Tag Archives: closing costs

Price is not all that matters in real estate sales

Negotiation strategies differ depending on how well the home is priced and who’s on the other side. If you’re trying to buy a short-sale listing where the lender has to agree to accept less than the amount owed, the seller doesn’t have much say in the negotiations about price unless he can contribute money to pay down the loan amount.

Regardless of who you’re dealing with, you’re more likely to grab a seller’s or lender’s attention if you are preapproved for the mortgage you’ll need and can provide verification of cash for the down payment and closing costs.

Many buyers feel that cash is king. If buyers are willing and able to pay all cash with no mortgage, no hassling with the lender and no appraisal contingency, they feel they’re owed a price concession.

Not all sellers agree. Some, who are confident in the value of their home, would rather work 

with an offer from a well-qualified buyer who needs to obtain a mortgage but who will pay a higher price.

Before you start negotiating, you should understand as much as you can about the other party. For instance, if the sellers are moving to a retirement home, they might go for the highest-priced offer in a multiple-offer situation, even though it might not be ideal in other regards. If they are liquidating their last asset, every penny will count.

An all-cash or large-cash-down buyer might not be able to negotiate a “deal” based on the fact that no 

lender will be involved. But if the home is a good value and suits your long-term needs, you might increase your offer price and include a mortgage. This way, you conserve cash for other uses.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Many buyers don’t want to negotiate. They want their first offer to be their best offer. Usually, the only time this is effective is if yours is the only offer, the house is priced right for the market, and you offer full price. In this market, you’re better off planning for some negotiation, and not putting all your cards on the table at once.

In most areas, the home-sale market still favors buyers. A lot of sellers are selling for less than they paid. Some have to bring money to the closing. Sellers who have owned for years are selling for less than they would have years ago. It’s natural that they would want to try for the highest price possible.

Negotiations are about more than price. Generally, the fewer the contingencies or the cleaner the contract, the more attractive it will be to the seller. Closing and possession dates can become issues at the bargaining table. What’s included and excluded, time periods to satisfy contingencies, and virtually everything in the contract is negotiable.

Since everything is up for grabs, be clear about what’s not negotiable — for instance, you can’t go over a certain price. Show flexibility in areas that will hopefully be valuable to the sellers, such as buying “as is” regarding some needed repairs. Don’t waste your time with sellers who are firm at a price that is considerably over market value. Wait until they become realistic while you continue looking. Some sellers eventually get tired of having their home listed and reduce the price to market value. Others don’t.

Sellers need to understand that buyers in today’s market will walk away from a negotiation if they feel they’re not getting anywhere or are being treated unfairly. Buyers could become suspicious or disappear if they’re told by the sellers or their agent that other buyers are lining up to make an offer when they aren’t.

THE CLOSING: A smart strategy is to defend your position while being honest and fair with the other party.

Dian Hymer is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author.

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.

Price is not all that matters in real estate sales

Negotiation strategies differ depending on how well the home is priced and who’s on the other side. If you’re trying to buy a short-sale listing where the lender has to agree to accept less than the amount owed, the seller doesn’t have much say in the negotiations about price unless he can contribute money to pay down the loan amount.

Regardless of who you’re dealing with, you’re more likely to grab a seller’s or lender’s attention if you are pre-approved for the mortgage you’ll need and can provide verification of cash for the down payment and closing costs.

Many buyers feel that cash is king. If buyers are willing and able to pay all cash with no mortgage, no hassling with the lender and no appraisal contingency, they feel they’re owed a price concession.

Not all sellers agree. Some, who are confident in the value of their home, would rather work with an offer from a well-qualified buyer who needs to obtain a mortgage but who will pay a higher price.

Before you start negotiating, you should understand as much as you can about the other party. For instance, if the sellers are moving to a retirement home, they might go for the highest-priced offer in a multiple-offer situation, even though it might not be ideal in other regards. If they are liquidating their last asset, every penny will count.

