April 2020 Archives

Legally, immediately. This also applies to refinance loans.

With that said, there are economic reasons why it may not be a good idea for you to refinance.

If you have a prepayment penalty, you're going to have to save a lot of money to make it worth paying that penalty. Suppose you have a rate of 7 percent, and an penalty of eighty percent of six months interest, that's a prepayment penalty of 2.8 percent of the loan amount. So, in order to make it worth refinancing in that instance, you have to save at least 2.8 percent of your loan amount in addition to the costs of getting the loan done, all before the prepayment penalty would have expired anyway. So if it's a three year prepayment penalty, you have to cut almost a full percent off your rate just to balance out the prepayment penalty. The higher the rate you've got now, the bigger the penalty and the more you've got to save in order to make it worthwhile. On the other side of the argument, the longer the prepayment penalty is for, the easier it is to save enough to justify paying it. If you've got a five year prepayment penalty, you're likely to get transferred or need to sell or somehow end up paying it anyway.

Second, your home has not appreciated yet, especially not in the current market. You bought for $X, and your home is still worth $X, and you haven't paid the loan down much yet, so your equity situation is essentially unchanged. In fact, since relatively few loans are zero cost, you're either going to have to put money to the deal or accept a higher rate than you might otherwise get. Don't get me wrong; Zero Cost Refinancing is a really good idea if you refinance often. But when you go from a loan that takes money to buy the rate down to a loan where the lender is paying for all of the costs of getting it done, you're not going to get as good of a rate unless the rates are falling. Loan rates went through a broad and more or less steady increase in 2004-2006, although they seem to have leveled off after that, but then they plunged off a cliff for completely predictable reasons I won't go into lest you think I'm talking politics, although they are set for major increases now. If you or someone else paid two points to get the rate on your current loan, you are not getting those two points back if you refinance. They are sunk costs, gone forever when you let the lender off the hook. If rates had dropped, it might be a good idea to refinance (like at this update), but prior to that refinancing wasn't going to save most people money. Still fine to do so if you had a sufficiently good reason, but those are a lot more rare than "I can get a lower rate without paying a cent or adding a nickel to my balance!" One reason it takes so long to refinance right now is that just about everybody who can is doing so, and therefore the lenders are backed up like the worst traffic jam you've seen in your life.

If you got your current loan based upon a property value of $400,000 and total loans of $380,000, that's a 95 percent Loan to Value Ratio. So your property is still worth $400,000, you've only paid the loan down $400. That's still a ninety five percent Loan to Value Ratio; more actually, as doing most loans is not free. So unless your credit score has gone way up, you can now prove you make money where you couldn't before, or you have a large chunk of cash you intend to put to the loan, chances are not good that refinancing is going to help you where it really counts, in the cost of money. If your credit score has gone from 520 to 740, on the other hand, or you now have two years of tax returns that prove your income, or you did win $100,000 in Vegas and you want to pay your loan down, then it can become worthwhile to refinance, even in a market like this one where the rates are generally rising. Unfortunately for loan officers like me, that does not describe the situation most people find themselves in.

One more thing that can influence whether it's a good idea to refinance is your rental and mortgage payment history. If when you got your current loan, you had multiple sixty day lates on your credit within the past two years, and now they are all more than two years in the past, that can make a really positive difference in the rate you qualify for. On the other hand, if you had an immaculate history before and now you've had a bunch of payments late thirty days or more, then it's probably not going to be beneficial to refinance.

Cash out refinancing is one thing many people ask about surprisingly soon after they close on their home. If you have a down payment, it's better to put aside some of the down payment for use in renovations rather than to initially put it towards a purchase and then refinance it out, as it saves you the costs of doing a new loan. Furthermore, "cash out" loans have generally less favorable rate/cost tradeoffs than "purchase money." If the equity is there and if you have the discipline to take the money and actually do something financially beneficial with it, it can be a very good idea. If you're just taking the money to pay off debts so you can cut your payments and run up more debts, it's probably not a good idea, even if your equity situation supports getting the cash out. It often can and does in a rising market. In the current market where values have been retreating and are ready to stabilize, not so much. If you bought any time in the last few years, it is unlikely that you have significantly more equity now than when you bought, making the whole situation unlikely to be of benefit.

A lot of situations have something or other that makes them an exception to the general rules of thumb. The only way to know for certain if the general rules apply to your situation is have a good conversation with a loan provider or two.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

Be prepared for trouble before it happens, know how strong your position is or isn't, and don't ever overplay your hand.

Real estate transactions are the largest transactions most folks get involved in. Even small percentages of $500,000 or more are lots of money. A 1% difference in the purchase price, or cost of repairs, means more money than a lot of folks take home in a month. People will lie, cheat, and steal for much smaller amounts that that. It's a bad bet in general, and a worse one in real estate, but people do it. The new siding that hides the clues that say cracked foundation. The new paint that hides the water stained ceiling. New, well padded carpet over old wood where rot has set in. These are just the tip of the iceberg.

The most common game, though, I call the chiseler. Someone who comes into the transaction and may actually negotiate the initial contract reasonably, then proceeds to demand more than is reasonable every time there's the least little item for possible concern. There's another agent in my office has one for a client right now. I've told that agent that I'd drop that client at least half a dozen times. Even if the transaction gets finalized, this chiseler is going to come after this agent as soon as there's anything he can manufacture a complaint about. The other side is a desperate seller, or they'd have told this guy to get lost long since. The chiseler is getting a screaming deal just from the basic contract, and he's wanting hundreds of dollars in concessions to fix stuff that costs a dollar nineteen. My opinion is that before the transaction closes, he's going to ask for one thing too many and they're going to tell him no, and the transaction will be off, no matter how desperate they are.

"If you want peace, be prepared for war." Ancient wisdom. I'm not advocating war for real estate. Wars are expensive and usually a net loss, whether they're waged with bullets and bombs or lawyers and contracts. There's always another property for sale, always another buyer. You never have any more power over the other side in the transaction than they choose to grant you. It may be intelligent for them to grant it, but you can't make them. Similarly, they never have any more power over you than you are willing to grant them.

A quick lesson from the annals of real warfare. In 279 BC, Pyrrhus of Epirus fought the Roman legions at Ausculum. He won the battle, but when congratulated upon doing so, replied "One more such victory, and we shall be undone." The Romans could afford the losses much more easily than his army. It set the scene for the Battle of Beneventum, after which he gave up fighting the Romans. From the experience of Pyrrhus comes the term, Pyrrhic victory. He was supposedly a brilliant general, but if he was so brilliant why couldn't he win a battle without catastrophic casualties?

Any time lawyers get involved in a transaction, it's a reasonable bet it has become a Pyrrhic victory at best. Chances of recovering actual money in your pocket greater than your legal fees are slim, no matter how rotten their case or how much worse off than you they end up. You still don't have the transaction you wanted, and meantime, you've likely scared off other buyers or missed opportunities at other properties.

Knowing when a transaction is broken and being willing to counsel a client to get out of it are two of the hallmarks of a good agent. Recognizing it before it has become undeniable is crucial. Precisely when the transaction is broken is itself a function of the market. A buyer's market certainly allows buyers to drive much harder bargains than seller's markets, but there is a point at which even the most desperate seller should tell them, "No," to further demands. Of course, a really good listing agent won't let it get that far, any more than a good buyer's agent will. I'm perfectly willing to tell my clients in private that they're on the verge of messing up a contract that gets them the best deal they can reasonably expect, all because they tell themselves they want a little bit more. But if that messes up a good transaction, nobody ends up with what they wanted. See the chiseler, above. In order to know what's broken and what's not, you have to really understand the market.

None of this is to say that capitulation is the first order of business, any more than scorched earth. Both are the province of the agent that needs to get fired. What is necessary is judgment and market knowledge and an understanding of what a good compromise really is. A good agent has contingency plans for everything in negotiating, and throughout the transaction. If they do X, we'll do Y. If they want A, we want B. If they don't want to go for that, we'll offer D for C instead. The other side does not necessarily have to lose for your client to win. Indeed, it's the good agent that knows how to substitute other things for money, and the good agent who knows how much of the clients agenda to reveal. Information is always power, but sometimes knowledge of the other side's agenda enables us to craft a compromise that makes both sides happy.

Cutting corners is always bad, as is the agent who doesn't stay on top of the transaction. Listing agents should negotiate individually with each offer, and respond to every offer within a week at the most. The transaction coordinator should not be used in lieu of individual agent involvement, or as a "talk to the hand" type shield from the other side. That's a good way to lose some of the best offers you'll get on the listing side.

Time on market is a killer for the seller's pocketbook. I don't know where the urban legend about "The longer you wait the higher the sales price" got started, but it is a counterproductive myth. If research found some kind of positive correlation between lengthened time on market and sales price, it must have been conducted in a market going up 20% plus per year. Time on market turns buyers off. "If it's so great, why hasn't it sold by now?" is a quote I've heard from pretty much every buyer client I've ever had. In point of fact, the longer a property is on the market, the further the seller will have to cut price in order to sell (and the more desperate they likely are), and the better the deal it is possible for the buyer to get. In a normal market, the longer a property takes to sell, the lower the eventual sales price will be. The idea of putting it on the market overpriced "just to see if we can get it" is a good way to cost yourself money. Price it competitively out of the gate. If there are better properties for less, your property won't sell until after theirs does - and there will be more better properties for less on the market then.

The proper response varies with market conditions and the response you're getting to the property from the market. When I originally wrote this, if a given seller wouldn't recognize that desperation is the only valid reason for marketing a property when there are 40 plus sellers per buyer, a good buyer's agent doesn't need much reason to abandon a property. Just the fact that this seller or their agent was trying to act like it's still the seller's market of a few years ago is enough, and the sooner the idiots doing anything to get listings including misrepresentation of the market realize this, the sooner this will change. My most important questions have been and will continue to be concerning their need to sell and what possible alternative plans there might be. When things are bad for sellers (and wonderful for buyers), the only reason for a property to be on the market is if there is no other reasonable alternative. I told several people, everyone who had a reasonable alternative, "I'd love to sell your property, but given the state of the market right now, the kind of sale you want is not going to happen. I can list your property for sale, but it's not going to sell in this market unless you outcompete all the similar properties that are already for sale. All it would do is frustrate both of us, and get you angry at me, and for good reason. Here's my card, and if you decide you need to do what it's going to take, please call me. Otherwise, I'll check back in a few months and we'll discuss the state of the market again. I'm confident that waiting will get you more than enough extra money to be worth it."

Later on, the buyer's market that we had when the bubble burst went away. Bidding wars and price increases were the order of the day. Sellers didn't have the kind of power they did when the bubble was going gangbusters, but they had a lot more than they had during the burst, providing their property is priced correctly and in a desirable micro-market (e.g. Central San Diego, but not Escondido or El Cajon). The more people want your property, the more power a given seller has and the less power would-be buyers do. Nobody can force them to come to grips with reality, so if they're not going to listen to reason, it may be the listing agent's fault but the owner is the one who's going to suffer the consequences. Similarly on the other side. If the buyer's agent doesn't understand the market, their clients are either going to end up frustrated or rooked.

You can't learn this stuff on the fly, by the way, nor can you prepare retroactively - you have to be ready when the offer comes in. If you don't hire a sharp enough agent, you can't go get them when it drops in the pot. First off, you won't be able to recognize that it has dropped in the pot, and that you're now roast. Second, because the reason it doesn't drop in the pot with a sharp agent is because they're prepared, and they never let it get that far.

Don't ever confuse "sharp" with "experienced," or "high producer." Yes, a certain amount of experience is helpful and I learned a lot on my first few transactions. But the only times I've ever heard anybody say something like, "I've been in the business for three geologic eras" is when they were trying to defend something indefensible. The last time it was a woman who I found out didn't have a valid listing agreement (and it wasn't a small technicality, either!) bragging about her forty years in the business. And often the reason that someone is a high producer is the willingness to throw their client under the bus in pursuit of an immediate commission check. Ask what problems they've dealt with lately and how they handled them. There are always problems to be dealt with; it's the nature of the business. Sometimes it's the property, more often it's the people. Not every transaction, but if they don't have a certain proportion, it's more indicative of inability to recognize a problem than it is of not having any. On the loan side, I've done more loans than 99 percent of the loan officers out there, and I deal with problems by recognizing them and fixing them before the underwriter sees the file. It's not my experience - there are plenty of loan officers who've been in the business thirty years who still insist upon doing it the hard way. It's not the fact that I've done X number of loans in a month. I've learned more since the month I closed 100 loans than I knew then, by an order of magnitude. As a matter of fact, high volume is incompatible with significant problem solving, either in loans or in sales. There's only so much time in the day. It's that I've learned how to recognize this stuff and deal with it before it bites my client, even if I have to work much harder or do more work or wait a little longer than I originally thought I would. That's what makes a good agent or a good loan officer.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

This is one of the biggest issues with my local real estate market. Because the San Diego market has very high demand and limited supply of property, prices are high. A reasonable two bedroom condo runs around $200,000. A 1200 square foot three bedroom, two bath detached home in decent shape on a 7000 square foot lot costs around $380,000. There are areas that are less expensive, and buyers have a lot of leverage right now, but those are real ballpark numbers. These numbers are sustainable, because even though a relatively small fraction of the population can afford such numbers, that fraction is enough to absorb the properties that come onto the market for sale. It doesn't matter if minimum wage people can't afford your property. All you need is one willing buyer who can. We're not the most expensive area of the country, but we're up there,

When you put people into this sort of environment, a certain number of them are going to want more expensive property than they can really afford. Most of them have what they believe are really excellent reasons for it. "My kids need a yard to play in!", "I've got two kids who need their own room!", and "I've got to live where the schools are the best!" are three of the most common. Other people will say they've got to live within so much distance of the ocean, they've got to have so much space, or they've got to live in a "safe" neighborhood. What they all have in common is that they're rationalizations.

There's nothing wrong with wanting a better property. I want lots of things I can't have right now. There's a car company called Morgan. They make cars that may not be the fastest or the most luxurious, but they are an absolute blast to drive. They've got a waiting list two years long. If I ever actually buy one, then in my own mind I will officially have more money than sense. I can think of roughly an infinite number of charities that would put that money to better use. But it's not wrong for me to want one - it's just stupid if I buy one without being able to afford it, and if I ever can afford it, it'll be my money to do as I want (although I hope I'd donate it to something like Soldier's Angels instead). I don't think I've ever met anyone who doesn't want something they can't really afford. It's not a crime, and it's not a sin, and it can even give you motivation to get to where you can afford it. It is self-destructive if you act on your desire before you get to that point.

Nonetheless, a lot of people, will convince themselves that because they're good people, they "deserve" this property even though they cannot afford it (or cannot afford it yet). They manage to convince themselves that what they're doing is really okay, and it'll all come out okay in the end. I must disagree, because if they "deserve" this property, they "deserve" the loan that comes with it, and "deserve" all the bad stuff that will happen when (not if) they default on their payments. The odds are strongly against everything coming out okay in the end.

If you've got the cash, you can do anything legal with it that you desire, among which is buying any property you desire. But these folks want this property now, and they don't have the cash and can't afford the loan. If either of these were not the case, well then I submit to you that they really can afford it, after all.

There aren't any loans that really make more than a marginal difference in whether you can afford the property. This isn't to say it's not worth shopping around. It is worth shopping around. The difference between the 4.75 thirty year fixed I could do when I originally wrote this for one point, and the 5.5 the branch of that same lender in the supermarket I was in the same day wanted two points for is quite noticeable. On a $400,000 loan, that's a difference of over $4000 in initial cost, and $3000 per year of interest, not counting the fact that the borrowers will have to borrow more money for the other loan. But with reasonable and equal assumptions about equity, property taxes, etcetera, none of which are under my control, the family who gets my loan will pay $2086 per month ($1583 cost of interest), requiring monthly income of $6014, while the other loan would cause their monthly total of payments to be $2271 per month ($1833 cost of interest), and the income to qualify is $6425. The difference is only about 6.8 percent, and that's actually a pretty big difference - when I originally wrote this article it was only a 2.2 percent difference. It still amounts to a lot of money, but the odds are that someone who qualifies for my loan will also qualify for the other, they'll just pay $185 per month more for the loan. This apparently small difference is one of the expensive lender's best defenses against smaller companies willing to do the loan more cheaply: it just doesn't seem like that much of a difference. Even if you dropped to a 4.25% 5/1 ARM that was available at the same time, that only drops the monthly cost of housing to $2588 ($1416 cost of interest), a further difference of only $118. This works out to a lot of money - as I said, $4000 plus $3000 per year for however many years you keep it, but it just doesn't seem like that much to most borrowers. Nonetheless, these loans are all good loans if you qualify. That's what's real. That's what's sustainable.

But if you wanted the property, back during the Era of Make Believe Loans, loan officers could have used one or more tricks, such as stated income, negative amortization, or teaser loans with a low initial payment where the rate will adjust upwards at a certain time, particularly if they're "interest only" until that time. Such loans can make it appear as if you can afford the property, when you really cannot. In the vast majority of cases where they are used, such loans are unsustainable . Let's say you think of the payment as your actual cost of housing, which may not be true. You decide you need to cut your cost of housing, but you still want the same property. Lenny the Loan Shark hauls out an interest only 2/28 at 5%, and voila! cost of interest is only $1666, and the total of monthly payments drops to $2286 under the same assumptions as the previous paragraph. But in two years, not only is that rate going to jump to 6.75% (assuming the bond market stays exactly where it is today), but it'll start amortizing at the same time. Net result? In month 25, your loan payment goes to $2653 (cost of interest $2250), an increase of over 50%, but your overall monthly cash flow to stay in that property goes to $3273. It's more likely you can afford $2891 now, the worst option from the previous paragraph, than $3273 in two years.

Suppose you want to stretch a little further than that? Lenny pulls out a negative amortization loan, even though he calls it by one of dozens of friendly sounding pseudonymns, like "Option ARM," "Pick a pay," "Flex pay," or "1% loan". As soon as the consumer grapevine picks up on one name for these nightmares, they come up with another. One of our local sharks is pushing these on the radio right now. Gosh, doesn't "1% loan" sound good? Why would anybody choose something different when those are available? Who wants to pay more interest?

The answer is that they're not really giving you a loan at 1%. Think of 1%, or whatever it is, as a "make believe" rate. Pretend it's your rate, and make that payment ($1286 for the loan, giving a total of monthly checks you write of $1812), and just don't pay attention to what's happening to your balance. Until of course, the loan hits recast, and you realize that they've really been charging you a variable rate above 8% this whole time, and now you discover that instead of $400,000, which you really couldn't afford the payments on, you now owe 110 to 125% of this amount you originally borrowed, and now they start charging you for the whole payment every month. Let's say you now owe $480,000, and your payment on the loan alone jumps to $3784, plus the same assumptions as previously, leads to a total of monthly payments of $4310 three years out. If you couldn't afford the real cost of housing at $2893, let along $3023, how likely is it you'll be able to afford $4310 three years down the line? How many people do you know that get 43% raises over three years? Now, how many people do you know that don't?

As for stated income, the thinking goes something like this: So what if you don't qualify by standard measurements! Those old banker stick in the muds don't ever want to loan money to people who really need it! You can make the payments, right? You're going to pay them back, right? We'll just tell them you make what you need to make in order to qualify! We do need to choose this short term loan to give you a payment you can make, but that's no problem! In two years, we'll refinance you into something better!

I'm perfectly willing to do unsustainable loans if the client can convince me they're aware of the downsides and risks. You're a legal adult, and being a legal adult means you're able to assume responsibility for your own mistakes. But doing this requires me to go over those downsides and risks in person with that client before we start the loan. Hiding it among 500 pages of disclosures while you're signing the final paperwork is not acceptable. People who accept these loans are putting themselves into a situation where it's essentially going to be mandatory that they refinance within two to three years. If the equity situation deteriorates, if their credit has gotten worse, if they've had late payments, if the market has receded and they have less equity (or none, or negative), they are not going to be able to obtain a loan on terms as good as what they initially had. If they didn't need a lower payment than could be had on a sustainable loan, they could have had a loan without any of these downsides. Nor is refinancing free. The fees can be paid by accepting a higher rate, but that higher rate itself means a higher payment, leading to questions of whether they can still qualify. For that matter, rates change over time. What it available rates then are significantly higher? Unlike everyone else, the person who accepts this type of loan does not really have the option of waiting for the rates to get better again. They need to understand that before they sign up to start it, not thirty days later when they're looking at final loan documents, and most people don't think they have any other choice but to sign.

All of this also begs a couple of other questions. What about pre-payment penalties, which I haven't touched on until now? What about the fact that the client who gets these loans is stretching beyond their real limits in most cases, and the credit score and situation is more likely to deteriorate than improve? Finally, most importantly, even if none of these concerns manages to bite this client, what makes you think that better loans will be available in two or three years? There just isn't anyone who can reliably predict the state of the loan market that far out.

In short, by attempting to circumvent debt to income ratio, one of the central questions of whether they qualify, these persons are not only short-circuiting a protective measure intended for their benefit as much as the lender's, but they're laying themselves open for unscrupulous providers. All of this is part of the reason why San Diego, which started out expensive and got more so, was on the bleeding edge of the bubble. If people want the house of their dreams right now, and they're seeing the market increase 20% per year with no end they can see in sight, Fear and Greed are both telling them to do whatever it takes - lie, cheat, steal, deal with shady practitioners, in order to get into that property. This was, predictably as gravity to anyone who understands macroeconomics, the wrong decision, but these folks didn't take the time to understand the market. Not to excuse them from all culpability, but here were people they thought of as credible experts, real estate agents and loan officers, telling them to do it. A rough equivalent would be if my lawyer told me it was permissible to haul off and shoot someone (other than in self defense). I'm still going to prison if I do, and rightly so, but the lawyer would certainly bear a certain amount of culpability. There is no magic wand that makes murder legal, and there is no magic wand that makes loans and properties well beyond your means affordable. Many of these were working class folks, told they qualified for a home that looks like it came straight out of Architectural Digest. This was a wedge that enabled them to be taken advantage of. It was a welcome message, it made them feel good about themselves, and it appeared to give them something that they desperately wanted, but fearful that there was no way they could afford. Yes, they were fooling themselves, but they've had a lot of company throughout history. While I cannot excuse their failure to heed warnings that most of them were given, or their failure to maybe do a little bit of research on something that any rational adult should have known was too good to be true, I can also understand it. It's a mistake I can see myself having made in different contexts.

