone knows that they personally can be trusted to maintain the property, those horrible neighbors who can't be trusted won't trust them. Unfortunately, the only way to appeal to people who don't want an HOA is not to have an HOA. Once again, blame the buyer's agent that "helped" with your purchase.

8. Zoning: Zoning restrictions, lot constraints, etcetera are all parts of this category. If you've got a two bedroom property and setback requirements keep you from building a third bedroom, your property is not likely to appeal to people who need a three bedroom place to live in. Once again, the only way to fix this issue is not to buy where it is an issue. Over-restrictive zoning is a real economic problem for a lot of reasons, but while people like to be able to cause everyone else in the neighborhood problems by not having enough parking for their apartment house or mini-dorm, they don't want everybody else turning the tables and causing them problems. Yeah, maybe you can get the zoning changed sometimes - but that's not the way to bet.

7. Schools: If you buy in an area that includes the right to attend a great public school, that's a gift you give yourself that keeps on giving, at least until the neighborhood starts voting against additional property tax bonds. Or if you can cause a school that heretofore taught only "hanging out with a GPS tracker on your ankle," to start teaching the kids some economically desirable skills, you can expect a windfall in the form of property value. I think that shackling kids to a particular neighborhood public school is slow motion suicide for society, but evidently at least fifty percent plus one of teacher's unions feel it's beneficial to getting union leaders more money and power. Once again, this is just a fact of life, and once you have bought a particular property, you're locked into whatever the local educational insanity might be.

6. Clutter: If you're tripping over knick-knacks, carnivorous house plants, and cannot eat meals as a family because the table is six feet deep in stuff, it would be a real good idea to do something about it. There are a lot of easy options here: Trash, charity, storage rental, loan or give it to some family member who's not trying to sell their house. If you're trying to sell, engrave the saying, "A place for everything and everything in its place" upon your soul for the duration. If there's any doubt as to whether you need it in your day to day life, the place for it is "elsewhere." If the place is so full of your stuff, people worry about whether there's going to be room for their stuff. Believe me when I tell you I understand how difficult this is: I've got two young kids and two dogs, all four of which are highly efficient entropy generators, but getting clutter under control and keeping it there is critical to selling for a good price.

5. Staging: Absolutely empty is better than "chock full of clutter," but then people wonder how their stuff would fit. I still have trouble believing this one, but I have to admit the facts. Most people have a hard time picturing their couch and their TV in the living room. A small amount of furniture gives them a reference point, scale, and a starting point for their mental decoration. It helps them figure out how their stuff is going to fit. A bare minimum of vanilla furniture shows better than even a vacant, empty property. Even most stagers seem to want to put too much stuff in the place, for some reason. Seriously, keep it to a bare minimum. A bed in the bedroom, a couch in the living room, a dining set in the dining room. A bed and maybe one nightstand in the master bedroom, a coffee table and placeholder for the TV in the living room. That's it. If the place is not vacant, and you are still living there, that's still the target you should aim at. If you don't absolutely have to have it every day, get it out of there. This especially applies to family heirlooms, anything expensive, and anything irreplaceable. Get. It. Out. People want to be able to see their stuff in the place, and they can't do that if there's too much of yours. By the way, this applies to you, too, at least while prospective buyers are looking at it. Don't follow them around your property like you're worried they're going to steal the silverware. Get out. If there's anything you're worried about them stealing, get it out also, and keep it out until the property is sold. For everything else, your listing agent should have a record of who has been in the property, and you should be insured even if you're not trying to sell the property.

4. Condition Is it clean? Is it neat? Is it attractive? Here's an example for you: Carpet is at most $40 per square yard, installed, with a good pad. If you've got a hundred square yards of carpet that needs to be replaced, call it $4000. Not replacing it will probably cost you at least $10,000 on the sales price. More likely double that, and it'll take longer to sell and you'll end up giving a carpet allowance to your buyers out of what you do get. Dirty floors, chipped tiles, all that stuff is unbelievably costly not to fix. Believe me, I understand what a pain it is. My newest family member loved to chew drywall when she was a puppy. It costs far less to fix it yourself than you're going to have to give up to sell the property. Get a cleaning service in if you don't want to scrub everything yourself. It's stupid, but opening the blinds or drapes so that prospective buyers see all that light as they're walking in is worth serious cash, not to mention much broader interest. The point is this: Many prospective buyers have the imagination of a rock, and their agent isn't any better, because they don't want to say anything that would give the people they're supposed to be helping (but aren't) grounds to sue. You can choose to market only to the people who are visualization's answer to Albert Einstein, but it really does narrow your potential market, and hence, cost you money and time (and therefore more money) when you're trying to sell.

3. Showing Restrictions: If people can't see your property when they have the time, they're not going to make an offer on it. Cold hard fact. Since the time of highest interest is the first few days its on the market, if you haven't gotten an offer withing thirty days, not only is something wrong but it's cost you some serious cash in the form of lowered selling price. Showing instructions are easy to fix. "Just go!" is absolutely the best, but (unless you're an international supermodel), prospective buyers don't want to catch you in the shower or in bed any more than you want to be caught there. One bad experience in this area is all any agent needs, and I've had mine (believe me, you don't want details). Asking for a few minutes notice so you can evacuate is reasonable. Telling prospective buyers to avoid a time slot is also reasonable. But the more restrictions you put on showing, the more likely it will be that you've raised the cost for viewing your property too high. Asking for four hour notice - let alone 24 - is almost guaranteed to prevent prospective buyers from viewing your property. And if someone does ask that far in advance, for crying out loud get back with them and be as accommodating as you possibly can. I actually laid out a trip "day before" last week, and of the seven people who wanted advance notice, precisely one got back to me. That gives me quite a bit of information as to how interested they really were in selling the property, which is to say, not very. Even if you don't really care if the property sells, act like you do.

2. Price: I really hope you weren't expecting this to be number one. Buyers choose properties to look at based upon asking price. They choose which property to make an offer on based upon how well your property compares to others of similar asking price. If your property is clearly outclassed by properties of equivalent asking price, you're doomed. It is to be noted that just about every sin in the list is forgivable if the price is low enough, but the more sins there are, and the worse the violation, the lower the sales price is going to be, and most of the rational world wants the highest possible net from the sale. Trying to make believe that any problems that exist aren't there will only prevent the property from selling at all.

1. The Agent Plain and simple, you've chosen a bad one. Either they don't market the property effectively, they don't explain how things work to you, they make it difficult for other agents to show the property, they discourage offers represented by other agents, they don't return phone calls, they evidence a bad attitude, they're using your property to troll for buyer clients and don't want it to actually sell - the list goes on and on. They're effectively raising the price to make an offer on your property. Just because you've signed a listing agreement doesn't mean you're on cruise control. You need to monitor agent performance. At least, if you want to know whether they are performing or not. Are they forwarding all offers? Are they discouraging people from making offers because that offer might mean they don't get a kickback? All of these sins and many others really do happen.


Bonus Super Deluxe Reason. Homeowner Attitude About sixty percent of all listings I read leave me with one very strongly negative conclusion: That the owner of this property does not really want to sell. Maybe it's the agent's fault in some cases, but if you won't find - or pay attention to - an agent who won't tell you unpleasant truths, you're hurting only yourself. I tell my buyer clients that there is no such thing as a perfect property, but the same warning is equally important to sellers. There is no such thing as a perfect property, and acting like you own one is a great way to drive buyers and their agents off. You are not doing buyers a favor by putting your property on the market. You have real estate, the most illiquid investment there is, you want the cash those buyers have, and you're not going to get it by giving them reasons why you're too difficult to do business with. If you didn't want what buyers have (cash), you wouldn't have the property on the market. Buyers, their agents, anybody who comes to look at that property is helping you get what you want. I believe that people who look at the property you're trying to sell are doing you a favor. Even if they just want to look at it, in the middle of the best seller's market there has ever been. If the property doesn't show, you won't get offers - guaranteed. If you don't get offers, you are highly unlikely to consummate a successful sale. The property is only worth what someone is willing to offer for it - end of discussion. If the most you can get someone to offer is thirty-nine cents, that's what it's worth. You can choose to sell or not to sell for that price, but trying to tell yourself or anyone else that the property is "worth $400,000" when nobody is making offers that high is a waste of energy, and quite likely, of a buyer and an offer that really are offering the best you're likely to get.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

We got behind on house pymts & it was sent to an attorney for foreclosure.? The attorney has printed a notice in our paper on Oct 9 that it will go up for public action on Nov.16th. We found out we could get financial help on friday. Can we stop this action now without it going up for auction?

This never ceases to amaze me. People have a contract they can't meet, and they don't call the other party to see if anything can be done.

The lenders do NOT want to foreclose on any more properties right now. Actually, this is pretty much a constant of the real estate market. They never want to foreclose; they will only do so when it is apparently the least bad solution to their situation.

To be truthful, you should have called the lender and explained your situation as soon as you knew you were going to be late with a payment. Lenders will always work with anyone to a reasonable extent, but now they're bending over backwards. Foreclosures are 1) bad publicity, 2) bad for their relationship with the secondary loan market, and 3) almost certain to lose them a blortload of money.

Call them this instant (or as soon as they open on Monday) and ask for Loss Mitigation. They will not be as forgiving as if you'd called them right away, but they're still likely to be willing to work something out. Just about anything is better than losing it through foreclosure, I might add, so you be willing to give as much as you can to encourage them. Foreclosures hit them in ways beyond the cash they immediately lose. They don't want to foreclose.

Now, the downsides:

First off, you've waited until you are "in extremis", long past the best time to call the lender. They're quite likely to see your belated request to talk as a last ditch method to delay the inevitable. Lots of folks do precisely this. Had you called earlier and been working with them all along, made agreements and kept them, they'd have evidence you're really doing your best to get them their money. You're not a criminal, but this is the same sort of behavior judges see with convicted criminals at sentencing, faking penitence to avoid jail - then they go right out and do the same thing again.

Payment modifications aren't some kind of magical "make it all better" The lender wants their money, and they're not going to settle for a situation that doesn't turn the loan into what they call a "performing asset." If you borrowed more money than you could really afford, and you aren't able to make at least the interest payments on it at real rates, as many people with negative amortization loans did, then the best modification they'll agree to really isn't going to help you, and you're better off selling the property ASAP, even if you don't get enough for the property to cover what you owe ("short sales").

Bottom line: Please call and ask them. It never hurts to ask. But be mentally prepared if such a modification doesn't really solve your problem. Because you waited until the very end, don't be surprised if their willingness to work with you is limited, but even in such circumstances, they would rather not foreclose if you can show them another course that gives them better prospects for getting more of their money back.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

That was a question that brought someone to the site and the answer is very simple: they don't give you the loan. You haven't agreed to pay them back, so why should they?

There are two major cases of this, one of which has two sub-cases. The first case is that if it's a purchase money loan. Because you don't get the loan when you don't sign mortgage documents, there may be issues with whether or not the seller is entitled to keep your good faith deposit. If you can come up with the cash to pay the seller from somewhere else, for instance, if you have it sitting around and just would have preferred to get a loan, no worries. You still have the option of hauling out your checkbook, and you can get a loan later, although it will be "cash out" loan which generally has a rate and term trade-off a little bit higher than "purchase money" as well as implications for deductibility. But since most people don't fall into this category - people with the cash lying around - you are probably looking at the unpleasant reality of not having the money to purchase the property. In most cases, the loan contingency has expired, assuming there was one to start with (I used to advise people to apply for a back-up loan, but changes in the loan environment have killed the backup loan). Matter of fact, usually all of the contingencies have expired, leaving you without anything to excuse not consummating the transaction. Therefore, any good faith deposit is at risk, not to mention that the transaction may well be dead. The seller only agreed to give you that exclusive shot to buy the property for so many days. If you want to extend escrow, most sellers will require some additional consideration in the form of cash in order to allow the extension. In fact, many agents and loan officers have gotten very lazy and lackadaisical about deadlines, with potentially severe repercussions to you, their client. Once those contingencies have expired, usually on day seventeen, you typically are stuck. Consult a lawyer for the exceptions, but there really aren't very many. This is one of the many reasons why being successful in real estate is about anticipating possible problems and taking precautions. If you wait until the problem crops up, it's usually too late, and often, the best thing to do is sign the loan documents even though they are nothing like the loan quote that got you to sign up with that company, because otherwise the consequences of not signing are even worse than signing. Many loan companies target the purchase money market with this in mind.

The second major case is if you are refinancing, which leaves you in pretty much the same boat you were in before you started the transaction. You own the property already. You have a loan now. Unless you have a balloon loan coming due, you just continue on with what you were doing before you started the process of refinancing.

There are two major reasons why people refinance: Better terms, or cash out. If you are doing it for better terms, and the new loan doesn't deliver, there pretty much is no reason to sign those documents. This includes if they are actually willing and able to deliver the rate, just not at the cost they indicated when you sign up. There is always a trade-off between rate and cost in mortgage loans. Usually, the lowest rate will not be worth the costs you have to pay to get it, but if they lie about what it really costs to get you to sign up, those final loan documents are going to have a rude surprise if you look at them carefully. All but the worst scamsters will usually deliver that rate and type of loan they talk about. Where they fall short, or actually, go over, is in the costs department, because a loan with $5000 more in costs will likely have a lower payment than the loan where they don't hit you for those extra $5000 in costs, but do give you the rate that the costs they talked about really buys. Most people shop and compare and choose loans by payment. It may be short-sighted and the best way there is to end up with a bad loan, but they do it anyway. They are more likely to bail out of a loan where the monthly payment is $60 more than they were initially told but has the same costs, then they are to back out of a loan where the payment is $40 more because an extra $8000 in costs "somehow" appeared at closing, never mind that the former is probably a better loan for them.

Refinancing for cash out is a more nebulous area. Since it's a refinance loan, you probably don't have a deadline, so you can go back to the beginning and start all over if you want to. Sometimes, however, rates have shifted upwards since you started the process, and so it can be to your advantage to go ahead and reward the company that lied to you in order to get you to sign up. If rates are the same, however, dump that problem provider and see if you can go find someone less dishonest! Furthermore, sometimes people have absolute deadlines as to when they need that cash, or it saves them so much money that they are better off signing those documents anyway, or the improved cash flow means they don't have to declare bankruptcy. Most often, there is plenty of time to go back to the beginning and try again, but there are exceptions. Once again, I used to advise people to apply for back up loans, but neither I nor anyone else can productively do back-up loans any longer due to changes in the lending environment. Meanwhile, all of this rewards the company who lies to get you to sign up - something you really don't want to do.

When you don't sign loan documents, if you have put down a deposit with the lender, you are going to lose it. Low cost ethical loan providers who really can deliver what they talk about, and whose rates really are competitive, do not typically ask for deposits, and are willing to work without them if they do ask. They know their rates are competitive, that they intend to deliver what they talked about and that there are any rates significantly better out there. It's only when the company fails one of these tests that they have a real need for a deposit, in order to commit you to their loan.

One more item needs to be covered: Irrelevant documents aren't needed. I don't need anybody except those folks who are getting a negative amortization loan to sign a negative amortization disclosure (assuming I ever did one, which I didn't). The same thing applies to pre-payment penalties. If they don't apply to your loan, they shouldn't be required. If they can't fund your loan without it, there is a reason, so don't sign disclosures you aren't willing to accept the implications of. If you sign a negative amortization disclosure, the legal presumption is going to be that you realized it was a negative amortization loan and accepted it on those terms. Ditto a pre-payment penalty rider. Of late, unscrupulous companies seem to be asking people to sign these after loan funding "for compliance". Consult with your lawyer, but I wouldn't sign them at all. If they were able to fund your loan without them, they are obviously not a necessary part of the loan structure. If not, why did they fund your loan without them? The only "compliance" aspect is to this is complying with them getting paid more money. Admittedly, it's small-minded to refuse to sign the pre-payment rider when you were informed at sign up that the loan had a pre-payment penalty, but bottom line, they shouldn't fund your loan if they aren't willing to accept it as it sits, and that's not the situation most folks are running into. They are asking the questions and being told the answer is "no," only to discover later that the answer was really "yes," but by lying to their prospective customers, some loan providers can get paid large amounts of money and pawn bad loans off on most of their customers.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

This is part and parcel of the system that's abused. Here are sample rates from one A paper lender, picked at random, that were in effect when I originally wrote this. Rates are lower now, but it's a good example nonetheless. These were Fannie and Freddie conforming 30 year fixed rate mortgages with full documentation of the loan. The first number is the cost for a 15 day lock, the second for a 30 day lock, and the third for a 45 day lock. A positive number means it costs that number of discount points to get the rate. A negative number means that the lender will pay that many discount points for a loan done on those terms. I want to make the point that these are wholesale rates, but I didn't feel like translating them to retail. I don't work for free any more than you do, nor does any other loan provider.

5.625% 1.50 1.75 2.00
5.750% 1.00 1.25 1.50
5.875% .375 .625 .875
6.000% 0.00 0.25 0.50
6.125%-0.50-0.25 0.00
6.250%-1.00-0.75-0.50
6.375%-1.50-1.25-1.00
6.500%-1.75-1.50-1.25
6.625%-2.25-2.00-1.75
6.750%-2.50-2.25-2.00
6.875%-2.75-2.50-2.25
7.000%-3.50-3.25-3.00


As you should notice throughout, there is a 0.25 spread in costs between locking in any particular rate for 15 days as opposed to 30, or 30 days as opposed to 45. This is because it costs them money to have the money standing around doing nothing waiting for your loan to fund. The difference in costs between a 15 day lock and a 45 day lock at the same rate is half a point. When I wrote this, the column you wanted to pay attention to was the thirty day column. Due to regulatory changes and market changes, that's not the case any longer. In point of fact, nobody actually locks the loan with a lender any longer until they have at least every 'prior to documents' condition satisfied with the underwriter, meaning the lender has agreed that there appear to be nothing in the borrower's financial condition that would result in them rejecting the loan, and are prepared to draw up a final loan contract for signature. It costs the loan officer - and their company - too much if a loan is locked but not delivered.

When I started in this business, I locked every loan as soon as the customer said they wanted it. That meant a thirty day lock if you (the loan officer) were on the ball. You can't do that any more without losing your shirt, because if you don't fund at least seventy percent of what you lock, the lenders are going to refuse to do business with that loan officer, and they have surcharges on the loan officer if they fail to actually fund at least eighty percent of what they lock. Given how paranoid lenders have gotten, you're going to have a certain number of applicants who flat out cannot qualify, and in at least one case out of ten, that failure is unpredictable just because nobody is the cookie cutter picture of an ideal underwriting scenario any longer.

Given regulatory changes, a loan officer has to be on the ball to get a refinance funded in two weeks from lock. Even if everything is ready to go, the lenders want a final redisclosure 7 days before signing documents, and with the three day right of rescission on refinances it takes another week after signing to actually fund the loan. That's once everything else is ready to go. You want the rate locked as early as practical, or you really have no idea whether it will be available when you get to the end of the process but other changes to the business make it prohibitively expensive to lock your loan at all before you have an underwriting commitment. Many providers work on a "promise the moon and wait and hope" basis, hoping the rates will drop. They get one loan for sure, when they lure you in with a low quote they cannot currently deliver, and if they get lucky and rates drop, you think they walk on water.

Now this is a fairly broad spread rate sheet, as the company was willing to take clients through a large range. On the other hand, at a 5/8ths of an additional point hit for 1/8th percent rate below 5.875, they were telling you that they really would prefer to keep their customer's rates locked in for 30 years above that. On the other hand, since most people dispose of their old loans about every two years, most folks shouldn't want to pay those costs, which will take much more than two years to recoup from the lower rate. It's much the same phenomenon as insurance companies guarding against adverse selection (only those folks who have major health problems buying health insurance, for example).

Which loan is the best for you? Don't know without more specifics. It depends on approximate loan amount, your life plans, your proclivities, and your financial situation.

