Tag Archives: appraisal

A Fixer-Upper Purchase Strategy

A Fixer-Upper Purchase Strategy

You are attracted to a house that is perfectly located but it just came out of foreclosure and needs a lot of work to make it habitable. To swing the deal, you need to finance both the purchase and the required repairs. How do you do that?

Getting the mortgage required to purchase a house is only one of the challenges facing the buyer when the house needs work. The second challenge is finding a way to finance the needed repairs. The standard purchase mortgage doesn’t do that because it is based on the lower of sale price or the appraised value of the home in its current condition.

An obvious solution is a second mortgage, but they are not available in the current market except where the first mortgage is too small to do the buyer any good. Second mortgage lenders are still smarting from the steep losses they suffered on second mortgages written during the go-go years leading up to the financial crisis. An unsecured personal loan would be extremely costly if it were available at all.

The solution to this problem is a mortgage on which the loan amount is based on the value of the property after needed repairs have been made. Then one mortgage would cover both a purchase and the repairs needed to make the house habitable. This is future value financing, and it is available through a special FHA program termed “203(k).” This program is available to both home purchasers and existing homeowners who want to rehabilitate their properties in conjunction with a refinance.

The Section 203(k) program is complicated because FHA as the risk bearer has to make sure that the future value of the property upon which the mortgage amount is based actually materializes. To protect itself, FHA requires an appraisal of the property’s value after completion of the planned rehabilitation, in addition to an appraisal of the property “as is.”

Further, before the mortgage is insured, the lender must create a rehabilitation escrow account that contains the money allocated for expenses. FHA has procedures in place to assure that draws against this account are properly disbursed and accounted for, and that the rehabilitation work is completed.

Lenders are encouraged to participate in 203(k)s by the insurance against loss provided by FHA. However, 203(k)s are more complicated and involve more paperwork than the mainstream FHA program, and participating lenders use specially trained staff. As a result, many lenders don’t offer 203(k)s. Lenders that do offer them charge a rate above that on standard FHAs — figure on paying about 0.25 percent more.

The borrower looking for future value financing must deal with multiple players. In a typical case, the real estate agent who shows a potential buyer a house in need of work will recommend a lender who will pre-approve the borrower for a 203(k). The preapproval is based on estimates of sale price and repair costs. The sale price estimate is provided by an appraiser selected by the lender who values the property on both an as-is and after-repairs basis. The repair cost is provided by a licensed general contractor who is usually recommended by the lender.

In addition, if the repair costs are more than $35,000, FHA requires the borrower to retain a HUD-approved consultant to help manage the process. Among other things, the consultant prepares the required architectural exhibits, and monitors the improvements at each stage. HUD provides a list of consultants and sets their fee schedule, but does not warrant their performance. Lenders will usually recommend consultants that they have worked with, and this is one case where a lender referral is likely to serve the borrower well. The consultant’s fee can be included in the mortgage.

Increased use of 203(k) in the next few years is expected. Millions of homes emerging from the foreclosure process will enter the market, and many of them have been neglected and need work.

Jack Guttentag is professor of finance emeritus at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Low Rates, High Obstacles to Refinancing Mortgage

As interest rates have slid over the past couple of years, Gabriel Bousbib of Englewood, N.J., refinanced his 15-year mortgage not once, but twice-cutting his interest rate in two steps from about 4.6 percent to 3.375 percent.

He’s one of a number of homeowners who refinanced just a year or two ago, but decided it was worth considering again as mortgage rates hit record lows-now averaging around 4 percent for a 30-year loan.

refinancing your home“When you’re quoting rates in the high 3s, people are saying, ‘It’s worth it to me,'” says Steve Hoogerhyde, executive vice president at Clifton Savings Bank.

“My monthly savings are going down a few hundred dollars; it adds up over 15 years,” said Bousbib, a financial services executive. “And if rates keep going down, I would refinance again.”

Refinance applications have more than doubled over the past year, though they’re not as high as in previous refinancing booms because it’s harder to qualify in the current atmosphere of tighter credit standards, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. With the volume of home purchases still low, refinancing accounts for about 80 percent of recent activity.