There are variations in the market, but finding the beautiful mansion you can afford is not a matter of persistent looking, waiting for one to go on sale for the right price, or even just somehow finding the right loan. This isn't the meat section of the supermarket, where they try to lure you in with loss leaders in order to sell you the rest of your groceries for a higher price. People only buy one property or get one loan at a time. The lenders want you to pay a high cost of money, and they will play all sorts of games with payment, and what you have to pay for with money out of your pocket, or checks out of your checking account, in order to secure what they really want: You paying a higher cost for the money you borrow. That's what gets them paid. You paying a higher cost for the money you borrow than you might otherwise, gets them paid more. Much more. They can take a small portion of it and make it seem like you're getting something for free, and still come out way ahead. And there's really only one place all this money can come out of in the end: Your pocketbook. The lenders who really have superior loan prices and rates don't play these games, because on the margins they make, they can't afford to.

Getting people to be realistic about what they can afford is probably the hardest part of a buyer's agent's job, especially when your competition is telling them they can afford something they can't. It isn't popular, and you'll lose more than a few potential clients, but you'll keep yourself out of court, out of regulatory hearings, and out of jail.

For consumers, I advise you to limit yourself to sustainable loan types, fully amortized and fixed in interest rate for five years or more. There are exceptions, but if you're the kind of expert who can recognize those exceptions, you've stopped reading before this, because this article hasn't taught that person anything they don't already know. Set yourself a fixed budget in purchase price dollars, based upon your ability to afford the full payments at current rates, and refuse to go over that. If you've got a good buyer's agent, you can get a better property for less money than you might otherwise pay. If you're willing to rehab the place yourself, you can get a better property for less money, even considering the money and time you'll spend doing so. Think of it as your pay for handling the job in place of the soon to be former owner. If you shop around, you can find significantly better loans than if you don't. But you're not going to find a palace for the price of a dump. If you do, there's something wrong with the situation, and if you aren't so certain that you understand what it is and why, that you can give someone permission to tear your arm off and beat you to death with it if you're wrong, chances are you should run, not walk, in the other direction.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

On a regular basis, I get emails that ask me what I think of a particular company. When I check out public forums, I see questions about particular companies every time. "What do you think of X Realty, or Y Mortgage?"

Reputation has a certain value of course, but in my experience, these people are overvaluing reputation. These people are looking for a "silver bullet" solution to their situation that lets them pretend they don't need to do diligence upon their own behalf, and there aren't any. They want to be taken care of without doing the mental work of figuring out whether the person is really doing a good job. "This is a great company, and great company would never take advantage of me, so I must be getting a great bargain!"

This utterly leaves aside any number of issues. Suppose the Mortgage or Real Estate Firm of Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe were paying me a fee for every referral. Most people might have justifiable concerns about whether my recommendation was motivated by that fee or by the desire to get them a great loan. Well if you're chumming for a recommendation, you have no idea if the anonymous person recommending the firm of Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe is a virtuous benefactor - or one of their employees. The bigger the firm, the more employees they have. Huge National Megacorporation can have hundreds of their loan officers or agents log on to the internet forums anonymously and all endorse National Megacorporation's loan programs for some mysterious reason. Suppose the person isn't affiliated with Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe, but does work for a similar firm. They could be trying to build demand for the same sort of operation that feeds them, so when people read about Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe's methods being recommended, and then encounter this similar firm, they are ready to do business.

Suppose the person answering is a complete babe in the woods? They just plain have no idea. They've never gotten a loan, or if they have, they got took just as badly as anyone else in the history of the world, and worse than most. Does the possibility of such a anonymous recommendation for the Mortgage firm of Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe seem like a thing you want to follow? Unless you audit that person's transaction and compare it to other similar transactions going on at the same time, you have no real idea whether this person would recognize a scam if it bit them. Even if you do audit their transaction, that doesn't necessarily mean anything, good or bad, for your situation.

Suppose the reason this person thought Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe did a good job was because they didn't pay attention. They've read every single one of my articles, and they understand all of the things that could go wrong, and they actually know how to read a HUD 1 form, but they just didn't bother because their Uncle Joe works for Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe, and they trust Uncle Joe completely, and Uncle Joe would never take advantage of them. This ignores the issue that their Uncle Joe is unlikely to be your loan officer, and even if he was, Uncle Joe may have compunctions about his family that do not apply to you. Furthermore, a very large fraction of the most unethical stuff I've seen since I've been in this business was Uncle Joe (or Brother Moe, or Sister Sue, or Cousin Lu) raking people over the coals who they knew would not shop around for a better deal. But even if they are completely unrelated, they decided to trust Joe, and didn't do the diligence that would have told them whether Joe was doing a good job, let alone the best possible job.

Most importantly, in both the loan and in the real estate business, service is provided by individuals, not companies. It's the guy you're sitting down talking to right here that decides how much of a margin they are going to work on, not some mysterious exalted Chief Operating Officer in New York City. That COO may lay out base requirements that say "no more than X, no less than Y" ("no less than" is a lot more common than "no more than"), but it's the person doing your loan, or the agent doing your transaction, that decides where in that spectrum you fall. And I shouldn't have to point out that if they say "The corporate president says we have to make at least two points on every loan!" and somebody else offers you a better loan for you, that's their problem, not yours. They are not getting, or at least they should not get your business if you know of a better possibility. You don't owe anyone your business.

Finally, every situation is unique. People ask me what I think of a particular lender, and I'm thinking about the clients they'll do well with, or the clients where that particular lender's programs are most competitive. The lender with the best thirty year fixed rate mortgage in the business is not a lender I would use for an 80/20 short term piggyback on someone with a 600 credit score. That particular lender never wanted to touch 100 percent financing, and refuses to do business at all with anyone whose credit score is less than 620. The lender I'd most likely use for the latter borrower has a rate and cost tradeoff for their loans that knocks them completely out of contention for the A paper full documentation 80 percent LTV thirty year fixed rate loan with no prepayment penalty. They're not competitive for that borrower, and both that account executive and I know it. They'd be grateful to me for placing the loan with them, and they'd certainly get it done, but my wholesalers and I have an understanding: The lender who has a program that can actually fund the loan with the lowest rate cost tradeoff on the best terms for the client gets the business. There are any number of constraints and possible aspects to a client situation that can cause me to turn away from one lender and to another lender, based upon how that particular lender treats that particular situation.

Lenders don't want to compete on price, but a good loan officer forces them to do precisely that. And if the wholesaler is one of those who refuses to compete on the basis I want them to compete on, there are plenty who will. Don't BS me about service. Everybody should have great service. If you don't have great service, we're not meant for each other, and the lenders I already do business with all have great service. What I want is a great loan for this client that you can actually deliver on time. If you've got that, we may have some business. If you haven't got that, we don't. This point, incidentally, is one of the reasons you'll end up with a better loan from a good brokerage or correspondent than you will from the best lender. A broker or correspondent loan officer knows how to shop loans better than any ordinary consumer. This is one reason why bankers are trying so hard to drive them out of business.

(Note: At this update, there are no generally available 100% financing programs. Every such 100% financing program that's currently available has significant restrictions, based upon factors like whether you're a veteran, where you want to live, whether you're a first time buyer, whether there is money in the budget, etcetera. I'm confident that 100% financing programs for the general public will come back, but they're not here right now)

This isn't to say you should just trust a broker. Indeed, my point is that you shouldn't trust anyone. Shop around, compare what's available, ask them what for written guarantees (insofar as they are available in a different and changed lending environment), verify everything, and don't give them your dollars to hold hostage until they've actually delivered. That's why I put out the yardsticks for measuring performance I do, that's why I give you the strategies for finding the people who will do a better job, and for forcing them to actually do a better job. I give you the tools to judge by the only reliable yardstick there is - their behavior. You can't know if something is a good bargain except by comparison with something else like it, or several somethings. Given the amount of legal wiggle room there is, unless you pin a loan officer or real estate agent down with specific guarantees and conditions in writing, what they actually deliver is completely dependent upon their good will. If they have good will, you don't need to work nearly so hard, although comparison shopping would still be a really good idea. But if a decent proportion of agents and loan officers had goodwill, there would be a lot fewer problems with the industry.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

A while ago I dealt with a very disturbing phone call from a would be client. He was very happy with the way I found bargain properties, and wanted me to find him such a property. All very well and good. But he said that a condition of the transaction had to be that he would receive cash back from the seller in order to rehabilitate the property while financing the entire amount. This is not so good.

I am well aware there are all kinds of self-proclaimed real estate gurus out there, many of whom push precisely this sort of strategy. That does not change the fact that it is FRAUD.

The lender evaluates a property based upon accounting principles, which is to say Lesser of Cost or Market. Whichever is less, the cost of the property or the market value. Market value is measured by the appraisal. It's not perfect, and it's not foolproof, but it's the best thing there is. Cost is measured by purchase price - the price at which a willing buyer and a willing seller exchanged the property. It has to be worth that much or the buyer would not have been willing to pay it, would they? It can't be worth more or the seller wouldn't have sold, would they?

Manipulating either purchase price or appraised value for financial purposes such as justifying a higher loan amount is fraud. Since there is no other rational reason to do that, it's pretty universal that manipulating appraisal value or purchase price is fraud.

Many people have all kinds of rationalizations why doing this sort of thing is permissible. "Real Estate goes up in value," "It'll be worth that much eventually," and "It'll be worth that after the renovations!" being very common. None of these addresses that fact that that's not the situation now, and the lender is lending based upon the value now, not later.

The purchase price, in particular, is the purchase price because that it how much money the buyer is paying and how much money the seller is receiving. But if the purchase price is $400,000 but the seller is returning $20,000 to the buyer, then the real purchase price is not $400,000, is it? The seller is only getting $380,000, and the buyer is only paying $380,000. If it was a cash transaction with no loan involved, there would be no doubt. If I hand you $400,000 and you hand me back $20,000, I've only given you $380,000, not $400,000, and there's no doubt about it. You've only got $380,000. Only the fact that there is a lender in the middle of most transactions gives any leeway to confuse the issue, and if you're hiding something about a transaction in order to induce some other party to perform a financial action they would not otherwise, that is a textbook definition of fraud.

Lest there be any mistake, you do have to hide it. If the terms of the purchase contract state that there will be this rebate, the lender will treat the purchase price as $380,000, and underwrite the loan based upon a $380,000 purchase price. Telling the entire truth defeats the possibility of it working, and once you have neglected to inform the lender of this significant fact, you are committing FRAUD.

Some people will cite the example of Seller Paid Closing Costs as justification for this, but that is an entirely different matter. Indeed, traditionally lenders treated seller paid closing costs, over and above the seller's usual share, as reducing the purchase price. It is only the last few years, when it has been pointed out that everything about real estate transactions is negotiable, and that the seller must have been willing to pay those costs in order to consummate that transaction, that the lenders began to allow it. But it is to be noted that all of that money is going to third parties, people who are being paid for their services in making the transaction happen, none back from the seller to the buyer.

Consider instead this scenario: Jim and Joe trade the stock of corporation A. The public sale price of that stock is $100 per share, but as soon as Jim has Joe's money, he quietly hands Joe back $20. The price Joe is paying Jim for the stock is $80, but to the observer unaware of the side transaction, it's $100. It's going to appear to the general public that both Jim and Joe consider that to be a fair trading price, and people will often be willing to pay both Joe and Jim that $100 per share price because it looks like that's the price, or think they're really "getting a deal" if Joe or Jim will sell to them for $98.

Now lest we be unclear, as soon as the side transaction comes to light, the SEC and FBI are going to sweep in and both Joe and Jim are going to find themselves charged with share price manipulation, which is to say, fraud.

The situation I've described as defrauding the lender in this instance is no different at the root. You are hiding a part of the transaction in order to induce the lender to give you a larger loan than they otherwise would have.

Before I leave this subject, I want to ask you what kind of an agent or loan officer you'd trust to commit fraud upon someone? When such activities are discovered, such agents and loan officers lose their license and usually go to jail. Do you want to do business with a loan officer or real estate agent who commits fraud? Who deserves to lose their license and go to jail? If they're willing to lie and commit fraud upon one part of the transaction at the lender's expense, why would they be unwilling to lie and commit fraud at someone else's expense? For instance, yours? If I were to point out some agent or loan officer who is under indictment for fraud, and is going to lose their license and go to jail as soon as the verdict comes back, how many of you would rush right out to get a transaction done with them before that all happens?

Now this would-be client quickly lost interest when I explained all of the above. He said, "I'll get back to you on the property!" and hung up. He'll find someone to help him out, no doubt about it. But that's one transaction a good professional wants no part of. I'm better off without him. And I'm confident that if he actually pulls a few of these transactions (fewer now than it used to be), one day he'll go to jail and be a convicted felon, and that is as it should be. Being able to kiss my wife and hug my kids every night is worth more than any money I might miss out on. Being able to look myself in the mirror is worth just as much.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

what happens if partner refuses to pay his half of the mortgage?

The lender will hold you each responsible for payment in full. That's the long and the short of it. You both agreed to the loan contract, and if it's not paid in full there will be all of the consequences for each of you: Hits to your credit, notice of default, foreclosure.

This is basically blackmail on the part of your partner, and a disturbing number of partnerships have this phenomenon. The only way I know of to recover the money is through the courts, which takes forever and costs more money. Even when you have a judgment, it can be difficult to actually get the money if they have taken certain steps to place it beyond your reach. Talk to an attorney right now, keep good records, and send everything Certified Mail.

Unfortunately, there are no method except time that I am aware of to repair the damage to your credit once it has been done. You just have to wait it out. For that reason, it is usually cost effective to loan your partner the money, even at zero percent interest.

What if you don't have the money for both halves of the payment? Well, that's a real question, and the answer is found in the article What Happens When You Can't Make Your Real Estate Loan Payment. This is not a good situation to be in. Talk to that attorney about liquidating your investment. It takes time and a lot of money if your partner doesn't want to.

What can you do to prevent this from happening? Pick a good partner that won't pull this nonsense. Spend the money to protect yourself up front with a partnership agreement. But that won't protect you if you didn't do it in advance, and the fact is that if your partner wants to be a problem personality, you really can't stop them in the short term. Not that it makes any difference to your pocketbook, but sometimes it's not intentional. People do fall on bad times for reasons not under their control.

Corporations are another step people take to protect themselves from this sort of thing, but that brings in all sorts of further problems. How the corporation qualifies for a loan is often a significant problem, and many times practically speaking, is insurmountable.

Borrowing money in partnership with someone else is something to be done with a lot of forethought and preparation, otherwise there's not much you can do when bad things happen.

Caveat Emptor

Original here


The first thing to consider is that maybe you shouldn't. You never want to get involved in a bidding war. There's a classic riddle I ask every single one of my buyer clients at least once.

"How often does the Deal of the Century happen in real estate?"

The preferred answer is "About once a week." I'll give full credit for anything under two months. Yeah, you might not get this one. But another bargain just as good will be along soon. My point is this: There just aren't any properties worth getting into a bidding war over, and part of a good buyer's agent's job is keeping you from going overboard because you've got tunnel vision for this one property.

The second thing to consider is that just because the listing agent tells you it's a multiple offer situation doesn't mean that it actually is one. Quite often, agents don't understand that lying about this is a good way to scare desirable potential buyers off, and they say they've got four (or fourteen, or four hundred) offers hoping to shake a better offer out of prospective buyers. Ladies and gentlemen, if these offers were any better than the one you just sent over, they'd be in hot and heavy negotiation with the other offer, if not in escrow. I've been told this on December 24th when the property had been on the market for six months. Neither Santa Claus nor the Real Estate Fairy are real. Yes, sometimes it may be the truth. See the answer to "How often does the Deal of the Century happen?" above. The rest of the time, it hurts the seller more than the buyer, scaring off good offers and puncturing credibility. Credibility is like a balloon - if there's one hole for the air to escape, what you've got is nothing. I don't understand agents who do this to themselves, especially as it hurts their clients also.

The third thing to consider is that you're always subject to how the the seller and their agent want to handle the transaction. You can't force them to do anything, even act in their own best interests. I'm coming up against an awful lot of horrible listing agents who respond as effectively to offers made as any other black hole. Put in a good offer and you get all the response of someone dropping it into a black hole. If you're not familiar with black holes, there's only three pieces of information it's possible to get on a black hole: Mass, charge, and spin. The real estate impact is similar; We can see it's still listed "active" on MLS, but no matter how many phone calls, emails, and faxes we send over to the listing office, we never get a response to our offer. And some of these listing agents have the gall to complain when they do respond six or eight weeks later that all of the prospective buyers have moved on. So be aware that you can't force the listing agent to respond at all. Fiduciary duty is supposed to accomplish that, but real world experience tells us that it often fails. I can point to many agents and brokerages that are completely incompetent at anything other than getting signatures on listing agreements.

In neither case am I saying that you always want to walk away from all multiple offer situations. What I am saying is that the situation is rife with potential for disappointment and other morale busters. But if you can keep a healthy attitude and not let the idiocy and failings of those you cannot control bring you down, it's still an attractive property that you obviously want. If you put in an offer, you might get it. If you don't, I can guarantee you won't.

The next thing to consider is trying to find something other than money that the sellers want, and offering that in lieu of a certain amount of cash. There are as many possibilities as there are scenarios. Short sales often want certain specific things, lender owned properties usually want different things, and regular sales still others. There is always the possibility that something other than official sales price will win the day, and the smarter the seller and the better their agent is, the more likely this will be the case. Something over fifty percent of all escrows have been falling apart locally, thanks to the new appraisal standards, other legislation passed by Congress, and a generally over-paranoid lending environment.

Some sellers and their agents just stupidly choose the apparent highest offering price, and nothing I nor anyone else can say is going to dissuade them. The most probable explanation is that listing agent's commission check - since commission is paid upon official sales price, they will advise their client, the seller, to take whatever the highest offer is. Some of these agents may have ten or twenty years in the business and just consider it "bad luck" that all of their listings have the same exact problems after they have a contract. Problems are always with us, as well as the potential for problems. If it were easy, anyone could do it and there would be no need for real estate agents. But an agent where the vast majority of their accepted offers have these problems isn't luck - and the one common factor all of their problems have looks them in the mirror every time they walk by one.

There are strategies available to buyers that take advantage of this stupidity. Most of the common ones are variants upon the classic sales trick of the sales "take away". Get the seller wanting your offer, then make them work for it, doing things they would never have done for what they end up getting. Once the seller has chosen one offer and everyone else wanders off feeling demoralized and let down, that chosen buyer has a lot more power than they had previously, at least if they use that power carefully. The property goes back on the market two or three weeks later, and everyone looking at it in MLS is going to wonder what's wrong with it. I don't like using these strategies and definitely prefer not to, but some listing agents practically beg me to do so.

Another thing that can help quite a lot is your Buyer's Agent Presenting The Offer In Person. Theoretically, listing agents are required to honor this request or show written instructions to the contrary signed by their client, the seller (Clue to a certain nameless agent who knows who I'm talking about: A "forwarded email" is not acceptable for this). All too often, however, listing agents throw roadblocks in the way. It's actually in everybody's best interest for buyer's agents to present their client's offer in person, but many listing agents obsessed with control (or with getting both halves of the commission) throw so many roadblocks and so many delaying tactics that it's not worth fighting over. This is yet another excellent reason for sellers to write into the listing contract that the listing agent will not get the buyer's agent half of the commission! Maybe an extra half percent as a concession for doing the other agent's job as well as their own, but not the entire thing. I never accept dual agency, and every agent I respect agrees with this position. If someone insists upon me writing an offer on one of my own listings, Winforms has a very simple one page form called a Buyer Non-Agency Agreement that spells out that I am acting solely on behalf of the seller, and I'm just doing whatever it is because that seller's interests require me to, not because I'm accepting agency on their behalf. Nor is the buyer's agent presenting the offer something you can do on every property - the chances of it happening on lender or corporate owned property are pretty small. But if your buyer's agent presents your offer in person, that's an opportunity for humanization - making you into a human being that the seller can empathize with, not just a faceless pile of paper with markings on it. It's also an opportunity to stress the desirable parts of your offer.

As far as money itself goes, every client I have in a multiple offer situation gets asked two important questions:

1) If you got the property for this price, would you be happy or not?

2) If someone else got the property for $1000 more, would you care?

The proper answer to the first is "ecstatically happy!" If the happy part isn't in there, they're offering too much and need to reduce their offer. It doesn't matter if similar properties are selling like hotcakes for twice as much. If the client isn't happy, it may mean they need more discussion of the market, or alternatives to that property, but they shouldn't be offering that much money. The answer to the second should be "no", an indication that they really are offering what the property is worth to them. Not that they have to offer that much, just that they might. If they want to offer some lesser amount, I'll still do everything I can to get the offer accepted, but in that circumstance my clients are accepting the increased likelihood that someone else gets the property for a price less than they would have been willing to pay.

A question that's never misplaced is "Are we wasting our time with this offer?" It communicates quite plainly to the listing agent that under the current circumstances, this is the best they're going to get from you. You just have to be willing to walk away without hesitation if they say "Yes." It's not necessarily the end of the line for you and this property, it's just the end of the line for now. If the property is still on the market weeks later, a renewal or even a lesser offer can often move it "Pending" in your favor. It has to do with credibility, and steadily worsening circumstances for would-be sellers of real estate. Quite often the agent or seller who isn't willing to talk rationally in April is desperate in July. It's their own fault, if they had negotiated in good faith in April the problem would have been solved on terms more favorable to them.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

A couple years ago, I took a look at a lender owned property a few miles from my office. It was ugly. I mean ugly. The yard was a mess, there was a deck that was rotting. The facade looked like it hadn't been painted since before President Kennedy was shot, and really needed to come off besides. Inside, the carpet was gone, the vinyl in the kitchen and bathroom looked like it was waiting for the return of President Truman, and most everything else looked even older. The color scheme was something out of the art deco age, too. You know the pastel salmon and blue.

But it had good intrinsics! Dynamite location within a mile of three freeways, although it didn't get traffic noise from any of them. The area is a resurgent one, and it's within fifteen to twenty minutes of just about everything, even during rush hour. The schools - especially the high school - are top notch public institutions. The property itself did not have any basic structural flaws that I could find - just an old and ugly surface. And that's not mentioning the fact that it had excellent sight lines and a pretty darned good view.