But the devil is in the details, and one of the worst and most common devils is details is a provider "forgetting" the adjustments. Adjustments generally mean that the loan will be more costly than the basic rate/cost tradeoff outlined above, so "forgetting" to post the adjustments on a Good Faith Estimate is one of the easiest and most effective ways to lie in order to make your loan look more attractive by comparison. Since most providers don't guarantee their estimates, they can do this with basic impunity, but make no mistake - they know what the price is really going to be. If they won't guarantee their estimates, ask them why not. Here are the possibly applicable adjustments for this category:

Loan amount under $60,000: half a point
Loan amount $60k up to $100k: quarter of a point
cash out loan, 70-80% LTV: half a point
cash out loan, 80-90% LTV: three quarters of a point
Investment property 50-75% LTV: one and a half points
Investment property 75-80% LTV: two points
Investment property 80-90% LTV: two and a half points
No Impounds fee: quarter point
2 units 90-95% LTV: half a point
Manufactured home: three quarters of a point (they also have an absolute maximum CLTV of 80%)
Loan distribution
80/15/5 quarter of a point
75/20/5 quarter of a point
Interest only one and one eighths points
if CLTV over 90%: additional quarter point
97 percent of purchase price financed: three quarters of a point
100 percent of purchase price financed: one and a half points
2/1 Buydown two and a half points
Stated income FICO 680-699: half a point
Stated income FICO 700+: quarter of a point
(Stated Income loans are not available from any provider I'm aware of at this update)

So let's see. If you are doing a cash out to 75 percent loan stated income and have a credit score of 690, you add one point to the costs listed above. (half a point for stated income at 690, half a point for cash out to 75%)

If you have an investment property duplex at 90 percent LTV, you would add three points (investment property loans are relatively expensive, as you can see, and it isn't restricted to this lender. They are riskier loans)

Doing 100% financing on a $50,000 home: Two points. (when it was available)

One hopes you get the idea. To leave these out is a tempting omission for the less ethical providers. Just because they are left out does not mean you won't pay them. You will. Usually they will spring them on you with the final closing documents and hope you don't notice. Surprise!

(Between this profession and being a controller for twelve years, people should not wonder why I think that's one of the ugliest words in the language).

Indeed, during my six weeks at the Company Which Shall Remain Nameless, I had no fewer than three screaming arguments with my supervisor over telling prospective clients the truth about adjustments. They didn't want me to. I have this thing about telling clients the truth as best I know it.

Why do they do this? At signup, you have little emotional buy-in. At final loan docs, you are signing so much stuff that even a marginally skilled person who's trying to distract you will be successful a lot of the time. The industry statistics say that over fifty percent literally never notice, at least until much later, after the transaction is irrevocable. And somewhere around eighty five percent of those who notice do just want the process to be over so badly that they will sign anyway, not to mention the fact that in the case of a purchase, they probably don't have any choice at that point. They need the loan to get the house, without which they lose the deposit, and there is no more time remaining in the contract with which to go out and get another loan.

Caveat Emptor

Original here


Right now, due to the problems we had with unsustainable loans, nobody wants to consider anything but a thirty year fixed rate loan. I understand why, especially as I've been preaching the dangers of things like short term adjustable interest only loans and negative amortization loans here for almost eleven years now. The trick is one of balance. The negative amortization loan not only has a higher interest rate than other loans (aka cost of money) but you're adding to the balance you owe every month. This has compound interest working against you. If this were not the case, you could afford a better loan (there are no worse ones). For such things as an interest only 2/28, once again you're setting yourself up with a loan that you cannot afford and a short time during which you need to be able to refinance. The balance of that interest only 2/28 may not be growing, but it isn't going down much either. In only two years, you're going to not only need to refinance it, but almost certainly roll a bunch of closing costs into your balance as well. Suppose rates are higher? Suppose prices are lower? These twin facts describe the situation lots of folks are in right now, and my article on Refinancing When You Owe More Than The Home Is Worth is one of my most popular pieces of search engine bait, despite the fact that it is very much in the way of hoping you can make something a little less bad out of a horrible situation. Two years in real estate is fairly short term. Considering a two year window, I'm more certain today than at any time in the last ten years that property values (at least local to me) will be significantly higher two years from now (at least 10%), but confidence in that prediction is only in the 90 to 95% range. Two years just isn't enough time. Like when I was a financial advisor. The market is up in about 72% of all 1 year periods, and a higher percentage of two year periods (I remember 85%, but I'm not certain of that). But over a ten year period, it was a practically sure bet, historically, that the market would be up, and up significantly. The same thing applies to real estate. "Time in" is so much more important than "timing" that they don't even play in the same league. At this update, the government messing with the economy in pursuit of an agenda has managed to make things even worse than they were - and that is no trivial achievement. Eventually, we're going to get adults in Washington and Sacramento, but I have no idea when that will be (and in the case of California voters, what it's going to take to wake them up and the serious question of whether there will be any adults left in the state when they do)

When you get out to five years, I'm as certain as possible that my local market, at least, is going to be up and up significantly. Considering the state of most markets, this is a very reasonable bet. For that matter, it's pretty reasonable at any time, as five years is enough for sentiment of the moment to be outweighed by fundamental facts of the market. Furthermore, most people get at least one substantial raise (or a series of smaller ones) over a five year period, increasing what they can afford. More importantly, in five years with a fully amortized loan, you'll chop some significant money off the balance (about 7% for most mortgages out there), just by making the regular minimum payments. My point is this: you have a smaller balance on a property that is worth more. Your equity situation has improved, and by enough that unless you take significant cash out in one way or another, you're in a strictly improved situation.

What are you giving up by accepting a 5/1 instead of a thirty year fixed rate loan? The answer is twenty five extra years worth of insurance that your rate won't change at the end of your loan, which most borrowers never use anyway. The median time to refinance or sell a property was about 28 months last time I checked (for a while it was down to sixteen months). That's fifty percent above, fifty below. Add another 28 months, and before five years is up, at least seventy five percent of everybody has refinanced or sold. Question: How much good did that extra 25 years of insurance that the rate wouldn't change do these people? Answer: Absolutely none. They let the lender off the hook before that part of the guarantee began.

Let's look at some numbers that were available the day I originally wrote this - the differences are larger at the update. Full documentation, A paper loans, rate/term refinance between 75 and 80% loan to value ratio, with a credit score of 720 (national median).

Now the loan request that started this all off was a $600,000 loan. Here in San Diego at the time, that was less than the temporary Conforming limits (aka Jumbo Conforming, a phrase that makes about as much sense as plastic glass),

30F Rate30F Cost5/1 rate5/1 Cost
5.5%2.65.25%1.5
5.875%1.85.5%0.9
6.25%0.25.875%0

(Making certain I emphasize once again the tradeoff between rate and cost for real estate loans)

So, for less than the cost of a 30 year fixed at 5.875%, these clients could have had a 5/1 ARM at 5.25%. For a $600,000 loan - almost to what was called Super Jumbo territory a few months ago. the 30 year fixed costs roughly $14,500 in total costs, the payment is $3635, and interest is about $3009 the first month, assuming all costs are rolled into the loan. The 5/1 costs about $12,700 grand total, the payment is $3386 ($250 less!) and interest is $2686 ($325 less!). You pay the balance down to $556,000 over 5 years if you just make the minimum payment on the 5/1, as opposed to $570,000 if you make that higher minimum payment on the 30 year fixed rate loan. And if you happen to be the sort who makes that payment they could make on the thirty year fixed rate loan, but chose the 5/1 instead, your balance will be down to $547,000. Under such circumstances, even if you refinanced that 5/1 at the same cost, you'll be over $10,000 better off than some hypothetical twin brother who chose the 30 year fixed, even if he didn't refinance which the odds are at least 3:1 against. Given consumer habits in this country, that thirty year fixed looks like a losing bet to me at the usual rate differential between the two loans.

The same numbers apply just as strongly at conforming rates:

30F Rate30F Cost5/1 Rate5/1 Cost
5.5%1.54.875%1.5
5.875%0.25.5%0
6.25%-0.95.875%-0.3

The difference between the thirty year fixed and the 5/1 narrows appreciably at the lower cost end of the spectrum. But it's a far cry from the days of last year when sometimes that thirty year fixed rate loan was actually less expensive for the same rate.

Some people are likely to ask about varying periods of ARM. What about a 3/1, for an even lower rate? Ladies and gentlemen, even when rates are normal, the differential is usually less than an eighth of a percent for a 3/1 as opposed to a 5/1, while you're cutting off 40% of your fixed period guarantee - the period that lets you make all that lovely profit? As for the 7/1 and 10/1, when rates are more normal, there's typically more difference between them and the 5/1 than there is between 3/1 and 5/1 - plus you're getting well past the territory where reasonable fractions of the populace keep their loans without refinancing. You're paying for insurance you're extremely unlikely to need, and hybrid ARM rates are more stable than rates for thirty year fixed rate loans.

A Caveat: Since I originally wrote this, the loan market has changed in some significant ways. Anything except A paper full documentation loans are basically gone right now. This means that if you don't fit into the cookie cutter molds imposed by such loans, getting a loan may be very difficult or even impossible. So if you're self-employed or in an unstable field where income varies widely, you can easily find yourself in a situation where refinancing can be impossible - perhaps for up to two years. Changing from employed to self-employed will also make it difficult to get a loan for two years. So if you're in such a situation rather than (for example) a government employee, I am strongly advising such clients to select thirty year fixed rate loans even though they are more expensive until the current loan market relaxes a bit. Right now the investment markets are very scared of anything but A paper full documentation, and the rating agencies who gave negative amortization loan packages AAA ratings when they should have been at the bottom of whatever rating scale used have no credibility with the investment markets, which means the investment markets aren't investing in anything but A paper, which means nothing but A paper gets institutional funding. (Hard money aka private money loans are still being made - but most people don't have 25-35% equity or more, and don't want to pay 12% plus)

Hybrid ARMs aren't for everyone. If you're going to obsess about your expiring fixed term every night for five years, the difference in daily interest works out to about $10 per night, even for our example with the $600,000 mortgage. My family being able to sleep well is worth $10 per night to me, and I presume it is to you, as well. There is an element of risk here, and there's no pretending there isn't. A very small risk that real estate and loan markets go completely weird in violation of all historical precedent for the next five years, and those choosing the 5/1 are somehow stuck with needing to refinance in a worse situation than when they started in. But I've been saving myself lots of money with the 5/1 for a long time now, in all sorts of markets. Why shouldn't I mention it to other people, including my clients?

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

In many transactions when I originally wrote this, the buyer has absolutely no money, or an amount that was not sufficient to pay the costs that they would traditionally be expected to pay in order to close the transaction. Today, unless they're eligible for a VA loan, there is no such thing as a "no down payment" loan, but the trick is to stretch the cash they do have to make the transaction work. In a buyer driven market, often the seller still wants to do business with them.

The usual way it's handled is in Seller Paid Closing Costs. The Seller gives the buyer an allowance to cover their share of the costs

Lenders have become somewhat tolerant of the practice, at least so long as the appraisal comes in at or above the official sale price. Many of them were starting to revert to the treatment this trick traditionally got, which is to say, if the sale price included a rebate to the buyer, then the sale price as far as the lender was concerned was the official price less the rebate. In other words, seller's net. Remember, lenders value real estate the same as accountants, on the LCM principal - Lesser of Cost (which is to say purchase price) or market (which is to say the appraised value). If the seller is giving the buyer money back, then the official price listed on the transaction isn't really the price, is it? Do advertisers tease you with the gross price of stereo or computer gear before the rebate, or the net price after the rebate? Same principle here. The lenders traditionally took this stance, although it has been more relaxed in the highly competitive lender's market of late, and although they were starting to change back, the dearth of qualified buyers with extra cash has made them reconsider that. The lenders are (typically) not going to lend more money than the lesser of those the two variables, cost and market, and they will base the loan parameters on whichever is less. You can always buy a house for more money than the value, as long as you have the cash to make up the difference.

The Sellers get their house sold. That and the ego thing of the official sale price seem to be the benefits to them. I would certainly rather sell for the seller's net in the first place, if I'm a seller, without an allowance, because I have to pay commission on that higher amount. A $10,000 allowance (as has become common here) costs the seller $700 to $800 or so in increased costs - agents commissions, title insurance, escrow fees, transfer taxes - even if the sale price is $10,000 higher because of it. This is neglecting the potential effects of taxes due to exceeding the $250,000 (or $500,000) maximum gain exemption from the IRS code Section 121. I recommend against it for sellers unless there is a substantial deposit, as it is often indicative of a not very qualified buyer. Even then, it's a real good idea to talk to your tax person. Furthermore, with the lenders in full blown panic right now, the only loans being accepted with little or no down are VA and FHA, both of which carry government guarantees. VA can do true 100% financing, but buyers eligible for VA are uncommon. For FHA, the zero down enabling down payment assistance programs are dead, but having 4-6% down for an FHA loan is a lot easier than 10%+ for anything conventional.

The Buyers get a deal, or so it appears at first blush. A piece of property without having to save for closing costs. When I originally wrote this, in many cases they didn't have to put a penny down, either. Pretty cool, eh? Get a house and actually skip a month of writing a check (due to the allowance covering prepaid interest), so effectively putting cash in your pocket. Keep in mind, however, that a competently advised seller is going to inflate the sales price to match, where (if they were smart) they would rather have accepted the net sales price without rebate. Furthermore, at least here in California, property taxes are based upon official original sales price, so you'll be paying for it as long as you own the property. Finally, because your purchase price, and therefore your loan, is going to be higher, your payment is going to be higher, you'll pay higher loan costs every time you refinance, and your eventual net on the property will be lower. If it is the only way to get into the property, and the deal otherwise makes sense, that's fine - but don't kid yourself that you got free money. Chances are that you're going to pay far more than the amount of any allowance because you got it.

If it's bad for the seller, bad for the buyer, and risky for the lender, why does it keep happening so much?

Well, it's a sale for sellers. The property has now been disposed off. It's also an ego defense for sellers. Instead of $470,000, they can tell everyone they got $480,000. So long as they don't mention the allowance, it sounds like a far better price to their friends, family, and soon to be ex-neighbors. In short, bragging rights. Buyers, it gets them into the property, formerly often without coming up with a penny in cash and still allowing them to save one month's rent or payment, effectively putting cash in their pocket. Mind you, that unwillingness is going to be costing money for as long as they own the property, but that's their choice.

Real Estate and Mortgage folks, get bigger commissions. $10,000 in sales price gets translated to $100 per 1 percent of commission. This is anywhere from an extra $100 to an extra $300 or $400 for each of the offices, buyer's, seller's, and loan. Furthermore, I know of loan agents who extract larger commissions because "it's such a hard loan." It does make the loan harder, but not by another point of origination's worth. Wouldn't you like to have extra money for essentially the same work? I assure you that your average real estate agent and loan officer are no different than most folks.

These days, the spoke in the wheel that prevents this from happening is usually the appraisal. With Home Valuation Code of Conduct, most agents in most transactions no longer have the option of steering business to the appraiser who will inflate value as much as possible. I'm not having problems on my purchase money transactions because if appraised value isn't likely to be there, I advise my clients of that fact. But it's putting a real crimp on the transaction mills.

There is nothing wrong with the practice of seller paid closing costs, so long as everybody knows what's going on. But it's certainly not something you want to do if you have a choice.

Caveat Emptor

Original here


As with anything you find on the internet, the critical thing to keep in mind with internet real estate is that it is subject to input control. In plain English, you only see what they want you to see. If they don't want you to see it, it's not going to be put into the internet so that you can see it there. The vast majority of the time, there is no check upon this simple fact of life. If the owner or listing agent don't want you to see something, it's not going to be available to you on the internet. You're going to have to get out and look at the actual property.

What is put onto the internet is a representation. It could be a good accurate representation or it could be an intentionally distorted representation. The online information is never all there is to see. Kind of like a facade - front facade, back facade, and now, internet facade. Online pictures, home for sale websites, virtual tours - they're all subject to any number of tricks that alter how the property is perceived.

You should never put an offer in without having looked at the property in person. I'm very good at what I do as a buyer's agent. Nonetheless, it is most disconcerting on those rare occasions when someone sounds like they might be intending to put an offer in without looking at it themselves in the flesh. Since I originally wrote this article, I have now done so - very successfully according to the family I did it for - but it was a very special set of circumstances and even so I was so nervous I couldn't sleep until they did manage to make another trip to physically see it. I have had to talk other people out of doing this. There is no such thing as a perfect property, and it's very difficult to point out all of the things I believe buyers need to be aware of when they're not there to see me point.

A lot of the most important things are never online. Even if there is a floor plan (rare), it's very difficult for people who are only looking on-line to get a good grasp of internal sight lines. It's also very hard to convey the full sense of the external environment. What can you see? What do you hear? Are there other environmental distractions? Do airplanes fly right over the house on departure when the wind changes? What's the neighborhood like, are there any obviously disturbed neighbors, what are traffic patterns like, how close and how good is freeway access, where is (are) your grocery store(s), and anything else that might be important to you? How accessible is the neighborhood via public transport? Note that some of these questions are double edged swords by definition. Public transport means your friends who don't have a car can get there, as well as making any public transport excursions you may have need far more bearable - but public transport is also a common conduit for undesirable visitors.

Nor can you really only visit one or two properties. The key to relative value is how the various properties on the market compare to each other, and that includes that whole list in the previous paragraph. No matter how much you make, if you figure you're going to visit an absolute minimum of ten properties before you put in any offers, the probability is pretty much 100 percent you'll end up glad you did.

The internet can profitably be used to narrow your search, by throwing out all of the obviously unsuitable properties. Doesn't have what you need? Asking price way too high? From the pictures, there's no way your family could live there? There's no reason to waste time and gas going to see those properties. You still need to go out and look at not only the properties that are left, but enough properties to give them context. I don't know how often I've heard from people who only wanted to view one property, but in such cases it always seems to be a property I wouldn't buy if the owners paid me to take it off their hands.

The internet can also make it easy to find properties to look at. It certainly beats driving around all the neighborhoods you might like to live in trying to find "For Sale" signs. But it cannot replace physically going to look at properties that might fit the bill. If you're short on time, might I suggest a buyer's agent (or several)? That time is their job, the mileage is a business expense, and nothing is so precious as the time people give us to look at property. It's quite likely that a good buyer's agent will narrow your search a lot more, because going out and looking at property gives a lot more information than the internet, and we do it constantly. Getting a good buyer's agent first will make more difference than anything else to how happy you end up (Here's how to find a good buyer's agent)

Property always needs to be evaluated in the context of the area it's in. A lot of what might sell for $500,000 in my area might be less than $100,000 in other locales. This doesn't mean San Diego is overpriced. It means that there's a lot of people who want to live here very badly, these people make comparatively large amounts of money, it's hard to get permission to build, and the prices for the area reflect those factors. If you've decided you want to live in a particular neighborhood you're going to have to pay about the prevailing prices if you want housing. A good buyer's agent can make a big difference, but nobody can find you something that doesn't exist, and in order to really understand what a good bargain is, you've got to go and actually look at some properties that aren't bargains before you understand what a bargain looks like.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here


When it comes to mortgage loans, people get distracted by the darnedest things.

Let's look at Wal-Mart. You think they got to be the largest retailer in the world by making less money than their competition? I assure you that is not the case. In fact, they're legendary in manufacturing circles for using their size as an inducement to get the lowest possible price out of their suppliers. With that leverage - the fact that whether or not Wal-Mart stocks your item will be a significant predictor of your success manufacturing consumer goods - they can get outrageously low prices out of their suppliers. To this, they add all of the economies of scale and function consolidation that they can possibly come up with, to the point where Wal-Mart makes more on the same item than almost any other retailer, let alone the mom and pop store that everyone complains Wal-Mart has driven out of business. How the heck do you think they can afford to build dozens if not hundreds of new "Super Centers" worldwide every year?