Although the old guideline used to be that you should consider refinancing only when rates drop at least 2 percentage points, the new wisdom is that it can be worthwhile even with smaller drops.

“For most people, if you can shave three-quarters of a percentage point off your interest rate, it’s worth looking at,” says Greg McBride, an analyst with Bankrate.com, a personal finance website.

For homeowners who plan to stick with the same loan term and want to lower their monthly payments, the math is straightforward. Find out how much it will cost to refinance, figure out how much you’ll save each month and then how long it will take to break even. If you can save enough to offset the refinancing costs within a year or two-or even longer if you expect to stay in the house for a number of years-it’s worth considering.

Though low-interest rates are eye-poppingly low, the refinancing climate has changed from the easy-money days of five years ago. Generally, to get the best rates, homeowners need a 740 FICO credit score, well above the median score of 711. They also usually need at least 10 to 20 percent equity in the property. A recent expansion in the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program should allow refinancing this year by more so-called underwater borrowers – those who owe more than their homes are worth.

Lenders are also demanding much more documentation – including pay stubs, tax returns and bank statements – than they did five years ago, at the insistence of government regulators as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which buy mortgages from lenders.

“You have to have a taste for doing paperwork,” says Keith Gumbinger of HSH Associates, a Pompton Plains, N.J., company that tracks mortgage data. “You’re going to be asked for lots of documents. No one loves the process to begin with, and in today’s environment, it’s even less palatable.”

These stricter requirements are simply a return to the kind of underwriting standards that prevailed before lending standards slackened a few years back, leading to the housing bust and foreclosure crisis, McBride says.

“We’re in this mess because money was too easy to get,” he says.

Refinancing costs roughly $3,000, according to several mortgage companies. That covers costs like an appraisal, title insurance, application fees, attorney’s fees and recording the mortgage. Some lenders also offer low- or no-cost options, which they can do by either adding the closing costs to the mortgage amount or charging a slightly higher interest rate.

Bousbib, for example, took a no-cost refinance with Equity Now, a New York-based lender that also lends in New Jersey. “It didn’t cost me a penny,” he says. Equity Now says it charges a slightly higher interest rate on no-cost loans.

Lowering the monthly payment is not the only reason people are refinancing. Many are shifting from a 30-year loan to shorter terms, said Matthew Gratalo of Real Estate Mortgage Network in River Edge, N.J. He has worked with clients in their 40s who hate the thought of carrying a mortgage into retirement.

“They’re looking ahead and saying, ‘I don’t want to pay a mortgage forever; can I get this done in 15 years? Can I be done with this and have it paid off?’ ” Gratalo says.

“Certainly shortening the term makes a lot of sense because you can cut years of mortgage payments,” says Carl Nielsen of Mortgage Master Inc.’s Wayne office.

Nielsen, for example, recently talked to a customer with a $375,000, 30-year mortgage at 4.5 percent. The customer is considering a 20-year mortgage at 3.75 percent. His monthly payments would go from $1,900 to about $2,223, but by shortening the life of the loan, he’ll save more than $150,000 in interest payments.

“That’s kind of a no-brainer,” says Nielsen.

Sources: Greg McBride, Bankrate.com ©2012 The Record (Hackensack, N.J.), Distributed by RISMedia and MCT Information Services.

Cash is king in today’s housing market

In these financially uncertain times in the housing market, all-cash sales are attractive offers to homesellers, but come with a condition–they usually must settle for less. In a typical housing market, if your home receives multiple offers (from prospective cash-carrying and/or those pre-approved for a loan), you will accept the highest bid.  But in this current market, mortgages can be hard to come by, and sellers often will take less in order to have the deal go through. 

The outcome: lowering prices despite fewer listings and rising demand.  According to the Star Tribune’s article below, the increased amount of cash offers is offsetting other postive trends that, if there weren’t these cash offers, should lead to higher prices.

All-cash offers in today's real estate marketThis all-cash trend is especially prevalent in distressed sales, where investors are the main buyers, and who typically deal with cash as it is. Short sales and foreclosures accounted for 42% of active listings last month, on average in metro areas. Read more about what the Star Tribune has to say on this topic in their article below:

In today’s topsy-turvy housing market, cash rules

Financing uncertainties make those cash offers alluring, but sellers often must settle for less money to guarantee a deal.