I tried real hard to get one set of prospective clients, a couple with two kids, to put an offer in on the property. Based upon what they had told me, they could afford the property with a thirty year fixed rate loan with good amount left over, even at the asking price, and the property was livable as it was. It just wasn't modern or gorgeous, and they still had room in their budget to fix it up. They could have spent roughly $40,000 for professionals to come in and fix the whole thing, or they could have cut those costs in half or more by doing it themselves. At the end of the process, they would have had a wonderful property worth at least $120,000 more than they paid for it, with at least $80,000 in smart sweat equity. Furthermore, the property taxes would have been lower, they would have had plenty of room in their budget for disasters, and on and on the list of advantages goes.

These people decided not to pay attention to me. They wanted something that was beautiful now, and someone else persuaded them to stretch past their real the limit to buy into a fairly new PUD on the other side of that particular suburb. HOA dues, and no room in the monthly budget for anything to go wrong. Not to mention they had to use an interest only 2/28 to qualify, and they called me about a year later and said they've got a late payment, but they were hoping I could do something for them. The answer was unfortunately no. I really hope for their sake that the market gains a lot of value soon, because otherwise they're going to be hosed as far as refinancing goes, and they're going to need to. I didn't say a thing even implying, "told you so", but to my surprise, he volunteered the information that he now wished he had listened to me. Unfortunately, he can't go back in time with what he knows now.

A flipper ended up buying the property I tried to talk them into for cash. He did a light surface rehab, and it's beautiful. He spent less than $500 getting someone to clean up the yard and haul away the wood from the old deck. He stripped off the old facade and put good quality siding on. Carpet went in before he even moved in, the vinyl is now a fairly nice tile, and the two bathrooms he basically resurfaced, one at a time. Kitchen cabinets he re-stained, and updated the sinks, the faucets, and the appliances. Put up a white picket fence, seeded grass, painted the inside, and now the property is on the market again. After all the costs of rehabbing and selling, he's going to come away with at least $40,000 pure profit, assuming he paid to have all the work done. Plus, he got a place to live for six months out of the deal, at least a $10,000 value even for a rental.

My point is this: Flippers aren't the only ones who can do this. In fact, the math works even more strongly in favor of someone buying a place to live. No seven or eight percent cost of getting the property sold. The lower purchase price means lower taxes, which last as long as you own the property. I know that career and kids are tough enough, but the property was livable as it sat, and you have however long you want to get it rehabilitated. Net difference to their situation: almost a year and a half of the income it would have taken to qualify. If I offered you a year and a half worth of pay to work overtime for less than six months, most people would jump at it, kids or not. Add to all of this the fact that this is money you didn't borrow, so you're not paying interest on it every month. At 6% interest, every $1000 you don't borrow saves you $5 per month, and this was a fair number of thousands of dollars.

Most folks are going to replace the carpet and paint the place anyway. It makes no difference if it was last painted by someone on an LSD trip in the sixties, or the carpet is a filthy nightmare shade of avocado green unseen since 1977. If you're planning to make it go away, it makes good economic sense to choose stuff that's ugly now, so you're not paying a premium for something beautiful you plan to replace anyway.

There is a reason Why There Is Money in Fixer Properties. I can understand if you're a big executive who needs to move into something beautiful now so you can have social professional or client sales meetings there right away, but this just doesn't describe most people. Not to mention that those folks aren't looking to scrape into a property - they make the money to easily afford the beautiful modern six bedroom home overlooking the ocean.

I'm not going to say that you'll never find a bargain property that isn't already beautiful. I'm saying you're at least a hundred times more likely to find this sort of bargain in a property that isn't beautiful yet, and that the vast majority of the time, the big stroke in the pocketbook goes to the people who make it beautiful. I had another couple a few months ago,and they listened to me about fixer properties, more than even I was really comfortable with. They bought a property that was almost a century old with some systemic issues (electrical, plumbing and sewage), and all through the inspections, I kept saying things like, "I expected worse." Turned out the property was more solid than I gave it credit for. I drove by a couple weeks ago, and the property has been fixed up significantly. Furthermore, I'll bet they could sell for a profit, even with the problems the market had at the time, and there's still a long way to go. These people have basically zero pressure on their pocketbook, and zero stress in their life. They can still save money. They can still live like they were accustomed to. The only difference is that now they are owners rather than renters, and they have placed their cost of housing forevermore under their own control, they get the tax advantages of owning, and so on and so forth.

People stretch beyond their real means to buy that beautiful new gorgeous eye candy property all the time. It's never a sure bet, and when the market isn't going up twenty percent per year, it's considerably more risky. Far better to restrict yourself to a property you can afford with a sustainable loan, and that gives you some monthly cash flow for emergencies. You shouldn't plan to have a need to refinance for at least five years, but if such a need should happen, you're likely to be able to do so. If you'll buy a solid property that needs some updating and beautifying, it's likely to be a financially rewarding experience, and any number of professional property fixers can attest. There's no reason why you can't take advantage of this fact to find a property to live in, instead of the quick flip for profit. In fact, it makes even more sense to do it for a property you intend to live in for a long time.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

This is a pure scam throughout, but it's legal as far as I know.

I'm not going to go into more details than I can avoid. The universe knows there's enough people pulling this right now, but the bad guys already know about it, so let's even the level of illumination a bit. Here's the general way it works. The owners are in default, and there's no way they're going to bring the loan current, as the lender can require once the Notice of Default hits. They do not have the requisite cash. Along comes a blackguard masquerading as a white knight, and makes the homeowner a proposition: Sign the property over to me, and I'll bring it current, rent it back to you long enough for you to get back on your feet. Pay the rent on time for two years, and I'll sell it back to you. There may even be a small amount of cash involved, as compensation for your equity "in case" you end up unable to purchase it back.

People desperate to stay in their property will agree. They think they'll be saving their equity, their kids won't have to change schools, and nobody will have to know they were in foreclosure. Of these, only the fact that the kids will be able to stay in their schools a little longer might be true.

Here's what happens: These scams are usually structured as a sale subject to existing deeds of trust, with all of the problems entailed in that, but not always. A signs the property over to B. B now owns it. In the absence of a contract for future activity, B can do whatever the heck they want to with the property. Usually, B will try to talk A out of demanding any actual written contract, and a verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Without such a contract, what's preventing B from evicting A is essentially B's goodwill.

But with a contract or without, B is usually motivated to keep A in the property by the fact that they're going to charge A an above market rent - usually enough to pay not only the mortgage, but a significant monthly profit for B. I had a guy come to me a couple months ago who had accepted such an arrangement. His monthly payments had gone from $3100 to almost $4300. Where else is B going to get that kind of rent for properties that normally rent around $2000? And, of course, A is going to maintain the property. After all, they still think it's theirs.

If you can't make the payment now, let me ask you what makes you think you'll be able to afford a much higher payment? What makes you think you'll be able to pay it on time, as the contract, assuming there is one, demands in order to retain your right to re-purchase the property? It isn't going to happen. If you had that kind of spare cash, you would have brought the property current yourself. If you could afford the payment in the first place, you wouldn't be in this trouble. You probably wouldn't have been behind in the first place. But people will tell themselves all kinds of things, because "it's only temporary".

Now it's worth noting that for the ones of these structured as sales subject to existing deeds of trust, B is going to make a point of having some late payments on that mortgage. These hit A's credit rating. Chances of A being able to qualify for a better loan, that they can actually afford, when the two years are up? Zilch.

Even if they're not structured as sales subject to existing deeds of trust, the chances of A being able to qualify to buy the property back at the end of those two years are basically zero. There's going to be a late payment somewhere. "Sorry, but you're in default upon the contract terms." They can take the contract and a decent lawyer to court, and paint themselves as being a saint who kept A in the property, tried to give them the opportunity to buy it back, and was rewarded with default on the rental agreement and this lawsuit. Chances are that A ends up paying for B's lawyer, as well as their own. Even if A somehow manages to make all the rental payments on time and in full, they are now even more broke than before. No cash for closing costs, or anything else. Particularly in the sort of lending market we have now and expect to be having for the next several years, A is not going to qualify for the loan they need in order to repurchase the property.

What does the blackguard who pretends they're a white knight get out of all this? Well, they won't do it for properties without a good bit of equity. So for an investment of a few thousand dollars to bring the loan current, they get a property with 10% equity at a minimum, and usually more. They get a positive cash flow from having it rented above market for up to two years. And if A should somehow manage to leap all the hurdles to repurchase the property, that repurchase contract will give them back every penny they invested with cash to spare. And for the vast majority where A is unable to repurchase the property according to the terms of the contract, I'll bet that they get a good chunk of change, not only out of the equity built in to the deal, but also out of the differences between the market now and the market two years from now.

For being in denial, and unwilling to face the fact that they can no longer afford the property, A loses basically all of the equity they have built up. They would have lost some of it anyway, as it's not free to sell a property and in this market, you're unlikely to get top dollar for anything. But this ends up costing them more - tens of thousands more.

If you get into a situation where you're looking at losing the property, and someone pretending to be a white knight rides up and offers you this kind of deal, you're better off selling outright in pretty much every case. Yes, you've just lost the property. But you would have lost it anyway, together with basically every penny of equity if you accept one of these deals. How is that better than being responsible and realistic enough to accept the situation as it is, and sell on the regular market for the best deal you can get?

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

When things went south in the real estate market, I saw more changes in the lending industry in a few months than the previous five years. But those changes mostly restored us to the place we were a few years previous.

There is plenty of money available, rates are so good right now because lenders want very badly to lend money. For all the howling and gnashing and grinding of teeth you see in the media, and elsewhere, I can get loans at rates that are very low, historically speaking. 100% conventional financing may not be available any more, but I'll bet money it's going to come back, and I do have 95% conventional loans, 96.5% FHA loans (which are really 98.25%) and 103% VA loans.

You just have to be able to prove you can afford the payments.

And that's the rub. Starting a few years ago, and increasing until the house of cards collapsed, many real estate agents and loan officers stopped worrying about whether or not their client could really afford the property. The question was could they get the loan funded, and let the client worry about whether they could really afford it later.

The relaxation of lending standards was like manna from heaven to the less ethical members of my professions. Agents could sell people who could barely afford a condominium in reality a beautiful huge detached house with its own yard in an affluent community with great schools, and loan officers could make it look like they could afford the payments. Talk about your easy sale! The clients expect a chintzy little condo in a rough neighborhood, and the agents shows them a beautiful five bedroom home half a block from the beach, and says they can get it for the monthly payment they told the agent they could make. Prices skyrocket! People who bought a couple years ago and are strapped for bills refinance into these ridiculously low payments while getting cash out for all of the toys they can imagine! New SUV? How about two new SUVs! Some loan officer needs to get paid for a loan, and everybody has a thirty year fixed rate loan they got when rates were lower? Offer to cut the payment in half!

Never mind that the real interest rates on these loans was much higher. People just naturally assumed that if they kept making the payments, they'd pay the loan down, and eventually, off. After all, that's what loans are! Except that wasn't the case with the Make Believe Loans that were so popular. That small minimum payment, way below the real cost of interest, caused thousands of dollars to be added to the loan balances, where the above market interest rate could be charged on that money also - and the lenders could report all of this as income, doing wonderful things for their revenue and stock prices!

Some others may not have gone in for negative amortization loans in a big way. Instead, they put people into "interest only" loans where the loan and interest rate was fixed for two, or maybe even three years. They may have used stated income, or they may not, but they put people in unsustainable loans where the clients could barely afford the initial payment, and never mind thinking about what would happen, sure as gravity, when the adjustment hit. When the loan started to amortize at the same time the rate jumped by two percent, they affect to be somehow surprised that their former clients cannot afford the payments!

Or perhaps they used stated income only because the clients had two thousand dollars of other debt service per month. Well, hello! debt to income ratio is the most critical measure of whether someone qualifies for a loan there is. It protects the lender, but it also protects the borrower, and this intentionally short-circuited it. Yes, they could have afforded the property if they didn't have have this debt. It's not a distraction; it's the central, single most important issue in whether or not they qualify for that loan!

For those who were taken advantage of thusly, may I recommend finding a competent real estate attorney? The last couple years have seen some very interesting court decisions. One court in Ohio started it off by ordering a negative amortization loan rescinded due to failure to disclose its nature sufficiently. For a while, there were all kinds of lawsuits going on. Unfortunately, they pretty much came to an end when the bailouts happened. I was looking forward to seeing criminal trials for the worst crooks, but it appears as if orders have come down from Our Beloved Political Class not to put anyone in jail. Probably fair enough, as Our Beloved Political Class was at the heart of the reason for the bubble. Still, it doesn't precisely discourage a repeat of the whole mess, does it?

All of that is neither here nor there, really. My point is that the only thing that's changed is that the lenders have woken up to the fact that was evident all along - that they were the "deep pockets" who were liable to eat most of these losses from the price collapse, and from people who couldn't make payments on unsustainable loans, particularly after the payment started adjusting. The lending standards that contributed to the bubble are gone, and they are not coming back any time soon. Forget about them. That was then. This is now.

The lending standards in effect now are very livable. Bankers transported from the fifties would be horrified at how lax they are. Until 1997, there was precisely one lender that would loan 100 percent of the value of the property (when they bailed out of the 100% loan market in late 2005, it was the first sign that collapse of the lending market had actually started). When I originally wrote this, I still had at least a dozen lenders who would go 100%, but they wanted to see proof you can afford the payments. Failing that, lenders wanted to see enough equity (which means down payment in the case of purchases for you real estate agents reading this), so that if the loan were to go south, that lender would still get their money.

This means real affordability and down payment have become a lot more important to the purchase market, and if you're looking at a refinance, you had better be able to afford the real payments. If you can't, that refinance is not going to happen. Even the new 125% refinancing programs require documentation of enough income to afford them - they're in existence for loss mitigation, and loss mitigation only. If you can't afford the loan, even Fannie and Freddie are going to cut their losses by foreclosing.

If, on the other hand, you're willing to restrict yourself to properties you can really afford, welcome to ownership! For every person who can no longer qualify because they can't document enough income, there's someone else who can, and who has the down payment. Down payment requirements are very achievable for anyone who is reasonably frugal and doesn't make a habit of stiffing their creditors! Affordability of property has increased dramatically, and at this update, most properties in reasonable condition and with realistic asking prices here locally are going for the asking price.

The catch is that if you can only afford the payments on $300,000, then $300,000 is all you're going to be able to borrow. I've been selling my clients what they can really afford all along - the only difference it makes to me is that I'm no longer competing with the jokers that can only sell houses by showing clients the beautiful property they can't afford. I've been telling people about real, sustainable loans all along. The only difference this makes to my loan business is that I'm not competing with jokers who sell negative amortization loans by the minimum payment to unsuspecting people who don't understand what's going on.

What this means is that lazy agents and loan officers are going to have to bite the bullet and sell the client a property they can really afford with a loan they can really afford. Agents can have people make offers on property they can't afford, but they're wasting their time and the clients'. Loan officers can tell people about this loan and that loan they used to have, but they're wasting their time and the clients'. Possibly the clients deposit, inspection, and appraisal money too, in both cases. The loans to make this nonsense happen do not exist any longer.

On the other hand, low to (in some cases) zero down financing still exists for those who can afford the payments. But they have to be able to actually afford the payments. This means working within a budget, and settling for what you can afford within that budget. Settling is a very hard message to send someone who's going to be spending six figures on a property and is all emotionally tied up with how they want it to be beautiful, and in a great neighborhood with wonderful schools and all of the usual things that have buyers gushing - particularly when everyone else is telling them they don't have to settle. They really did have to settle, all along, and those that believed ethical practitioners when they were told that are doing just fine, thank you, while those who didn't are in real trouble. The real world has come crashing back into real estate. The fantasy may have been nice while it lasted, but the real world always comes crashing back.

Among those real world facts that have come crashing back is that all of the long term benefits of owning over renting are just as real, just as relevant, and just as true, as I painted them back when I wrote those articles. Let's review a few:

Should I buy a Home?, Leverage in Real Estate - Making a Decent Investment Spectacular, Why Renting Really Is For Suckers (And What To Do About It) (and its counterpoint, When You Should Not Buy Real Estate), Save For A Down Payment or Buy Now?, The High Cost of Waiting To Buy A Home, Real Estate: Getting From Where You Are To Where You Want To Be.

My local market in San Diego County has been on the bleeding edge of all of this, because it's such a desirable place to live, and our housing supply is probably the second most constricted in the nation (after Manhattan, and although the City of San Francisco also has a decent claim it covers a much smaller area). Between natural obstacles to growth and zoning codes constricting the building of new housing, I think we've had about all the downwards adjustment we're going to get. If you can't afford to buy a detached house, buy a condominium, townhome, or PUD (indeed, how dead the condo market has been is directly attributable to two factors: Over-conversion of apartments, and the fact that lazy agents were selling people properties they couldn't afford because it was easy), or think seriously about moving out of town, because with the number of people who want to live here, it's only the current meltdown in lending that's causing the hiccup in prices (and what effect do you think over-conversion of rentals will have on the rental market?). With local housing demand trends going the way they are going, even the prices at the peak of the bubble are going to look pathetically cheap in a few years, and that's pretty much the facts of the matter, albeit perhaps not so strongly where there's still room and the building codes to allow growth People are able to qualify here locally. Right now, the only thing preventing them is irrational Fear and Greed, exactly opposite to but caused by exactly the same psychological factors I wrote about in February 2006, back when everybody else thought the market was still going gangbusters, and updated here. But psychological fear and greed are difficult to maintain. People have figured out, en masse, that the economic basis is there to support the sales that are happening. Actually, the economic basis is more than there to support current prices - We've seen a definite increase in sales prices already. Buy something you can really afford, and be ready to see it increase in value.

If you buy something you can really afford, the moderate increases in value I expect to see will leverage your money favorably, such that you will be better able to afford something more expensive, more quickly, than if you saved your money, even if you invested those savings in the stock market. Even if you never move up, the fact that you have fixed your costs of housing now means that if you can afford those costs now, you will be even better able to afford those costs in the future, assuming inflation and all of those other economic factors we've gotten accustomed to these last fifty years. Homes are not going to continue at today's prices any more than candy bars are still ten cents, or that you're going to be happy working for today's wages thirty years from now. What's going on right now is still an opportunity for buyers, and an opportunity for those who would like to be able to continue to afford to live here for the rest of their lives. If you decide to wait until future events prove me right, that's your prerogative, but neither I nor anyone else will be able to bring the market back to today's state. The moving finger writes and moves on.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

Real Estate information is asymmetrical. One of the central facts of real estate transactions is that the seller always knows more than the buyer. They've lived in the property for years, and had to deal with any defects first hand. Even if it was rented out, the chances are that the tenants contacted them over every defect those tenants encountered. It's not like tenants are noted for their desire to spend more money on behalf of someone else. The vast majority of the time, that seller could quote you chapter, verse, and receipt number for every repair they've had done, tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the time the tenant called them at 3AM to take a plunger to the toilet, or about the time the water heater exploded while they were on vacation and they came back to a property filled with water up to the window line on the second story. Water bills, stucco cracks, the cracked slab that was revealed the last time the floor covering was replaced. The question is: Will they?

The law is clear. The owners are required to inform prospective purchasers of any known issues, or for that matter, issues that they reasonably should have known, that a reasonable person might consider in their decision of whether or not to purchase that property, and by obvious (and well precedented) extension, on whether or not to purchase it for a particular price. Failure to do so can make you liable for the entire purchase price, repairs, legal fees, and even damages. Please, consult with a lawyer as to your responsibilities. I'll bet you a nickel, in advance, they advise you to disclose whatever issues with the property there may be.

There are exceptions. The major one where the sellers really don't know anything is lender owned property. The others may be legal exceptions like inherited property - but I'll bet you Junior knows all about the problems with Mom's property even though he may be legally exempted.

Nonetheless, two factors stop a lot of owners from proper disclosure. Particularly in this market, those owners may be hoping just to get out even, or even simply owe less money in taxes than they might after the lender accepts the short payoff. The old "blood from a turnip" argument. It's one of the maxims of the legal industry never to sue people who are broke. You can get a judgment. What you won't get is the money.

The second factor is that the current owners intend to shield their assets (via homesteading, etcetera), leave the country, or simply hope you're not going to sue due to one of a number of reasons. Mostly, these amount to denial. If you've got to put out $50,000 to get the property into the condition you were led to believe it was in when you bought it, it's worth their while to pay the lawyer and chase you down.

The various inspectors are your friend. Quite often, I encounter resistance from clients about spending the money for the inspection. I make it very plain that I will try my best to spot defects, but I am not a licensed inspector of any kind, and there aren't very many agents who are. I've met exactly one who was, and let's just say that I'll bet significant money that my clients end up happier than his, and expect to win a lot more arguments and disputes with him than I lost. Especially if our respective clients were asked how happy they were five or ten years out.

Admittedly, inspections cost money. However, on the scale of the value of real property, this is money you need to spend. Maybe $400 to make certain that a $500,000 property is basically sound. Look at it this way: Would you spend an extra eighty cents for a third party vouching for quality on a thousand dollar item? Particularly if you can sue them if they're wrong? Say you were looking at a $10,000 used car. Would it be worth $8 to you to have your favorite mechanic tell you what, if anything, was wrong with it? I'll bet every single one of you who drive answered "Yes," and that's even without the liability issue. The point I'm trying to make is that these are equivalent bets. It's just that "$400 is a lot of money." Well, $500,000 is a considerably larger pile of money than $400, and it's no less real if you happen to be borrowing the whole amount. In fact, it's even worse, because if you lose $500,000 cash, all you've lost is $500,000. If you borrow $500,000 and lose it, not only do you have to pay it back, you have to pay interest on it until you do. Not to mention that it's kind of hard to refinance, among other problems.