Their main attractiveness to consumers is one thing. Price. They deliver whatever it is, from breakfast cereal to makeup to cell phones to automotive supplies at the lowest final price to the consumer. They've also got a huge selection of merchandise so you've only got to make one stop (thereby saving on gas, if you don't count the three gallons you waste getting in and out of the parking lot), but that's not why most consumers go there. They go for price. I may hate the thought of going to stores that are even in the physical vicinity of a Wal-Mart, but you've got to give them respect for what they accomplish.

People don't shop Wal-Mart because Wal-Mart doesn't make anything on the transaction. If that were the case, we'd all be shopping government stores and paying much higher prices. No, people shop Wal-Mart because the total cost, aka purchase price, is lower there even thought they may be making more money per transaction than the Mom and Pop store that used to be a couple blocks over. Lest anyone not understand, this is a good and rational thing, not just for Wal-Mart but (as far as it goes) for society as well.

The same principle applies to loans. Shop loans by the lowest total cost of money . To know what that is, or even make a reasonable estimate, you've got to have some idea how long you intend to keep the loan. There is always a trade-off between rate and cost, because lenders have to work with the secondary markets, and that's the way the secondary markets are built. Know for a fact you're going to sell the property in two years? Then look at the costs of that loan over a two year period. In such a case, it probably doesn't make sense to choose anything with a fixed period longer than three years, and lowering the closing costs is likely to be more important than getting a lower rate, even if the payment is lower on a lower rate. That's pretty much a textbook case example of higher rate being better because it's got a lower closing cost.

If you're certain that you're going to stay in this property forever, and never ever refinance again, a thirty year fixed rate loan where you spend several discount points buying the rate down will verifiably save you money - if you're right. If you're wrong, and six months from now you're looking to sell and move to the French Riviera (or simply refinance because you need cash out), all that money you spent on points and closing costs was essentially wasted. You're not going to get it back - it's a sunk cost, used to pay the people who do all the work to make a loan happen, and to pay the rich folks who work the secondary mortgage market to give you a lower rate than you could have gotten otherwise. It's not their fault you chose to let them off the hook from that contract you negotiated. You're essentially betting a lot of money upfront that future events will happen the way you believe they will, and if you're right, you reap quite a reward. However, most folks lose this bet, which is why the (rarely followed) admonishment not to pay points for a loan gets repeated so often. That's also why people hedge their bets most of the time, by choosing an alternative that costs less, and therefore risks less, while covering a lot of future possibilities in a decent manner, if not quite perfectly.

All of this is good information to have. But there is one piece of information required of brokers but not direct lenders that distracts consumers from what is really important: How much they're making for this loan. I think it's good information to have out there providing the consumer knows enough not to give it more weight than it deserves. And it really isn't important information, because it does not impact the bottom line to you, the consumer. It's really no more important than knowing where the airplane for your flight just flew in from. The point is that it's going to cost you X number of dollars (and a known amount of time) to get on that plane to where you're going, just like the important thing for consumers about their mortgage loans is that it's going to cost them $X total to get the loan done, and they're going to have an interest rate of Y% that they're going to have to pay for as long as they keep that loan. But if it's important for brokers to disclose how much they're going to make, why isn't the equivalent disclosure required of direct lenders?

The Federal Trade Commission prepared a report, The Effect of Mortgage Broker Compensation Disclosures on Consumers and Competition: A Controlled Experiment. The upshot? Consumers will choose the loan where the company providing it makes less money, or, even more strongly, choose the loan where the company's compensation isn't disclosed at all. I think it's reasonable information for someone to want to know, but if it's important to know the information when you're dealing with a broker, and the government therefore mandates such disclosure, then why isn't it required for direct lenders? (The answer is politics, to put brokers at even more of a psychological disadvantage as far as the average person is concerned. Lenders make a lot more money than brokers, so they have a lot more money to bribe politicians contribute to campaigns). To quote from the report:

If consumers notice and read the compensation disclosure, the resulting consumer confusion and mistaken loan choices will lead a significant proportion of borrowers to pay more for their loans than they would otherwise. The bias against mortgage brokers will put brokers at a competitive disadvantage relative to direct lenders and possibly lead to less competition and higher costs for all mortgage customers.

Focusing upon what the provider makes actually hurts you. If you just focus upon how much the loan officer makes, there's no incentive for them to shop around looking for a better loan. As I've written before, if I can find a better lender for that loan, I can both make more money and offer a better loan. But if you're just going to shop by how much I make, there's no incentive to do that. I make my $X, regardless of whether you get a 30 year fixed at 5% without a prepayment penalty or a 2/28 at 8% with a three year prepayment penalty. There usually isn't that much difference, but the principle is the same. You want your loan person motivated to find you a better loan, which shopping only by how much someone makes frustrates. And if you choose a loan at a higher rate of interest and higher cost just because the company offering it is not legally required to disclose what they make, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that you're doing nothing except hurting yourself. It's the equivalent of passing up the store with the lowest price because the law requires that store (but not their competition) to hang a big sticker on it that says, "The store makes $12.98 if you buy this toaster oven." Me, I like it when people make money from my custom, especially when the bottom line cost is as good or better. It means they're motivated to work hard and do a good job so they get my business again next time I'm in the market. The principal is the same whether it's a big box retailer, a mechanic shop, or a real estate loan.

Finally, at loan sign up, the prospective lender can lie, just as much as any other item, even on the new good faith estimate. The government may tell you they can't lie on the form, but the form itself is effectively lying because what it really means is that it can't change without being redisclosed with a new Good Faith Estimate. Indeed, the government and changes in market conditions are making it more difficult, not less, for consumers to intelligently shop their loans.

The best solution for consumers: Have a real problem solving discussion with prospective loan officers. If you just ask the rate and hang up, the one that low-balls you the most blatantly is likely to get your business, and it will be too late to change when you discover the truth. But if you pay attention to the process they use for putting you into the best situation going forward, then you stand a better chance of discovering their real intentions.

Caveat Emptor

original article here

The general public may not understand this, but the most critical parts of a listing agent's job all take place before the property hits the market.

The most difficult task of an agent who wants to successfully list property is one of those. No, it isn't the pricing discussion, although it's closely related and usually done at the same time. It's educating the owner as to what a good offer for their property would be.

The weaker the overall market, the more important this is. In a strong seller's market, if you blow off a good offer, you're likely to get another almost as good. In a buyer's market, telling a good offer to get lost is a great way to lose lots of money. I'm paid on commission. Believe me folks, I'd like to be able to get two million dollars for a not particularly attractive five hundred square foot condo in "the 'Hood" . The fact is that buyers look for the best property at the lowest price. I can market in such a way as to catch the attention of the people likely to be willing to pay the most, but I can't get more than those people are willing to offer. You can try to sell a property for more than it's worth, but it's not going to happen, and trying is the best way I know of to fail to sell at all, or to be forced to sell for a lot less than you could have gotten, and have to pay the carrying costs for the property for a much longer time than if you know a good offer when you see it.

You can't really have the pricing discussion until the owner understands what a good offer would be. The correct asking price is central to a successful transaction. People look at properties based upon asking price, and you are competing with other properties of roughly the same asking price. If you ask too much, your property will be competing out of its league. The people who are looking for something in that price range will have superior alternatives. If the choice is your property or, for the same asking price, a freshly remodeled house with an extra bedroom and bathroom and a lot that's twice as big in a better location, which do you think the average buyer is going to make an offer on? Ladies and Gentlemen, even if your own mother is looking for a property and knows you need to sell, that's going to be a hard sale for your property. On the other side, if you're not asking enough, people will line up to buy, but then you (and your agent) end up with less money in your pocket, and that's not going to make anyone happy except the buyer.

Furthermore, you've got to understand the market you're trying to sell in. In a strong seller's market, you can probably afford blow off offers below a certain threshold. In a strong buyer's market, you need to try and work with anything even vaguely in the right ballpark, to see if you can talk them into something more in line with reality.

Some agents won't do this. They'll either accept whatever the owner wants to ask or even actually inflate the asking price. This is called "buying a listing," because owners who don't know any better get dollar signs in their eyes and sign up with that agent. It isn't really "buying" anything - it's more like a political candidate's insincere campaign promises to repeal laws of economics and give voters everything their little hearts desire. Anybody old enough to vote should know better than to believe this, but it works, for the same reason Nigerian 419 scamsters are driving around in Ferraris: People want to believe in easy money. In point of fact, as I have written before, this actually sabotages any chance of actually getting the best possible price. Your time of highest interest is right when it hits the market, and the longer the property is on the market, the lower the sales price is likely to be, and when you over-price real estate, you're not only going to end up getting less money in the end, but you'll have to pay carrying costs for the property for a longer period of time. In short, this approach reliably costs sellers money. Large amounts of money. There is no reason but greed and ignorance to do this, but many rotten agents make a very good living conning people who don't know any better. One of the reasons why bargains are hard to find is that the definite majority of the listings out there have been the victim of such an agent. The property isn't going to sell for that price, or anything like that price, but by over-promising on the listing price, they get a signed listing contract, and when all these properties eventually sell for tens of thousands less than they really could have gotten, that agent gets paid (when the agent who tried to tell them what the property was really worth doesn't), and the con artist even looks like a "top producer."

Waiting until the property is on the market is too late. Everybody has already seen that initial asking price. Not to mention the owner still believes the nonsense they've been sold in the above paragraph. Waiting until you have an offer is definitely too late. The agent has been telling them up until this very moment to expect tens of thousands of dollars more, and now the agent is going to try to talk them into accepting what really is a good offer? Not likely to work, and not good for the relationship even if it does. Furthermore, one of the things you learn in this business is that the first offer you get is more likely than not to be the best. Oh, it's not rare or even that uncommon for a better offer to come later, but the most typical pattern is for each subsequent offer to be successively lower. And now you've lost what is likely to be the best offer you're going to get because your agent couldn't explain to you what a good offer was? Run that one by me again: Why are agents supposedly getting paid? I get paid for listings because I really do know how to sell them more quickly and for a higher price than any "for sale by owner". But why in the world would you want to pay someone who doesn't do that, and makes the sale take longer and causes you to have to settle for a lower price? I understand why it happens. I just can't understand why people would want to, other than a combination of ignorance, laziness and misinformed greed. Somebody once said, "Too bad ignorance isn't painful." Ignorance is painful, but it's financial pain, and the kind most of those burned by it never realize they felt, because they couldn't recognize the symptoms, and they have no idea how much better they could have done.

For a successful listing that's going to fetch an optimum sale, understanding what a good offer looks like, so the owners know how to react when they get it, and setting the correct asking price so that you do get such an offer, is critical. Failing to do so will put you in that group of people who don't get what they could have for the property, and since you don't understand how and why the problem happened, you're likely to repeat it every time you decide to sell a property. When the market rises rapidly for many years, as the San Diego area among many others did, you can even delude yourself into believing that you were "successful." But when the market returns to something more closely approximating normality, believe me when I tell you you that you'll find out in a hurry that you weren't as successful as you thought.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

A while ago I wrote an article called, "What Happens When You Can't Make Your Real Estate Loan Payment." This is kind of a continuation of that, as I got a search that asked, "What is necessary to persuade a bank to accept a short payoff on a mortgage"

Poverty. In a word, poverty. You have to persuade the bank that this is the best possible deal they are going to get. You can't make the payments, and if they foreclose they will get less money.

A "short sale" or short payoff is defined as a sale where the proceeds from the sale will not cover the secured obligations of the owner. The cash they will receive from the sale is "short" of the necessary amount. The house is no longer worth what they paid for it.

When I originally wrote this article, I was looking ahead. There were more and more of these happening, but the big wave had yet to hit. That wave has now mostly passed. There are always people that lost their good job and can't get a replacement nearly as good. But for a while, there were also people that were put into too much house, and approved for too much loan, suddenly discovering their situation was not sustainable because they suddenly couldn't make the payments. Unscrupulous agents that wanted a bigger commission, loan officers going along, and nobody acting like they were responsible for the consequences to their clients. My concern for lenders who do stated income and negative amortization loans (and a lot of loans that are both!) is kind of minimal. Okay, it's very minimal. Like nonexistent smallest violin in the world playing "My Heart Cries For Thee" level sympathy. I forecast years ago that many lenders were going to go through bad times, using a forecasting method that's about as mysterious as rocks that fall when you drop them.

On the other hand, for the people who were led into these transactions by agents with a fiduciary responsibility towards them, I have great heaping loads of sympathy and I'll do anything I can to help. Yes, they're theoretically responsible adults, but when the universe and everyone is telling them all the things that buyers were told these last couple of years, it's understandable. Sure there's a greed component in many cases but when they're told by both loan officers and the real estate agents that they "wouldn't have qualified for the loan if you couldn't afford it," they are being betrayed by the same people who are supposed to be professionals looking out for their interests. I really do suggest finding a good lawyer to these folks, as those agents who did this to them (and their brokerages) better have had insurance which said lawyer can sue to recover money they never should have been out.

I'm going to sketch it out in broad terms, but there are a lot of tricks to the trade. Short sales are not something to try "For Sale By Owner," or even with a discount agent.

First off, you need to draw a coherent picture of the loan payment being unaffordable. If you were on a negative amortization approaching recast, or hybrid ARM (usually interest only for the fixed period) that is now ready to adjust, you're facing a much higher payments. Even if you were able to afford the minimum payment before, now you can't and you've decided to sell for what you can get before it bankrupts you to no good purpose because you're going to lose the house anyway. You're going to have to prove you can't afford your loan. The bank isn't just going to accept your word, but several late payments or a rolling sixty day late that looks headed for ninety have been known to be persuasive. If you can afford the payments but have merely convinced yourself you don't want to, please read Why You Should Not Walk Away From Upside-Down Real Estate. Nonetheless, there are a lot of tacks that you don't want to take. Remember, lenders want to be repaid and they've got a couple of pretty powerful sticks to shake at you. They are not going to agree to sacrifice money merely because to make the payments would be uncomfortable for you. You're going to have to persuade them it's impossible.

Second, you're going to have to persuade the lender that this is the best possible price that you are going to get, and that even if they think they'll get more by going through foreclosure, it will be more than offset by what they'll lose through the expenses involved. Not to mention that they might end up owning the property, which they don't want to do because then they have to spend more money selling it.

Third, you've got to be on the ball about the transaction itself. All the ducks have to be in the row from the start, which is when you approach the lender with a provisional transaction. If they're not, the lender is just not going to go through the process of approving a short sale until they are. Since this takes time, it has the effect of dragging out the transaction. Every missed deadline means the lender will look at the whole thing again, possibly changing their mind about approving the short sale. You need a qualified buyer. Furthermore, most short sale buyers end up bailing out of the transaction at some point, most often because they don't think it's going to get approved on terms that are acceptable to them. You need a full service listing agent who knows what they're doing to prevent this from happening.

Fourth, just be prepared for the fact that the lender is not only not going to approve the transaction if you get any money, but that they're also going to send you a form 1099 after it is all done. This form 1099 will report income for you from forgiveness of debt. This is taxable income! (There is now temporary federal legislation in place changing this) Many agents eager to make a sale will not tell the sellers this, and when you get right down to it, there is no legal requirement to do so, but I've always thought this was one of the ways to tell a good agent from a not-so-good one. It does seem like something you should be told about before you've got the 1099 form in your mailbox, right? At that point, you are stuck with all of the consequences, where if you had known before, you might not have been so complacent. It is to be noted I've been made aware of ways to circumvent the "no money to the owner" requirement, but they are FRAUD, as in go to jail for a while and be a convicted felon for the rest of your life FRAUD. It can be tempting, but committing fraud is one of the most effective ways I know to make a bad situation worse.

For the buyer, short sales can seem attractive for any number of reasons. Typically the seller is in a situation where they have to sell, and everyone knows it. The option of waiting for a better offer really isn't on the table if what you're offering is anything like reasonable. They can't bluff you, they should know that bluffing you is a waste of effort, and somebody should have explained to them that they really just want out now (and why this is so) before it gets worse. What's not to like? The answer is the fact that there's a third party with veto power over the transaction. The sellers don't have must motivation to bargain hard because they're not getting any money anyway, but many lenders are stuck in the land of Denial.

Your competition will also make things difficult. Because people think there's fast money to be made, these folks are the target of "flippers" everywhere. The large city, highly inflated markets more so than most. A couple weeks before I originally wrote this, we put one on the market and got three ugly low-ball offers within 48 hours, and this is part of why you need an agent to sell one. Remember, the seller isn't getting any money, but they are going to get a 1099 form that says they have to pay taxes. Don't you think most folks would rather it was for less money, and therefore, less taxes, instead of more? The more money the lender loses, the higher your liability. Had any one of the three made a better offer in the first place, they would have gotten the property at a price to make a profit, but they had to prove how rapacious they were, or something. As it was, we jawboned the first three vultures and two other, later entries, into a quasi-decent price, with minimal later tax obligation to our seller, and (eventually) got the lender involved to see reason.

In summation, "short sales" are a way to cut your losses for sellers, and a way to maybe get a good price for buyers, but you have to know how to convince the lenders to accept them, and how not to overplay your bargaining position, lest you get left out in the cold.

However, lenders are basically in denial for a variety of reasons, and they do not want to admit that their underwriting was at fault for lending more than the property was likely to be worth, and more than the borrower could really afford. For that reason, short sales are a long hard slog, and many times lenders are rejecting the transaction no matter how much sense it makes. So be advised before you even start that this is an uphill battle, and if the listing agent is not on top of the game, you may be wasting your time making an offer. Quite often, the lender simply says no - that they're not going to accept this transaction unless someone comes up with more money to make them happy.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

UPDATE: You may also want to read my new article on Mortgage Loan Modification

(This is a reprint from December 15, 2006 that still has quite a bit to offer. There have been market changes which I will talk about but the original stands up well)

This was a Q&A post from a certain well known site allegedly interested in helping the consumers shop loans and real estate. What they're really interested in is selling access to their eyeballs, but at the time, they were acting like they might have a little bit of concern for consumers.

What are some online resources consumers should be using to find loan rate information?

None that are any good, as in the sense of providing good relevant information that's applicable to specific cases. There are many loan quote forums that will quote you a rate. They quote you a low rate or a low payment to get you to contact them - and that's all that it is, a teaser. I have literally gone right down the line in two different comparative quote forums, contacting every company and asking for quotes that comply with the standards they are supposed to quote to. Not one company was even prepared to quote me what they were advertising. Nor did the forums themselves do anything when I complained - they are not interested in policing the quotes, as to do so risks losing some hefty income when the companies quit subscribing to their service. The few companies that advertise honest rates that are really available have given up on those forums in disgust - they attract clients in other ways.

Unpopular as this truth may be, you need to shop live loan officers and have real conversations and ask a lot of hard-nosed questions. Here is a list of Questions You Should Ask Prospective Loan Providers. If you want to suggest any additions to this list, I'd love to know.

What should a 1st time home buyer look for when comparing and contrasting loans?

1) Make certain you are really comparing the same type of loan. Asking about the industry standard name for the type of loan contemplated helps. Even if you don't know what it means, the other loan officers you talk to will. 2) There is always a trade off between rate and cost for the same type of loan. One lender's trade offs will be different than another lender's, but you always have a range of choices, even with the same lender. Just because one loan has a lower rate or lower payment doesn't make it a better loan. Find out the total cost of getting that rate, and figure out how long it will take you to recover costs via the lower interest rate. Given how often most people refinance, a higher rate with a higher payment but lower costs is often the better bargain. There is no sense in paying four points for a loan you are only likely to keep for two years.


What is the biggest mistake you see 1st time home buyers make?