An all-cash or large-cash-down buyer might not be able to negotiate a “deal” based on the fact that no lender will be involved. But if the home is a good value and suits your long-term needs, you might increase your offer price and include a mortgage. This way, you conserve cash for other uses.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Many buyers don’t want to negotiate. They want their first offer to be their best offer. Usually, the only time this is effective is if yours is the only offer, the house is priced right for the market, and you offer full price. In this market, you’re better off planning for some negotiation, and not putting all your cards on the table at once.

In most areas, the home-sale market still favors buyers. A lot of sellers are selling for less than they paid. Some have to bring money to the closing. Sellers who have owned for years are selling for less than they would have years ago. It’s natural that they would want to try for the highest price possible.

Negotiations are about more than price. Generally, the fewer the contingencies or the cleaner the contract, the more attractive it will be to the seller. Closing and possession dates can become issues at the bargaining table. What’s included and excluded, time periods to satisfy contingencies, and virtually everything in the contract is negotiable.

Since everything is up for grabs, be clear about what’s not negotiable — for instance, you can’t go over a certain price. Show flexibility in areas that will hopefully be valuable to the sellers, such as buying “as is” regarding some needed repairs.

Don’t waste your time with sellers who are firm at a price that is considerably over market value. Wait until they become realistic while you continue looking. Some sellers eventually get tired of having their home listed and reduce the price to market value. Others don’t.

Sellers need to understand that buyers in today’s market will walk away from a negotiation if they feel they’re not getting anywhere or are being treated unfairly. Buyers could become suspicious or disappear if they’re told by the sellers or their agent that other buyers are lining up to make an offer when they aren’t.

THE CLOSING: A smart strategy is to defend your position while being honest and fair with the other party.

Dian Hymer is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author.

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.

How to bargain shop for mortgages

Shoppers, I bet many of you scoured the Sunday ads and bounced to several stores for deals over Thanksgiving weekend.

What if you applied that same effort and vigilance to shopping for a new home loan or refinance? That same attention to detail could translate into hundreds to thousands of dollars in savings over time.

“People think nothing about going to many different stores to buy a toaster or oven or dishwasher,” said Norma Garcia, attorney at Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine. “They just don’t shop for (home) loans the same way they shop for other products, but they ought to.”

Consumers likely are more comfortable comparison-shopping for microwaves than mortgages because the home-loan process can be cumbersome, with reams of paperwork, unfamiliar jargon, and of course, the rush to close and move to a new place.

The U.S. government is working to make the process easier. Since May, officials have been trying to simplify and combine two required forms that show would-be borrowers their final loan terms and costs before closing. The “Know Before You Owe” campaign, spurred by sweeping financial reforms in 2010, has produced two drafts of the merged documents that are still in testing phase…

FORMS TO KNOW

This gives you an approximation of what you may owe at closing. It lists the basics including loan amount, interest rate and potential penalty costs. The form also shows you different loan scenarios to illustrate whether it would make sense, for instance, to buy points upfront to reduce your interest rate. (One point typically equals 1 percent of the loan’s value, or $1,000 for each $100,000 borrowed.) Click here to see the whole form

 

FORMS TO KNOW

You get this at the closing table. The form lists every single expense and credit involved in the transaction. Click here to see the whole form

 

You also get this at closing. The document breaks down how much you will owe in a different way. Perhaps the most important detail is the annual percentage rate, which rolls in all of your costs and is defined by HUD as the “true cost” of a loan. Click here to see the whole form

TO-DO LIST BEFORE CLOSING

• If there’s a line item you don’t understand in any of the forms, ask about it.

• Scan for hidden costs. Third parties get proceeds from loans in the form of fees and commissions, said Norma Garcia, attorney at Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine.

• Know who’s going to service your loan. The holder of your loan can sell the loan to anyone, but they have to disclose the percentage of loans that are sold. “If you choose to go with that lender, just know that may not be the person you’re dealing with down the line,” Garcia said.

• If you sense your lender isn’t being upfront or answering your questions, find someone else. It may take interviewing two to three people to find the right lender.