However, you don't want to be putting out that $400 inspection fee for properties you're not going to buy anyway, because there's something wrong that a knowledgeable agent can spot before it gets that far. Nor do you want to spend it before you've got a fully negotiated contract, especially in the current market, because the fact that you've spent $400 inspecting their property before negotiating a contract can be interpreted by sellers as giving them more power. Furthermore, negotiations post contract are always subject to whether the other side wants to be reasonable about their end of what the inspection reveals. You've already got a deposit in escrow, and my experience has been that it's easier for the owner to break an escrow that's not going anywhere, than it is for the former prospective buyer to force the owner to release their deposit money from that same escrow. You'd really prefer to find out about Vampire properties before you put an offer in.

This is one of the many areas where a good buyer's agent pays for themselves many times over. If they spot the vampire property before you make an offer, that's a minimum of about two weeks and $400 you saved, and it's likely to be a lot more. If you put a $5000 deposit down (and nobody sane accepts offers without a deposit), now you're wondering whether the other side is going to return it, which not only might necessitate hiring a lawyer, but also impact your Loan to Value Ratio until and unless you get it back, and could very well impact your Debt to Income Ratio. Time, money, headaches. All saved because your agent spotted the problem before you put an offer in. There aren't any spaces on the HUD-1 to document them for the government, but they're all real.

So when you're going around looking at properties, it's a lot more important for your agent to look critically at what might be wrong with the property, and compare and contrast it with other similar properties on the market, than it is for them to tell you about how the floor goes so well with the walls, or how gorgeous the view is. Most people really can figure those latter qualities out for themselves, and if they really want input, a good agent is happy to provide it, although most people will only be asking for confirmation that other people feel the same pain in the optic nerve that they do. The real job of a buyer's agent is to consider things other than the transient decorations that are likely going away. Physical situation (including defects!), orientation, and of course, location, location, location. How easy will be to maintain or improve the property's value? What will it be like to live there? What does the future hold for the neighborhood, at least according to current plans? What's the commute like? How's the grocery situation? What about other shopping? City services, how far to common activities? Most importantly for most people with kids, What are the schools and how good are they, really? None of this stuff is part of the standard disclosures from seller to buyer, because the buyers are theoretically just as capable of finding it out as the sellers. Not true in practice, I might add, because the seller has usually been dealing with these and other neighborhood issues the whole time they've owned the property. These and other questions are some of the reasons why good agents can only cover so much area, and why it's a real good idea for even current residents of a neighborhood to find a good agent and use them to help them buy a property.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

I got a search for how one spouse could sign while the other was out of town, and act on their behalf. Since both spouses usually need to sign real estate papers, this is a real concern.

Actually, almost anybody you designate can sign for your real estate transaction, whether or you're available. The usual thing is you're out of town for some reason when closing happens, and so your spouse signs for both of you, themselves in their own right, and you by Power of Attorney. This actually covers all kinds of situations, not just real estate.

It is to be noted that real estate documents can usually be signed anywhere in the United States, so long as there's a notary available. I've had documents sent across the country multiple times. It's only when the principal is out of the country that life becomes difficult, as there's a requirement for the documents to be signed in the United States. The only way I'm aware of to have that done abroad is at an US embassy, where according to international law, the grounds are US territory. The chances of a US embassy having a notary are excellent, as they are employees of the US State Department, after all, and such services are part of the ones they exist to provide, but they're typically on a forty hour week Monday through Friday schedule and their fees are higher than most. I have done one such transaction, and I do have to report significant potential stumbling blocks.

The document required for someone else to sign documents on your behalf is called a Power of Attorney. You must sign it and have it notarized that it was really you that did so. In the case of real estate, it will be recorded along with the document it enabled your representative to sign. In it, you designate one particular person who has the right to undertake an action or group of actions, and they then act on your behalf, as your "attorney" for this matter.

Powers of Attorney can be made for all sorts of things, not just real estate transactions. For instance, pretty much everyone should have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Powers of Attorney can be broad and ongoing or limited to one specific action in a limited range of time. You set this up at the point in time when you execute it. Whatever terms you set up when you signed it are binding, both upon you and the person you designate. Most stationery and office supply stores have ready made ones where you just fill in a few blanks and you're ready to have it notarized. I've seen ones with check marks, but those are dangerous in my opinion, as when a particular check mark was placed on there is a matter for considerable legal dispute. I'm not an attorney, but you don't have to be an attorney to be able to understand the potential problems there.

It is a misconception to believe that this person must always be an actual licensed attorney. In general, they need not be an actual attorney, only a competent adult. I'm sure there are circumstances when being an attorney is necessary, but it is not necessary most of the time. There may be circumstances where you may want a licensed attorney even where it is not legally necessary, but there's a major difference between being legal and being smart.

I've seen not only spouses used, but other relatives, close friends, and professionals such as accountants and attorneys. Note that the person you designate does not have to accept, and does not have to act on your behalf even if they accept. The idea is to get their consent first, and make certain they know your mind in the matters you designate them for.

Extremely important: You really need to trust the person you designate to act in your best interest, as well as to make certain they understand everything they are signing. If they sign something that you would not have, you must honor the contract, as long as it is within the mandate of that power of attorney. Whatever contract they signed on your behalf, you can be legally forced to live up to the terms. Your designate doing something you would not have is a side issue between you and the person you designated. That person with your power of attorney designate's signature on a contract can force you to live up to that contract, which is how it should be. Otherwise, nobody would accept powers of attorney as valid, and they would be regarded as one more way to run a scam. They're not supposed to be a scam at all, it's intended to be a way for one person to do another person's business legitimately. If they weren't as enforceable as the contract you signed yourself, nobody would accept them, and the business would have to await your ability to deal with it in person.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

My aunt is going to move to a new condo and wants to sell her old one. I would like to buy her old condo as an investment and rent it out (as I am already a home-owner). This whole investment/rental buying is all new to me.
She has lived there about 5 years and the value has increased more than double. Obviously I would love to be able to keep her tax base. I am thinking about getting an interest only loan to help me get into this. Can I get a loan for 100% of value? My aunt will need the entire amount to purchase her new place. What suggestions do you have to make the loan process easier and pay the least amount in fees?

It is worth between 360,000 to 390,000 (we haven't yet got an appraisal, this is from comps in area). My wife and I currently have a house in (City) with a value of 650,000 and a mortgage of 400,000. We both work and have some extra income, maybe 400 a month that we could supplement against a renter. I think we could qualify for the loan, but then we would have to refinance our house to cover a down payment and closing costs. We don't have any savings to pull from. My wife hopes to retire in 2 years and I will in about 8 years.


Investment property is a different item from a personal residence, in several particulars. First off, even if it's residential, the loan is a riskier one to the lender. A loan on investment property is going to carry a surcharge of 1.5 to 2 discount points (one discount point is one percent of the final loan amount), over and above any other charges for the rate you choose. Most people in wanting a loan on investment property end up choosing a somewhat higher rate to keep the initial costs down a bit. When I originally wrote this and the general atmosphere was that 100% financing was widely available, I had to continually explain why it wasn't available to investment property. As far as I can tell, there was never any lender that would do a loan on investment property for more than 95 percent of the value, and most of them at this update want the investor to have minimum 20 percent down payment plus closing costs, while I still have a couple financing 95% programs and lots of 90% programs for people buying themselves a place to live.

The good news is that whereas you do not have savings to pay it, you do have a considerable amount of home equity. Depending upon your exact situation, either a "cash out" refinance or just taking out a HELOC (Home Equity Line Of Credit) might be in your best interest. It depends upon your current mortgage and your credit, and I cannot make a recommendation one way or another without looking at the market you're in for current comparables, running your credit, and seeing what can be done. If you've got good credit and income, and have had the good credit and income for some time, it's more likely to be in your best interest to simply take out the HELOC. HELOCs are comparatively low cost, and I have a couple that allow cash out to 80% of value even in this market. Depending upon market changes, If your credit or income has improved of late, it may be in your best interest to refinance, or if you've got an ARM that's about to adjust anyway. Assuming you're "A" paper, you may now be a conforming loan where you would not have been when you took it out.

Cash flow is also an issue with investment properties. If you don't have a tenant, you get zero credit for the rent at initial purchase from A paper. If you do have a potential tenant, with a signed lease for at least one year, the lender will give you a credit of seventy-five percent of the proposed rent towards your cost of owning the home (principal, interest, taxes and insurance). Some subprime lenders used to credit you with ninety percent, but their rates are typically higher in compensation. With the vacancy rate in urban California being about four percent, even ninety percent is a bit low, but the standards are what they are. I know many people who are making money hand over fist on rentals where the bank thinks they are paupers.

Now there is no such thing as an easy documentation investment property. There never was even in the Era of Make Believe Loans. Indeed, for any loan, for all real property you have to show the full breakdown for each property you own. You used to be able state your overall income in most cases (and indeed, most folks with investment property had to do stated income due to the cash flow computations being so restrictive.)

When I originally wrote this, prices in urban California had gotten so high that it was just about impossible to find a single family residence being purchased for rental purposes that "penciled out" with a positive cash flow. As I said in my article Cold Hard Numbers, this was one of the things that convinced me California real estate was overvalued. Well, now investment property often does "pencil out" with a positive cash flow, even by lender standards, even single family residences. Condos have become cash machines again.

But you need to be very certain that you do have that cash flow. When I originally wrote this, you'd have been looking at $360,000 purchase price with a first loan at about 6.75 percent on $288,000, which gives a payment of $1868. Additionally, there's going to be Homeowner's Association dues of probably about $200, and taxes (assuming no Mello Roos) are about $375 per month, or about $200 if you can keep your aunt's tax basis. That sums to $2443 or $2268 if you can keep her tax basis. Now ask yourself how much similar units are renting for? If it's less than $2050 (or $1875 if you can keep the tax basis), your $400 per month isn't going to make up the difference. You might have formerly considered a negative amortization loan in this circumstance, but be advised that you're eating up your investment every month, the real interest rate is actually higher than the 6.75 percent, and prices may go down and not recover for several years, leaving you holding the bag for a big loss. It's a risk some folks are willing to take, others are not. I was always a big non-fan of these loans, but was willing to do them for people in this situation after I explain all the pitfalls (Option ARM and Pick a Pay - Negative Amortization Loansand Negative Amortization Loans - More Unfortunate Details cover most of them). Usually people who have been informed of the pitfalls decide that these loans are not for them, which is one of the reasons why I have always questioned whether the risks have been adequately explained to the forty percent of all local purchases that were at one point being financed by these. At this update, they don't exist any more, but they could come back.

Indeed, given the fact that you're going to have to make payments on the Home Equity Line of Credit as well, I don't see how your $400 per month of extra cash flow is going to stretch to cover. If your credit is decent, I can get you into the property, but that's not exactly doing you a favor if you find it impossible to make the payments. I would advise against this particular property.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

I have been asked by more than one person how to measure desirability of real estate objectively. Fortunately, the Phoenicians did all the hard work for me three thousand years ago when they invented money. Precisely what that measurement unit is varies from country to country, but here in the United States that measurement unit is dollars.

A more desirable property will sell for a higher number of dollars. It's as simple as that.

Consider: The same property, moved to a more desirable neighborhood, will sell for more. This difference is nothing more or less than the premium for living in the more desirable neighborhood than the less desirable one.

A four bedroom property with X square feet will sell for more than a three bedroom property with the exact same number of square feet right next door. This difference is the premium for that fourth bedroom, so that one or two more people in that family now have a private place to retreat to - a private place they don't have to share.

A newer property will sell for a higher price than an older one, a well-maintained property for more than one with significant deferred maintenance, a well laid out property will sell for more than a poorly laid out one. I can go on and on, but the difference in all of these cases is precisely the desirability premium for the good thing as opposed to the not so good one. This difference is - you got it - measured in dollars. If it's worth more money to have the laundry area upstairs, the selling price between two otherwise equivalent properties will reflect that difference. If it's not, then the selling price won't be any different.

(In this case, you can figure the difference is a couple thousand bucks in the case of most two story properties around here.)

The obvious question that occurs to most people right about now is, "Do I get a package deal by holding out for a property with everything I like?" The answer is "not usually." Every desirability factor you add on pulls that much more interest to the property. Large lot? Downstairs bedroom? Great view? One of these or many other factors seen as desirable pulls in a decent amount of interest. Put two together, the interest level more than adds, because you're dealing with people who have to have both as well as those who would be happy with one or the other and the fact that the combined features attract the desire of everyone who can afford them - including those who can more than afford them. Have three or more common desirability factors like "gourmet kitchen" and now everybody who even has a chance at affording it is making a bid, especially in a hot market. This is how Flippers and Fixers make lots of money. A good agent with enough time and who knows how to negotiate can and will play them off against each other. They're going to get a hefty premium for that property, leaving the seller very happy indeed. The usual fight in my mind when I'm listing such a property and evaluating offers is "how much over appraised value is this person willing and able to pay?", because the appraisal can only go, at the very most, 25% higher than recent sales in the area. Especially given the conservative nature of appraisals done under the new HVCC appraisal standards, the offer I'm going to recommend my client accept probably be from the buyer with the most room on the loan to value ratio and a willingness to do without an appraisal contingency. Sure those people over there may have a higher offer, but with just enough cash for the down payment if the appraisal comes in are not going to be able to consummate it. Because the appraisal is not going to come in for the full purchase price in such circumstances - bet on it. You might be pleasantly surprised, but if you plan for it, you won't be scrambling to contact people who made other offers four weeks out when the buyer comes back and says "We can't qualify unless you cut the price." The buyer's ability to add to the down payment (or finance a larger loan if their loan to value ratio is still good enough) is what gets the transaction done in such instances.

How do you use this as a buyer? It's very simple actually - keep your "must have" list firmly in your mind; don't get distracted by beautiful presentation or bells and whistles you don't have to have. Such properties are ripe for bidding wars. If you must get involved in such a bidding war, keep your maximum purchase price in mind and don't offer a penny more. If you haven't got a maximum purchase price engraved upon your soul before you go looking at property, check yourself into an insane asylum immediately.

You can always make the property better once you own it. There won't be a bidding war then - except maybe between contractors who want the job (the low bid isn't necessarily the best there, anymore than the highest offer is necessarily to one to take for sellers). You own the property, and it's difficult to force you to sell against your will. Doesn't matter how much they like it, they can't have it unless you decide the offer is worth taking even though you weren't planning to move again. But if sellers have twenty, forty, eighty offers there has to be a reason to pick your offer - and the reason is that they figure they'll net the most cash out of it. Your offer really has to stand out. If sellers only have one offer, though, there's a lot more room for meaningful negotiation. If there are even two offers, you can expect to get played against the other offer, at least to some degree. I'll admit this has become a lot less common of late - but the good agents still do it, and we've gotten better at it.

Look for solid instead of beautiful. Look for improvable over perfect. Look for clear and reasonable upgrade paths rather than properties that are already highly upgraded. Your pocketbook will thank you. Yes, it's a bit of hassle to upgrade, but the dense, highly desirable areas like San Diego are headed for another period very soon like the one a few years ago, where it didn't matter what faults the property had, the buyers were glad to get into anything. Only unlike before, without unsustainable loans over-heating the market and setting things up for a crash when there's a subsequent reality check, the prices are going to stay that high this time. We're still going to have cycles, but the low point of this one is not something I would expect to ever see again (especially with the way the government has been sabotaging the economy). It took an awful lot of loans that were complete garbage to make this happen. The loan type that was the chief culprit has been essentially regulated out of existence, most of the companies that provided other garbage loans are gone as well, and Wall Street and the global capital markets have learned a lesson about real estate loans that it'll take them a generation to forget. It wasn't that long ago I heard with my own ears buyers express gratitude that they had an accepted purchase contract on crummy little places where their family would be shoehorned into a fraction of the room they needed to be comfortable. Those days are coming back, and they're going to get worse over time.

Things that you're willing to put up with that bother most other folks are good wedges for a deal. Popcorn ceilings, power lines, and too many others to enumerate. You may think popcorn looks tacky, but it's pretty easy to remove in most cases. Many utility companies are in the process of burying their lines. If you bought before and it happens while you own, that's a price boost. Don't take the listing agent's word - do your own research, especially if someone tells you, "That airport's going to close." (there's an Act of Congress that makes it extremely costly to close down most airports. The city or county has to pay the federal government back every dime in revenue they've ever gotten through that land, plus interest). But if the property's situation is likely to improve, or if it's something you can live with regardless of whether it improves, that may be the property for you. Let the other buyers fight to outbid each other over one "absolutely perfect!" property. While they're distracted fighting over that "absolutely perfect" property over there, bidding the price up to something unjustifiable, it's time to grab a real bargain somewhere else.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here


This is one of those things that trips up people to buy a house or refinance it: student loans.

First off, Form 1003, the Federal Uniform Residential Loan Application has the following relevant questions on page 4, among the "deadly thirteen"

a. Are there any outstanding judgments against you?

f. Are you presently delinquent or in default on any Federal debt or any other loan, mortgage, financial obligation, bond, or loan guarantee?

One of the things they don't generally tell people about student loans is that a default of a federally guaranteed student loan stays with you for life, or at least until it is paid off in full. Unlike most defaulted debts, which are a black mark on your credit for 7 to 10 years, this one never goes away. With interest and penalties, the amount owed can be much larger than it was, even at the default point. Bankruptcy doesn't cure this debt. It is basically there forever. So don't default on your student loans. A yes answer on any of these questions turns a slam-dunk loan into a very questionable one. In this case, you can kiss any possibility of actually getting a VA loan or FHA loan funded, and first time buyer programs, which are provided via federal funds, are off limits as well. This includes both the Mortgage Credit Certificate as well as all of the local first time buyer programs. Sometimes a conventional conforming or subprime lender will do a purchase money loan - but refinancing is right out unless you're going to pay the student loan debt as part of escrow. With the federal government now owning Fannie and Freddie, I would anticipate the conventional conforming becoming even more difficult in the future, leaving subprime lending as your only option. Truthfully, it's been quite a while since I had someone in this position, so it might already have happened.

But most folks pretty much figure that if they're in default on student loans, they're not going to get much help from the feds or anyone associated with the feds. They might try to get around it, but they're not really surprised or bitter when they can't.

The thing that jumps out and surprises people is student loans not currently in "payment" status. You're not making payments on them now, so you don't tell the loan officer about them, and he doesn't take them into account in determining your debt to income ratio. Since the loan officer doesn't know about the student loans, they don't take them into account, and they say you qualify for a loan amount that you're not going to qualify for. Actually, this is pretty common even without student loans, but with them, it's practically ubiquitous.

Whether the loan is in payment status or not, it's a known debt. You're going to have to start making payments on it at some point. Sure, you might have a much larger income then, but that's not something you, I, or anyone else can guarantee. So what you're going to be paying in the future, when the loan enters payment status, is something that needs to be taken into account. You need to be able to afford the loan payment as well as all of your other debts, which most pointedly includes student loans.

So it doesn't matter that you're still in school, or the loan is in deferral or forbearance. The real estate lender is going to want to see documentation from the student loan lender as to exactly what that payment is anticipated to be. You might as well ask for it ahead of time, so you have it ready when it's needed. You should want to take it into account in figuring what you're able to afford, as well.

The last of the most common questions has to do with student loan consolidation. Since student loan consolidation usually extends the repayment period as well as fixing the interest rate, consolidating student loans has the effect of boosting what you can afford a portion of the way back up to what you could afford without them. The catch is that consolidation has got to be complete to get this benefit, a process that takes about six weeks. It's not something to try when you're in escrow; it's something you need to have done ahead of time if you want it to make the difference in getting your loan approved.

Most folks want to stretch to the limit to get the most house they possibly can. In fact, quite a few ask if there's any way they can extend what they qualify for. The general answer to that is "Only if interest rates drop or you start making more money that we can document." But in order to know how much you can really afford, you have to know not only the income, but what you're already obligated to pay via student loans as well as other credit payments.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

Got a search for that, and it occurred to me that it is a valid question. The answer is yes.

The degree varies. You can simply contact the bank to make yourself responsible for payment. They are usually happy to do this, although unlike revolving accounts you typically will not receive back credit on your credit score for the entire length of time the trade line has been open. Nonetheless, if the bank reports the mortgage as paid as part of your credit, it can help you increase your credit score, so long as the mortgage actually gets paid on time every month. One 30 day late is plenty to kill any advantage for most folks.

This is typically free. Hey, the bank has already funded the loan - the money is out there and they can't call it back, and another person has volunteered to be responsible for paying it back! This can be used as a way to start rebuilding credit after a bankruptcy or other financial disaster. A friend or family member qualifies for the loan, then adds the person looking to recover to the loan later.

If you want to go one better than that, you can actually modify the deed of trust to make yourself responsible for payment, although it really has no measurable benefit as opposed to simply agreeing to be responsible, and it costs money to notarize and record the modification.

It is entirely possible you'll encounter someone who is thinking only of the bonus they get for referring you to the loan department, or someone in the loan department who wants an easy commission. These folks will want you to go through a full refinance, and tell you that's the only way. To be 100% fair, many lenders don't go out of their way to tell their employees about this. Nevertheless, the lender loses nothing, as you're not taking anyone off, the people who qualified for the loan are still on it. You're only adding someone who, no matter how poor their credit and debt to income ratio may be, nonetheless is a legal adult and might have the money to make or assist in making the payment if something happens to all the other holders. Therefore, the lender can only gain in likelihood of the loan being repaid in full and on time, and that's what's important to them.

Unless you can get a better rate by doing so, I would advise against a full re-qualification for the mortgage just to add someone. It's a lot of hassle and expense for no particular gain. If you want to get me paid, I'm cool with that, but there are better ways to accomplish the gain to your credit at far less expense.

Note that removing someone from a mortgage is an entirely different matter. Before the lender agrees to let someone off the hook, they're going to want a full refinance - appraisal, title insurance, everything. If the people remaining on the loan can qualify on their own, then lender will let the other person (or people) off the hook through the mechanism of an entirely new loan contract. Otherwise, it's not going to happen.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

The negative amortization loan is a very popular loan with certain kinds of real estate agents and loan officers. It has two great virtues as far as they are concerned. First, it has a low payment, and despite the fact that people should never choose a loan - or a house - based upon payment, the fact is that most people do both, and the negative amortization loan enables both sorts to quote a very low payment considering how much money their client is borrowing. Furthermore, because it has this very low minimum payment, it enables these agents and loan officers to persuade people to buy properties that they cannot really afford. When someone says, "I'll buy it if the payment is less that $3000 per month," this brand of agent goes to a loan officer that they know will reach for a negative amortization loan, without explaining this loan's horrific gotcha, or actually, gotcha!s. Instead of someone ethical explaining that the real rate and the real payment are way above $3000, and this is only a temporary thing, they keep their mouth shut and pocket the commission.