Three most common disasters: 1) Buying or wanting a more expensive property than they can afford. When I originally wrote this, any competent loan officer could get you a loan that made it appear you could afford a property that you couldn't. That, more than anything else on the consumer side, was the cause of the meltdown because the folks who got them still had to face the consequences later. Find out what you can really afford with a sustainable loan, and stick to it. Settling for a lesser property is much smarter than buying something you cannot afford. 2) Not shopping around for services. Even if you trust your brother in law the real estate agent, or your sister in law the loan officer, shopping around gives them concrete reason to stay honest. The worst mess I ever cleaned up was caused by someone's favorite uncle trying to make too much money, and the niece was blissfully unaware until her husband brought me into it - six weeks after it should have closed. 3) Believing that because someone puts some numbers onto a Good Faith Estimate ( or Mortgage Loan Disclosure Statement in California, but read the article on the Good Faith Estimate) that they intend to deliver that loan on those terms. This is, unfortunately, not the case in the industry at large. If they do not guarantee their quote in writing at least with regards to closing costs, the Good Faith Estimate (or Mortgage Loan Disclosure Statement) is garbage, along with all of the other standard forms that you get with it. The only form that the law requires to be accurate is the HUD-1, which you do not get, even in preliminary form, until the loan is closing. Big national lending institution everyone has heard of? Doesn't mean a thing. Ask the hard questions, and do not permit yourself to be distracted.

At this update, it has become obvious that the only changes due to the new rules about the new good faith estimate is that the rules for lying to get a consumer to sign up are now a little more byzantine - but that companies who want to do it have the rules for doing so down to a science.

When do 50 year mortgages make sense?

Perversely, rates on 40 year amortizations are usually comparable to interest only, and fifty year amortization rates are usually higher. Nor are any of the these usually a good choice for a purchase money loan. All three are strong indicators that you are trying to buy too expensive a property for your budget. See Common Mistake Number One above.

What do you think about Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs)?

I am a big fan of certain ARMs in most markets. Most of the time, a fully amortized 5/1 ARM will be at least one full percent lower on the rate than a comparably expensive thirty year fixed, and the vast majority of people refinance within five years anyway. Why pay for thirty years worth of insurance that your rate won't change when you're likely to let the lender off the hook within a few years anyway? With that said, however, sometimes the spread in rate is only about a quarter of a percent or less between a 5/1 ARM and a thirty year fixed - and at the low cost end of the spectrum, the thirty year fixed may actually be less expensive for the same rate.

At this update, the loan market has become enough more constricted that I am less of a fan of hybrid ARMs. Lenders are demanding people who fit their lending profiles perfectly - which is perversely, one of the things that is bankrupting them as with fewer people able to qualify for loans, prices plummet. If something happens to your situation or credit, the lack of alternative markets to the A paper Fannie and Freddie mainstays can easily mean that it is impossible to refinance until your situation improves, which can take two years or more. The spread between thirty year fixed and 5/1 ARMs is back up over three-quarters of a percent, but what happens if someone steals your identity forty months in and you cannot refinance before the loan adjusts?

Is there a certain number people should be looking at when determining if they should refinance?

Forget payment. With no other information to go on, I would bet that someone trying to get you to refinance based upon a low payment was pushing a bad loan, and probably low-balling the payment as well.

Once again, you've got to have a good conversation with the loan officer. Look at the money you will save from the lower interest rate - the interest charges to a loan. If you're saving half a percent on a $400,000 loan, that's $2000 per year. Compare this to the cost, and how long the rate is good for - or how long you're likely to keep it, whichever is less. If the cost is zero - and true zero cost loans do exist despite Congress making it appear otherwise - you're ahead from day one. However, if it costs you $12,000, it's going to take you six years to break even, and most folks will never keep the same loan six years in their lives. Since there is no way to know for sure unless your prospective lender will guarantee the quote as to rate, total cost, and type of loan, you need to go in to final signing with the idea firmly in your mind that unless they can show both the cost and the benefit, you're going to walk out without signing. Indeed, many companies are very adept at pretending costs don't exist, and hiding costs at closing. Industry statistics: over half of all potential borrowers won't even notice discrepancies at closing, and of the ones who do, eight to nine out of ten will just sign anyway. This rewards people who lie to get you to sign up. Haul out the HUD-1 form at closing and make certain it conforms to what you were told when you applied. Most HUD-1s don't, and the loan officer knew it wouldn't conform when you signed up. Read the Note carefully also, before you sign.

More questions? I'd love to answer them! Contact me and ask!

Caveat Emptor

Original here


There's an old literary tradition that cautions the reader to "Be careful what you ask for. You may get it."

Many real estate purchase offers are good illustrations of that principle.

The rule followed by good agents is, "Never make an offer that you wouldn't be pleased to have accepted, exactly like it is." An Offer is a legal term. You're making an offer to fulfill these terms if the seller will. By simply signing the offer in acceptance, the other side can create a binding document with legal force, and at least potentially sue for specific performance. Specific performance is more often used by buyers than sellers, but it is available to both. An offered and accepted purchase contract is roughly equivalent to creating both a "call" for the buyer and a "put" for the seller in options trading. The seller has a right to insist the buyer buy, and the buyer has a right to insist that the seller sell, on these specific terms.

Usually, there are things discovered about the property while in escrow. It just isn't cost effective for prospective buyers to perform an inspection prior to obtaining a contract, and sellers should be mindful of the fact that subsequent discovery can void the purchase contract with an inspection contingency. On the other hand, I can't imagine a buyer insane enough not to build an inspection contingency into the contract. No matter how great a deal they may think they're getting at first, the whole contract is subject to a revaluation if the inspection uncovers major defects. I'd prefer to negotiate repairs or compensation rather than flush the transaction, whether I'm a buyer's agent or listing agent, but if the other side isn't going to be reasonable, sometimes it's necessary to walk. Note, however, that the opportunity to walk away happens because the contingency in the contract has not been satisfied, not due to the basic contract. No unsatisfied contingency means the contract is still in force and the other side can force you to live up to it. If the sellers have developed remorse and aren't reasonable about satisfying the inspection contingency but the buyer still wants to proceed, the buyers can force the sellers to perform by being willing to accept the original contract, as written.

The buyer usually has protection from the various contingencies in the contract - loan, appraisal, inspection, disclosures. But these have a specific limited duration, the sellers (via their agent) can insist the contingencies be removed in a timely fashion, and once they are gone, that buyer is as naked as the seller. Indeed, one of the marks of a good listing agent is being on the ball about contingency removals. Usually, it's the deposit rather than specific performance that the seller goes after because the reason the buyer wants out is it turns out they can't qualify for the necessary loan. Suing for specific performance in such instances is like demanding that men gestate and birth fifty percent of all babies. It's a physical impossibility that isn't going to happen. Sorry ladies, and sellers also. But the deposit money, and any other money in escrow, can be at risk.

Nor is that the limit of the seller's recourse. I'm not a lawyer, so talk to one, but damages certainly seem possible. Many lender owned addenda demand them if certain conditions are met.

The ultimate risk of a poorly written purchase offer, however, is that it leaves the buyer with a property that isn't worth what they paid for it.

It happens, particularly with large deposits. Buyers get into situations where they have a choice of buying or losing that cash deposit they worked so hard for. Even when the latter is clearly the least bad situation, many people, understanding the value of the cash they worked to save rather more clearly than the value of the payments they haven't made yet, will choose to consummate the transaction. They end up with an unmarketable property where they are obligated to make the payments on the loan, property taxes, and insurance. Since most folks are extremely happy to get a 2 percent deposit, this obligates you to 50 times that much by paying attention to immediate cash rather than the overall situation. Plus interest on the loan and property taxes. Ouch. Not a situation you want to be in.

There is a reason for each of the standard contingencies in a sale contract, and you can ask for others in the initial negotiations if you have a specific reason to be concerned. I just closed one where we negotiated an engineering report contingency because I had real concerns about the stability of the property (It was fine. But better my client spends $600 up front than spends half a million dollars for a property that's in danger of falling over). Standard contingencies can also be waived, creating a stronger, more definite offer. I'd be very careful about waiving them, and I always make certain the client understands the implications in writing. There are valid reasons to waive each and every one of the standard contingencies, but it is always a risk, and it can bite. The way I explain it is that it will bite, if you do enough of them - only nobody knows how many "enough" is.

If a buyer is giving up something that the standard contract gives them, there should always be something they're getting in return. If the seller isn't willing to do that, we're obviously making an offer on the wrong property. The same applies the other way around to sellers. One more way agents with good market knowledge serve their clients interests. "Yes, that model match sold for $X last month. But that seller gave the buyer 6% for loan costs, paid all the closing costs, and a twenty percent carryback as well. My client has a twenty percent down payment, doesn't need anything for loan costs, and is offering to pay half of all closing costs. When was the last time you saw all of that?" Every single one of those concessions the other buyer got means money in that other seller's pocket - money that should mean corresponding money my buyer doesn't have to pay in the form of purchase price.

Purchase price translates into property taxes for the buyer, and can mean exceeding statutory exclusions for the seller (i.e. they end up owing income tax, or at least having to pay an accountant to prove that they don't). The bottom line is that because the seller is getting things of value that the other seller didn't, they should be willing to give up something in the way of purchase price. If they're not, we're talking to the wrong seller and they're talking to the wrong prospective buyer. We want someone who's willing to see reason, he wants that prospective buyer who needs all that extra money from them to make the transaction happen (maybe). In most cases, I think such a seller is barking mad, but that's their prerogative. It's a free country. They're entitled to walk away from an offer from a more qualified buyer that's more likely to actually go through.

Another thing that a poorly written offer can do is "poison the well." The other side gets so angry about the offer (usually the price part of the offer) that when the prospective buyer comes back with something better, they aren't interested. Happens. Sometimes it's justified, sometimes it isn't. If you're not emotionally attached to the property, no big deal. If it's the one you've got your heart set upon, prepare to make major amends in the form of concessions in order to bring them to the table. Hair shirts and heartfelt apologies are not likely to work. You've set a warning flag in the owner's mind or the listing agent's, and they're going to want something extra to deal with you because they're expecting a repeat of the behavior.

A poorly written offer can also leave you stuck doing something you don't want to, or can't. Suppose you need a contingency for sale of your own property, but neglected to include one in your offer. Bad news. Now you're looking at the transaction falling out, with consequences for the deposit, or renegotiation, and that seller is going to want a goodie of their own for giving you what you need. Renegotiation is also subject to issues from deterioration of mutual trust, as the other side starts wondering precisely how much of the contract you intend to live up to. It should be expected that the inspections are going to raise some negotiation issues, even in "as is" sales. That's life with asymmetrical information - which is basically every real estate transaction. But try to avoid anything else as a reason to renegotiate.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the dangers. With real estate, the answer to the question "What can go wrong?" is usually, "The mind boggles."* Purchase offers are probably the most noteworthy example of that principle. A poorly written, or poorly considered purchase offer can mean you're stuck with a situation you can't carry through on, and it can cost you anything up to the full purchase price of the property, and perhaps more than that.

Caveat Emptor

*Thanks to Robert Lynn Aspirin and Aahz

Original article here


Every once in a while, the subject of assumable loans comes up. An assumable loan is one where the owner of a property has the ability to pass the loan along with the property in a sale. In other words, if they sell a property with a $200,000 assumable loan on it, by assuming the loan, the buyer only has to come up with the difference between that $200,000 and the purchase price. The $200,000 loan is a constant of the situation.

About the only loan that generally has an assumption feature is the VA loan. There are other loans out there that are assumable, but it's a matter of company policy of the lender funding the loan.

Just because a loan is assumable does not mean that any person is acceptable to assume such a loan. The lender has the right to approve or disapprove a loan assumption. The way to bet is that any prospective borrower is going to have to qualify under loan guidelines at least as stringent as the original loan. Mind you, if the rate is higher than the current market, the lender is likely to be somewhat forgiving, but if the rate is lower than current market, the lender has an incentive not to approve the assumption. They may approve it anyway, if the rate still beats the active return on the secondary market. But given the latitude to make their own decision, it's not exactly amazing how often everyone will usually follow their economic best interest.

Even after an assumption gets approved, the original borrower is not off the hook. I don't think I've ever heard of an assumption where there was no recourse to the original borrower. The VA loan has full recourse to the original borrower (and their VA guarantee) for a minimum of two years. This means that those original borrowers aren't going to be able to get another VA loan for at least two years, or at least that they're limited by the amount of their overall VA limit tied up in the assumed loan.

Other than VA loans, loans where there is an assumable option are generally a little higher than the non-assumable competition in terms of the tradeoff between loan rate and costs. This is because assumability is a feature with value. They're giving you something that has value the competition does not - they want some value in return. It's generally not a huge difference, but in the absence of someone asking for an assumable loan, I generally presume lower rate/cost tradeoff is more important to my clients, and I can't remember the last time a wholesaler with assumable loans won that battle.

There is a concrete value to having an assumable loan. Particularly in buyer's markets, they are one more way to get the property sold, and sold at a better price. After all, you have a feature that few other sellers have. The offer to allow someone to assume your loan can help certain kinds of buyers who may not be able to qualify otherwise, It's a narrow niche, but it does exist, and the ability to have any niche of potential buyers to yourself is valuable in a buyer's market. This doesn't say you can ask for way more than the property is worth, it says that you have a tool to lure certain types of buyer, and have a tool to move negotiations in the direction you'd like them to go once there is an offer.

Finally, I should mention that having an assumable loan on the property is in no way a magic wand for buyers. Buyers still need to qualify to make those payments with that lender. Furthermore, assumable loans require that you be in a position to essentially step into the seller's shoes, equity wise. If the property is selling for $350,000 and there's a $200,000 assumable loan on the property, the other $150,000 has to come from somewhere, and second trust deeds aren't currently going above 90% of value, period - not to mention second mortgages have a higher rate. The existing lender is not going to put more money to an existing loan. So even though the mortgage may be legally assumable, it doesn't mean it's necessarily going to work for your transaction.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

This article is for sellers who want to put their property on the market priced too high "just to see if we can get it."

I know where sellers get this notion. A lot of people are out there hyping the notion that getting a higher price is a function of patience. It isn't. It's a matter of being worth a higher price. The higher priced your property, the lower the percentage of the population that can afford your property and therefore, it takes longer to sell higher end properties. But the notion that getting a better price for your property is a matter of patience is wishful thinking.

I keep telling people, if you want to be a successful seller, think like a buyer (The reverse also applies).

Here's what buyers do: They look for the most attractive property that best suits their individual needs at the lowest possible price.

Buyers are quite conscious of the fact that there are other buyers out there, and they want - very strongly - to harness the collective brain-power of those other buyers. As I had quite forcefully driven home to me recently, one of the things that buyers want out of listing services is "days on market." It wasn't a surprise to me, but the vehemence of the feeling certainly reinforced my understanding. I've written many times about the selling your property quickly and for the best possible price, and the effects of not adhering to that strategy. Buyers don't want to "waste" their time with picked over remains that nobody else liked, hence their rather strong focus on the variable of "time on market". It's incorrect, but that's the way the average buyer sees it. Kind of like the produce and meat sections of the supermarket at closing time. I cannot recall the last time a gateway client sent me an email about a property that had been on the market as much as two weeks - and at least 90% (maybe 99%) of them came onto the market within the last day or two.

So what happens when you put your property on the market over-priced? You might get showings, but when your buyers look at competing properties, they get a better deal - more of what they need and want for the same price - by buying those other properties. Therefore, they will make offers on those other properties - not yours.

Within a short period of time - usually a month or less - the showings will trail off. That pesky "time on market" counter. Buyers aren't interested in what's been picked over and rejected - they want fresh offerings, just like at the supermarket. There are any number of methods of gaming the time "time on market" counter to fool the buyers. Let me ask you: Would all these methods even exist if it wasn't important to buyers?

(Enforcement of measures against that gaming is getting stronger, by the way).

Once your property is on the market, it's effectively a depreciating asset, thanks to that "days on market" counter. It may not be as time critical as the fresh seafood counter, but it's a matter of how quickly it loses how much of its value, not whether it does. Suppose you're at the grocery store on January 7th - if you're looking at a fridge full of milk cartons, would you be looking for the one that expires January 5th, 11th, 21st, or February 1st? People are so used to doing this that they don't even realize they're doing it or that it may not be appropriate in this context. But right, wrong, or indifferent, they do it. Pretending otherwise doesn't make it so.

There is one way to refresh that interest in your property, and it's the same way that the grocery store does it. What's the feature of the "day old bread" table that people remember? Sometimes a grocer will have a place for meat or fish that's older than ideal as well, and they use exactly the same principle: lower the price.

At this stage, you've got to lower your price to compete with the other "day old bread," and to get a successful sale at this point, you've got to be priced like day old bread. This means significantly less than you could have gotten in the first place. Nobody buys day old English Muffins for a dollar when there's fresh ones sitting right next to them for that dollar, and it's not like people can't tell they're day old. So in order to sell those day old English Muffins, the store marks them down to fifty cents. The same principle will work to sell a property that's been on the market too long. Even though the discount isn't as steep, proportionally speaking, it's still cost you a large amount of money to put your property on the market overpriced. People still buy day old bread - just not for the same price as the stuff the driver delivered fresh this morning. Not to mention those carrying costs for a property. The fact is, putting your property on the market over-priced costs you thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. The longer it takes you to see the light, the worse it gets.

I've been writing all of this as if asking price was implicitly equivalent to sales price, which is not the case, but the relationship between the two is beyond the scope of this article (or any other article I'm likely to write here). Suffice to say that asking price is a representation by the seller of a sales price they would be pleased to accept.

But the buyer's perception of value diminishes with time on market, regardless of whether or not there is any merit to that viewpoint. In general, there is not, but it's kind of like believing in communism or social security or single payer health care, to construct a "Christmas Carol Ghost" parallel (disaster past, disaster present, and disaster yet to come). Doesn't matter how much nonsense it is - if enough people believe in it, it's going to be the law of the land until enough people change their mind or the whole system falls apart. Since the time between adoption and abolishment is longer than most property owners can hold onto that property, this means you might as well treat it as a fact of life, because from the point of view of a seller, it is.

You can avoid this issue by pricing the property correctly in the first place, and correct pricing should be a difficult discussion if your prospective listing agent is any good. If the pricing discussion isn't difficult, were I in your shoes I'd take that as a strong warning sign and tell that agent that their services are not desired.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

Note: Since this article was originally written, there have been changes in the loan marketplace. The negative amortization loan is no longer available and the damage it did has finally become obvious to everyone with pretense of a functioning brain. Nor are stated income loans available, and what few subprime lenders survive have changed their tune. Nonetheless, it's still a good article for today.

*******

Cold Hard Fact for today: The average Real Estate Agent or Loan Officer is not motivated to tell you that you can't afford your property.

For the agent you are trying to talk people out of a property after they have already fallen in love with it, and then the argument becomes, "Why did you show it to me?". Let's face it, if it's higher in price, it should have features that lower priced properties do not, and it should have fewer things that consumers do not want. Indeed, one of the easiest and most common ways unethical real estate agents sell properties is by showing you several lower priced properties, fixers which lack those attractive extras, then show you the blinged out immaculate property while whispering sweet nothings like, "I can show you how you can afford the payments!" (which is not the same as being able to afford the property!)

All agents learn that by telling the client "no," or anything that sounds like "no," they are likely to lose that business. Good ones know that putting a client into something beyond their budget is a good way to have the transaction come back to haunt them. But for most, the temptation of the easy sale that made itself if too strong. They want that commission check. Nothing wrong with commission checks. If they provide real value to the client, they are a way of showing the world that you have done something valuable, same as a doctor, carpenter, or computer programmer. It's when you use your position of trust to sabotage them that problems start - and the agent who causes a client problems should experience problems. Many agents have not been around long enough to understand flat or declining markets. In truth, I wasn't in the business the last time we had one, either. But I am old enough to remember, and careful enough by nature that I refuse to assume that a rapidly rising market will save my bacon, as many agents have become used to.