When Chris and Diane Finney decided to buy a bank-owned condo in St. Paul, they knew there would be competition.

Their strategy? Offer less — but offer cash.

While others said they would pay more, they needed to finance the deal. The bank took less and took the cash.

“We were in the driver’s seat,” Chris Finney said.

In a normal housing market, multiple bids usually lead to higher home prices, and the highest bid wins. But when credit markets are tighter and appraisals are often lower, many sellers will take less to be sure that the deal will get done.

“If I get five offers on a property and the cash offer is darned close to being one of those top offers, I’d take the cash offer any day,” said Marshall Saunders, owner/broker at Re/Max Results.

In December, 33 percent of all U.S. home sales were cash deals — a record since the downturn started in 2006, according to Campbell Survey and Inside Mortgage Finance. As a result, home prices can’t gain much traction because many sellers won’t necessarily accept the highest offer.

For most home buyers, it’s confounding to be rejected because they are financing the deal. For the housing market, it means more downward pressure on prices despite tight supplies and rising demand.

“It’s a real sign of what’s going on,” said Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance. “All things being equal, cash wins.”

The volume of cash deals is offsetting other positive trends in the market that should be leading to higher prices. The number of houses on the market has fallen to an eight-year low, and sales are up double digits. At the same time, home prices continue to fall.

At least a third of all homes sales last year involved an investor, Cecala said, and they often pay cash…

Read more of this article from the Star Tribune: “In today’s topsy-turvy housing market, cash rules.”

Six must-haves for mortgage approval

Interest rates are hovering around historical lows, and low interest rates increase affordability, making it easier for buyers to qualify. Yet stories of buyers waiting months to gain loan approval and home purchase transactions not closing on time due to lender’s strict underwriting are all too common.

Some buyers are turned down for illogical reasons. For instance, if you have investments — even if they’re performing well — an underwriter might deny the mortgage because your portfolio doesn’t fall into the underwriter’s risk assessment model.
checklist
One couple was turned down because the husband had worked at his current job for less than a year — even though he was making more money at the new job than he was before.

These buyers were well-qualified. The wife had worked several years for one employer and was able to qualify for the loan on her own. So, the transaction closed, although two months late.

Generally, it’s more difficult to qualify now than it was a year ago. Most conventional lenders require a 20-25 percent down payment. For the lowest interest rates, your credit scores need to be in the 700 range. You need to have verifiable income and cash reserves in addition to your down payment and closing costs.

You could run into underwriting problems if you’re self-employed, as W-2 income is much easier to verify. Other hurdles are lapses in employment and owning a lot of property. Some lenders won’t lend to buyers who have more than three or four residential properties.

If you’re buying a new home before selling your current home, you’ll need to have 30 percent equity in your current home. This needs to be verified by the lender’s appraiser. Also, the lender will want to see a copy of the cashed check from the tenant for the first month’s rent to verify rental income if needed to qualify.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: As soon as you’re serious about buying a home, find the best mortgage broker or loan agent you can to assist you. Don’t make your selection based on interest rates alone. A good track record counts for a lot.

Closing the deal should be your primary goal. If you have to pay 0.25 percent more to assure your transaction closes on time and that you’re not turned down at the last minute, it’s worth it.

Be candid with your loan professional about anything in your financial picture that might impact loan qualification. A good loan agent or broker will be able to assess your financial situation and anticipate what you’ll need to do to satisfy the underwriter.

Be aware that appraisal issues can impact your loan approval. For example, if a previous owner added square footage without a building permit, the additional square footage probably won’t be included as livable square feet.

If the appraisal comes in for less than the purchase price, the lender might not lend you enough to close the deal. Include an appraisal contingency in your contract.

There are more jumbo financing options available now. Adjustable-rate mortgages that are fixed for 10 years and then revert to an adjustable have a starting rate about 0.25 percent less than a 30-year fixed jumbo. A five-year fixed starts about 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent lower, but is riskier.

THE CLOSING: Because of the risk factor, the lender may want you to have a large cash reserve. Your retirement account counts toward this.

Dian Hymer is a real estate broker with more than 30 years’ experience and is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author.