This commission is, incidentally, far larger than they would otherwise make, and that's the second advantage to these loans from their point of view. When the pay for doing such a loan is between three and four percent of the loan amount, with most of them clustering around 3.75%, and they can make it appear like someone can afford a much larger loan, that commission check blows the one for the loan and the property that this customer can really afford out of the water. When they can make it appear like someone who really barely qualifies for a $400,000 loan can afford a $775,000 loan, and the commission on the $400,000 loan is at most two percent of the loan amount, that loan officer is making over twenty-nine thousand dollars, as opposed to between four and eight thousand for the sustainable loan, and that real estate agent (assuming a 3% commission per side) is making over twenty-three thousand dollars as a buyer's agent for hosing their client, as opposed to $12,000 for the property the client can really afford. Not to mention that if they were the listing agent as well, not only have they made $46,000 for both sides of the real estate transaction, but they have found a sucker that can be made to look as if they qualify for that property, making their listing client extremely happy - the more so because one of listing agents standard tricks is talking people into upping their offers based upon how little difference it makes on the payment. Ladies and gentlemen, if the property is only worth $X, it's only worth $X, and it doesn't matter a hill of beans that an extra $20,000 only makes a difference of $50 on the minimum payment for an Option ARM, as these loans are also called. Indeed, Option ARM (aka negative amortization) loan sales were behind a lot of the general run-up in prices of the bubble years. By making it appear as if someone could afford a loan amount larger than they really can, this sort of real estate agent and loan officer sowed at least part of the seeds by making people apparently able, and therefore willing, to pay the higher prices because the minimum payment they were quoted fit within their budget. When someone ethical is showing you the two bedroom condo you can really afford, fifteen years old with formica counters and linoleum tile floors, these clowns were showing the same people brand new 2800 square foot detached houses with five bedrooms, granite counters, and travertine or Italian marble floors. Talk about the easy sale! Someone who's not happy about what they can really afford now finds out there's a way they can apparently afford the house of their dreams! For a while, anyway. What happens later isn't so pretty.

So now that the Option ARM has finally been generally discredited by all the damage it has been doing to people, and has become well known, and deservedly so, by the moniker "Nightmare Mortgage," among others, this type of agent and loan officer are jumping for joy and shouting from the rooftops that a couple of professors have done apparently some work showing that "the Option ARM is the optimal mortgage." It was reported in BusinessWeek, which would have reason to celebrate if this defused the mortgage crisis, and therefore the credit and spending crunch that comes with it.

The problem is that the "Option ARM" these professors are talking about has very little in common with the Option ARMs, or more properly, negative amortization loans that are actually sold for residential mortgages. If you read their research, the loans they describe actually look a lot more like commercial lines of credit secured by real property. There really isn't much more in common between the two than the name.

The characteristics the professors describe in their ideal loan include first, it being the lowest actual rate available. This is not currently the case with option ARMs. In fact, since I've been in the business, it has NEVER been the case - or even close to being the case. The nominal rate can't be beat, but the nominal rate is not the actual interest rate you are being charged. Ever since the first time I was approached about one of these by a lender's representative, I have always had loans at lower rates of interest, with that rate fixed for a minimum of five years. Most recently, I've had thirty year fixed rate loans - the paranoid consumer's dream loan, which usually carries a higher interest rate than anything else - at lower real rates of interest than Option ARM. When you're considering the real cost of the loan, it's the interest you're paying that's important. The lender, or the investor behind them, isn't reporting the payment amount as income. They're reporting the cost of interest to the buyer as income, and that's what they're paying taxes on as well. But because people don't know any better than to select loans on the basis of payment, lenders can and do get away with charging higher rates of interest on these. The suckers pay a higher rate of interest than they could otherwise have gotten, and their balances are going up, which means they're effectively borrowing more money all the time, on which they then pay the inflated interest rate that is the real cost of this money. What more could you ask for, from the lenders and investors point of view?

There is a real actuarial risk associated with these loans, as well, which does increase the interest rate that the lenders need to charge. This is that because there is an increased risk that the borrower's balance will eventually reach beyond their ability to pay, a risk which is exacerbated by how these loans are generally marketed and sold, a larger number of borrowers will default than would be the case with other kinds of loans. So these loans aren't all fun and games from the lenders point of view, either - as said lenders have been finding out firsthand for the last several years as these loans go into default. This leads us to the second dissimilarity between these loans as they exist, and the loans said to be optimum by the professors research, and this one is a real problem from the lender's point of view.

You see, the professors' study assumes that the lender can simply foreclose as easily and as quickly as sending out an email. That's not the way it works. First of all, foreclosure takes time, and it costs serious money. The law is set up that way. To quote something I wrote on August 23rd, 2007:

It takes a minimum of just under 200 days for a foreclosure to happen in California, and we're one of the shorter period states. Notice of Default can't happen until the mortgage is a minimum of 120 days late. Once that happens, it cannot be followed by a Notice of Trustee's Sale in fewer than sixty days, and there must be a minimum of 17 days between Notice of Trustee's Sale and Trustee's Sale. Absolute minimum, 197 days, and it's usually more like 240 to 300, and it is very subject to delaying tactics. There are lawyers out there who will tell you if you're going to lose your home anyway, they can keep you in it for a year and a half to two years without you writing a check for a single dollar to the mortgage company. It's stupid and hurts most of their clients worse in the long run, but it also happens. Pay a lawyer $500, and not pay your $4000 per month mortgage. Some people see only the immediate cash consequences, and think it's a good deal.

So that loan is non-performing for a time that starts at just under nine months, and goes up from there. This costs the lenders some serious money - money which they expect to be actuarially compensated for, which is to say, everybody pays a higher rate so that the lender doesn't lose more money on defaults than they make on the higher rate. I checked available rates on loans the afternoon I originally wrote this, and for average credit scores on reasonable assumptions, the closest the Option ARM came to matching the equivalent thirty year fixed rate loan was 80 basis points (8/10ths of a percent), and that wasn't an apples to apples comparison, as the Option ARM had a three year "hard" prepayment penalty, while that thirty year fixed rate loan had none, as well as the Option ARM had the real rate bought down by a full percent by a lender forfeiting sixty percent of the usual commission for the loan to buy the real rate down. How often do you think that's going to happen? Sure, the *bleeping* Option ARM had a minimum payment of about $1011 on a $400,000 loan, as opposed to $2463 for the thirty year fixed rate loan fully amortized, but the real cost of money was $2350 per month, as opposed to $2083 for that thirty year fixed rate loan. The equivalent payment for the Option ARM was, that accomplishes the same thing $2463 does for the thirty year fixed (theoretically paying the loan off in thirty years, providing the underlying rate remains the same), was $2675. Not to mention that the thirty year fixed rate loan has the cost of money locked in for the life of the loan, where that *bleeping* Option ARM can go as high as 9.95%, and the prepayment penalty for that *bleeping* Option ARM starts out at $14,100, and is more likely to go higher than lower for the three years it's in effect. You can't just handwave away $14,100 that the majority of people who accept a prepayment penalty are going to end up paying, for one reason or another. Not in the real world.

Another characteristic of the Option ARM envisioned by the professors is a so-called "soft" prepayment penalty, where no penalty is due if the property is actually sold, rather than refinanced. That's not the case with the vast majority of real-world Option ARMs. With only one exception I'm aware of, they're all "hard" pre-payment penalties, and the one lender who offered the "soft" penalty has discovered it's not a popular alternative, because they had to charge a higher nominal rate in order to make it work. Since the minimum payment was higher, and it wasn't quite so easy to qualify people quite so far beyond their means, that particular lender had been contracting operations, even while the rest of the Option ARM world was going gangbusters. Indeed, their parent company sold that lender in early 2007, over a year before the meltdown got noticeable, because they just weren't getting any profit out of them, and at one point, they had been a very major subprime lender (They were extremely competitive on 2/28s and 3/27s and their forty year variants, as well as versus other subprime lenders on thirty year fixed rate loans). Until I checked their website, I was not certain whether they're even still in business. I haven't heard from my old wholesaler since over a year before I originally wrote this article.

The Option ARM envisioned by the professors lacks the "payment recast" bug present in all current Option ARMs. Indeed, under Option ARMs, it is difficult to avoid this issue, because they recast in five years no matter what. Payment recast is what usually wakes people up to what a raw deal they got and they suddenly see themselves on a road that can only end in default and foreclosure. Furthermore, the professors' assumptions as to the longevity of the loan were open ended - essentially infinite in theory, although no loan given to individuals can be open ended in fact because we're all going to die someday, and most of us are going to want to retire before that, at which point these loans would definitely not be paid down to a point where they're affordable on retirement income under anything like our current system.

One final crock to the whole Option ARM concept as envisioned by the professors seems to be that the borrower gets a reserve amount if ever they default. The obvious retort is "Not in the real world." That is contrary to every practice of lending as it currently exists. That is the very basis of the real estate financing contract - the lender gets every penny they are due, first, and the borrower/purchaser/owner gets everything that's left over. As the authors themselves note, this does create a moral hazard for the lenders. Furthermore, and I must admit I'm not certain I'm reading the relevant passage correctly, another characteristic of the "Option ARM" they propose is that the lender gets primary benefit of any gain in value, and at least under certain circumstances, takes primary risk for any loss. In case you were unaware, this would completely sabotage the benefits of leverage that are the main reason why real estate is a worthwhile investment. This would certainly make the communities that make their living off selling other sorts of investment happy. Lenders, and especially current owners, not so much. Furthermore, I'm pretty certain that if they think about the economic consequences of this, real estate agents and loan officers don't want this to happen, either.

Those aren't all of the differences or relevant caveats, by any means. I took quite a few notes that I didn't go through, but it was past bedtime, and by this point it should be obvious to anyone who took the trouble to read through the above that there really isn't a whole lot in common between the Option ARM as the contracts were written, and how it was marketed and sold, and the loan of the same name as envisioned by the professor's research, except that name. Any claim that said research rehabilitates the Option ARM aka Negative Amortization Loan aka Pick a Pay aka "1% loan" aka (several dozen words of profanity), is based upon nothing more than the similarity in labeling, as if claiming a Chevette was the same thing as a Corvette, because they're both Chevrolets. Someone reading the professors' research would not recognize anything like the loan they are promulgating in any Option ARM that ever was on the market, because those were not based upon any of the same principles.

The negative amortization loan was essentially regulated out of existence in early 2008. There were a very few legitimate uses for it so I was a tiny bit sorry to see it go. However, the vast overwhelming majority of them were sold in order to persuade people to buy a property or take cash out that they could not afford, and millions of people have had their finances utterly ruined for years if not for life. Given these fact, and that alleged professionals proved incapable of using them appropriately as a group, I cannot come up with any kind of reason that justifies reversing the decision to ban them. But that doesn't stop some people who miss the days of easy money by hosing the people who put money in their pockets.

Caveat Emptor

Postscript: Lest I be misunderstood, I had previously come to a lot of the same conclusions that the professors had, although I had never integrated it into a single article, here or anywhere else. A lot of what they conclude, while pretty much theoretical, has some significant real world applications. Indeed, I have said several times in the past that leverage works best when it's maximized, and when you pay as little as possible towards paying off the loan, although that one result has to be modified for real world considerations like mortality, morbidity, and various psychological factors, which the professors mention in passing but do not really address or answer. I think I have some real academic appreciation for the value of Professors Piskorski and Tchistyi's work, and what went into it, and the results they have achieved. I had to dust off some portions of my brain (and mathematical textbooks!) that I haven't used in almost twenty five years, which was a treat of a certain kind once I got into it. Nonetheless, the products that go by the same name in the current world of loans have nothing to do with what these two distinguished gentlemen are talking about. The loan product I'm aware of that comes the closest is, as I said, a line of credit on commercial real estate.

Original article here

"what can a consumer recover from title company for undisclosed easement"

Basically, the cost of the immediate remedy, at least here in California.

Here's a standard example. Mr. and Ms. Smith buy a property and they wish to put a pool in. The purchase process reveals no easements and they take possession of the property and start digging. Three hours later, the contractor hits a four foot water pipe buried six feet deep and cutting right across exactly where the pool needs to be.

With a standard owner's policy of title insurance, the title company will pay for the contractor's bill, including the cost of filling in that hole they dug. There may also be a small settlement made for the decreased utility of the property. After all, you can't really do anything about that easement, now can you? Nor can you build anything that conflicts with the easement holder's right of access. No pool, no granny flat, no game room or detached office, at least on that segment of the property, which, given the size of most recent lots, means not at all.

The title company will not, under the basic policy, purchase the property or make a large settlement. The reason for this is that if the standard policy made them liable for things like frustrated purpose of purchase, the standard policy would be far more expensive. People wouldn't want to purchase policies of title insurance, because they insure against risks which are relatively rare. However, those risks are extremely expensive when they do occur. Who pays for that? The other policyholders, of course. For a lot of people, they think of title insurance as junk when it will save your bacon if there's a real problem with title, and increasing the base price would mean that a lot of people would want to pass. The idea is to keep a policy of title insurance affordable, and still cover what it really has to cover, which is losing a property you thought you owned through action of law.

You can purchase a rider or endorsement for extended title coverage. Furthermore, if certain purposes are critical to your reasons for acquiring the property, you can do additional research, or pay to have it done. It can be expensive, but if you don't want this $500,000 property unless you can build a pool, an office, or a granny flat on it, spending the money is an excellent insurance policy. After all, even if you finance the vast majority of your purchase, you're on the hook for every dollar you spend buying the property. Spending a little extra to insure you're not wasting every dollar of the purchase cost makes sense in such circumstances.

Caveat Emptor

Original here


And I don't know why people expect it to be.

Cancel that. I do know why. Popular media. It's not all that common in popular media, but on those occasions I see someone buying a house in the movies or on TV, it's glossed over in terms that amount to the Fairy Godmother waving her magic wand. Partly, this is because the writers don't understand it, but mostly, it's because that if it's not your house, there isn't the necessary degree of emotional involvement to make it interesting. In short, it's boring, something studio and programming executives understand very well. Even on the real estate channels and shows, it's glossed over in ways as to render it basically into a simple magic spell (to the detriment of those agents who pay attention to those shows, and their clients). To an audience, all this stuff is boring, the cardinal sin in the entertainment industry. They can handle repetitive, they can handle stupid, they can handle insanely dangerous - they can handle pretty much anything except boring. To expect an accurate depiction of something so fundamentally boring to an audience is asking the impossible. When you add in how long it really takes (weeks if you're paying cash, months if you need a loan), how are they going to possibly depict that in a 30 or 60 minute TV program or 90 minute movie? Not to mention the fact they have no desire to because it's boring, and boring programs don't keep the audiences the advertisers pay for. There's no money in showing it accurately - the money for the media is in somehow being able to make it interesting. Even if they have to make up stuff that isn't there - and leave out 99.99% of what is there - to do it. Of course, by then what they show bears no relationship to the actual process.

There is nothing simple about an intelligent, informed decision as to which piece of real estate to buy, or securing any necessary financing. You can choose to do it the easy way, hoping that in your "ignorance is bliss" state of mind nobody takes excessive advantage of you. How many millions of people are in foreclosure right now who had that attitude? I have documented pretty extensively on this site exactly how easy the basic research that allows you to avoid the traps these people fell into is. Unsustainable loans aren't the only problem, though, only the biggest problem we're dealing with en masse right now. All of the individual con games that get played with real estate itself are still there, and nobody's proposing to pass any laws that will have any kind of real effect upon the problem.

Here is the situation: Here is a major asset, worth several years of your family's total income. Comparatively minor differences in perceived value make a major real world difference to how much money the seller walks away with. If that seller can net $10,000 more, that's roughly two months of free income from any regular employment they may have, and around here, a $10,000 difference is pretty trivial - the usual bar for quick turn fixing is at least $50,000, more like $80,000 to $100,000. Just because it's money borrowed from the lender doesn't make it any less real - in fact, it's all the more dangerous for that.

Given the high payoff for extremely minor games, people will play those games. People will lick the bugs off a car for $20. People will cheat on their taxes and risk nasty fines, penalties, and jail time for small amounts of money. 419 scams continue to make millions of dollars off their victims daily. People will bear professional false witness for dirt cheap amounts. 7% of the people surveyed said they'd murder a stranger for $10,000. On that scale, how likely do you think it is that they'll make things appear a little better than they are to net $50,000 extra out of a real estate transaction? With several times the amount at stake that takes 7% of the population to murder you, do you really want to take that risk?

There are friendly, amicable real estate transactions where everything goes easy, everything required is disclosed, the people concerned negotiate like reasonable adults, everybody keeps what is reasonable foremost in their minds and deals with the other people involved on that basis. I wouldn't bet on it happening in any particular transaction. Nor are many transactions something like the picture painted by Churchill's most famous speech, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering." But if you're mentally prepared for trouble and it doesn't happen, you're going to be pleasantly surprised. All too often, people think they're in for the media "magic wand" version, and freak out when they're confronted with reality. I'd like it to be easy, but frankly, if it were I'd be out of the most interesting part of what I do. Nobody would need an agent if it were easy. Those people who do business with me and through me know how often I use the phrase, "If it were easy, anybody could do it." The context is almost always something has come up, and I have to do some work to make it right, but I'm also making the point that that's exactly what I'm paid for. It's an inalienable part of the job. If it were all peaches and cream, the vast majority of all new agents wouldn't quit (or essentially quit), would they? One of the nice staff people down at my local Board of Realtors tells me that significantly more than half the registered agents do zero or one transaction per year. You can't survive on one transaction per year unless it's maybe a ten million dollar property. You can't even keep up with changes on one transaction per year (but nobody can really do fifty or more transactions per year, either - not and guard their clients interests as you're supposed to)

Buying real estate is a fantastically good idea and great investment, as this and this and this being just the major articles directly on point that I can think of off the top of my head. There are also obstacles, I will admit. Hell, I pretty much proclaim it in big bold type and explain many of those issues in detail. Credit issues, debt issues, how difficult it is to save for a down payment. Unless you're eligible for a VA loan, there are no more "zero down" or "no cash required" loans at this time. I do believe they're come back within a dew years years, but it's better to act before the boost in price that their return is going to give the market. The point is this: Nobody can make up your mind to do what is necessary but you. I can and will gladly help with preparation and planning and budget and evaluating property and everything else, but you've got to first be the one to make up your mind that you want the benefits of real estate ownership, and will pay the costs required to get those benefits. Nobody can do it for you. Nor is pretending it's free or easy in your best interest. The buyers who tried to pretend it was all free and easy are pretty much getting smashed between a rock and a hard place right now.

My point is this: You shouldn't expect to buy or sell a half million dollar or more unique asset like real estate in the same fashion you would a loaf of bread or a box of paper clips. Especially not when there are major rewards for making it appear just a little bit better for the other side than it really is. Expecting to do so is an artifact of Hollywood, and it's worse than all of the horrible cliches in all the bad movies and TV shows that have ever been made about most other situations, because the people who get involved in those other situations know (or learn in short order) what a horrible crock of fertilizer it is, while people who get ready to buy real estate generally don't, and have only the one experience to learn. But that one experience often controls their life from that point on - even when they don't understand how, why, or the fact that it is controlling their lives. I don't think I've ever seen anything like an accurate media description of being an Air Traffic Controller or any of the other jobs I've done. I've been witness to or involved with several major news stories in my lifetime. Aside from sports, I don't think I've ever seen any events with which I was familiar accurately reported. The reason for the ability to accurately report sports is shared experience and widespread audience understanding of the key elements through repeated personal involvement, or at least personal observation. Not to mention that people are interested in sports or they just tune out. If you care about Antarctic Rules Underwater Basketweaving, you tune in to the station that reports it, while if it comes on and you're not interested, you pay attention to something else. If you're interested, you understand all the major points of Antarctic Rules Underwater Basketweaving - you've done it or watched it enough that you're familiar with what's important, as should any reporters. But with every real estate transaction, things are different from other real estate transactions. Not only that, if it's not your money, it's boring as hell unless you're at least a pretty decent agent who understands everything going on. But pretty much everyone who hopes for a secure financial future is going to have to buy real estate at least once in their lives. It's going to be a unique experience, and it's not all going to be pleasant. Quite often, it's frustrating as hell, even when it doesn't need to be - but you can't force the other side to be reasonable. Don't expect it to be like Hollywood depictions, and you won't be shocked. Whatever your job is (except show business itself, of course) I'll bet you serious money that Hollywood doesn't portray it correctly either. Why should real estate be any different? But here's one prediction I'll stake serious money on: The more time and effort and often disappointment and frustration you spend going through the buying process, particularly if you've got a good agent working in your best interests, the happier the eventual result will be.

My most spectacular, satisfying results have all come from clients who were difficult, or had difficulties, and kept going to the very happy conclusion. I don't have any objective measurements, but it sure seems like to me those were the ones who ended up happiest with their purchases in the end. The stuff you go through to buy a property is temporary. The benefits you get from having done so are permanent, and usually quite large, as discussed above. Even after you sell such a property, you've got more money than you would have had otherwise, money you can use for whatever is important to you. Real estate doesn't have to be your life to benefit from it - or be ruined by it. Keeping this in mind, doesn't it seem like a good idea not to expect it to be accomplished by a Fairy Godmother waving her magic wand?

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

I have to admit I'm uncomfortable with it and don't like it. As a buyer's agent, here I am getting paid by someone who not only is not my client, but whose interests are aligned, in most issues, opposite to my clients. They want the highest possible price, my client wants the lowest. They want out of the property without spending money on repairs if possible, my client wants the necessary repairs made. The list goes on and on. About the only issue on which the two sides are in agreement is that they want the transaction to happen. Yet it has become essentially universal for the seller to pay the buyer's agent. Indeed, this is basically the only fig leaf protecting Dual Agency. If the money to pay the listing agent came from the buyers, they'd have to ask themselves "whose interest is this agent looking out for?" with the result being that dual agency would die overnight, and if staking dual agency through the heart doesn't appeal to you, you're unlikely to be on the consumer's side. Not to mention the myth of "Discount price, full service" would die just as quickly, on both buyer's and seller's sides of the transaction. There are protections in place to make it both legal and ethical, but getting paid by the seller when I'm acting on behalf of the buyers still makes me profoundly uncomfortable, and that's aside from facilitating these urban legends.