And for the foreseeable future, rapidly rising markets are unlikely to save anybody's bacon, because the market isn't going to be rising rapidly until all the distressed inventory has cleared. Inventory is high, long term rates are set to rise, and we're just seeing a wave of problems caused by over-the-top practices of the last few years. I think we're past the price decline locally, at least as far as properties that are actually selling, but conditions aren't there for a return to the market we had most of the last decade.

Lest you be wondering, the loan officer is even more unlikely to counsel you on whether you can really afford the property. Between Stated Income, Negative Amortization Loans, and loans that are both of these, you can get anybody with an income and a not too putrid credit score into the property. In fact, I heard some real howls of outrage from certain brokers when lenders tightened their recourse on brokers in 2006. Even so, the paycheck is now and certain, the risk of default vague and indefinite, and for most loan officers, there's another concern as well.

You see, most loan officers cultivate some friends who are real estate agents, and that's how they get their business. That agent brings them business because they have a history of getting the loan through, so that agent gets paid. Sometimes they may have their hand out for a referral fee as well, but the important thing for you to know as a consumer is that referral you get from an agent to a loan officer has nothing to do with how great their rates are, and everything to do with how creative they are in getting some sort of loan approved so that agent gets paid for the house they think they just sold. Tell just one prospect who has made an offer on their dream house that there is an issue with being able to really afford that loan, and the word will get around the real estate community in no time. Result: For causing one agent to not get paid, Joe Loan Officer not only will not get any referrals from them in the future, if the client does find Joe Loan Officer on their own, the agents are going to do their best to talk them away from Joe, who, from their point of view, "stole their paycheck" by telling the client that they really could not afford the loan that was necessary to make the transaction work! Even if they took that transaction to some other loan officer who got it closed, Jane Realtor doesn't want her clients to have anything to do with Joe, lest she lose another potential commission check!

So what can you, the consumer, do about this? Well, I can't tell you all about the special cases, and I lack the programming capability to embed a spreadsheet and loan calculator. But I can give you some good general rules of comparison, and guidelines laid down by lenders as to whether or not you can actually afford that loan.

Start with your total monthly gross income. Assuming you printed this out, write that number here:






Loan Type

A Paper ARM

A Paper fixed

sub-prime general

sub-prime severe

sub-prime extreme



Multiply Income by (DTI*)

0.38

0.45

0.50

0.55

0.60


Result

_______

_______

_______

_______

_______



Notes

A,B

B













*DTI: Debt to Income Ratio

Notes:
A: use fully indexed rate for qualification purposes. This means the underlying index plus the margin after it adjusts, assuming current values.

B: If interest only, use fully amortized rate for qualification purposes.

Any four function calculator will do this much. This is the largest number you will qualify with. As you should be able to see, it's more difficult to qualify for A paper, even though that is where you want to be. But we're not done. This is total housing and debt service, the so-called "back end ratio." So from that number, you need to subtract your monthly debt service: Car payments and other installments, and minimum credit card payments. You pay this much already. You obviously cannot afford to pay it out for housing also - that would be double counting! Your lender won't believe you can afford to spend the same dollar twice.

So add up your credit card, car payment, and other monthly debt obligations. Subtract it from your numbers for back end ratios, computed above. This will give you a set of five numbers that tells what you can afford for housing costs, depending upon how far you want to go. But we're not done! This is total cost of housing; the so-called "PITI payment." It includes not only principal and interest on the loan, but also property taxes, homeowner's insurance, Condominium Association dues, and Mello-Roos assessment districts (or their equivalent outside of California, if applicable). So from this, you need to subtract all of the known stuff or stuff you can make a close approximation on, like Association dues and insurance and taxes, to arrive at how much of a loan you can afford. Please note that for Negative Amortization Loans, loan officers may use the minimum payment for qualification, but you are still being charged the real interest rate! Still, it should become obvious as to why Negative Amortization loans were so popular in high priced areas. Not only would the lenders pay between 3.5 to 4 percent commission for them, not only do they allow lower payments to be quoted, but they make it look like you qualify for a bigger loan than you can afford, which means the real estate agent gets a bigger commission from selling you a more expensive property, and the loan officer gets paid more, also, because now you have applied for a larger loan! I have heard every rationalization under the sun from loan officers and real estate agents on this score, but they are still inappropriate for the vast majority of people who have them. I can get a better interest rate on a better loan for less cost, every time, but then I have to tell the client about the full amount they are really being charged every month, and they might have to content themselves with a less expensive property, meaning that real estate agent is going to have to do some real work. Go out onto the web and look for some loan calculators (Auto loans use slightly different assumptions, so don't use those calculators), or if you have a financial calculator, use it! Use the real interest rates that are available, and if the number you get comes out much higher than your quoted payment, they are trying to snooker you with a negative amortization loan. There is no magic about loans, and a healthy skepticism will help you prevent problems from happening in the first place.

Now add the down payment you intend to make to the loan you can afford, and that tells you whether or not you can afford the property. If you can't, don't make that offer. If you're already in escrow, do what is necessary to get out. I'd rather forfeit a deposit now than a much larger amount later. And if you already own it but can't afford it, the time to sell is now.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

Short answer: It almost certainly won't sell!

The first thing that happens is that when it goes onto the Multiple Listing Service, all the agents who see it know that it's overpriced. Even on the public part of MLS, the members of the public who see it wonder, "Are the walls gold-plated or something?"

The first thing you want when you put a property on the market is for everybody who is looking for a property of that nature to come and see it. Overpricing it is the best way I know of to cut down drastically on the level of interest. If they don't come see it, people are not going to make offers. Most particularly, they will not make good offers if they don't come see it. If they do come see it, they are going to be expecting something better, and disappointed people don't make good offers, if they make one at all. That high asking price communicates that this property has something above and beyond the reality of what it really does have. When prospective buyers find that it doesn't, they're going to wonder what in the heck you and your agent were thinking. They're going to go away shaking their heads at the waste of their time. If they make an offer, it will be a desperation check tens of thousands below what you could have gotten by pricing it correctly.

The agents in the area are going to avoid the property, also. They know what similar properties are going for. Why should they try to sell yours for $10,000, $25,000, $50,000 above market comparables? Yes, they'll make a little more if they do sell it, but it's much easier to sell a property that is a real bargain. I'd rather sell sell a real bargain at $400,000 than an over-priced turkey for $450,000. The difference in compensation isn't that much, and I'll work much harder, and I'll lose most prospects by trying to sell the over-priced turkey - buyers are neither stupid nor blind. I try to sell them an over-priced turkey looking for the sucker of the year, and a large proportion of clients won't want to work with me any more. I can make the commission by finding the $450,000 property we can get for $400,000 and have happy clients refer their friends and family, or I can lose the client by trying for $450,000. If they can afford $450,000 and want to spend that much, I'll end up happier by finding them the property really worth $500,000 that we can get for $450,000. Happy clients bring me more clients for free, and as any real estate agent or loan officer can tell you, getting potential clients in the door is the hardest and most expensive part of the business. I assure you that every real estate agent who has been in the business more than about three hours knows this. If you were priced right, I might have shown that client your property, but you weren't, and so I didn't. When you over-priced the property, you either placed yourself beyond their budget, or where I can find something better for the same price.

Furthermore, overpriced real estate tells me that not only does the listing agent not know what they are doing and does not know what appropriate pricing is, but also that the seller likely does not have their head in the right place as to what the property is worth. Six months or a year down the line, it's time to make a low-ball offer and see if you're desperate yet. And if you needed to sell in ninety days, you will be. Right now, if I bring in a client who offers what the property is really worth, that's so much wasted time on my part and that of my buyer prospect, because I'm fighting two people with their heads stuck in the Land of Wishful Thinking, and I cannot force either one of you to listen to reason. Six or twelve months down the line, the seller usually has to listen, as carrying costs have killed their bank account.

If people do come see your over-priced property, most of them won't make an offer. Most people don't look at just one property, even if they like yours. They may not look at enough properties, but they will look at more than one before they write an offer for anything. And since they have seen at least one other property, unless it's as overpriced as yours is, they're not going to make a good offer on yours. Many times, it may falsely communicate to them that the other property is a heck of a good bargain, and you just sold that other property, for which that other property's owner and listing agent surely thank you.

By over-pricing the property, not only do you set yourself up for all of this, but you miss the period of highest interest in your property, which is right after it hits the market, tapering off after about a month. One of the two hardest, most pernicious ideas for a good agent to fight is the idea of putting it on the market over-priced "just to see" if they can get thousands of dollars more than comparable properties are selling for. The other is the concept of "bargaining room." Not only are you unlikely to get more than the market comps, but by over-pricing the property during the period of initial interest, the owners have almost certainly frightened away potential buyers who might well have offered market value if the property was priced correctly. Nor do these people come back later. They're looking at the stuff that hit the market this week, not four, six, or ten months ago. The agents in the area remember that it sat on the market for six months even if you somehow manage to get the days on market counter reset. Result: You have to lower the price further than the price you could have gotten in the first place to attract interest, and you paid carrying costs for those months as well. Foot. Bullet. No assembly required, because you did it to yourself. If you had a need to sell by a certain time, or for the best price, it's not going to happen.

Indeed, several months out, you'll start getting those low-ballers I talked about earlier. They really do want to buy your property, but they won't offer anything like what you might have gotten earlier, because your property isn't worth that much to them. It's no secret that just waiting a little while on over-priced property is one of the best ways to get a bargain that there is. Most people put the property up for sale because they have a reason they want it sold. Most of those reasons are time-sensitive, and many are time critical. Wait until the deadline looms, or has passed, and the seller has no bargaining strength. I don't care how much "bargaining room" you gave yourself. Bargaining room is nothing. Bargaining strength is everything. When your best alternative is losing the property to foreclosure, you have no strength. If you won't deal, these folks will wait until the lender owns it. It's all the same to them, but it isn't to you.

Until recently, with prices falling, the appraisal wasn't quite the problem it usually is for over-priced real estate. But usually, if you actually do win the lottery - and the odds you are facing when you over-price a property really are in that league - and your listing agent sells it to the Sucker of the Year for more than the comparables, the appraisal isn't going to support the sales price. This means they can't finance the full sales price, and the Suckers of the Year are even less likely than other people to have the money for an increased down payment. I've said this more than once, but I it is rare for a first time buyer to have a significant down payment, or more than they planned on needing. Even people who aren't first time buyers usually want to buy with as little down as possible, and you've just boosted the amount they have to come up with out of their pocket if they want your property - not to mention that most purchase contracts these days have appraisal contingencies built in. Appraisals falling short is a major problem right now. With HVCC, most of them fall short of what they should be, let alone fevered dreams of over-pricing. When I originally wrote this, a couple of nitwits had recently put the house I grew up in on the market for 630,000! I took a look for grins and giggles. The owners had gussied up the back yard a little, but other than that it's the same as I remember. No way is that appraisal coming in even if they do find the Sucker of the Year to make an offer, so the Suckers of the Year have to front all those thousands of dollars to make the transaction work, and Suckers of the Year are just that - suckers. The chances of them having that kind of money sitting around where nobody else has conned them out of it are miniscule, to say the least. The only alternative I'm aware of is a seller carryback, and there are some real issues and problems with those. Meanwhile, of course, you are stuck in escrow with them and the clock is ticking and they may have grounds for a lawsuit if you are not careful. Even if they don't, they may sue you anyway, and tie up the title until the court gets around to ruling, or until the arbitration hearing and all of the appeals are over.

In short, over-pricing your property is the best way I know of to get yourself very frustrated, waste time, and end up forced to accept an offer that's less than you could have gotten if you had simply priced the property correctly in the first place.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

One of the things that has a lot of issues is any transaction between related people. This is not limited to purely family transactions, but applies also to transfers among partnerships and their partners, corporations and their officers.

The market theory holding that the value of a property is what is agreed to between a willing buyer and a willing seller is subject to the proviso that neither buyer nor seller has a reason to inflate or deflate what the property is worth to them. If the parties are related, there is an obvious reason to think that this may not necessarily be the case. Parents do things for their children all the time, siblings for each other, and as you're probably aware if you work in corporate America, major stockholders, investors, and executives often manipulate corporate versus personal transactions for less than wholesome reasons. Partnerships do the darnedest things, as well.

The issue, as far as the lender goes, is that they are trying to safeguard their money. Lending is a risk based business, and the lender wants to know that they are not taking more of a risk than they intend to when they take on this loan.

Let's say Jane Jones is CEO of SuperColossal Corporation. She wants to manipulate her compensation, so she has SuperColossal sell her property for half its real value.

This is actually okay by most lenders, if not securities regulators, IRS agents, et al. The loan is based upon the purchase price, the appraisal comes in double the purchase amount, and the lender assumes less risk than they price the loan for. Remember, the property is valued based upon LCM: Lower of Cost (purchase price) or Market value. When market value comes in high, the lender is covered. What isn't so cool is if Jane Jones sells SuperColossal the property back at twice its value. If the corporation gets a loan for 75 percent of value, that's at least a third of the lender's money they're not going to get back in case of default, which becomes likely when Jane is fired and the new CEO asks why they are paying the loan when they owe half again what the property is worth.

Needless to say, the lenders want to guard against that. Many lenders will not do related party transactions, period. For the ones that do, they will want to be very careful on the appraisal, which has now become their only guard against getting into an indefensible position. Many times, lenders may require related party transactions to go through certain appraisers, they may require in house appraisers, they may require multiple appraisals, and they may require that there be no contact between principals and appraisers. Whatever their required precautions, they need to be followed, as failing to do so will cause the loan to be rejected.

I'm going over this to make a point. Many lenders have additional requirements for related party transactions. Some may require full documentation only, others require that the loans have full recourse (they can come after you legally if they lose money). Each and every lender creates their own policy, and if your transaction is between related parties, it is probably more important to inquire about related party transfer policy and requirements than it is to get a good rate at a competitive price. Not much use having a great quote if you can't meet the lender's requirements. Even worse if it causes you to waste time with a lender whose requirements you cannot meet, and now your deadline for the transaction is here and you don't have a loan, and so cannot complete the transaction.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

Pre-Qualification

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One of the most useless and overworked items in the real estate industry today is the pre-qualification for a loan. Sellers want buyers to be "pre-qualified", and buyers are seeking "pre-qualification" to convince buyers they are serious.

The level of work done for a pre-qualification varies. In some rare instances, the loan officer doing the work not only runs the credit, but verifies the income as consisting of the proper income documentation paperwork (w-2s and/or taxes, plus pay stubs and/or testimonial letter) for the loan, and determines how much of a payment you can qualify for based upon known income and known indebtedness, and actually includes the assumed property tax due to purchase price in the payment calculations, and gives you an answer in how much you can qualify for based upon current rates at the time. This is a fair amount of work, consuming hours of time. A loan officer at a direct lender who goes through this whole procedure might be done in two or three hours. A loan officer working for a broker can actually take a full day, or even two, making calls to various lenders and shopping the loan around after the primary calculations are done. On real transactions, I've gone over two days on multiple occasions, trying to find a better loan.

The pitfalls and caveats are many. If the loan officer doesn't run your credit, which costs money, they really have no idea what your credit is like. If they don't verify your income, they are making a giant assumption that what you told them is accurate for purposes of a real estate loan (you get to use gross pay, but there are a multitude of potential adjustments). The payment you qualify for when you actually go to buy a house and get a real loan is a so-called PITI payment, which stands for principal, interest, taxes and insurance. Insurance is always an educated guess, unless and until you have a quote from a prospective insurer on a particular property for an adequate amount of coverage. Taxes here in California will be initially based upon sales price, and unless you live within one of the high property tax areas, is pretty much a set rate for the whole state, but there are many special assessment districts, scattered all over the state. I've seen properties with as many as four of these, although many if not most properties have none. It's much harder in some other states to even come up with a meaningful rule of thumb figure. All of these factors throw the taxes figure off.

Principal and interest - the actual loan payment - is what's left over from your allowed payment. From this, you can compute a principal loan amount based upon known interest rates.

Here's where the games really start. The first question is "What type of loan are they basing it on?" The thirty year fixed rate loan always has the highest rate, which means that if they assume a thirty year fixed rate loan, they are going to be able to "pre-qualify" you for less than somebody else can. What's the lowest rate, and hence the highest prequalification amount? A month-to-month variable or even a negative amortization loan. Somebody assuming they are going to qualify you for a negative amortization loan is going to "pre-qualify" you for the largest loan - more than you can really afford, as millions of people have discovered the hard way since I started writing this site. Which is more attractive to a client who doesn't know any better? That's right, the negative amortization loan. Which loan causes someone who is educated in mortgages want to drag the loan officer into the sunlight and stake them through the heart? That's right, the negative amortization loan. Amazing coincidence? Not really. From personal experience, many people do not want to become educated, even to the level of a competent layperson, and they will get taken for a ride as a consequence. What they want is to look at houses, pick out one they like, sign a couple sheets of paper, and move in. What these people are likely to get is a disaster. For several years, many people in my industry made a very high class living ripping off people like this while setting them up with a gotcha that was going to bite, and bite hard, but not until after they had their commissions and depart the scene. "How many houses are they going to buy from me, anyway?" is the typical thinking.

One more concern is the fact that while sub-prime loan rates are higher, and in most cases they will have a pre-payment penalty, where A paper loan rates are lower and in most cases do not have a pre-payment penalty. However, the highest payment A paper loans will allow is less than the highest payment sub-prime loans will allow, due to lower allowable debt to income ratio. So the loan officer can typically qualify you for a bigger loan based upon a sub-prime loan. See my article "Mortgage Markets and Providers."

Additionally, the rates on loans change every day. If the rates changes, so does the amount you qualify for with the same payment. It takes only a calculator to show that even an honest and complete "pre-qualification" done on a rate that's valid today may or may not be accurate by the time you actually find a home that you wish to purchase.

Another game loan officers play is with the rate versus cost and points tradeoff. It is counter-intuitive but true that it is actually easier to qualify someone for a lower rate. If you qualify for a given loan program at 5.5 percent, you will qualify for the same program at 5.25 percent, but you might not qualify at 5.75 percent. The reason is that the payment is (or should be) lower if the rate is lower, and payment is what qualification is based upon. The cost to you is that most people refinance or sell before they have recovered the additional costs of these lower rate loans. (See Mortgage Rate and Points for details and sample computations.) So they're going choose a loan that sticks you with multiple points - costs you're not likely to recover - all in the name of qualifying you for a larger dollar amount. The money to do that can make a difference on your loan to value ratio, as it eats up your planned down payment. So you want to be very careful that the loan officer's assumptions aren't planning to use the same money twice, because you can't spend the same dollar both on your down payment and buying your rate down.

THERE IS NO WIDELY-ACCEPTED STANDARD FOR "PRE-QUALIFICATION." Let me say that again. There is no widely accepted standard for prequalification. One more time: There is no widely accepted standard for prequalification. Consequently, everywhere in the nation, but particularly in California and other high cost areas, the pressures on providers to "pre-qualify" you for inflated numbers is intense. If you don't qualify for enough to buy any home, they obviously don't have a transaction. If they pre-qualify you for less than someone else, most people are more likely to go to that somewhere else, and the loan officer doesn't have a transaction. The competition is qualifying them based upon month-to-month variable loans or even negative amortization, and so if they don't as well, they don't have a transaction. Few loan officers qualify clients based upon how things really are, and the easy transactions where everything fits and the people qualify based upon traditional measures are mostly long gone. If the agent and loan officer doesn't have a transaction, they don't make any money. If they don't make any money, they don't stay in business, they can't make the payments on the Porsche, their house gets repossessed, their wife has to sell her jewelry to keep them off the streets, etcetera. It's not a pretty picture for them, and it often leads to them putting clients into situations they cannot really afford (I originally wrote that in June 2005, long before the mortgage meltdown became plain to everyone else). Finally, of course, the size of commissions is based upon the size of the transaction, so if they "pre-qualify" you for more, they have the prospect of making more when you buy the bigger house that you cannot really afford.

