Intermediate Information: December 2007 Archives


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. Furthermore, despite a lot of research, I don't know a single lender that will do a loan on investment property for more than 95 percent of the value, and most of them will only go 90 percent. The ones who will go 95 percent typically charge higher rates, and are to be avoided if you can. So you need a down payment of at least five percent and preferably ten.

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. I have some without prepayment penalties and that are zero cost. 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, although taking the cash out could cause you to exceed, once again, the conforming limit.

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 papeer. 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 will 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. Indeed, for any loan, for all real property you have to show the full breakdown for each property you own. You can state your overall income in most cases (and indeed, most folks with investment property have to do stated income due to the cash flow computations being so restrictive.)

In urban California, however, prices have gotten so high that I do not recall the last time I saw 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.



Now, as long as you have the cash flow to last until rents catch up, this is fine. But you need to be very certain that you do have that cash flow. If you're buying for $360,000, this is a first loan at about 6.75 percent right now of $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 consider 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'm willing to do them for people in this situation, but only 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 question whether the risks have been adequately explained to the forty percent of all local purchases being financed by these (or were when the article was originally written).

Indeed, given the fact that you're going to have to make payments on the Home Equity Line of Credit as well, it's difficult to 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.

Caveat Emptor

I've written articles on when you can't make your mortgage payment and how to react if you see foreclosure coming in time to do something about it, and even on Short Payoffs, but all of those are owner (seller) oriented. This is intended as a basic buyer's guide to getting a bargain from people who bit off more than they could chew, with emphasis on the current local market but applicability anywhere.

There are essentially four phases in the foreclosure process. The first is pre-default. They've made late payments or none at all, and there's no way they can keep the payments up, but they won't do the intelligent thing, which is sell for what they can get. Many people who own properties headed for default are deep in Denial. Yes, this is often because something bad happened to them for reasons beyond their control. I'd be happier if those sorts of things didn't happen, but the amount of rescuing that's going to get done is minimal. There are very few White Knights running around, and the ones who claim to be White Knights are usually blackguards. Unless the seller knows of some factor that is going to change, this is the smart time to deal with the problem. Before the Notice of Default is recorded, nobody really knows but the owner and the bank. Once the Notice of Default hits, all the sharks come out because everyone knows the owner is in Dire Circumstances. Let's face it: most folks will make the payments on their home even if they let every other bill slide. When someone can't make their mortgage payment, and it's public information as a Notice of Default is, everybody and their pet rock knows that don't have any choice but to sell. They'll flood you with offers, but they won't be good offers.

Now if you're looking to buy at this stage, the thing to do is examine the Multiple Listing Service. "Motivated seller" and similar phrases are often code for "These people can't make their payments!", particularly in the current market with prices declining somewhat and many people who stretched beyond their means. It would be great to be able to get a list of properties that are sixty days or more delinquent, as this would include the folks in denial, but it just isn't going to happen. The only folks who know are the banks and the credit reporting agencies, and they are prohibited by privacy laws from disclosure. So at this point all you have to deal with are the people who are not in denial. Now when the market is rapidly appreciating, this is a good place to find a bargain, because once the Notice of Default hits, the sharks swarm, so if you can find these people before that, you're in a strong bargaining position if you correctly suspect they can't make their payments. The taxes being delinquent is often a good indicator of this, but there is no way to know for sure unless the people or their agent tell you, and the agent who tells you has just violated fiduciary duty. This can mean prospective buyers overplay their hands in negotiations, which is fine if you intend to move on if you can't get a "Manhattan for $24" type deal, but if it's a property you want and can make money on, overplaying your hand can poison the atmosphere. There aren't many "Manhattan for $24" type deals out there, because if you wait that long, someone else already has taken it. There are a lot more good opportunities for someone willing to pay a reasonable price and hold the property a while or make improvements. Deals so good that they instantly make oodles of money, someone will usually come along and offer the poor schmoe on the other end a better deal, and if the poor schmoe has a decent agent who's looking out for their interests, they can switch to the other offer. Buyers and escrow companies don't like it, but it can be done. It's extra work for the listing agent, so they may not want to, and they may not have done the best set-up, but it can usually be done anyway.