(The buyers are paying the listing agent, but not directly)

That said, let's consider why it happened, what it would take to make it change, and what the cost of that change would be.

The first paragraph makes obvious the benefits if no sellers were to pay buyer's agents - if what the seller paid out in agency fees was reserved solely to the listing agent, usually contingent upon a successful sale. No "Co-operating Broker" percentage. Not to mention the fact that the seller would come away with a larger percentage of the value of their property. Instead of seven to eight percent, the cost of selling the property would fall to between four and five percent. Not paying the buyer's agent sure looks like a win for the sellers, and one would think explaining that it would be part of an agent's fiduciary responsibility to explain, right?

But the reason that it is in any given seller's best interest is almost as obvious. Ask any agent and any loan officer what the number one obstacle to buyers being able to buy a given property is buyer cash. Okay, there are those unethical persons who will tell you that the problem is qualifying people for property beyond their means, but I'm talking about people who want to buy properties they can otherwise afford. Once they get the loan and the property, they will be able to afford the payments - the real payments on a sustainable loan - and keep up the property and all of the other stuff that essentially goes with "happily ever after". The number one constraint upon people wanting to purchase property they really can afford is cash in their pockets (or equivalently, bank account). The cash for the down payment, the closing costs of the loan, and everything else involved. It takes a long time to save that money, over and above the daily expenses of living. Some people find it difficult; others, impossible. Add the buyer's agent commission to that, and that sets the bar of cash they need to save that much higher.

The seller has the built up equity in their property, from the loan they've been paying on and usually, the increase in property value, and if that property commands a higher sales price, this equity is greater, and getting more money is the reason for them being willing to pay the buyer's agent. This willingness means that the pool of potential buyers doesn't need even more cash, which means that more potential buyers are able to afford this property. The more potential buyers able to potentially afford the property, the higher the likely sales price. The greater the economic demand, the higher the price, holding the supply constant, and there is only one such property. In fact, this increase in the sales price is typically much larger than the cash they pay, thus furnishing incentive for the sellers to be willing to pay the buyer's agent as part of paying their own. By shrinking the necessary pool of cash the buyer needs to a smaller percentage of the purchase price, they increase the potential selling price by more than they cash they put out. Furthermore, if everyone else is willing to pay this money and this particular seller isn't, then by making it harder to purchase their property than the competing ones, they shrink their pool of potential buyers, thus costing them more in eventual sales price than they are likely to recover. If my clients have just enough cash for closing costs plus down payment, they're not prospects for that property, because if they had to write the check for the buyer's agent, they fall short. One alternative is to lump the buyer's agent commission into a seller paid allowance for closing costs, but the six percent aggregate limit that most lenders draw in the sand for that can make it a real constraint. Considered on an individual basis, it's better for sellers to simply agree it's their responsibility in the listing agreement, thus removing the money from that allowance.

Indeed, an argument can be made that offering an average or higher incentive (locally, 3% or more) to a buyer's agent is one of the better ways to get the property sold. Not only do many buyer's agents shop that way explicitly, but if they have an exclusive contract that says 3% (as many do, because their clients aren't educated enough to know what a crock exclusive buyer's agency agreements are in the first place, but they'll also willingly trust the chain agent as to what is "standard"). If the Cooperating Broker's percentage is lower than what it shows on the buyer's agency agreement, that buyer will need to come up with more cash to pay their agent, from out of their limited pool of available cash. When that buyer's agent is in a position to demand 3% whatever property their victim buys, even if they didn't find it and weren't involved, that means properties paying less than that aren't contenders for this buyer's business, unless they've got so much available cash that it just isn't a constraint, and that is rare. A better buyer's agent puts a lower number on a nonexclusive contract, and if they get more, that's certainly fine with them, but because they have a non-exclusive contract, they don't get anything if the buyers become disenchanted with them and stop working with them. This gives a buyer's agent with a non-exclusive contract the incentive to find the property that's a real value to the clients as quickly as possible. I care far less about whether I'm getting two or three percent or something in between on a particular property, than I do about finding the property my clients want that's within their budget. My incentive is to make the clients as happy as possible so that I do get paid, because if I don't, I won't. But the buyer's agent with an exclusive contract that pays three percent has a different set of incentives, which is another reason I advise strongly against signing exclusive buyer's agency agreements, and the existence of such creatures is the reason why it may be a good idea for sellers to offer a higher percentage to a buyer's agent. (There is no consumer oriented reason to keep the amount of the Cooperating Broker's compensation secret, and I strongly support making it part of the general public's available information, which it currently is not on my local MLS.)

So sellers offer a commission because it shrinks the percentage of purchase price that buyers need to have, competing for buyer business as well as expanding the pool of possible buyers theoretically able to consider this property, both of which increase the purchase price more than enough to balance the money they spend. If by paying someone three percent, I increase my take by five percent or more, that's money any rational person will spend. The preliminary numbers I've seen indicate that the seller's increased take is about ten percent of gross price, which translates to almost seven percent more money in their pocket if the property is free and clear, and an even larger percentage if it isn't. On a $100,000 property, you spend $3000, get that money back and another $7000 besides - wouldn't you do that? Doesn't happen on every transaction, but those are the statistical averages. It might not be that much in your particular case - but it could as easily be more as less. If the dice were loaded on your behalf like this in Las Vegas, and that the expected value of a $3000 bet was $10,000, most of those reading this would quit their jobs and move there (at least until the casinos went bankrupt). In reality, it's pretty much the reverse: It'll cost you 10% not to put that 3% on the table.

We've seen what a winner this bet is, in the aggregate, and therefore why rational sellers who are allowed the option will opt to do offer a cooperating broker's percentage, which essentially goes to pay the buyer's agent. The economic incentives under the market therefore reduce it to something like one more tragedy of the commons, although unlike the classic example, it doesn't really hurt anyone directly, it just shifts the market price upwards. The only way to change it is therefore to pass a law prohibiting it. Leaving aside the mechanics of such a law and considerations of whether people could find loopholes in such a law (they would), and consider such a law as being proposed. Consider such a theoretical law as perfectly written and trivial to enforce, such that nobody could successfully get around it. I know that this is ridiculous (as should any adult), but let's pretend to believe this fairy tale for just long enough to tear it apart even under ideal circumstances. What happens? Well the market is priced to include the shift upwards in prices that sellers paying buyer's agents causes. It's just a one time shift, but we've already had the up, so now we'd get the down. Obviously, it would further damage current owners who would like to sell, and make prices more affordable to those who want to buy. Okay, so far we have a 1:1 correspondence between who gets helped and who gets hurt, and even, arguably, a $1:$1 ratio in hurt versus help. For every potential buyer who qualifies on the basis of income but no longer has the necessary cash in hand for a down payment, closing costs and a buyer's agent, to boot, we now have someone new qualify who has the money for the down payment, etcetera, and can now qualify on the basis of income. Like I said, direct effects help someone for every person they hurt. Before we leave direct effects, we might ask about how likely people are to vote to harm people who bought into the current system of homeownership based upon the status quo, in order to benefit an equal number of people who aren't - or aren't yet - part of that system at all. That equation doesn't play well very often in the United States.

Now let's consider the indirect effects. You see, people who want to sell and people who want to buy aren't the only ones affected. People who own, but want to hang on to their current properties will also be hurt. When prices fall 10%, everyone with less than 10% equity is suddenly upside-down, with all of the problems that brings. In the current market, the chances of them being able to obtain refinancing are essentially nonexistent. Maybe you're been paying attention to the news recently, maybe you haven't. There's an awful lot of people who want to hang on to their properties right now, and are having a very hard time. Just because I don't think the one proposal that's been made to bail them out directly is a good idea, doesn't mean I want to actively sabotage their efforts. This would flush all but a vanishingly small percentage of them out of their homes and back into rentals - after completely ruining their credit and making it difficult (costly) for them to persuade a landlord to rent to them.

Furthermore, there's a ripple effect across the rest of the loan to value spectrum. People who now have significantly less equity find it harder to refinance, and end up with higher rates, higher cost of money, etcetera. When prices shift downwards by ten percent, someone who had ten percent equity suddenly has none, making their loan much more difficult and costly. Someone who had eighty percent loan to value is now essentially at ninety. Someone who was at seventy is now almost to eighty, and indeed, a a 77 percent loan to value ratio is an eighty percent loan according to all lender guidelines. It's not until you get below sixty-three percent of current value (which becomes seventy once values have shifted downwards), that the differences become small enough to ignore. In a significant number of those cases, this is going to make enough of a difference such that these owners will not be able to refinance even though they need to, or they'll have to accept loans they can't really make the payments on. Whichever is the case, they lose the property. How many people who bought in the last few years have a loan to value ratio below 63%? Not a whole lot, it turns out. Even when value increases would have more than caused that level of equity, they've taken out equity lines to pay for improvements, cashed out for toys, or even in order to put the down payment on more real estate. Maybe they shouldn't have done that. It's not my place to make that kind of judgment. I'm only going to say that they did so having no reason to believe the status quo would change, and intentionally shifting it even further on them is moving the goalposts, and to the extent it causes current homeowners to fall short of their goals of meeting their financial obligations and lose their homes, is vile.

All this leads up to the killer reason: When I first wrote this, according to Statistical Abstract of the United States, residential real estate in the United States was valued at about 25.3 trillion dollars. Let it be devalued by ten percent, and that's 2 trillion, 530 billion dollars in real wealth, just gone. I could freak out enough people just by talking about the thirty billion, or roughly $100 for every man, woman, and child in the United States, but that's only the third decimal place of the loss, in this particular case. Accounting phantom consisting of numbers on paper or not, this is real money, every bit as real as that $100 in your checking account. Every penny that vanishes means that someone doesn't have it to invest in the economy. Whether it's an individual, a corporation, a lender, or what have you, it means that suddenly the last year or so of economic expansion goes poof!. This two and a half trillion dollars vanishing has second and third order consequences, each dislocation causing more troubles further down the line. The global depression of the 1930s had much milder causes, even considered proportionately. You want to know who gets hurt? The little guy and the emerging entrepreneur, who would have been responsible for most of tomorrow's growth. Old Money comes out fine, by and large. The depression was an inconvenience to the Astors and the DuPonts, to be sure, but that inconvenience didn't much effect their personal lifestyle. It economically killed a generation of innovators in addition to causing well documented economic misery among those who were less well off. Rereading this later, let me ask if there is anybody that seriously wants to argue for more of what we've been going through because real estate prices fell?

So now you know why the sellers pay the buyer's agents, you know why it is in the individual seller's best interest that it be so, what it would take to change this, and what the results of such a change would be. I still don't like it, but changing it would cause more damage, and more immediate damage, than allowing the status quo to continue.

Finally, consider this: The only person bringing any money to the table in a real estate transaction is the buyer. Every penny that seller puts out in order to make the transaction happen comes from cash they get from that buyer in one form or another. Either that buyer paid cash, or that buyer took out a loan that compensates that seller with cash. There is no way to alter the fact that the buyer is effectively paying everyone who gets so much as a penny out of the transaction. If the money they pay their own advocate has to go through a third party in order to pass muster with lenders, accountants, lawyers and regulators (and it does, for many excellent reasons rooted in both very basic principles of accounting as well as legal reasons relating to an "arm's length transaction"), then all the ethical issues it causes are something we need to put up with, because putting up with them is better than any possible alternative.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here


This is a warning to those who purchase restricted sale property. I've gotten a couple of calls for refinancing these in the past couple months, and I've never covered this subject.

A restricted sale property is one where the identity of who can buy it and/or at what price they can buy it is restricted. Many local first time buyer programs restrict the conditions under which the property can be sold. The purchaser must be someone who has themselves qualified for their first time buyer program, the purchase price cannot be above the original purchase price plus a certain margin (usually reflecting a given percentage of Average Median Income for a given Metropolitan Statistical Area), or both.

These are by no means the only restricted sale programs. Many academic institutions have such property upon the grounds of their original endowment. There is a covenant which runs with the land that only faculty members or employees of the college or academy are allowed to purchase the property. I'm sure there are business employee restrictions and others.

This is a classic "good news - bad news" situation. At purchase, it's good news (mostly) because you typically get a far lower price than other, equivalent property, meaning you can afford it when you couldn't otherwise. At sale, however, it means you can't sell for a true market price because either the general public is prohibited from buying or the sales price is restricted by the bargain you made in order to purchase.

What this means is that if lenders have to foreclose upon such a property, they are pretty much up the creek. Such a property is unlikely to sell at auction, they can't just hire an agent and put it on MLS. If the property got beat up before the foreclosure (as happens quite often), it may not be something any of those eligible to purchase it are interested in.

Since it's not generally marketable, most lenders don't want to touch restricted sale properties. This means your loan choices are going to be restricted from the day you sign the purchase contract on. You will probably not be able to get a purchase money loan with most financial institutions. You almost certainly won't be able to refinance on favorable terms, even if everyone who bought without such a restriction can.

Typically, there are only one or two financial institutions willing to touch such a property, if any, and only through their own internal loan officers rather than through any brokers they may do business with. What's going on is that the restricted sale entity (usually a municipality or educational institution) has contracted with them to somehow take care of the problem if there is a foreclosure. This usually takes the form of taking over the property themselves and buying out the lender's Note.

For refinances, all of the above applies, even more strongly because one lender already has the indemnity contract; any others that you might have been able to choose between do not. This means your choices are limited to "refinance with that lender or not at all". Not a good situation to be in as regards to getting a good rate for a reasonable cost. Whatever they feel like offering you is what you get. Nor do you get the standard rates everyone else gets from that lender. You're not in the same situation as everyone else. You're in a special program where nobody else can lend to you because your property cannot be sold to the general public. You're almost certainly stuck with that one lender. It's not like you can go somewhere else.

Due to this lack of competition, expect the rates on loans for such properties to be above market average. Some are fairly close, but it seems an average of half to three quarters of a percent higher on the rate is what you're going to pay when you finance such a property. Furthermore, the only ones able to refinance may be the current lender, as nobody else has that indemnity contract from the restricted sale entity. Lender's don't want to take over your property - they want the loan to be repaid. But they must be able to take over your property and sell it on the market for a market price in order to accept your loan. Anything else is a violation of their duty to their stockholders and bondholders, as well as a violation of federal banking regulations. Since they can't do this, it shouldn't surprise anyone that most lenders can't touch a restricted sale property.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

A lot of advice gets given to choose a "top producing" agent. These highly corporate offices may have the name of an individual agent attached to them, but they are in fact transaction mills. They have done pretty well for themselves through the downturn by securing a lot of listings and waiting for something to happen. All they have to do is wait long enough, cut the price enough, and they will eventually get an offer on a property. If yours takes six months to sell, in the meantime they have sold 18 others that finally decided to cut the price enough to move. It's not that they did any work besides "sign in the yard, entry in MLS" to move the property, but their production makes it look like they're good to the consumer who asks the easy question, "How much real estate did you sell?" rather than the more important "How well did you do for your individual clients?"

These agencies did well through the downturn by marketing themselves to lenders for selling property or advertising themselves as "short sale specialists." It's not like they did anything hard. Lender gets tired enough of carrying the property or close to the regulatory triggers for selling a property, they'll start taking ridiculously low offers. And their "short sale specialist" is more in the nature of "throw 100 transactions at the lenders. We'll close some of them." In case you didn't understand me, this is the old "Throw enough mud, and some will stick." Statistics on failed listings are not generally kept, and where they are, they usually excuse the agent for "lender wouldn't approve short sale". Sometimes the lender isn't realistic when they refuse the short sale - but more often it's that these nitwits wouldn't do the real work involved. Nor are there any readily available statistics on how well they did for individuals, rather than how many sales they produced or what dollar volume. The corporate transaction mills want that information buried as deep as possible because they're horrid at achieving what should be their most important goal: serving the customer.

I have had more experience than I would like in dealing with these offices. Let me tell some experiences I've had very recently. I represent far more buyers than sellers, so they're going to be from a buyer's agent prospective:

I got to one property to show it, and the lockbox was open and the key was gone. I called the listing agent's number - just a courtesy call of the sort I'd like to have if this happened to one of my listings. I got their office phone tree instead - and no ability to get a live person on the line. Yes, it was still available, but all I could do was leave a message and hope. Actually, something similar has happened at least six times in the last couple of months: A problem making it difficult to show the property, or something that was a real issue with the property that had happened, and no way to get in touch with a live person to fix it. Once, I got there and the door was standing open and there was no way to lock it without the key that wasn't there, and neither the agent nor their office answered (I called the police switchboard after them). Okay, no problem seeing the property, but the ability to secure it afterwards was completely missing. You want this to happen to your property?

Upon several occasions in the last couple of months, I and my clients have made very good, strong offers - and the response we got was like dropping them into a black hole. In other words, none. I tried calling - phone tree of doom again. Leave messages every day for a week - no callback. I tried emailing several times - no response. I tried another fax asking if they'd gotten the offer - nothing there either. At least two of these properties have since had a closed sale for less than the amount my clients offered, both of them curiously enough with the listing agency representing the buyer as well, resulting in them getting both halves of the commission. Great for those buyers and especially for the agency; not so great for the sellers whose fiduciary duty that agency failed in. I strongly advise against allowing your listing agent to represent the buyer as well, or at least not paying them both halves of the commission when they do. It's a fundamental conflict of interest to have a dual agency situation, disclosed or not. Nonetheless, the real point of this is that all of these agencies were too busy to respond to good, strong offers.

On several occasions, I've been told it was a multiple offer situation. That's fine. But rather than individual negotiation and counter-offers, I and my clients are given the incredibly weak line to "Send your best and highest offer" That is to save the agent and their assistant working time, not to get their client the best deal. To get the best results, you negotiate individually with at least the strongest three to five offers. For the others, who are way below market, the minimum response is a generic counter that tells them where the market for this property really is. Sure, some of them are likely to be low-balling with every intention of walking away if they can't get the property for that offer. But there's always the possibility that they will return a competitive offer if they're given more guidance. An agent who won't or can't spend fifteen minutes generating such a counter is not doing the whole job, let alone the agent who doesn't do individual negotiations. Yeah, the property will likely sell. But not for the best possible price. And it's amazing how many of these lazy agent "best and highest offer" deals fall through, putting the owner right back to square one with sixty days on market - and that sixty days on the time counter means that property will sell for less than it could have.

Short sales are even worse than that. You make an offer for a short sale to corporate agents, and they usually intentionally don't respond. The last four I've made were all intentionally not responded to. Instead they just forward all of the offers to the lender. The black hole situation again, even worse because there's not going to be a response for six to twelve weeks. By that time, those buyers are going to have something else and the offers will be useless. Particularly the good offers. They want a property. You can negotiate with these potential buyers, choose one and give them a reason to stay with your property, or you can throw mud at the wall. Actually, it's more like throwing "no stick" mud at a Teflon wall - because it's not going to stick. Furthermore, the back and forth of negotiations with multiple prospective buyers is highly useful and likely to help result in an acceptance. This makes both the seller and the buyer happy. Yes, the chosen buyer can still walk away in the meantime - but you've still got the contact information on all the others. In other words, you're no worse off by picking one particular offer, and you're likely to be better because there's a much higher probability of that best offer sticking around. Of course, not accepting any particular offer means that the property isn't marked "pending" and it isn't marked "offer accepted pending lender approval of short sale" which means the listing brokerage can still use it to troll for buyer clients and a way to make themselves more money by selling those clients something else. Amazing how and why that that works, isn't it? But the listing agent has the responsibility to do what is best for the clients, not themselves. I think this trick violates the fair and honest dealing duty to those buyers as well, but there isn't any real way to argue it doesn't violate fiduciary responsibility to the listing client.

The point I'm making is that while these corporate agents do sell a lot of real estate, and they certainly make an awful lot of money, they're pathetically bad choices for getting the best possible price, let alone quickest sale, and you can kiss actual good service right off your list. There are equivalent issues on the buyer's agency side as well - agents too busy to show property, poor negotiators, high pressure tactics where they are never appropriate. How can you know the agent isn't too busy to give you enough attention?

Personally, I use a points system. A loan is four points from application to funding, a buyer client is fifteen from when they start looking to close of escrow, a listing is twenty points in preparation for market, ten once the initial work is done and the property actually hits MLS through close of escrow. Negotiating multiple offers is two points per offer while negotiations are in process, and is the only thing that can possibly send me "over the limit" involuntarily. I'm only allowed 100 total points; I don't accept business that would drive me over that total (Yes, I've done 100 loans in one month. But loans have become progressively more complicated since then, especially in the last few months, and it's not fair to prospective clients to pretend otherwise). I'm not claiming there's anything perfect or sacred about my system, and agents with more people working in their unit can certainly handle more business than I can with just a contract loan processor and a shared transaction coordinator, neither of which are allowed to talk to my clients. The point is that I have such a limiting system in place; I can and have told people "I cannot work with you right now because it would mean I cannot devote enough attention to everyone else I'm already working with." I also offer them a choice of referrals or waiting.

Talk to most agents and brokerages about such a system or threshold, and they look at you like you're from another planet. Asking prospective agents and loan officers about whether they have such a system and how it works is a good test. Not that the existence of such a system means they're a great agent, but the absence is a real red flag. They can keep hiring office people all they want, but the office is not where the real work takes place. The real work all involves the agent themselves, and there are only so many hours in the day. And if they try and fob you off on some "associate agent" of theirs (in other words, they take a big cut of what that agent makes in return for feeding them business) consider that "associate agent" as if they were who is going to be responsible for your transaction - because they are. That "big name agent" has already done everything they're likely to when they introduce you to their associate.

What else can consumers do? Call their prospective listing agent and deal with their phone tree as if you were an agent with an offer, or even just an agent calling with a concern about the property. If you can't get through to a live person, that's a problem. If you leave a message and nobody calls you back within one business day at the most; that's grounds enough to remove them consideration totally. Pretend you're an agent, at least until you get someone on the phone. For buyer's agents, it's hard to see evidence of their responsiveness ahead of time, but so long as you limit yourself to non-exclusive buyer's agency contracts, you can fire agents who don't measure up at any time - making it a situation where you literally can't lose. Listing contracts, however, by their nature, need to be exclusive right to sell to get the best results. This means you can give any buyer's agent a chance and lose nothing except a little time; for a listing agent you need to be careful about due diligence ahead of time.