This doesn't even go into the issues of a stated income loan. Stated income loans are gone now, but when we had them were intended for self employed folks who get to deduct a large number of expenses everyone else doesn't. They were where a borrower couldn't prove income according to industry standards via taxes, w-2s, pay stubs, or perhaps bank statements for sub-prime loans, so they stated their income and in return for a higher interest rate, the bank agreed not to verify the actual income level. Please note that it's still got to make sense for someone in your profession. For example, if you are a school teacher they are not going to believe you $250,000 per year. But people do make up numbers much larger than the real amount they make. It is not for nothing that stated income was often called a "liar's loan". That is fine and good, as long as you actually can make the payment. When you can't it becomes a real issue. Not necessarily for the loan officer, who's going to get their money and depart the scene, and as long as you make the first payment or two they're off the hook. No. The one who's going to have to deal with the mess is you, the client. Keep in mind that as soon as the loan is funded, that loan officer is out of the picture whether you went through a direct lender or not, and they know it. That real estate agent is also out of the picture as soon as you have your house, and they know it. You've got to live with the situation they created, and they kind of know it, but often it just isn't important to them, and certainly not as important as seeing that they get paid, and paid as much as practical. So watch out, and shop around. The person who "pre-qualifies" you for the lowest amount may be the one you should do business with, because they are using assumptions you can actually live with. Go over their numbers with a calculator in hand.

The stated income loan leads into our next issue, which is that few people will expend the necessary effort to do a "pre-qualification" correctly. It takes several hours to do an accurate "pre-qualification" correctly, but a Wildly Assumptive Guess takes just a few minutes. You may imagine which is done more often, especially since the numbers will change with available rates anyway. This especially applies if the agent does not run credit or does not get income documentation. Due to the availability of the stated income loan when I first wrote this, there was no absolute need to obsess about accuracy and being sure of the numbers, and many loan officers still don't understand that this has changed. Due to pressures to come up with high numbers, loan officers still make assumptions that range from pretty optimistic to wildly optimistic. This is wonderful if you just want to be able to say you were a homeowner for a few months while the bank forecloses on you. It's not so great if you're trying to get into a survivable financial situation.

You may get the idea that when it comes right down to it, most "pre-qualifications" are convenient fiction, worth an approximately equal size of toilet paper, if not quite so soft on certain portions of your anatomy. You'd be correct. So "Why are they so ubiquitous?" becomes the obvious question.

The answer is sellers and seller's agents. Sellers are going to go through a significant amount of trouble and expense going through the motions of selling their homes. Furthermore, they can only have one proposed sale in process at a time and they may have a deadline. They understandably want some kind of reassurance that this buyer can actually qualify for the loan. For their part, seller's agents can be some of the laziest people I've ever met when you come right down to it. They've paid the money for the advertising that draws people or joining the big well-known National Brokerage With Television Advertising! Once they get the signature on a listing agreement, many think they're entitled to sit around with thumb you-know-where and wait for the commission to roll in. They don't want to go over the buyer's pre-qualification with the seller, and most of them have no idea as to how to do it. But they certainly don't want to carry out their part for more than one proposed transaction, hence their desire for this Magical thing called the "pre-qualification."

The correct way to respond to this concern, for a seller, is simple and yet many people think it's hard-nosed. Require a deposit. Require it be remitted to you on the last day of escrow as part of the initial contract, whether or not the loan funds. Now the standard form in California, as a default, makes the sale conditional upon the loan for seventeen days, but this can be changed by specific negotiation. True, you might scare away some buyers who aren't certain that they're qualified, and in buyer's markets this may scare them away entirely. But you won't enter into escrow with anyone who's unsure. You shouldn't rely on a "pre-qualification", which is basically just a piece of paper that's now been filled up with meaningless markings and so can't be used again for something more important, like a game of tic-tac-toe.

Furthermore, many buyer's agents, knowing how useless a "pre-qualification" is, don't want to take the time to do them themselves and so tell their clients to go get one somewhere else, but that when the time comes they have someone who will do the actual loan. It didn't take very long for the word on this practice to get out, and so loan officers and agents with a very short time in the business learn not to do them unless they are going to get something out of it. Which basically means control of the transaction or an upfront payment. I certainly can't name anybody with more than a few months in the business who will do a "pre-qualification" unless a client either signs a Buyer's Agent Agreement or pays them a fee or does something that assures them they will get a transaction. And if your agent says go get a "pre-qualification" on your own, go and get another agent. If they or the loan agent they recommend can't be bothered, then obviously they are too busy to give you the necessary attention to get your transaction done properly and on time. It's very hard to fight the system that requires a "pre-qualification," no matter how useless it is, but it's part of the work they signed on for. They should do it themselves. If they try to get someone else do do their work, consider it a Red Flag not to do business with them, because they're already trying to skate by without doing work that they should be doing. Being a good agent or loan officer is work, and that's what we get paid for. Somebody who's trying to do less work now is likely to try and skate by without doing important work later.

Caveat Emptor

Original here


Question from an e-mail:

Hi, I have a question about mortgages. My boyfriend and I are looking to buy a home, and since I have recently quit my job he would be the primary applicant. He makes $44k and we are looking at houses about $150k. We both have very good credit although I have some debt. I am wondering though what kind of rate we are going to get since he recently graduated and just started his job about a month ago. Is that going to affect the rate of the mortgage or how much he can qualify for, and by how much? Also, I have a small business that has been running for about a year and a half - it made a good bit of money last year, about $55k, and is still making some (albeit less now than it was last year.) Would it be worth it for me to co-apply, based on that income, since I don't have a salaried job currently? If I am not on the mortgage, I will sign a lease to him. We are going to put about $10,000 down. Thanks!

First off, let me briefly explain that unless someone has either truly putrid credit or large monthly payments that kill the debt to income ratio, there just isn't a reason to leave someone off a loan. So what if John is a househusband or Jane is a housewife with no income? They're still part of that marriage partnership, and the same applies (minus the word marriage) if the folks involved aren't married. Unmarried gays (with or without civil unions) and cohabiting straights are exactly the same as married folks except that I have to put them on separate applications instead of applying on the same sheet of paper, and if they're committed to each other, well isn't that what being a committed partner is all about - sharing benefits as well as responsibilities? In other words, ownership of the property and indebtedness for the loan.

Depending upon your situation, however, if you sign the lease it may actually help the boyfriend qualify more than your income would if you were on the loan. Leases that fulfill lender requirements generally aren't scrutinized for the ability of the lessee to pay, where if you were on the loan, the money that the lender would believe you could contribute might not pass scrutiny.

Now, let's look at the individual situations.

You are the more clear cut candidate. You have no current salaried income from employment, but you do have a side business with historic, documentable income. If you'd been doing it for two years, you'd have two years in current line of work and the ability to use that income all in one fell swoop. The way that is measured is monthly income averaged over the previous two years, as reported on your federal income tax forms. However, at this point all you have is one year. Still, it's worth submitting, because $4150 per month over one year isn't chicken feed. If you can show some income in the business for the previous year, and evidence of when you started, they're likely to average it over the full two years leaving you with a minimum of about $2100 per month to add into the gross income kitty. After all, it's a going concern, you're still doing it and nobody fires owners.

Furthermore, if you can get a job and a paystub in your previous field of employment before you apply for that loan, now you're employed over two years in the same line of work, simply with a gap in employment. When they average that out, it'll be a bit of a hit, but you'll still get substantial credit for your employment income.

Your boyfriend is a bit less cut and dried, especially at this update. When I first wrote this, if he was in the profession for which he was was granted the degree (for instance, a doctor or nurse when he was studying medicine), then it was pretty easy to get credit for the time in line of work. He was in medicine, he just wasn't getting paid until recently. It was never written into A paper guidelines that I'm aware of, but lender guidelines had some common sense to them. With the tightening of what the secondary market for loans will accept and the federal regulatory screws however, this is now becoming more difficult to get approved. Lenders want to see the stipulated period of actual documentable income.

If the boyfriend is in an profession unrelated to the course of study, he's just going to have to wait until he has his two years in. There's no history of involvement, and people get jobs in various fields all the time that it turns out they can't - or won't - continue in. For example, sales. That's fine, but the lenders don't want to get caught by default when they leave the field and can't make mortgage payments.

So I can see possible situations arising out of what you describe that could have either one of you primary on the loan, or completely unable to do the loan without resorting to subprime financing. Each individual situation can turn upon some very fine points, kind of like theology or law.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here


This article was inspired by closing one of many transactions where my clients did not make the high bid (or even close), but did get the fully negotiated purchase contract and the property. By building an airtight case that this client was capable of promptly consummating the transaction, I persuaded a rational seller to accept less money than they might theoretically have gotten from another interested party.

Let me make it very clear that this does not work every time, and you have to offer them something else they want that nobody else is offering. It takes a seller with a certain amount of knowledge of the market to make it work, and their agent cannot be clueless either. Your first time home seller with no knowledge of the reasons why transactions fail, or how frequently, is not likely to realize where the probability of money is. So after that seller eats carrying costs for the property for two to three months at several thousand dollars per month before they discover that the buyer cannot consummate the transaction, they might start to get rational about what's important - providing they haven't lost the property to foreclosure in the meantime.

The better the agent is, the more likely they are to be on the side of the more certain transaction. Over forty percent of all escrows started in the last year locally did not result in consummated transactions. Why did all those transactions fall apart? The loan couldn't be done. No other reason but "the loan couldn't be done." Transactions that fall apart for other reasons - newly discovered major repairs, and all of the little problems with interpersonal relationships that strike between contract and recording - are mostly unknowable in advance. We can all spot the purchase offer (or seller's counter) that says "Danger, Will Robinson!" but most of them aren't that bad. And the fact is, no matter how unwilling sellers may be to deal with newly discovered issues, they're stuck with them and the buyer isn't. Nobody's going to buy a house where you can't flush the toilets, as I had to explain at length to a listing agent not too long ago by way of explaining why his client was going to have to replace septic or hook it up to the sewer (Indeed, both law and lenders will make it very difficult). One of the most important questions in the mind of any rational seller or listing agent has got to be, "What assurance do I have that this buyer can consummate this transaction in a timely fashion?"

As a buyer's agent, that's what you want to sell in a competitive bid situation: increased certainty of the transaction happening.. Confidence that you and your client can make it happen, given the opportunity. Show the sellers why these buyers are qualified. Telling nothing but the truth, paint a coherent picture of an easy transaction. This is one of the big reasons why real estate agents need to understand loans, whether they're on the listing or buying side. Walk the walk, don't just talk the talk. If your clients are all cash buyers, pound the point home - demonstrate they've got the cash in the bank and get rid of that financing contingency! What's the credit score? What's the income, how stable is it, what's the debt to income ratio? The loan to value ratio? With client approval, you can even remove the account numbers from statements, and show them where the funds for the down payment are coming from!

Pre-Approval or Pre-Qualification letters will not get this job done. Neither one of them means anything real. I'll write them because other agents want them (usually for pure cover their *** after the transaction fails - again - because they don't understand what they're doing), but the only one I trust is one that I wrote. Why should I expect any other agent to give them any more weight?

The more qualified the buyers, the bigger the down payment and deposit they're bringing in, the better this works. A good sized deposit says you and your buyers are confident you can get it done, particularly if you'll waive one or more of the usual contingencies.

You do need both a good agent and a good loan officer to make it work. If the loan officer and agent are both the same person, that's even better, but this isn't happening with a discounter if the listing agent has more than an hour in the business, even if they're a discounter themselves (although I've never had a competitive bid situation happening with a discounter's listing. I don't wonder why, and you shouldn't either).

This pretty much can't work if you're in a Dual Agency situation. That agent counsels the owner to take the offer made where they get both halves of the listing commission, but the owner gets less money? Ten minutes in court or a regulatory hearing and that agent is toast. Yes, some agents are that stupid - but this is a mistake nobody makes twice, because once puts them out of the business. Not to mention that that owner is going to figure that the agent is out to line their own pocket at their client's expense.

For my buyer clients, I'm always looking for something valuable to the seller that isn't cash, or isn't purchase price cash. A high likelihood of the transaction closing is one of the best, because it doesn't cost my clients a darned thing, and yet it really is valuable to sellers. There are others, though.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

I don't know how many people have told me the story of the Purchase Offer That Was Accepted But Couldn't Be Done. They come to me because they lost their deposit or are about to and they want some way to make it not happen.

But it's never happened to offers I write for my buyer clients. I doubt it ever will. There are many reasons why real estate agents need to know and understand loans. First off, to save their backside. Somebody defaults on a purchase money loan, the agent is an obvious target to drag in. E&O insurance plus fiduciary responsibility equals rewarding target for lawsuit. The second reason is even more important than that: Saving the client relationship. What could possibly be more damaging for a buyer's agent than losing a client's deposit? There really isn't much. When I write a purchase offer, the built in structure is always of a loan I know that I can do.

This is particularly important where there's less than 20% down payment being contemplated. For about ten years, there was pretty much always been a loan that could be done, no matter how poorly qualified someone was. Many real estate agents got used to that, writing (and accepting) purchase offers essentially "in the blind" as far as the loan went. That has now gone by the wayside. Stated Income and NINA loans are no longer available as I write this. For a while even full documentation loans seemed to add new curlicues every week as burned investors added more and more things they won't do to the list. Even if you make plenty of money, any loan over 80% loan to value ratio has far more stringent qualifications than a few years ago, and 90% or higher loan to value ratio is very difficult unless there's government insurance involved.

All government programs - VA loans, FHA Loans, Mortgage Credit Certificate, and locally based first time buyer assistance - every one of these has always required qualifying based upon full documentation of enough income to repay the loan.

Given this, you have to know if you can afford it before you make an offer. You're going to spend roughly $1000 to pay for an inspection and an appraisal as soon as you have an accepted offer, not to mention you're tying up a deposit of several thousand dollars in escrow - a deposit that's potentially "at risk" if you are unable to qualify for the loan that will allow you to purchase the property.

I know that I'm not very respectful of pre-approval, let alone pre-qualification. This is because there are no real standards for either one, and I've seen enough pieces of paper swearing a loan could be done when it in fact could not to make a fair sized bonfire. There are several reasons for this. There just isn't anything to gain personally, and everything to lose, for a loan officer to tell someone "Sorry, but you do not appear to qualify." So they issue the pre-qualification or pre-approval on hope and a prayer, because they might be able to get a loan done. You do not want this to happen to you. Even if they tell you truthfully that you need to reconsider your loan and your purchase, you are provably better off than if they string you along with messages like Think Happy Thoughts About Your Loan and you end up spending money for the appraisal, inspection, etc, and end up losing your deposit. Probably the best way to insure that this doesn't happen is to insist upon a frank discussion of what the qualification standards are, and what your limits are under those standards. If you're right at the edge of qualification standards, might I suggest you consider "pulling back" slightly? There are often bumps in the road and you don't want one bump to mean you cannot qualify.

You want to make the loan officer go over the numbers with you. Debt to Income ratio, Loan to Value ratio. Add up all of your other debt, add up the full payments for principal and interest, property taxes, and homeowner's insurance. What percentage of your verifiable monthly income (monthly average over the past two years) is that? How much do you have available to use in your bank and investment accounts? Does that cover the projected down payment and sufficient money above that for the closing costs you'll need to pay? If you need to buy the loan down with three points in order to qualify on debt to income ratio, is there still enough available to make the required down payment?

In some cases, writing the purchase offer correctly - structuring the transaction with the loan in mind - can make a difference between a loan and a purchase that can be done, and one that cannot. This is definitely the case if you are looking for a loan over eighty percent of property value. The only 100% financing available right now the the VA loan. It can be done, even in declining markets, but you have to be extremely careful to write that purchase offer in consideration of loan requirements.

If your real estate agent is a highly qualified loan officer, it's no sweat. I write every purchase offer with prospective loans in mind. If I don't know I can do the loan, I find another way to write the purchase contract so that it can be done.

The time of writing a purchase contract and worrying about the loan after acceptance is gone, and it may not return. Even for well qualified borrowers with plenty of income and down payment, it can't hurt to get a loan officer involved when making an offer. For those with marginal income and not much down payment, getting a loan officer involved before you write an offer (or accept a counter) can make the difference between a viable transaction, and one where everyone's wasting their time and money. Yes, you can potentially renegotiate a purchase contract later. Is there anyone who wants to tell me that's as good as getting it right in the first place? Do you think you might be opening the door to issues of trust between buyer and seller getting in the way on those re-negotiations? Do you think that the seller might demand fresh concessions, where if it had been negotiated correctly in the first place, you would have something that's essentially the same terms as the initial contract? Not to mention time lost, delays in closing, opportunities for the entire transaction to go south? Write your offers with loans that can and cannot be done firmly in mind, and you won't need to renegotiate for the sake of the loan.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

I get people asking me about how much their mortgage loan providers make, usually with an idea towards negotiating it down but often with the idea of choosing one loan or the other based upon the loan officer's compensation. This is a bad idea. It's completely the wrong question.

First off, there are several forms loan officer compensation takes. There is so-called "front end" compensation paid directly by borrowers. There is "back end" compensation paid by lenders, also known as yield spread (or SRP for correspondent lenders). There are also volume incentives given by most lenders, and promotional give backs and offsets. Then there are times when the loan officer is holding out their hand for kickbacks behind your back or by "marking up" third party services that they order on your behalf. This is illegal, but it still happens. Finally, for direct lenders, there is the premium they earn by selling your loan on the secondary market, a figure which is usually several times all of the others and which is the reason why those are paid, but does not need to be disclosed at all. Trying to judge a loan by loan officer compensation is very difficult if they are trying to hide it.

Furthermore, it's actually a distraction from what is most important, namely, the best possible loan for you. For instance, a couple of weeks before I originally wrote this, I was shopping a loan for a decidedly sub-prime prospect. The lowest quote I got enabled me to give a quote of a 7.25% retail rate at par, which is to say no discount points to the borrower. But that lender was better than half a percent better than their nearest competition because this borrower fit neatly into one of their targeted niches. Had I merely not shopped that loan with that lender, the best I could have done would have been 7.8 percent at par, and one full point from the borrower would only have driven it down to 7.3 percent. Now suppose I didn't shop that one lender who gave me the best price, and my competition had found something even better, say a 7.00 percent par rate loan. For that particular loan, they could have made a full percent and a half of that loan amount more than I did, and still delivered a better loan for the client.

In point of fact, I actually beat my competition by quite a bit, But the point I am making is still valid. Judge the loan by the best loan for you: Type of loan, rate, and total cost in order to get that rate. Whatever they make while delivering the best loan to you is reasonable. Whatever it is.

Furthermore, brokers and people who work at brokerages legally must disclose their company's compensation from other sources, while direct lenders do not. Direct lenders are making, if anything, more for the average loan than the brokerages, but because they do not have to disclose compensation not paid by the borrower, if you try to use loan officer compensation as a way of judging the value of the loan, the direct lender will look better than the broker for most loans. Until, that is, you go and compare the loans they actually were prepared to deliver from the most important perspective: What it means to you, the consumer. A 6 percent thirty year fixed rate loan with no pre-payment penalty that cost you a grand total of $3500 is a better loan than a 3/27 that has a pre-payment penalty, cost you $8700, and is at a rate of 6.25%, regardless of how much the respective loan officers or their companies made, or would have made. Loan Officer compensation is a distraction from what's really important. Much more important is the loan they are willing and able to deliver, it's type, rate, costs, and whether or not there is a pre-payment penalty.