The reason it's smart for sellers to sell at this time is that this is when they are going to get the best deal. The mere act of entering Default is likely to cost thousands of dollars. Furthermore, this is the phase with the most opportunity to find a property at a better than usual price for buyers, because most of these don't get to actual default. Someone will come along and make an offer, and a listing agent who gets an offer on one of these is likely to advocate taking the first reasonable offer, reasonable being defined as "anything like the asking price".

The second stage of the foreclosure process is default. The Notice of Default has been filed, and because it is a matter of public record, the sharks instantly react to the blood in the water. The seller is going to get dozens to hundreds or even thousands of solicitations. Also, once the property is in default, the bank can require the owner bring the Note entirely current in order to get out of default. Whether or not the property is listed, they're going to have agents offering to sell it for them, individual buyers who want those Manhattan for $24 deals, and lawyers offering to "protect" them by declaring bankruptcy. By the way, I've never heard of anyone who came out better in the end by declaring bankruptcy, so you probably don't want to do it if you're in this position. I know it's your home, and you're likely extremely emotionally attached to it, but declaring bankruptcy doesn't mean you don't owe the money when it comes to a Trust Deed. Every single one of these folks, lawyer, agent, or prospective buyer, knows that you're in default. Some owners are still in denial at this point, but all denial means at this point is that such an owner is not likely to take the best offer they'll get. It's at this phase that most "subject to" deals happen, usually with highly appreciated properties with significant equity over and above the trust deed. If the owners owe anything approaching the value of the property, that's a silly situation to do a "subject to" purchase for buyers, and most of the prospective buyers (those with decent advisors or agents or experience) won't do it if the equity is less than a certain amount or proportion of the value.

The third phase of a foreclosure is the auction. This is typically a very short period. Five days before the auction date itself, the owner loses the legal right to redeem the property, although the bank will usually let them until the last possible instant. There is also a legal requirement to vacate the property before the auction. "Subject to" deals can still go through as long as the bank will accept redemption. Now the auction itself requires cash or an acceptable equivalent. You don't go to the auction and then get a loan later. At the very least you have to have the loan prearranged and a check for the proceeds in hand. This can mean that the rate is significantly higher, and it can be difficult to refinance within the first year.

The fourth phase is after the auction. In California, if the property does not get a bid for at least ninety percent of appraised value, it does not sell and becomes owned by the bank. The bank doesn't want it; they're not in the real estate business and in fact, they are legally required to dispose of it within a certain time. In the current market, this can be the best place to acquire a property. The bank knows they're taking a loss, and the longer it goes, the bigger the loss. Mind you, because the bank usually takes a loss, few properties go to this stage. The lenders will usually do anything reasonable in order to avoid auction, but once it goes to auction, they want to get rid of it. They usually require a substantial deposit, but the purchase price can be the best of all.

One thing to be wary of in foreclosures is they are often in less the ideal condition, to say the least. These people know they are losing the house, and often that they are going to come away with nothing in the best realistic case. They have no incentive to take care of the property, and many actively work to mess it up. This is cause for care in purchasing them, and inspections, because not all of the damage may be obvious. Furthermore, many of them may have been unable to afford proper maintenance for some time before they lost the property. Purchasing a foreclosure can mean you will need a large reservoir of cash in order to fix up the property to habitable condition.

Caveat Emptor

Rejected Offers to Purchase

| | Comments (0)

"overpriced house offer rejected what next"



(Before I get started, I want to make it clear that I am using the same definition of worth found in this article)

Well, the seller obviously didn't feel that it was overpriced. Given that they were unwilling to sell for that, consider the possibility that you didn't offer enough.



It's human nature to always want to blame the other side. Given the state of real estate prices here in San Diego, I have considerable sympathy for buyers these days. On the other hand, if you look at the sales log, sales are still being made. This means willing buyers and willing sellers are coming to an agreement that both feel leaves them better off, and they are doing it at market prices.