• Get a second opinion on your loan documents from HUD-approved counselors at little or no charge. But be sure to do this before closing. For San Diego, you can call the Housing Opportunities Collaborative at (619) 283-2200 or (800) 462-0503. Someone will direct you to the right agency.

• Don’t sign anything unless you understand it.

Read the whole article by SignOnSanDiego.com here: “How to Bargain Shop for Mortgages“.

ING Steps Up & NFCU Waives Promissory Note

This post is a follow up to my recent one (which you can view here) regarding a short sale with active military personnel.  Another military couple in a new transaction were forced to sell their home due to NFCU’s (Navy Federal Credit Union) refusal to help them keep their home.  NFCU then forced them to accept a Promissory Note when selling their home.

Navy Federal Credit Union logoING Bank, who held the first loan, did not require any money from the seller–after I demanded that the seller would provide no contribution. This references the new California Law, SB 458, which allows the lender to collect for closing costs to the transaction only from the seller. However, this is still a gray area and only an agent who has the necessary experience to negotiate with banks, like myself, is obviously worth more than his weight in gold to anyone who may need to sell (paticulary those with assets to protect).  Those agents experienced enough in this area will make sure that the seller or buyer will not be required to make any contributions. 

The buyer, who was also being forced to contribute in the same transaction to the second loan with Chase, was also permitted to not contribute because of my negotiating ability. Even the buyer’s agent, having seen my emails to the lien holder, confided that he couldn’t believe how much I was able to do on behalf of the buyer. 

The commission was reduced drastically as a result of my negotiations, but more importantly, the banks were able to save money by me negotiation an above-fair market price on the property.  My hope is that more people will realize that I do my utmost to keep buyers’ and sellers’ interests (and assets!) above my own–and if they believe that, that they spread the word that I strive to be the best of the best.

This new short sale with NFCU had a requirement: that to be considered for the short sale, the seller would be required to take back a promissory note (which in this case was $30K after the seller took out over $80K cash when the market was booming). A seller, in this sort of case, by letting their property go to foreclosure, may create a battle for a settlement on that second loan of over $80K, due to there being no equity in the second loan and the first loan being the foreclosing entity.  In cases such as these, a short sale becomes the best alternative to avoiding hiring an attorney to settle this.

On this transaction, this promissory note was approved prior to the passing of SB 458 (which allows no contributions from the seller to the loan that would pay it down, reflecting a deficiency judgment). My persistent communication with this lien holder resulted in a complete forgiveness of the total debt–saving the seller $30K!

Without a properly experienced agent working in the best interests of the seller and buyer, this would have spelled disaster.  Even with working with some of the more experienced agents out there.

For the Best of the Best to represent you–whether selling or buying–call me at (619) 890-3648.  Thank you for reading!

Personal Short Sale Experience

I just closed one of the longest short sales in history with Bank of America. This sale totaled 39 months, over 3 years. Short SaleThere were a few unfortunate problems with this short sale.

Throughout the time of having this listing, there were six individual buyers that were all approved.  Unfortunately, all six also cancelled, with one rewriting an offer through another agent after the initial cancel.  This offer was not submitted when I questioned this buyer’s agent, and as a result, the offer obviously did not go through.

After the seller’s family moved out, they left the house in shambles, but I invested my personal money (which thankfully was reimbursed later through the rent payments) to paint the interior, re-sod the front yard, and thoroughly clean.

There were several liens on the house: water, sewer, trash, and HOA liens.  Most were eventually paid off by the bank and buyer.  The tremendous HOA fines totaling over $5K I managed to negotiate them off completely with no fees to be paid.

The bank changed the locks and I had to pay $250 to re-key the house.

The property sold for $30K less, with a $12K credit for closing costs–very rare on a 50% cash
down purchase, than the REO  (bank-owned) property with no closing costs credit, a block away the
month before.

All these experiences may be things that you, as a short sale buyer, are familiar with.  And while short sale transactions can be the trickiest side of the real estate market, I have had plenty of experience in managing such transactions.  Please, let me be the one to deal with the messy side of short sales–not you!  Give me a call today if you have any questions.

John A Silva
www.johnasilva.com
619-890-3648