PS: If the loan is better for you than any other loan you're offered, it shouldn't matter if the loan officer or bank is making more than the amount of your loan. In such a situation, they won't be, but focusing on their compensation - or actually, what a given loan officer is required to disclose of their compensation - is entirely the wrong concern. Choose based upon the bottom line to you.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

Just like Mohandas Gandhi and Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun were (despite their differences) all human beings, lenders (despite their differences) make money by lending money to people who want it.

That's about the limit of the truth in that statement.

Lenders do, by and large, get their money to lend from the bond market. But not all lenders get their money from the same part of the bond market. Some get the money from low-risk tolerance folks looking for security, and willing to accept comparatively low rates. Some get the money from high risk tolerance folks looking for more return for their risk. Within each band, there are various grades and toughnesses of underwriting. A lender with tough underwriting will have a very low default rate, and practically zero losses. A lender with more relaxed underwriting will have more defaults, and higher losses, meaning they must charge higher rates of interest in order to offer the investors the same return on their money.

When I originally wrote this, I had literally just finished pricing a $600,000 loan for a client with top notch credit and oodles of income (he's putting $800k down). Even A paper and with the yield curve essentially flat, I got variations of three eighths of a percent on where their par rate was. Every single one of them had significant differences in how steep the points/yield spread curve was (if you need these terms explained this is a good place). For one lender it was "offsheet pricing" below their lowest listed rate. This lender is more interested in low cost loans, and they take it for granted that folks will not be in their loans very long. This lender is appropriate for those who are likely to refinance within a few years. For another lender, it was "offsheet pricing" above their listed sheet prices. This lender specializes in low rates that cost multiple points, so they can market lower payments. For those few people who really won't sell or refinance for fifteen years, these are superior loans.

Which do you think is really better for the average client? Well, let's evaluate a 6.5 percent 30 year fixed rate loan that costs literally zero (I get paid out of yield spread, while rebating enough to the customer to cover all their costs), with a 5.875% 30 year fixed rate loan that costs $3400 plus two points. I always seem to be computing $270,000 loans here, but since this was "jumbo" pricing and a $270,000 loan is "conforming", which carries lower rates, I'll run through both.

The 6.5 percent loan is zero cost to the client. Nothing out of pocket, nothing added to the loan balance. Gross Loan Amount: $270,000. The 5.875% loan cost 1.875 points in addition to $3400 in closing costs. Gross loan amount $278,625. You have added $8625 to your mortgage balance to save yourself $98.40 per month. You theoretically are ahead after 88 months (7 years, 4 months), but not really even then.

Every so often I get a question that asks why they can't have A for the price of B. The answer is the same as the reason why you can't have a Rolls Royce for the price of a Yugo. Another funny thing about Rolls Royces is how expensive they are to maintain. A middle class person with a Rolls better plan on living in it. The funnier thing is that in the case of loans, your friends, family and neighbors can't even see you in it, so there is no point in a "Rolls Royce" home loan except for utility, and if it's not paying for itself, then there is no utility (or negative utility, i.e. something you don't want), and therefore, money wasted.

Now, let's crank the loans through five years - longer than 95 percent plus of all borrowers keep their loans, according to federal statistics - and see which is really better for most borrowers. The 5.875% loan makes monthly payments of $1648.17. Over five years - 60 payments - they pay $98,890 and pay their balance down to $258,869. Total principal paid: $19,756. Actual progress on the loan (amount owed less than $270,000): $11,131. Interest paid: $79,134, which assuming a 30 percent combined tax rate, saves you $23,740 on your taxes.

Now let's look at that 6.50 percent loan that didn't add a penny to your balance. Monthly payments of $1706.58, total over five years $102,395. Looking pretty awful, so far, right? But your total amount owed is now only $252,750. Total principal paid: $17,250. But this same number is also the actual progress! Interest paid $85,145, and assuming 30 percent combined tax rate, same as above, it gives you a tax savings of $25,543.

Now let's consider where you are after five years.

With the 5.875% loan, you saved $3505 on payments. But you also owe $6118 more, and the 6.5 percent loan saved you $1803 more on your taxes. Furthermore, if you've learned your lesson about high cost loans, and rates are as low when you refinance or sell (6.5 percent on your next loan), it's going to cost you $397.67 per year from now on for that extra $6118 you owe! Net cost: $4416 plus nearly $400 more per year for as long as you have a home loan. Assuming that's "only" 25 years, your total cost is $14,358. I never spent so much money to save a little for a little while!

Now, let's consider that $600,000 loan in the same context. After all, the pricing really applies there (conforming rates are lower). Appraisal costs a little more, and so does title and escrow, for jumbo loans on million dollar houses. Let's say $3700 in costs. Your new 5.875% loan would be for $615,236 (disregarding rounding). Payment $3639.35, which over 5 years goes to $218,361 in payments. Crank it through 60 payments, and you've paid the loan down to $571,612. Principal paid $43,388, actual progress $28,388. Total Interest paid, $174,973, which assuming a combined 40% tax rate (higher income to qualify!) gives you a tax savings of $69,989.

At 6.50 percent, the payment on a $600,000 loan is $3792.40. Times 60 payments is $227,544. Crank the loan through those 60 payments, and you've paid the loan down to $561,666. Principal paid and actual progress made: $38,344. Total interest paid $189,209, which at the same combined 40% rate is a tax savings of $75,684.

With the 5.875% loan, you saved $9183 in payments. Yay! However, you owe $9946 more, paid $5695 more in taxes, and on your next loan, assuming it's at 6.5 percent, you pay $646.49 per year in additional interest. Total cost is $6458 plus $646 per year for as long as you have a home loan, which assuming that's 25 years equates to a total of $22,620!

Which of these two loans and lenders is better for you? Well, if you're going to stay 15 years or more and never refinance, the lender who wants to give you the 5.875% loan. That rate wasn't even available from the 6.5 percent lender. On the other hand, if you're like the vast majority of the population that refinances or sells within five years (for whatever reason) you really want the 6.5 percent loan whether you knew it before now or not, which also was not available from the 5.875 percent lender.

The billboards advertising rates aren't going to tell you cost, of course. They're trying to lure clients who don't know any better, and often they're playing games with the loan type as well. But when the rate spread between the rate they're selling and APR is over 3 tenths of a percent, you know they're building a blortload of costs into it. Keep in mind that the examples I used were almost two full points in addition to basic closing costs, and they were each only about a 0.25% spread between rate and APR. Most people are never going to recover those costs in the time before they refinance or sell. The lender who offers you 6.5 percent for zero cost is probably offering you a better loan.

Now, there were lenders targeting the markets between these two lenders, some that overlapped the whole market, and even another lender specializing in rates even lower and with higher pricing. Keep in mind that this article was limited to A paper 30 year fixed rate loans, which are limited in what they can possibly accept by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rules. Once you get out of the A paper market and especially down into sub-prime lenders (when sub-prime becomes available again, which it will), the diversity between offerings really multiplies, as the differences they are permitted in target market cover all parts of the spectrum. Some wholesalers walk into my office with the words, "Got any ugly sub-prime today?" Other sub-prime wholesalers ask me about "people that could be A paper but are willing to accept a prepayment penalty to get a lower rate" (I don't use those much). Some want short term borrowers, and their niche is the 2/28. Some want the thirty year fixed with a prepayment penalty. The ones who asked me about negative amortization loans, I threw out of my office but they sold them somewhere. A lot of somewheres, judging from the evidence that they were 40 percent of purchase money loans locally in 2005 and 2006.

So lenders are not all the same. Indeed, every single one of them is different, and you need to shop enough different ones to find the program that's right for you, and ask lots of questions every time. Just asking about rate is not going to make you happy, as I hope I have just demonstrated. If you walk into their office, they're not going to tell you that you're not the client they're really looking for unless they just don't have any loans at all that you qualify for (and if you're in this category, do not blindly accept any recommendations they make. Most places, they're sending you to the place that pays the most for the referral, not the lowest cost provider appropriate for you).

Caveat Emptor

Original here

Here was an idea I had: Pack a list of the most important things consumers need to know about buying real estate, as packed into the words I can say in sixty seconds without sounding like an over-clocked squirrel.

Here goes:

Spend some time making your property shine before you put it on the market. Doing work yourself is better than giving an allowance. Spend the effort to find a good listing agent, and sign a listing agreement at least a week before you want people to know your property is for sale. Consult the agent as to what can be done to make the property more attractive before anyone sees it. Agree to pay your listing agent for the good they do, and offer buyer's agents at least an average commission - you don't want them trying to sell someone else's instead property to the people who like yours.

The property is only worth what someone will pay. Price it correctly from day one. You'll end up with more money, faster, than if you start too high and reduce the price. Not all goods are in the form of cash - decide what's important to you, what's not, and how much money it's worth, before you have an offer.

Once the property hits the market, make the property as available for showing as you possibly can. If you don't show it when people want to see it, they might not come back. If you possibly can, don't be there when your prospective buyers are.

Negotiations are give and take. You shouldn't expect to get unless you're willing to give, and a stubborn attitude can sabotage your sale. Remember, you have a property and you want cash. There are lots of other properties out there

How's that?

Original article here


I've been saying this for a long time: Short sales are poison for buyers. I don't know why people encourage buyers to look at short sales, because there is no advantage for buyers that I am aware of. In fact, there are several decided disadvantages. I'd much rather make offers on lender owned property, or anything else for that matter. Short sales are the absolute bottom of the barrel as far as buyer desirability.

For those sellers who desperately need to sell, which is pretty much every short sale, I really am sorry. But I have a fiduciary responsibility to my buyer clients, who come to me wanting a better property for less money, and less hassle. The facts of life in short sales work against getting a bargain, while sabotaging our (mine and my clients) ability to control the transaction. Therefore, I advise against. Much better for buyers to look for lender-owned or other property.

The main issues lie with the lenders, who are in denial of the situation. I've never come across anyone in any lender's short sale department who didn't have their head stuck in cloud-cuckoo land. Instead of making a prompt approval or disapproval of an offer, they sit and delay and hope for a better one. When I originally wrote this, I would usually have the purchase financing ready to go in about two and a half weeks from the date of the purchase contract. For any other property, it's pretty trivial for the listing agent to be ready to close by then. We're done, and my client is happy.

For short sales, we usually won't get word as to what the lender is going to do for at least a month after that. I've literally never had an approval from a short sale lender within what used to be a normal escrow period of thirty days. This has implications for the buyer's loan. Mortgage Loan Rate Locks are more expensive for longer periods. Pulling a rate sheet at random, a 45 day rate lock adds a sixth of a point to the costs for a thirty day lock, while a sixty day lock adds four tenths of a point. On a $400,000 loan, this works out to roughly $667 and $1600, respectively. If you need an extension, a tenth of a point (roughly $400) buys five calendar days. Some lenders aren't extending locks at all for loans above the conforming limits. Or buyers can float the rate, leaving themselves at the mercy of the financial markets as to the loan they might eventually get. None of these is an optimal situation from a buyer's point of view.

When they do respond, the short sale lender will always try to squeeze more money out of the transaction. They're in denial about their loss, with the practical effect of making that loss worse. The property is only worth what it's worth. The first few days on the market are the best time to get the highest offer. If you didn't get an offer then, you're not likely to get more money later, as I said in How to Sell Your Home Quickly and For The Best Possible Price. But loss mitigation departments are congenitally clueless about this - and they will forget whatever you manage to teach them within 4.3 nanoseconds. They are structured towards shaking the most possible money out of the transaction, and seem completely unable to learn that all this does is result in a failed transaction, no matter how many times it happens. What's that definition of insanity again?

So what usually happens (after 45 to 60 days - weeks after my buyer clients could be living in any other property) is that the lender wants two things: A higher price out of my buyers, and a commission reduction on my part. I'm not going to say that I'm in love with commission reductions, but I'll agree in order to make clients happy. But the deal-killer is that they want the buyer to make a higher offer. Ladies and gentlemen, I went out and negotiated a good deal that my client is willing to accept with the seller, despite all of the delays and problems in short sales, and here's this third party essentially vetoing the purchase contract. If I did get a heck of a deal, it's now gone. In any case, my clients are going to be unhappy, being presented with what amounts to an ultimatum: Pay more money or lose the property. Show of hands, please: Is there anybody reading this that would be happy to get such an ultimatum? Unilaterally attempting to alter the purchase contract is forbidden with any other transaction. Why in the world would a rational buyer want to subject themselves to that? Why would any but the most clueless of agents not discourage them from doing so? I'm not going to say it's impossible to get a great bargain on a short sale, but it is highly unlikely.

I do consider my clients being willing to deal with a short sale to be worth some serious concessions in the purchase contract, as does every other buyer's agent with any experience in dealing with them. So it's not difficult to negotiate a pretty good bargain initially - but it's extremely difficult to keep that contract intact when the short sale lender gets involved, because their priority, the only thing that's on their radar screen, is shaking as much money as possible out of all the participants.

Nor is there anything I can do as a buyer's agent that's going to make the transaction fly faster, or prevent the short sale lender from sabotaging it. I can argue until I'm blue in the face. They're not going to listen to me. They might listen to the listing agent, but not the buyer's agent. I can help the other agent with what to say, but I'm still relying upon someone else to convince that short sale lender. Whatever they do, they're going to take their own sweet time responding, hoping for a better offer.

The cold hard statistics is over eighty percent of all short sales fall apart, and most often it doesn't even get as far as whether the buyer is qualified. The short sale lender wants more out of the buyer, wants the seller to come up with more money than they've got, the buyer gets tired of waiting and moves on - something. No matter what is is, my buyer isn't going to be happy. Quite often, I get the blame, at least in my client's mind, for the transaction failing - even after I warned them as to why this was a bad idea in the first place.

If you do get an approval from a short sale lender, quite often they're written on a ridiculously short deadline. Given all of the facts above, I'm not going to advise my buyer clients to spend their money on appraisal, inspector, etcetera until we do have an approval. That's just money thrown away if the short sale lender doesn't approve it. But waiting on them means it's likely to take more than a week to get the loan done once we do have an approval - and dealing with a one week deadline was an actual experience I had once. Not to mention the effects of waiting for such an approval on the buyer's due diligence period, and possible exposure to loss of my client's deposit (at the very least, it's sitting there tied up in escrow while everything gets sorted out).

Seller paid closing costs, integral to most transactions currently, are also extremely difficult to get approved. These are money out of the lender's pocket, and they're going to require a higher than what they consider "market" price in order to compensate them. This is intelligent and reasonable, but if you're looking for a bargain due to them not understanding their bottom line, it's not going to happen, and in fact, when one or both of these things are part of most transactions, the "market" is priced to include them. Result: The buyer who needs one or both of these is likely to have to pay more for a short sale than any other property they might fix their eye upon. And those buyers are wanting me to find them a better property, cheaper. Are you still in doubt as to why I advise buyers against short sales?

Since I originally wrote this article, another category of problems has become endemic as well. Listing agents are playing "bait and switch" on the price - advertising prices far lower than any offer the lender will likely accept. Such a sale isn't going to happen, and the agent knows it - but that's sure a good way to get prospective buyer clients to call, giving the listing agent an opportunity to gain a new client! Furthermore, because there are so many of them and they are time intensive, many brokerages are delegating the negotiations with the lender and asking prospective buyers to pay for it.

It is far more fruitful for most buyers to focus on properties in other categories. For this particular property, better to wait until is is lender owned, at which point the bank is on the hook, paying money out of their pocket, and usually the money tied up in this non-performing asset costs that lender heavily in leverage on their working capital. Lender owned properties get turned over to different employees, with different performance incentives, with the instruction of getting that property off the lender's books! The money this costs the lender is their own management's fault.

For any lenders reading this and not liking it: The responsible party is you. If you don't want them to become lender owned and cost you much more money, get real about your short sales! Publicize your criteria so buyers and their agents will know they're not getting into a "black hole" situation, and respond in a timely and reasonable fashion without trying to leave people who weren't involved (the prospective buyer and both agents) holding the bag for your mistake. It will save you money by dealing with the situation before it goes to Trustee's Sale.

As far as writing this article goes, the only one I have any sympathy for is the current owner, who really does need to sell. No matter what past sins they may or may not have committed, that owner is currently trying to face reality and deal with it. As the buyer, however, unless you believe that seller's plight is worth wasting several tens of thousands of your dollars, there's nothing you can do. Buyers should avoid short sales. They're not likely to end up happy.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

From an e-mail

I've been talking to agents lately and I ask them about the things I've learned about from your site. I thought I would say things like "I want to apply for a backup loan" and they would say "Good idea!" instead of "Why would you do that?" I try to answer the why and next thing you know none of my why's make sense anymore. Here is a summary of that conversation:


Me: Okay, so I need to get a "pre-approval" or "pre-whatever" from a lender so I can put an offer on this house . . . that sounds fair . . . but I want to shop my loan around and in fact, I want to get a backup loan.

Agent: Backup loan? What for?

Me: Because from what I understand what you are told at first isn't what gets delivered and you are at the mercy of the loan officer if you don't have a backup plan

Agent: They have to fill out the form and give you what they promise so you are protected.

Me: So it's the law that they deliver what they fill out on this form?

Agent: No, it's not the law but they wouldn't dare change the terms or I wouldn't recommend them.

Me: Well, most people don't know they're getting screwed until later and most of the ones that notice don't do anything about it.

Agent: Well, if you hire me to be your agent then you should trust my advice . . . otherwise why would you hire me?

A similar conversation ensued when I talked about a "exclusive" vs "non-exclusive" buyer's agent agreement. "There is no such thing as "non-exclusive"". What is the benefit to you? If I have multiple agents then they all work to find me the perfect house and the one that finds me the one I like is the one that get's rewarded. Nope! If you tell an agent you have other agents he won't work with you. Okay, well, I wouldn't tell the other agents. But any good agent is going to make you sign an exclusive agreement.

Anyway, the sales techniques here are right up there with car salesman.

Let me ask you about your experience with monopolies? Your electric provider, mass transit provider, cable provider - do they furnish top notch customer service? Do you think someone might be able to do better, cheaper? Quite likely, because monopoly situations encourage rent seeking behavior. Monopolies are the classic example of rent seeking - do business with them, or not at all, meaning you're stuck with whatever service they choose to give you at whatever price. Why in the world would you do that to yourself?

Only two possible reasons: You don't have a choice or you don't know any better. You do have a choice in real estate, no matter how much various people may choose to pretend you don't. I certainly haven't noticed any shortage of real estate agents or loan officers. There's something like 7500 licensees in San Diego County alone. That leaves you don't know any better. It doesn't matter whether it's through ignorance or not following through on the knowledge.

In fact, if you think about it, someone who insists upon exclusive rights to your business is telling you they're worried about comparisons to other professionals. They're telling you they're afraid they can't compete and they're not willing to try. Does this sound like someone who's likely to give you the best service? Someone who's not willing to compete?

Just because an exclusive agreement isn't in the consumer's interest doesn't mean that it isn't very desirable for agents. In fact, most agents take a lot of classes in learning how to lock your business up and cut out the competition before anyone else gets to the starting line - several times more training than the average agent ever takes in learning how to actually give good service and good value to their clients. Look at the average agent symposium sometime. There will be easily ten times more offerings in how to get clients and cut out the competition than there will be in how to get your clients the best value. If the average agent doesn't offer a non-exclusive buyer's agency contract, they can pretend such a thing doesn't exist. It does exist; it's available in every state. In California, it's form BBNE in WinForms, the standard computerized package. But if they can persuade you to sign an exclusive contract, they're guaranteed to get whatever buyer's agency commission is due - before they've done any real work, before they've demonstrated that they are really going to guard your interests at all. I've written about the drawbacks of an exclusive agreement before, and even given examples in shopping for an agent, and the games that get played with consumers by agents. If you've signed an exclusive agreement, you're stuck. If you don't, you're not - indeed you keep far more control in your own hands.