As this article should make very clear, there is a major difference between asking the question "Who sells the most real estate?" and "Who sells real estate for the best possible price, in the quickest time, and deals with issues promptly so I get the best results?" You want to make certain you're asking the right question, because if you ask the wrong question, you get the wrong answer and choose the wrong agent.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here



Hi, Dan!
I just came across your website and you strike me as the type of guy who has answers for our situation:

My husband and I built our home 2.5 years ago. We took out a second mortgage last year which brought us up to financing basically 100% of the value of our home. We owe a total of about $305,000 on the home, and even though it was appraised for around $305-310K. if we sell, we have been told we won't get a price anywhere near that, because it is not in a development.

Do you have any suggestions, comments, opinions...which could help us out. We would really like to relocate closer to my brother out in the DELETED area-but we seem to be stuck right where we are given the circumstances-are we?

Gee, around here custom homes usually command a premium over cookie cutters, other things being equal. Not necessarily a huge premium, but a premium. Especially since they typically don't have homeowner's association, which most people do not want.

Nonetheless, I'm hesitant to second guess the agents on the scene when I have zero personal knowledge of your local market. You basically have four options: Stay where you are, rent it out, default, or sell.

You don't state whether you are having difficulty affording the payments, or whether you've got one sort or another of unsustainable mortgage. If you're not having difficulty affording the payments and you're in a sustainable loan, there's no need to do anything. If you're at or close to 100% financing, and you need to refinance, when I originally wrote this you were looking at right around 6.25%, plus PMI of about 1% until your equity improves. It would have been better if lenders were giving second mortgages above 90% financing, but that's not happening right now. At this update, if your loan is with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac 125% financing is likely available, but those are limited time situations. I'm going to presume that all refinanced, you'd be looking at a balance of $310,000, which may be a little low. Payment worked out to $1909 on a thirty year fixed rate loan, fully amortized, plus PMI of $258 on the traditional program when I originally wrote this. Rates are much lower at this update, but the principle remains the same. Lenders are not loaning above 90% on a property refinance unless they're already on the hook for the loan and it improves your likelihood of being able to repay the loan.

If your income situation is cramped, you may be able to get "interest only" for five years (or longer!) at a slightly higher rate. If you do an interest only loan, that would be a payment of about $1680. although you need to be aware before you do it that it is a calculated risk. I don't know your market, but mine is preparing to recover and I don't see anywhere not recovering within five years. Nonetheless, getting an interest only loan sets up a deadline for doing something again, and your market isn't under your control or anyone else's. Furthermore, I don't think we'll see rates like today's again, so we're really talking "mandatory sale within five years" unless you start making a whole lot more money. I think it's a reasonable bet given that you already own the property, but it remains a gamble.

Another word on the viability of refinancing: It hinges upon your ability to either get an appraisal that covers the amount of the new loan balance, or to come up with the difference in cash. It is possible to refinance more than the value of the property through the temporary Fannie and Freddie programs, but there are several sticking points that could prevent it if someone decides to be uncooperative. If you're looking to refinance because you can't afford your mortgage, refinancing more than the value of the property is unlikely to make it more affordable. It's probably better to consider another option.

You could rent the property out. I don't know what rentals are like in your area, but if you can get enough rent to cover the monthly expenses (mortgage, taxes, insurance, and an allowance for upkeep and management), that becomes a possibility. If you can cover the difference, that's fine, also. Remember, I think the markets are going to do well once they've digested the hairball caused by the speculative practices of buying with unsustainable mortgages and the loan investors get over their institutional paranoia. If you're short $200 per month and in five years you can sell for $50,000 more, that's an investment I'd make. The question, unanswerable by anyone at this point in time, is where your local market will be in five years. $50,000 is about 16% of $310,000. Here in San Diego, I'd have leaped at that - and been wrong, thanks to our marvelous economic overlords in government ruining the economy. In your area, I don't know. In either case, it's a risk, and you need someone who knows more about your market than I do to advise you on the probabilities.

You could just default. I'm not recommending it. It's a bad option, but it is there. If you want to buy, or even rent, after your relocation, your credit will be hosed. I don't know your state law on deficiency judgments, but that's a concern. Under this same heading is deed in lieu of foreclosure, with most of the same problems. The reason people are willing to grant credit is that we're legal adults, and supposedly responsible. If you give them evidence that you're not, you may not pay for it in dollars directly, but you will pay for it, and typically the interest rate is usurious.

Or you could sell, most likely a short payoff assuming what you've been told is correct. It costs money to sell a property, more so in a buyer's market. Figure it'll cost you about 8 percent of whatever the gross sale price is to get the property sold. Using this as the basis for an estimate, even if you sold for $310,000, that'd only net you about $285,000, so you'd be short roughly $25,000. If the lender forgives the difference, you'll likely get a 1099 love note adding it to your taxable income. If they don't, you could be sitting on a deficiency judgment for the difference. I don't know your state's law, but around here, if someone was liable for the difference, I'd suggest saving the legal fees by agreeing to sign a promissory note. If you fight, you're likely to be wasting the money as well as digging yourself in deeper. They're going to win, and they'll almost certainly get to add their legal fees to what you owe. So unless you really like subsidizing the legal profession, if you're in the situation, I'd suggest considering agreeing to pay without a judgment. Talk to a lawyer in your state about what the law says about your situation, of course, as spending the money for a half hour of a lawyer's time is likely to be considerably less than $25,000 plus interest.

If you accept such a promissory note, I actually have no idea what the rate will be, but even if it's 18 percent, you're still talking about owing only about a twelfth of what you do now. I'm not saying it'll be easy, but you can pay it off in a few years, and it's probably cheaper than the costs of defaulting, even though it does hit your debt to income ratio. People choose defaulting and bankruptcy because it's easier now, but when you go through the total costs rather than just the immediate cash, you're likely to come to a different answer.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

pfadvice talks about debunking a money myth and perpetuates one of his own. He took issue with someone refinancing to lower their monthly payment, insisting instead that the term of the loan was all important.

His point is understandable in that because folks tend to buy more house than they can really afford, they also tend to obsess about that monthly payment. The solution to this is simple to describe but it takes someone with more savvy and willpower than most to bring it off: don't buy more house than you can afford.

Actually, there is nothing that is all important, but if I had to pick thing as most important, it would be the tradeoff between interest rate and cost and type of loan. This is always a tradeoff. They're not going to give you a thirty year fixed rate loan a full percent below par for the same price as loan that's adjustable on monthly basis right from the get-go.

This tradeoff varies from lender to lender and also varies over time. Nor is it the same for borrowers with different credit, equity, or income situations, but it is always there. For a given borrower at a given time, any program which you can qualify for will have the rate/cost tradeoff built in. If you want them to pay your closing costs, you're going to have to accept a higher rate than if you're willing to pay two points. It is the relationship between whatever loan you have now, and the loans that are available to you, that determines whether it's a good idea to refinance. Focus on the real cost of the money: The interest rate, which determines what the cost of borrowing the money will really be, and the total upfront cost to get that loan, which breaks down into points and closing costs.

If you have a long history of keeping every mortgage loan you take out five years, ten years, or longer, then perhaps it might make sense for you to take out a thirty year fixed rate loan and pay some points. To illustrate, I'm going to pull a table out of an old article of mine because I'm too lazy to do a new one.



rate
5.625
5.750
5.875
6.000
6.125
6.250
6.375
6.500
6.625
6.750
6.875
7.000
discount/rebate
1.750
1.250
0.625
0.250
-0.250
-0.750
-1.250
-1.500
-2.000
-2.250
-2.500
-3.250
cost
$4725.00
$3375.00
$1687.50
$675.00
-$675.00
-$2025.00
-$3375.00
-$4050.00
-$5400.00
-$6075.00
-$6750.00
-$8775.00


I'm intentionally using an old table, and rates are different now. The point is to examine your current loan in light of what's available to you now, and determine whether there's a loan that's worth the cost of doing. Maybe your equity situation has improved. Maybe your creditworthiness has improved. It's possible that something has deteriorated, and the loans that are available also vary over time with the state of the economy. If you've got a prepayment penalty that hasn't expired, remember to add the cost of getting out of that loan to the cost of your refinance, because it certainly changes the computations by adding a large previously sunk cost to the cost of your new loan. Whatever it is, the loans available to you now will be the total result of all of how all of the factors in the situation have changed.

I'm going to keep the example simple, assuming no prepayment penalties, and the third column is cost of discount points (if positive) or how much money you would have gotten in rebate (if negative), assuming the $270,000 loan I usually use. Add this to normal closing costs of about $3400 to arrive at the cost of your loan, thus:

(I had to break this table into two parts to get it to display correctly)



Rate
5.625
5.75
5.875
6
6.125
6.25
6.375
6.5
6.625
6.75
6.875
7
Points/Rebate
$4,725.00
$3,375.00
$1,687.50
$675.00
($675.00)
($2,025.00)
($3,375.00)
($4,050.00)
($5,400.00)
($6,075.00)
($6,750.00)
($8,775.00)
Total cost
$8,125.00
$6,775.00
$5,087.50
$4,075.00
$2,725.00
$1,375.00
$25.00
($650.00)
($2,000.00)
($2,675.00)
($3,350.00)
($5,375.00)
New Balance
$278,125.00
$276,775.00
$275,087.50
$274,075.00
$272,725.00
$271,375.00
$270,025.00
$270,000.00
$270,000.00
$270,000.00
$270,000.00
$270,000.00
Payment
$1,601.04
$1,615.18
$1,627.25
$1,643.22
$1,657.11
$1,670.90
$1,684.60
$1,706.58
$1,728.84
$1,751.21
$1,773.71
$1,796.32



rate
5.625
5.750
5.875
6.000
6.125
6.250
6.375
6.500
6.625
6.750
6.875
7.000
New Balance
$278,125.00
$276,775.00
$275,087.50
$274,075.00
$272,725.00
$271,375.00
$270,025.00
$270,000.00
$270,000.00
$270,000.00
$270,000.00
$270,000.00
Interest*
$1,303.71
$1,326.21
$1,346.78
$1,370.38
$1,392.03
$1,413.41
$1,434.51
$1,462.50
$1,490.63
$1,518.75
$1,546.88
$1,575.00
$saved/month
$130.80
$108.29
$87.73
$64.13
$42.47
$21.10
$0.00
($27.99)
($56.12)
($84.24)
($112.37)
($140.49)
break even
62.11922112
62.5610196
57.99355825
63.54001705
64.15695892
65.17713862
0
0
0
0
0
0


In the next tables, I've modified the results based upon some real world considerations. Point of fact, it's rare to actually get the rebate (typically, the loan provider will pocket anything above what pays your costs), and so I've zeroed out those costs. You take a higher rate, you're just out the extra monthly interest. The fourth column is your new balance, the fifth is your monthly payment. For the second table, I've duplicated rate and new balance for the first two columns, the third is your first month's interest charge (note that this will decrease in subsequent months), the fourth is how much you save per month by having this rate, and the fifth and final column is how long in months it will take you to recover your closing cost via your interest savings as opposed to the cost of the 6.375% loan, which cost a grand total of $25 (actually, this number will be slightly high, as interest savings will increase slowly, as lower rate loans pay more principal in early years).

However, let's look at it as if your current interest rate is 7 percent. Your monthly cost of interest is $1575, there, so let's see how long it takes to actually come out ahead with these various loans.



Rate
5.625
5.75
5.875
6
6.125
6.25
6.375
6.5
6.625
6.75
6.875
7
Loan Cost
$8,125.00
$6,775.00
$5,087.50
$4,075.00
$2,725.00
$1,375.00
$25.00
$0.00
$0.00
$0.00
$0.00
$0.00
New Loan
$278,125.00
$276,775.00
$275,087.50
$274,075.00
$272,725.00
$271,375.00
$270,025.00
$270,000.00
$270,000.00
$270,000.00
$270,000.00
$270,000.00
Saved/month
$271.29
$248.79
$228.22
$204.63
$182.97
$161.59
$140.49
$112.50
$84.38
$56.25
$28.13
$0.00
Breakeven
29.94960403
27.23218959
22.29233587
19.9144777
14.89346561
8.50926672
0.177945838
0
0
0
0
0

In short, since you're recovering costs quickly, it would make sense for folks with a rate of 7 percent to refinance in this situation, no matter how long they have left on their loan. For $25 total one time cost, they can move their interest rate down to 6.375, saving them $140 plus change per month. It's very hard to make an argument that that's not worthwhile. On the other hand, I would have been somewhat leery of choosing the 5.625% loan, as more than fifty percent of everyone has refinanced or sold within two years. However, if I have a solid history of going five years between refinancing, it makes a certain amount of sense, at least considered in a vacuum. Considered in light of the real world, rates fluctuate up and down. So I tend to believe that if I don't pay very much for my rate, I'm likely to encounter a situation within a few years where I can move to a lower rate for zero, or almost zero, whereas if I paid the $8125 for the 5.625%, rates would really have to fall a lot before I can improve my situation.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that the remaining term of the loan is more important than it is. You now have (assuming you took the 6.375% loan) $140 more per month in your pocket. Your payment will go down by more than that, but you're actually saving $140 per month in interest. It's up to you how you want to spend it. If you want to spend it paying down your loan more quickly, you can do that (providing you don't trigger a prepayment penalty, of course - but the loans I quoted didn't have one). Let's say you were two years into your previous loan. Your monthly payment was $1835.00. If you keep making that payment, you'll be done in 288 months; 48 months or 4 full years earlier than you would have been done under the original loan. So long as you don't trigger a prepayment penalty, you can always pay your loan down faster. Just write the check for the extra dollars and tell the lender that it's extra principal you're paying. I haven't made just the minimum payment since the first time I refinanced.

Many folks focus in on the minimum payment. By doing this, you make the lenders very happy, and likely your credit card companies as well. Not to mention that you are meat on the table for every unethical loan provider out there. It is critical to have a payment that you can afford to make every month, and make on time. But once you have that detail taken care of, look at your interest charges and how long you're likely to keep the loan, not the minimum payment or the term of the loan.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

One of the things I'm seeing more of in MLS listings and developer advertising, among other places, is the phrase "$X in closing cost credit (or "$X in free builder upgrades") given for using preferred lender"

Sounds like a bargain, right? Just use their lender and you get this multi-thousand dollar credit. After all, "All Mortgage Money Comes From The Same Place!" Free money, right?

Well possibly, but not very likely. What most companies are looking to do with this advertising is give people a reason not to shop around. They hope that because most people think that "All Mortgage Money Comes From The Same Place", the average customer will just stay there to apply for a loan. Many builders and conversion companies will throw roadblocks in your way if you try to use another lender. They cannot legally require you to use their loan company (at least not in California), but they can make it exceedingly difficult to go elsewhere. I've been told by builder's representatives on two occasions that I was wasting my time with a loan, because "If they don't use our lender, they won't get the property!" despite already having a signed purchase agreement. Roadblocks take all sorts of turns. They won't let the appraiser in. They won't cooperate with requests for information, without which the other loan is going nowhere. And so on and so forth. By the way, this behavior is illegal under RESPA. They're just betting you won't do what it takes to complain, not to mention that even if you do complain you're still not likely to get the house you wanted - the genesis for all of this.

I should mention that the concept of giving you incentives (metaphorical carrots) instead of metaphorical sticks is legal, ethical, and highly desirable as opposed to the behavior in the previous paragraph. Just remember they've got to pay for those incentives somehow. Builders are not charities. You still want to shop your loan around based upon the bottom line to you.

The builders wouldn't give those incentives to use their lender, or throw roadblocks in your way when they're trying to sell you a property, if they weren't making more money with the loan. Quite often, they're making more money on the loan than they are from the sale. Put you into a loan half a percent or more above market, stick a three year prepayment penalty on it, and voila, anywhere from a 6 percent premium to perhaps 10 percent. To give you a comparison, around here an agent makes 2.5 to 3 percent from a transaction, and I do my loans on a margin that varies from under half a point to a point and a half, depending upon difficulty and size, and discounted from that if I'm also getting an agency commission on a purchase. But the average consumer is distracted by these "free" upgrades or closing costs that they don't realize how badly they've been raked over the coals. If I can get you that $400,000 loan half a percent cheaper and with no prepayment penalty, I'm saving you $2000 per year for certain, and very likely about $12,000 on the prepayment penalty.

Furthermore, on some of the builder's loans I've analyzed, they're getting you a rate that would carry a point and a half retail rebate or more, even without the prepayment penalty. This means on a $400,000 loan at that rate, the lender would be paying you a $6000 incentive to do that loan, more than covering normal closing costs. But this is comparatively rare. Usually, they're earning some or all of the secondary market premium directly. Have no fear, that builder is doing quite well for having loaned you that money.

What can an average person do about this sort of thing? As I've said before, builders often throw roadblocks in the way of outside lenders, and there's not a lot that you or anyone else can do about this fact.

There is a bill in the California legislature that wants to ban developers from being the lender also. This is a "quick fix" that won't fix anything; in fact, it will hurt. They can bring in outside lenders who agree to pay them under the table, or even on out in the open for certain services. Net benefit: Zero. However, this bill would also make it more difficult for buyers to order custom upgrades and finance them into the cost of the purchase, as often happens now and can be highly beneficial to the consumer who goes in with their eyes open. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the developers themselves pushing the ban.

Many people want brand new homes if they can get them. Given the realities about Mello-Roos and how prevalent homeowner's associations are in more recent developments, I'm not certain I understand this. It's one thing to deal with Mrs. Grundy when you're all cheek by jowl in a condominium high rise. It quite another thing to deal with her complaints because you left your garage door open ten minutes longer than the rules say, you want to paint your detached home a couple shades darker or lighter than everyone else, or whatever's got her dander up today.

I do have a trick or two up my sleeve for when I'm a buyer's agent in new developments. It's my job to outmaneuver the selling agents the builder has on staff (who tend to be heavy hitting salesfolk, which is not the same thing as the stronger agent). But they are dependent on some things that change from transaction to transaction, so I can't really describe them in any kind of universal terms. Writing an offer contingent upon an outside loan has its limits. Builders who throw roadblocks have that one wired; they wait for the contingency to expire at which point they've either got your deposit or your loan business as you are so desperate not to lose your deposit you'll do almost anything, particularly since most folks don't understand how much that loan is really likely to cost them.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

I just got a google search where the question asked was "What if the mortgage is recorded in the wrong county?"

I've never actually seen this (and San Diego County, once upon a time, included what is now Riverside, Imperial and San Bernardino counties), but if it's the mortgage on your loan, no big deal. You should get a copy of the recorded trust deed, and the county recorder's stamp should tell you the county it was recorded in. You probably want to record it in your own county, as when the document is scanned in both recorder's stamps will appear, thus making it obvious that these two documents are one and the same. There may be better ways to deal with it. Since the error was (everywhere I've ever worked) your title company's, they should be willing to repair it to eliminate the cloud on your title. If and when you refinance this loan or sell the property, make sure that the Reconveyance is recorded in both counties, and references both recordings.

More dangerous is the issue of what if it's the previous owner's loan that was wrongly recorded. The previous owner is obviously no longer making payments on the property. The lender may or may not have been paid off properly; if they were there may not be any difficulties. It could just disappear into some metaphorical black hole of things that weren't done right and were never corrected, but just don't matter because everybody's happy and nobody does anything to rock the boat. However, unlike black holes in astronomy, things do come back out of these sorts of black holes.

If the previous lender was not paid off correctly, or if they were paid but something causes it to not process correctly, they've got a claim on your property, and because the usual title search that is done is county-based, it won't show up in a regular title search. Let's face it, property in County A usually stays right where it's always been, in County A. There is no reason except error for it to be recorded in County B. Therefore, the title company almost certainly would not catch it when they did a search for documents affecting the property in County A; it would be a rare and lucky title examiner who caught it.

In some states, they still don't use title insurance, merely attorneys examining the state of title. When the previous owner's lender sues you, you're going to have to turn around and sue that attorney who did your title examination for negligence, who is then going to have to turn around and sue whoever recorded the documents wrong. If it's a small attorney's office and they've since gone out of business, best of luck and let me know how it all turns out, but the sharks are going to be circling for years on this one, and the only sure winners are the lawyers.

In most states, however, the concept of title insurance has become de rigeur. Here in California, lenders don't lend the money without a valid policy of title insurance involved.

Let's stop here for a moment and clarify a few things. When we're talking about title insurance, there are, in general, two separate title insurance policies in effect. When you bought the property, you required the previous owner to buy you a policy of title insurance as an assurance that they were the actual owners. By and large, it can only be purchased at the same time you purchase your property. This policy remains in effect as long as you or your heirs own the property. The first Title Company, which became Commonwealth Land Title, was started in 1853, and there are likely insured properties from the 19th century still covered. If you don't know who your title insurance company is, you should. Most places, the company and the order of title insurance are on the grant deed.

The other policy of title insurance is a lender's policy of title insurance. This insures your lender against loss on that particular loan due to title defects, and when the loan is paid off (either because the property is sold, refinanced, or that rare property where the people now own it free and clear), it's over and done with. Let's face it, most people are not going to continue to make payments if they lose the property. If you take out a new loan, your new lender will require a new policy of title insurance. You pay but they are the ones insured by the policy. Their money; they set the terms for lending it out.

To get back to the situation, what happens when you order title insurance is that a searcher and/or an examiner go out and find all of the documents they can find that are relevant to the title of the property. These days, they typically perform an automated search, and sometimes documents are indexed and cross referenced incorrectly and therefore they do not show up when they should. Nonetheless, the title company takes this list of documents and tells you about known issues with the title, and then basically says "We will sell you a policy of title insurance that covers everything else." This document is variously known as a Preliminary Report, PR, or Commitment.

It shouldn't take a genius to figure out why you want a policy of title insurance. Around here, the average single family residence goes for somewhere on the high side of $500,000. You're committing a half million dollars of your money on the representation that Joe Blow owns the property and that if you give him that half a million, he'll give you valid title. I would never consider buying property without an owner's policy of title insurance. Even with the best will in the world and my best friend whose family has owned it since the stone age, all kinds of issues really do crop up (Another agent in the office had a client who bought a property via an uninsured transfer - and there was an unrecorded tax lien. Ouch. Say bye-bye to your investment). The lenders are the same way. No lender's policy, no loan.