The fact is, there are always at least two possibilities when an offer is rejected, and the truth may be a mixture of the two.



First, that the seller is being unreasonable. This happens a lot. Somebody thinks their property is worth more than it's worth. When people can buy better properties for less, they're not going to be interested in yours. In this situation, you're not likely to get any good offers. You'll get people doing desperation checks - coming in with lowball offers to see how desperate you really are. A very large proportion of these are people in my profession looking for a quick flip and the profit that comes with it, or other investors. Anybody looking at properties priced where this one should be priced is likely not even going to come look.



Second possibility, the buyer is the one being unreasonable. Properties like that one really are selling for the asking price, and you offered tens of thousands less. Some buyers do this because it's all they can afford. Some buyers do this because they want to get a "score". And some are just the standard "looking to flip for a profit" that I talked about in the previous paragraph. There is a point at which I tell all but the most desperate sellers that they're better off rejecting the offer completely than counter-offering. It saves time and effort, and the prospective buyer either comes back with a better offer, or they go away completely. Someone offering $250,000 for a $350,000 property is not likely to be the person you want to sell to. Even if you talk them up into a reasonable offer by lengthy negotiations, they're far more likely than not to try all sorts of games to get it back down as soon as you're in escrow. Better to serve notice right away that you won't play.



Now some bozo agents think that starting from an extreme position, whether high list price or lowball offer to purchase, gives them more leverage, or that somehow you're eventually likely to end up in the middle. This is bullsh*t. A transaction requires a willing buyer and a willing seller. Price the property to market if you want it to sell. Offer a market price if you want the property.



Now, the Quickflippers™ have had a distorting effect on this, and disconcertingly many of the properties being offered for sale are owned by people who bought with the intention of the quick flip for profit, rather than buy and hold. Many of those looking to buy still fall into this same category, and I suspect this is much the same in other formerly hot housing markets as well. They've become addicted accustomed to the market of the last few years, when a monkey could make a profit on a property six months after they paid too much money to purchase it. That is not the market we face today. This market favors the buy and hold investor. Actually, if you remember the spreadsheet I programmed a while back, I've pretty much confirmed that the market always favors the buy and hold investor, it's just been masked by the feeding frenzy of the past few years, where John and Jane Hubris could come off looking like geniuses when it was just a quickly rising market and the effects of leverage making them look good. It's just that the support for the illusions of Mr. and Mrs. Hubris has now been removed.



Now, what to do when your offer has been rejected. There are two possibilities. The first is to walk away. If the home really is overpriced, and there are better properties to be had for less money, you made a reasonable offer and were rejected, you're better off walking away. I don't want to pay more for a property than it's comparable properties are selling for, and I certainly don't want my clients to do so either. The sort of people who go around making desperation check offers walk away without a second thought with considerably less justification.