Some agents will try to sidetrack you with an exclusive agreement "but you can fire me any time you want!" The first question is where is that written into the agreement? Show me please. In fact, the standard exclusive contract is written to be very difficult to break for any reason. The second question is that even if it is written in, how is that not functionally equivalent to a non-exclusive contract? The answer to that is they've still got your business locked up until and unless they make an obvious blunder. As long as they don't make that obvious blunder, they're still in the driver's seat. But this doesn't mean that they're a good agent - you have no standards for comparison. Indeed, you are agreeing not to acquire any standards for comparison. Matter of fact, they can be the worst excuse for an agent ever and still not make any mistakes that most people are going to fire them for. Plead for one more chance, and most people will give it - dozens of times. The bottom line is that they still avoid any chance at having to compete.

Now just because your agreement is non-exclusive doesn't mean you have to go find other agents. At least half of my clients never talk to another agent. But they have the option of doing so, and that knowledge is one of the things that motivates me to do the best job I can for my clients, and why I keep the list of clients I'm working with at any time short enough so that I'm certain I can handle them all with no deterioration of service. If I don't, they can fire me and find another agent as easy as crossing the street. That motivation just isn't there if you give someone an exclusive agreement. Do you want the agent whose motivation is to concentrate on giving a few clients the best job they can possibly give, or do you want the agent who's a half-notch above getting fired, whose motivations are to lock up as many clients as possible, secure in the knowledge that none of those clients are likely to actually fire them? And if they're confident they can give you such a terrific job, why are they requiring an exclusive agreement? If they're really that good, they should be eager to compete. That's the best confirmation of their abilities possible - the fact that someone else tried and couldn't do it! As I've said, most of my clients see the job I do and never talk to another agent, and most of those who do end up telling me how much I shine by comparison. But it takes confidence in my own ability to offer that non-exclusive agreement. The ones who won't are telling you that they don't have that confidence. Do you think there might possibly be a reason for that lack of confidence?

Probably the largest number of agents and loan officers compete by being what I call "Social predators" Involved in Boy Scouts, Soccer, Little League, the church, PTA, whatever. They try to make those they come into contact feel obligated to do business with them, because they are after all, a good guy (or girl), they help the cause, etcetera. Surely such a person is worthy of trust? Surely they will treat you right? They lock up the business with an exclusive agreement or a large deposit, raising the barrier to competition as high as they can. This effectively sets you up for the kill. My personal experience leads me to believe that such agents and loan officers are responsible for a truly outsized proportion of the people who are losing their property to foreclosure in the current crisis. It seems like everyone I come across who's in the process of foreclosure has a "social predator" story to tell, although many of them don't realize it. Most of them have no clue what happened until I dissect the entire process and show them that their "little boy's wonderful scoutmaster" bent them over and took advantage. The thought process is natural, but the conclusion does not follow from the premise - a thing most people don't understand until how it bit them (past tense) is plainer than the nose on their face.

Ronald Reagan loved a very applicable phrase: Trust but Verify. It's not accident that this principle, which he applied as President, served him and the country very well. On a more personal level, you are willing to trust agents with your business (otherwise you wouldn't be talking to them), but you want to verify that they're earning it. You're not willing to take trust to the level of the spouse who's clueless about their spouse telling them they worked late when they come home at 3AM six nights in a row smelling like someone else's perfume or cologne. This is the best function of a non-exclusive buyer's agency agreement. This means you still have the right to go out and get the only valid standard of comparison: Another agent who has the same opportunity to do the same job as them.

In your situation, I'd be very blunt: "What you're telling me about requiring an exclusive contract makes me believe that you know very well you don't measure up to a good standard. In fact, the harder you argue for an exclusive agreement, the less willing I am to believe you are worthy of one. I'll willingly give you a chance to earn my business with a non-exclusive agreement, but I'm not going to sign any exclusive agreements with anyone. Since you're not willing to sign a non-exclusive agreement, I am wasting my time. Good-bye." They have as long as it takes you to get to the door to change their mind. Walk out and never look back - find someone else who will offer non-exclusive agreement.. In fact, taking this stand in your self defense is the first and most critical point of Shopping for a good buyer's agent. The standard non-exclusive contract is truly a bet you cannot lose as a consumer. There literally is no risk. Doesn't matter if they're a freshly minted licensee who's never done a transaction in their life (How often do you hear that from someone who actually has significant experience?). Go ahead and sign a non-exclusive agreement, and the worst that can happen is they don't get the job done. You're still free to use anyone else who does. You have lost exactly nothing - as a matter of fact, both you and that agent are mathematically, provably better off for having signed that non-exclusive contract! Hiring them thus can only increase the probability function in your favor! This improvement may be marginal or even zero, but so long as you do your due diligence it cannot be negative.

The same thing applies to the loan officer an agent recommends. The reason they're choosing that loan officer has nothing to do with the best choice for you and everything to do with the best choice for them. That's a loan officer they trust not to screw up the transaction by telling you, "You know, I'm not certain you can really afford this property." That's the loan officer they trust, by hook or by crook, to have a loan ready at the close of escrow, no matter what it takes, so that that agent can get paid - and if you're facing foreclosure six months down the line, hey, they got paid. Has nothing to do with how good that lender's loans are, how competitive they are, or any other advantage to you - only that they trust that loan officer to insure their paycheck. That's what the agent is really telling you. The loan officer may be really good, and very competitive on price. Then again, they may not, and the one thing I'd bet significant money on, sight unseen, is that they will never tell you that maybe you're stretching beyond your means - that agent will never send them another client if they do! The only agents I'm certain could tell the difference between good loans and loan officers and bad ones if it bit them are the ones who are also loan officers themselves.

If an agent is recommending a loan officer on the basis of "This person wouldn't dare cheat my clients!", ask them for a copy of the initial MLDS (California) or Good Faith Estimate (the other 49 states) and a copy of the final HUD 1 for that loan officer's last five transactions with their client. (sarcasm on) What, they don't have them? What a surprise (end sarcasm). But if they don't, how can they possibly know whether that loan officer does or does not quote accurately? You've just asked for the only possible evidence, and they don't have it! Nor does this cover how well they compete on price. As long as the terms are the same and the rate/cost tradeoff is better, a loan is a loan is a loan. I used to advise people to apply for more than one loan, but changes in the lending environment have put the kibosh on what was an easy and effective way of managing your loan thus. Now you need to have a real problem solving discussion with several potential loan officers and evaluate the solutions - a much more difficult task for a lay consumer, because neither I nor any other loan officer is doing back up loans any longer. Rate shopping on the phone doesn't cut it any more because loan officers can lie like rugs and low-ball worse than any remodeling contractor and now they can point to a federal form for false credibility

You're right that these sales techniques have a lot in common with used-car sales. Everybody in any sales business wants to avoid competing if they can - it means they don't have to work as hard, and get higher profit margins. Consumers, for their part, need to learn to understand what actions mean, and that actions are important, not words. That's part of the reason why I'm writing this article.

Sales persons, properly handled, are your best friends in the whole world. Nobody solves your problems as well as an expert with the motivation of getting paid for their trouble, and there always seem to be problems that lay people don't realize exist until they're bitten, which is almost always far too late to avoid all the damage that's coming down the pike. Kind of like having a Terminator after you. If you don't have your own very special protector, they're going to get you. I don't like having my clients bitten - not tomorrow, not next year, not ever. One bad transaction can ruin you as an agent or a loan officer, and I intend to be doing this for the rest of my life. So I'll do everything I can to keep it from happening before it happens, and you want someone just as dedicated working for you. The only way to be certain is to watch them in action over time. But if they're asking you to sign that Exclusive Agreement beforehand, how in the heck can you possibly have the knowledge of their business practices to give it to them?

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

This is the conclusion of the series begun in Page One and continued in Page Two

Page Three is where the most blatant lies of this whole piece take place, and the first part of page three is where they are found. It segregates the charges into three different camps: Ones that it claims cannot increase, ones that it claims cannot increase by more than 10% in total, and ones that, supposedly unlike the other groups, can change at settlement.

This is nonsense on stilts, lulling the consumer into a false sense of security.

Loan providers can low-ball every bit as much as they ever could, and this form, in my honest opinion, is the worst part of all because it explicitly states something that is not true. What it really means is that these charges cannot increase without being redisclosed three to seven days in advance of signing the final paperwork. Guess what? Crooked loan officer lies like a rug to get you to sign up, and on day 38 or 42 of a 45 day process is finally forced to tell the truth or something close to it. At that stage of a purchase, there is (thanks to other new regulations) no way on this earth that you're going to be able to get another loan ready before the deadline written into your purchase contract. You have no choice - you are stuck. And the whole concept of back up loans has been killed by changes in the market. Even on a refinance, you've spent the money for an appraisal and other sunk costs. There's no way to force them to release that appraisal to you - not that it would do any good with HVCC in effect. Net result: You're out the money and the time, and many refinances have an external reason forcing them to happen - almost all "cash out" refinances have an external deadline, a time by which the people have to have the money. People are extremely unlikely to begin the process anew at that point in the transaction, which means that the people who LIED to get them to sign up are rewarded with a loan commission, people who told the truth and are spurned by consumers because the lie looks better receive nothing and go out of business, and the federal government is an unindicted co-conspirator to the raping of the consumer by making a false promise that the liar's numbers cannot change.

We've covered how this whole premise is a lie, but let's cover the three categories and how honest loan providers are going to approach them until they go out of business.

The charges that supposedly cannot increase at settlement are loan origination charges, discount charges for the specific interest rate chosen adjusted origination (which I covered in the page one article) and governmental transfer taxes. It is worth noting that even on the new Good Faith Estimate form the government does warn you that discount is changeable until you lock your loan, something that the market is trying to push as close to the day of settlement as possible by imposing high costs on brokers and correspondents for every loan that is locked but does not fund. The reality is that these charges are going to change. Until they started charging me for loans which don't fund, I locked every loan when people said they wanted it. Now I have to float the rate until I'm certain underwriting isn't going to reject the loan. If your loan isn't locked, you are at the mercy of the market even without mixing in possibly foul loan officer intentions. The closest thing to a guarantee even the best most conscientious loan officer can give in the new lending environment is "Everything but the rate/cost tradeoff I can guarantee right now - but I can't guarantee that until we lock your loan, all I can do is tell you what it would be if we locked today" Since the this tradeoff is far and away the largest determinant of the loan you will get, this amounts to guaranteeing the molehill while the mountain moves every day. It would be a useful yardstick for comparison as to which loan to sign up for if lenders had to tell the truth at loan sign up, which they do not.

The charges which supposedly cannot increase more than 10% in total are services that the lender selects, title services and title insurance, required services where you're allowed to shop but the lender ends up choosing the provider, and government recording charges. First off, on purchases trying to get escrow and title companies to honestly disclose their charges is a battle all on its own - I don't know why, as I have no problems getting "one flat rate" quotes from them on refinances. Maybe because it's because they can seduce the less diligent real estate agents by offering them help prospecting for clients, while on refinances they have to deal with loan officers who are competing on price for consumer business. But the same thing applies to this section as the previous - these charges can change without limit if they are redisclosed three to seven days in advance of closing.

The only charges that receive a completely honest treatment from the new form are the ones that the form advises you can change at settlement; These are services that you can shop for and don't have to use providers identified by the lender, such as escrow, title (if you don't use their selected provider), etcetera.

The one thing I do like about this new form comes next, because it tells consumers for the first time anywhere in an official publication that there is a tradeoff between interest rate and cost by telling you that there may be alternative loans available for lower cost at a higher interest rate or lower rates for a higher cost. Of course, this being the government, it misses something important - the changed loan amount or how much money you will receive from the same loan amount if you do choose the different loan.

It then gives consumers an place to write down and compare the loans they are being offered. Once again, this might mean something if prospective loan providers had to tell the truth at loan sign up, which they don't. As it is, this section serves as nothing more than another way to lull the consumer into a false sense of security about what they are being told. If the loan providers are permitted to lie about their loan characteristics and what it costs, the whole exercise becomes a competition to see who can tell the tallest tale believably. Traditional methods of comparison do not help in such an environment, as the numbers they are using to compare are fabrications told for the purpose of securing your business and getting a commission check, because by the time they have to tell the truth most people cannot change loan providers and most of those who could won't.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here


Continued from The 2010 Good Faith Estimate (Page One)

The next section is on origination charges. Indeed it is titled "Your adjusted origination charges"

It starts with "Our origination charges" saying this is the charge for doing the loan. Indeed, that is and has been the meaning of origination for as long as I've been a loan officer. But they want to add other things into it. Furthermore, be advised that prospective loan officers are allowed to change their minds about origination up until 7 days before the final loan documents are signed. In short, they can tell you they are not going to make anything in order to get you to sign up - then decide they want to make 3 points after it is too late for you to change loan providers.

The next subsection talks about "Your credit or charge (points) for the specific interest rate chosen" This is what is traditionally known as discount (in the case of a charge) or yield spread when this money is money paid back into the loan by the lender (I should mention that Congress has essentially banned Yield Spread in loans on the sly - something very disadvantageous to consumers, as you can't do low cost loans without it). Then it offers lenders three different options. They can say it's included in the origination line. This means they're not breaking it out as a separate charge, but lumping it in with true origination. The second option is to tell consumers they will get a credit out of the rate chosen, which does sometimes actually come true in the real world. I have used this credit dozens of times to get clients a true zero cost real estate loan. This usually happens when rates drop precipitously, so instead of seven percent, people can get a loan at 5.5% for literally nothing, as the lender pays enough to pay me and all of the other settlement charges. Of course, people willing to pay those charges get a substantially lower rate - ALWAYS. But if the people know they're going to have to sell or move in a year (not enough time to recover the costs of those lower rates), a zero cost loan saves them money every month they have it because there are no costs to recover. Finally, you could be paying this charge on top of regular origination. The one thing I want you to take away from this part is that origination is going to get paid on every loan somehow, and you need to understand how it's going to be paid before you tell someone you want their loan. And note that none of this is set in concrete at the time you sign up for your loan.

The next set of items is "Your charges for all other settlement services" Unlike previous versions of this form, there's a lot of lumping into sections going on here. Lumping is a good thing, as far as it goes. It lessens the ability of people to pretend that certain charges aren't going to happen. However, keep in mind that at sign up, and up to 3-7 days before final loan paperwork is signed, loan providers can still change all of these simply by giving you another Good Faith Estimate. It needs to be emphasized that the general practice ever since I can remember is to delay telling you about as many of the charges as possible (and pretend the ones they can't are going to be smaller than they are) until it is too late for you to switch loan providers, and the new Good Faith Estimate is doing damned little to change that fact or hamper that practice.

"Required Items that we select" tells you about the service providers that you have no option on. Until 2009, this section should have been blank. Now with Home Valuation Code of Conduct raping consumers and making it difficult for good loan officers and good appraisers, this is where the appraisal needs to be. Loan officers are not allowed to choose appraisers or even appraisal companies in most loans. The appraisal company is predetermined for us and we are not allowed to use anyone else - and that company gets to assign the appraisal to whomever they want. Usually, this is the appraiser who is most desperate for work who submits the lowest bid. If the qualify was there, or if I even had the option to kick bad appraisers off the list, that would be a good thing. As it is, I feel lucky any time an underwriter actually accepts an appraisal ordered under this procedure.

"Title services and Lender's title insurance" Once again it might be nice, if the title insurance company provided complete charges at sign up. About two months ago when the seller chose one in a transaction, they were incomplete to the tune of about $480 when we started the loan, and when I was trying to nail everything down for MDIA compliance, they were still $120 too low on what they actually ended up charging the consumer. I was not happy, and my client even less so. Even if the title company is truthful however, there is no guarantee at loan sign up that a lender will disclose those fees honestly.

"Owner's Title Insurance" This should not be a part of refinancing. As far as I know, owner's title insurance can only be purchased when you buy the property in order to prevent what insurer's call adverse selection. Around here, the title company on purchases is specified by the purchase contract and the lender has exactly zero control over it. Furthermore, every purchase contract I've ever written requires the seller to pay for an owner's policy of title insurance. If they're not willing to pay for the buyer to have a policy of title insurance, there is a reason, and none of the explanations that are really possible is a good situation for the buyer to be getting into.

"Required Services that you can shop for" this means they have to get done, and they have to be paid for, but you can choose by who and the charges are only an estimate. Be aware that no matter how conscientious the loan officer, they can't be held responsible for accurately quoting a service you are going to choose later, either morally or legally. I quote what I can deliver from service providers I know - but you're welcome to take the business elsewhere with the understanding that you are responsible for the outcome of doing so.

"Government Recording charges" these charges are for recording your documents so they become part of the public record. This is a requirement for all regulated corporate type lenders. The mafia or your dad doesn't necessarily have to record your loan - but public lenders do, and it's for your protection as well as theirs. Whatever it is, it's charged by the government, and everyone's charges should be the same because they're passing along a charge. If they're not the same as everyone else, that's a problem.

"Transfer taxes" are charged on the transfer of real estate (or refinancing, in some states) by the government. Once again, everybody should be the same because they are just passing along a government charge where it exists. If someone is different from everyone else, that's a problem.

"Initial Deposit for your escrow account" If you want or are required to have an impound account, the money to seed it is accounted for here, despite the fact that it is not a cost of the loan no matter who or how many people say it is. It is to be used to pay your property taxes and your homeowner's insurance when those charges are due, and when the loan is over, you get any excess back. This is just the lender holding on to your money. Once again, this should be the same for everyone. If one lender is telling you something different, odds are they are low-balling you by telling you you're not going to have to come up with what you are really going to have to come up with.

"Daily Interest charges" go to paying the prepaid interest. You pay interest on every loan for every day you have it. You never ever really skip a mortgage payment - but this is what allows some lenders to pretend that you do. This is not really a cost of the loan - you would be paying it even if you didn't refinance. It should be loan amount times interest rate divided by 12, then divided by 30, times the number of days. The most common method of playing games with this is to pretend that the prepaid interest is going to be for fewer days than actual. On a refinance, it can never ever really be less than thirty (30) - it's usually a day or two more. On a purchase, it's the number of days between closing date and the end of the month, counting both days (in other words, on the first day of a 31 day month, it's 31).

"Homeowner's Insurance" This is the money that will be used to pay for your homeowner's insurance. This is required by all regulated lenders, but I cannot imagine owning a home without having insurance from a solvent company able to pay whatever claims may arise from a widespread natural disaster. So unless you're one of the people who disagrees with me on that, it really isn't a cost of the loan, is it?

Once again, I must emphasize that at sign up, lenders are permitted to low-ball costs, particularly the ones that aren't fixed in concrete by other parties (government fees, prepaid interest, insurance). They don't have to be honestly disclosed until 3-7 days before the final loan documents are signed - far too late to change lenders in most cases. Used to be I could reliably get a purchase money loan done in 17 calendar days or less, a refinance in about 24. With all the regulations building new delays into the system, even if I have everything I need in my hand at the time of application, 45 days is about the quickest loan practical these days. If there is a loan involved, I wouldn't consider a purchase escrow of less than 60 days, and I'd be mentally prepared to extend even that.

Caveat Emptor

The concluding article on page three is now here

Original article here

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The Invention of Motherhood
Invention of Motherhood Cover
Invention of Motherhood Books2Read link



The Price of Power
Price of Power Cover
Price of Power Books2Read link

The Fountains of Aescalon
Fountains of Aescalon Cover
The Fountains of Aescalon Books2Read link

The Gates To Faerie
Gates To Faerie cover
The Gates To Faerie Books2Read link
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C'mon! I need to pay for this website! If you want to buy or sell Real Estate in San Diego County, or get a loan anywhere in California, contact me! I cover San Diego County in person and all of California via internet, phone, fax, and overnight mail. If you want a loan or need a real estate agent
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This page is an archive of entries from May 2019 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2019 is the previous archive.

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