So what happens when this old mortgage document is uncovered? Well, that's one of the hundreds of thousands of reasons why you have that policy of title insurance. You go to your title company and say, "I have a claim." Since they missed that document in their search, they usually pay off the loan (there are other possibilities). After all, if they hadn't missed it, it would have been taken care of before Joe Blow got paid for the property and split to the Bahamas.

None of this considers the possibility of fraud, among many other possibilities, but those are all beyond the scope of this article.

So when buying, insist that your seller provide you with a policy of title insurance. When selling, it really isn't out of line for your buyer to require it - it shows that you have a serious buyer. Some places may have the buyer purchasing his own policy, but most places that use title insurance, the seller pays for the owner's policy out of the proceeds. Of course, anytime there is a loan done on the property, the lender is going to require you pay for a lender's policy. If the quotes you are given do not include this, be certain to ask why. There really isn't a good reason for not including that quote - they are going to require it, you are going to pay it. Better to know about it ahead of time, don't you think? That way you can make a fair, accurate comparison between the loans you are shopping.

Caveat Emptor

originally here


Goodreads review

"Overview: Mark Jackson's wife, Diane, left him seven years ago, but now she's back, and looking better than ever, claiming a cult that cured her cancer is now trying to kill her. It's bad enough that Mark is instantly falling for Diane all over again, but his real problems begin when he wakes up lovingly entwined with his ex-wife's mummified corpse lying in the bed beside him.

Author Dan Melson's fast-paced, absorbing sci-fi murder mystery is a page-turner as his main protagonist, Mark, is led on a mind-bending journey to find his ex-wife's killer."


48911373_292710291384973_2143772315219918848_n.png

How do I keep my home after filing bankruptcy. The Mortgage company wants to foreclose?

I want to know if there is anyway to keep the home even after filing chapter 7 bankruptcy. I want to know if there is any program that can assist me.

Bankruptcy does not effect your current mortgage. The only thing that will cause you to go into foreclosure is not keeping up your mortgage payments, period.

You don't have to include your mortgage in chapter 7, and it's not usually a good idea to do so if you have significant equity. Leave it out, and you even have a mechanism to restore your credit already in place, while limiting the damage the bankruptcy does. The larger the percentage of your lines of credit you include, the worse the hit is. Furthermore, if you have an open mortgage when your bankruptcy concludes, you're establishing post bankruptcy credit history, the best way to rebuild your credit. The poor folks who have to go get a new credit card get dinged even harder post bankruptcy for each turndown, so that each successive application lowers the probability their next one will be accepted. Positive feedback to a negative end. Vicious cycle.

Talk with a real lawyer in your state to be certain. I'm not a lawyer, and I don't even play one on TV. However, my understanding is that Mortgages are debt secured by a specific asset - the property. Keep up the payments on that (or bring it current if you haven't) and general creditors with unsecured debt cannot touch that asset in most states and most situations. There are exceptions, but owner occupied residential real estate is one of the most protected assets there is. The fact that it is a loan secured by a specific asset can also be used to avoid compromising the mortgage holder's interest.

The upshot is that if you make your payments on the property, and keep them current, quite often it can sail through a bankruptcy untouched. People will often let everything else go to keep making the payments on their mortgage - one of the reasons why mortgage rates are so favorable, compared to unsecured credit. Another issue I should mention is that while A paper does care about non-mortgage late payments, subprime generally doesn't. As long as you keep your mortgage payments current, you can often secure a loan on surprisingly good terms, even though it'll likely have a prepayment penalty. So keep your mortgage current if you can.

None of this is intended to encourage bankruptcy. But if you're heading for bankruptcy anyway, you want to limit the damage. The more lines of credit you can keep intact through the process, the better off you are in general. If you have six open lines of credit and only need to discharge one, that's much better for you than if you have to discharge all six. Your mortgage is the most important of these for restoring future credit and your own personal residence is protected from creditors more strongly than any other asset you may have. If you can keep that one debt current, it's usually making the best of a bad situation to do so, even if you have to let everything else go.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

The answer is yes.

This situation is called a short sale. As with everything else pertaining to real estate, there are potential upsides and downsides. First of all, lenders in short sale situations often demand agents reduce their commission, so the agents are not likely to start from a discounted or low end commission. If it takes $12,000 to break even on a full service transaction, and you have to reduce your pay to make the sale happen, you're going to want more than $12,000 before the reduction. Discounters usually demand their money up front, but discounters aren't selling many properties in this sort of market. Along these same lines, it's a good idea to offer a larger than average commission to the buyer's agent. The average buyer's agent sees a short sale, and they say a transaction that takes twice as long as average, and that they have to accept reduced commission for while handling a whole lot of additional concerns. It makes the loan officer juggle rate locks and possibly submit multiple sets of paperwork. It makes the escrow officer juggle the entire transaction schedule, usually several times. Sometimes, the transaction approval with the seller's lender takes so long that an inspection or appraisal has to be re-done in order to satisfy the buyer's lender. It's tempting to just avoid your property entirely. With short sales, everybody marches to the beat of the seller's lender, which means I (as the buyer's agent or loan officer) have a whole slew of things that can go wrong beyond my ability to control, any of which results in my client ending up unhappy by costing them more money. Unhappy clients are poison to my business, no matter how great the deal they actually got was. Furthermore, I'm a lot more willing to not worry about my pocketbook than many other agents.

The person who drives this whole process, and makes it happen or fails to make it happen, is the listing agent. So if I see anything that tells me that listing agent is a bozo, or doesn't have their act together, I'm going to recommend that my buyer clients pass on the property, and I'm going to tell them precisely why. Pricing, staging, marketing, it's all got to have the fingerprints of a professional. If that listing agent has overpriced the property, if they have allowed the owner to leave excessive clutter, if they're saying things about the property that are not borne out when I go to view the property, I'm going to spell it out to my buyer clients why it's a bad idea to make an offer. I won't even look at "For Sale By Owner" properties trying to execute a short sale. I know, from experience, that I'm wasting my time, and my buyer client's as well. Lender approval of the short sale is not going to happen without an expert who is motivated to get the best possible price. You, as the owner, don't want to turn off either the buyers or their agents. So you want a listing agent that's demonstrably up to the task.

Now just because the lender accepts a short payoff in satisfaction of the debt, doesn't mean that all is forgiven. In some circumstances, they may go so far as to eat the loss entirely. I'm not certain I've ever seen such a case. They may report the loan as being paid satisfactorily to the credit bureaus, avoiding further hits to your credit, but they've just taken a loss. They want to deduct that loss from the earnings, as tax law permits them to do. But in order to do this with the IRS, they pretty much need to send the borrower they forgave a form 1099, reporting income from forgiveness of debt. Since this is taxable income under current law, expect to pay income taxes on the shortfall. The temporary moratorium on that ended at the beginning of 2017.

For those agents who promise that the lender will forgive your debt completely, it really isn't under their control. You're trying to get the lender to forgive many thousands of dollars in money you owe them, plus you want them not to hit you with a debt forgiveness 1099, so they end up paying the taxes as well? Remember that not going through the entire foreclosure process is a benefit to the current owner as well as the lender, and there may be the possibility of a deficiency judgment as well. I'd be extremely skeptical of any promise to get you out of two or all three. If someone comes to me for a short sale, I can promise to try and I might even be able to do it sometimes, but I can't promise to deliver. Nor can anyone else - it's not under our control. That's a cold hard fact.

So even though you're not really paying the listing or buyer's agent directly, as you would be in most normal transactions, you can expect to end up paying the tax upon whatever it is they end up making. After all, $10,000 paid to the listing agent and $10,000 paid the the buyer's agent means $20,000 that didn't go to your lender. As I've said before, that lender is going to want to see real evidence of poverty before they accept the short payoff. Getting short payoffs approved is not about "it's difficult!" or "I don't wanna!", it's about showing that there isn't any way that nets the lender more money. If it looks like they'll lose less if they foreclose, expect the lender to go the foreclosure route. They're not going to accept a short sale just because getting them their money would be uncomfortable for you, financially. You are (or actually, your listing agent is) going to have to persuade them that all of the other alternatives result in them losing more money than approving the short sale.

Agent commissions mean you'll owe more money in taxes, or deficiency judgment (if applicable) than without an agent, but that's only considered in isolation. If they convince a buyer's agent to show it to their client, if that results in a client being willing to make a larger offer, or an earlier one, if they negotiate the offering price upwards, and most especially if they get the lender to quickly approve a short payoff rather than dragging it out, or going through that whole dismal foreclosure process, all of these mean you ended up owing less money than you would have without that agent - precisely analogous to any number of research studies and studies that show that people who pay full service agents end up with more money in their pocket, even after paying the agent. It's very easy to look at the HUD-1 and ask yourself what an agent could possibly have done that's worth 3 percent of the sales price. There's no way to show or track, on an individual sale basis, the added value that the agent brought to the transaction. Those numbers just don't show up on the individual HUD-1, because there's nothing that documents them. On the other hand, they've been documented any number of times in the aggregate. The bottom line is that if the lender ends up losing less money, you end up with less in the way of potential tax liabilities, less in the way of judgments against you, and less damage to your long term financial picture, not to mention that the lender comes away better and the agent gets paid. If that's not the perfect picture of win-win-win, what is?

One last thing before I close: this presumes you have some reason why you need to sell the property. The loan market being what it is and my local market being what it is, I am straightforwardly advising people not to list their property for sale if they have a viable alternative. It may be a great time to buy, but it is a rotten time to sell. If you can afford the payments, if you don't need out from under the mortgage as quickly as possible - in short, if your situation is sustainable - there's no need to do anything, and you'll be able to sell on better terms when there aren't forty sellers per qualified buyer in the market. But sellers will still come out better if they can wait a while before selling. For buyers, property prices are not going to get any cheaper.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

Every so often, I write about professional responsibility.

Every month I get a couple of magazines because I'm a Realtor. There was a letter from someone who was proud of the fact that he had never asked someone if they could afford the property, despite having been in the business for decades. Essentially, this reduces to, "I'm in this for the commission check, and what happens after that is none of my business."

Contrast this with investing in the stock and bond markets, where the SEC and NASD have mandated an entire slew of regulations and practices. Before any financial licensee accepts your money for investment, he or she is obligated to ask enough questions about your situation to have a reasonable basis to believe the investment they recommend is appropriate. A large proportion of financial licensees breach this, but the requirements are there, and upon those occasions where the investment turns out not to have been so well advised, they are both civilly and criminally liable. They are supposed to question you about reserves, and a will, and life insurance. Occupation, income, necessary expenses. They're supposed to encourage disability insurance and long term care insurance, where appropriate. The list of questions goes on and on, and if the questions don't get asked, those advisers who fail to ask are going to hear about it. The penalties start with fines that are larger than whatever loss the client may have taken, and include permanent loss of license, jail time, and being a convicted felon for the rest of your life. Among the regulations is a very stiff requirement that the money being invested cannot be borrowed except under strictly circumscribed situations (Margin accounts being the only example I'm aware of).

The idea that you can encourage someone to make a half million dollar investment with borrowed money, get paid thousands to tens of thousands of dollars for it, and have less responsibility than the guy who makes $1.25 signing someone up for mutual funds with $100 they saved out of their pay this month, is preposterous. It's wishful thinking, and lying to the The Guy In The Glass. It is completely unacceptable if those in my profession want to be treated as anything other than snake oil salespersons. Every time someone makes an easy property sale, or an easy loan sale, without ascertaining that they are, in fact, putting the person into a better situation, the fall-out down the line hurts every single one of us in the profession. In fact, the prevalence of discount 'solutions' in real estate can largely be attributed to those unethical members of the profession who have failed to take the real interests of the consumer into account. When someone figures that they likely won't get the sort of real advantages that accrue from using someone knowledgeable and ethical anyway, they don't see themselves as having given up anything when they go the cheaper route.

The absolute worst case from someone investing $1000 in mutual funds is they lose that $1000, which hurts their ego and their pocketbook, but if they had to have that money to live on, they shouldn't have invested it, and the person who solicited that investment will need to answer to the SEC, the NASD, and the criminal prosecutors for their area. As many people found out the hard way in the last ten years, that isn't close to the worst case for someone put into a property they couldn't afford. Those people are finding themselves with their credit ruined, owing thousands of dollars in taxes, and in some cases homeless without anyone willing to rent to them. Life savings may have been completely depleted in a vain attempt to keep the property, and in many cases, there are deficiency judgments against them. In some cases, where a Realtor or loan officer had to exaggerate income in order to qualify them for the loan, they may even face criminal prosecution for fraud. It's like the difference between having your TV stolen, and having your life ruined.

Thirty years or so in the past, the listing services were reserved to Realtors, and so if you wanted access to MLS, you had to hire a Realtor. These days, due to restraint of trade suits, that's not the case. Not only are those days gone, they're not coming back (and that's a good thing, in my opinion). If all you are is MLS access and transaction facilitator, prospects are correct to pass you by in favor of the discount options that accomplish those same services far more cheaply. Every time some Realtor pleads that they're only a transaction coordinator, everyone who hears about that is driven straight into the office of the discount service providers. It's only by being more than that, and being willing to stand up in court and say that you're responsible for more than that, that you earn the full service commission. Most lawyers and all of the big chains tell their member agents not to be present for the inspection. My question is, "If you're claiming to provide knowledge or experience that the average person does not have, how can that possibly be anything other than gross and intentional negligence?" I'm there with a notepad, every time - lawyers be damned. As I have said, I'm perfectly willing to do discounter work for discounter pay - I make more money, more quickly, by limiting my responsibility and involvement to running the paperwork, even if I only make half or less of a full service commission. I never try to "upsell" those people who want discounter service on the full service package. Truth be told, it's easy for someone is used to providing full service to provide better discount service than the discounters. But if you want a client to happily pay a full service commission, you've got to convince them you've earned that money, by providing something real that they would not otherwise have.

One of the most basic of those services is as a check of their ability to afford the property. This is a major psychological stumbling block for a lot of property purchasers. Many very qualified buyers don't understand that they are qualified. Part of this is simple anxiety, part of it is so many loan officers telling people what difficult loans they are to discourage them shopping around to different providers. If you're willing to go over the numbers and tell them what kind of property they can and cannot afford, many people may buy who otherwise would not trust their ability to afford the property. If they tell me to butt out when I ask, that's their prerogative - I tried to do my duty and they absolved me of that portion of it. It's not acceptable if they want me to do the loan (a loan officer has to have the information to do the loan), but I can't force anyone to do their loan with me. Nonetheless, even the most jealous guardian of personal information will concede it was a professional necessity for me to ask. What actually reassures a lot of people, particularly in this market environment, about what they can afford is being told what they cannot afford - information I cover with everyone who'll let me. This information has lost me more than one prospect, but it reassures and solidifies the commitments of most.

If you cannot agree to find them something they want within a certain budget - purchase price budget, not monthly payment - you need to sit down and have a frank discussion about where the market is, and what their budget will actually buy. If their budget won't stretch to what they want, where they want to live, it's part of earning that full service commission to inform them of that fact. If they're going to have to settle for a fixer, a lesser property, or whatever in order to live within that budget, well, managing client expectations is part of every job that has clients. Unless you're personally going to extend them a loan they can really afford in order to buy the property, this means working within what they can afford with sustainable loans at current market rates that they can actually qualify for, and explaining what they can afford if their eyes are bigger than their wallet. If I ask and they tell me that they don't want to share the information with me, it's a free country and that is their right. It may be hurting themselves by dismantling one of the checkpoints which is there to keep them out of trouble, but it remains their right. I'm fine with them refusing because it means I don't have to do some of the work I have to do for other clients, and have less legal responsibility, to boot. It still doesn't completely absolve me - I've still got to pay attention to any other clues that may be present - but it greatly lessens what I'm responsible for. Failure to ask about their budget and financial situation is prima facie evidence of gross negligence.

Putting clients into property you know they cannot afford, or can afford only with the aid of temporary and unsustainable financing arrangements, is a violation of fiduciary duty, and willful ignorance is not an excuse. If you don't want to be responsible to a client's best interest, find another line of work, like cell phone sales, where you'll fit in just fine.

As far as being a loan officer goes, when I originally wrote this, the question was rarely "Can I get this loan through?" Much more often, it was "Should I? Am I really helping these people if I do this?" Not to mention whether or not I'm likely to end up buying the loan back from the lender. It doesn't benefit me to get a $1500 check if I were to end up paying out potentially $400,000 for a loan that went bad, any more than it benefits the client to be put into a loan where they can afford the payments now, but sure as gravity they won't be able to two or three years down the line. That has, obviously, changed somewhat, but less than you'd think.

You cannot provide service or expertise, and be compensated for it, without the associated liability. I'm not a lawyer, but that's my understanding of the law in a nutshell. Morally and ethically, there is no doubt whatsoever. Your choice as a realtor or loan officer is clear: You can try and duck out, sabotaging your business, your career, and your profession as a whole, or you can stand up and say in a loud clear voice that you are worthy of every penny of what you make, because you accept the challenge of that responsibility. Our profession is better off without the former sort, and they are unworthy of our protection. We should gladly cooperate in hounding those sorts out of the business. Not only is the profession better off without them, we'll be better off without them. On the other hand, there's room for as many of the latter sort as want to practice real estate.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

My answer is yes.

National Association of Realtors is very proud of their sponsorship of legislation to keep lenders out of the business of real estate. They quote the legislation keeping banks out of the real estate business as being one of the reasons they're worthy of our dues money. They quote all kinds of justification, centering on the fact that they fear that the banks would "drive all the independents" out of business.

Folks, the vast majority of market share goes to a few big chains. You've heard the names. You know who they are. One belongs to one of the world's biggest financial corporations. Four of them, that most people think of as being competitors, are nothing more than different brands owned by the same company. On that scale, independents like the one I work for - thousands of brokerages nationwide, some of them in multiple locations - account for a grand total of about fifteen percent of market share, last I checked. The big national chains get the rest. They're just as corporate as the lenders, and they're anxious to protect their turf from the one group of potential competitors who have some kind of understanding of the business and otherwise low barriers to entry.

In fact, the lenders would compete primarily with the chains. Corporate marketing channels all look remarkably similar, and reach pretty much the same audience. Sure, lenders would probably take some transactions I'd otherwise get, but most of what they'd be getting would be feeding off fellow corporations. If you're the sort of idiot who believes that Major Chain Real Estate is better because you've had their television commercials tell you so, you're also part of the lender's target market.

Now, let me ask about the interests of the consumer, which are supposedly paramount. Our current system amounts to an oligopoly, controlled in fact by fewer than ten chains who can easily control the market (even if you buy the hokum that different brands owned by the same people make their own decisions, which I don't), and practices of everyone, based upon what is in the best interest of those chains. How many lenders are there? I know I've done business with dozens, and even if the current meltdown ends up shaking them out to the point that there are only a couple dozen holding corporations, that's still expanding the choices of this sort of consumer by a factor of three or more. Furthermore, because there are more corporations in the power circle, it becomes easier to get one (or a few) to break ranks, and harder to get all of them to agree to protect each other.

Let us ask about real estate which has become owned by the lender. Why should lenders lack an ability shared by every other citizen, resident, illegal alien, and even people who have never set foot in the country - the ability to sell their own property? There's no requirement for anyone else to use an agent. It may be smart to use an agent, but everyone else has the legal right to go it on their own. Why not lenders?

I'll tell you why. Because not only would lenders being able to get into the business threaten the interests of the major chains that control most real estate, but this requires lenders to pay those same firms money if they want to get the property from their bad loans sold - and they need to get the property sold.

I have to admit, I'm not exactly eager to compete with even more big corporations with huge advertising budgets. It remains the right thing to do. Right for the industry, and right for the consumers. As I've said many times before, rent-seeking is repugnant, and that's what NAR is doing - seeking rent from lenders who are not permitted to be in the business themselves.

Mortgage brokers have been competing successfully with lenders for decades, to the benefit of consumers. There's no reason real estate brokerages can't.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

Copyright 2005-2020 Dan Melson All Rights Reserved

Search my sites or the web!
 
Web www.searchlightcrusade.net
www.danmelson.com


The Book on Mortgages Everyone Should Have
What Consumers Need To Know About Mortgages
What Consumers Need To Know About Mortgages Cover

The Book on Buying Real Estate Everyone Should Have
What Consumers Need To Know About Buying Real Estate
What Consumers Need To Know About Buying Real Estate Cover

Buy My Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels!
Dan Melson Amazon Author Page
Dan Melson Author Page Books2Read

The Man From Empire
Man From Empire Cover
Man From Empire Books2Read link

A Guardian From Earth
Guardian From Earth Cover
Guardian From Earth Books2Read link

Empire and Earth
Empire and Earth Cover
Empire and Earth Books2Read link

Working The Trenches
Working The Trenches Cover
Working the Trenches Books2Read link

Rediscovery 4 novel set
Rediscovery set cover
Rediscovery 4 novel set Books2Read link

Preparing The Ground
Preparing the Ground Cover
Preparing the Ground Books2Read link

Building the People
Building the People Cover
Building the People Books2Read link
Setting The Board

Setting The Board Cover

Setting The Board Books2Read link

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 Monad Trap
Monad Trap Cover
The Monad Trap Books2Read link

The Gates To Faerie
Gates To Faerie cover
The Gates To Faerie Books2Read link
**********


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
Professional Contact Information

Questions regarding this website:
Contact me!
dm (at) searchlight crusade (dot) net

(Eliminate the spaces and change parentheticals to the symbols, of course)

Essay Requests

Yes, I do topic requests and questions!

If you don't see an answer to your question, please consider asking me via email. I'll bet money you're not the only one who wants to know!

Requests for reprint rights, same email: dm (at) searchlight crusade (dot) net!
-----------------
Learn something that will save you money?
Want to motivate me to write more articles?
Just want to say "Thank You"?

Aggregators

Add this site to Technorati Favorites
Blogroll Me!
Subscribe with Bloglines



Powered by FeedBlitz


Most Recent Posts
Subscribe to Searchlight Crusade
http://www.wikio.com

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2020 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2020 is the previous archive.

May 2020 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

-----------------
Advertisement
-----------------

My Links