The second is to consider that the property might really be worth more than you offered. Okay, a 3 bedroom 1 bath home did sell for that price in that neighborhood, but when you check out the details, that was a 900 square foot home on a 5000 square foot lot and the one you made an offer on is a 1600 square foot home on a 9000 square foot lot, and in better condition with more amenities. It's a more valuable property, and you can refuse to see that from now until the end of the world and you're only fooling yourself. The reason you thought the property was attractive enough to make an offer was that it had something the others you looked at didn't, and most of these attractors add a certain amount of value to the property. The more value there is, the more folks are willing to pay for it. This is why one of the classical tricks of unethical agents is to show you a property that's out of your price range, then figure out a way to get a loan where you qualify for the payment. This property is priced higher because it has features that add more value and a reasonable person would therefore conclude that other reasonable persons would be willing to pay more for that property than others. Landscaping, location, condition, more room, amenities. There's something that the seller thinks reasonable people would be willing to pay more for. It's kind of like taking someone who can afford a $10,000 car and showing them a $25,000 one, then telling them they can get interest only or negative amortization payments to get them into it. You only thought you could afford the $400,000 home, but they've got a way that you can get into the $600,000 home, which obviously is going to have many things that the $400,000 home lacks. Consumer lust does the rest. Cha-ching! Easy sale, and the fact that they've hosed the client doesn't come out until long after those clients made a video for the agent on move-in day when they're so happy they've got this beautiful house that they didn't think they could afford (and really can't), and they gush gush gush about Mr. Unscrupulous Agent, who then uses this video to hook more unsuspecting clients - never mind that the original victims in the scam lost the house, declared bankruptcy, and got a divorce because of the position Mr. Unscrupulous Agent put them into. You want to impress me with an agent, don't show me happy clients on move-in day. Emotional high of being brand-new homeowners aside, any monkey of a loan officer can get anybody with quasi-reasonable credit into the property. What happens when they have to make the payments? More importantly, what happens when they have to make the real payments? Given the current environment, the question, as I keep saying here, is not "can I get this loan through?" but "Is it in the best interests of the client to put this loan through?" You want to impress me with an agent, show me a happy customer five years out "My agent found this property that fit within my budget, told me all about the potential problems he saw, got the inspections and loan done, and it's been five years now with no surprises, and the only problem I've had was one he told me about before I even made the offer."



Of course, the real value of the property may be beyond your range or reach. If your agent showed you something you could not reasonably acquire within your budget, you should fire them. I accept clients with a known budget, I'm saying I can find something they want within that range. If it becomes evident I was wrong (eyes bigger than wallet syndrome) the proper thing to do is inform the client that their budget will not stretch to the kind of property they want, and suggest some solutions, starting with "look at less expensive properties" and moving from there to "find a way to increase the budget" and finally to "creative financing options." That's a real agent, not "Start with creative financing options but somehow 'neglect' to mention the issues down the road."



There is no universal always works strategy for rejected purchase offers. It's okay to do desperation checks, but be aware that most sellers aren't desperate and that it's likely to poison the environment if the seller isn't that desperate. Poisoning the environment is okay if you're a "check for desperation and then move on" Quickflipper™, but if you're looking for a property you want and have found something attractive, it's likely to be counterproductive so that you may end up paying thousands more that you maybe could have gotten the property for if you'd just offered something marginally reasonable in the first place. Make a reasonable offer in the first place, and you're likely to at least get a dialog. And if the seller rejected what really was a reasonable offer for an overpriced property, the only one to lose is them. Move on. Their loss is someone else's gain.



Caveat Emptor (and Vendor)

"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 quickly 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 insured against risks which are relatively rare, but extremely expensive when they do occur. Who pays for that? The other policyholders, of course.

You can purchase a rider or endorsement for extended title coverage, of course. 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 can be an excellent insurance policy.

Caveat Emptor

Can I qualify for first time home buyer financing if I buy a duplex and live in one and rent out the other?

I thought if I bought a duplex, lived in one side and rented out the other would be a good idea to help pay the mortgage. I would live there for a couple years then move and rent the entire duplex as an investment property

It would be very popular to answer "yes".

However, the fact is that the only nationwide first time buyer program in existence, the Mortgage Credit Certificate, explicitly disallows all multiple unit property from participating.

Furthermore, I've dealt with the federally funded local first time buyer programs throughout southern California (in excess of forty different municipalities). In every single case I'm familiar with, it's a requirement that it be a single family residence. Just like the MCC, no duplexes, no apartment buildings, no "2 on 1" properties. Condos, townhomes, and PUDs are fine, but nothing intended for more than one family to live in.

People sometimes get confused because of the way residential property is defined (1-4 units), but just because something qualifies as residential property doesn't mean it is eligible for a first time buyer program.

Finally, for every first time buyer program I'm aware of, the government assistance goes away (as with the MCC), or worse, becomes immediately due, should you move out. For example, in the municipality where my office is located, they have a very nice "silent second" program. It means you only have to actually pay the mortgage on a potentially much smaller amount, usually wiping out a need for PMI or a conventional second mortgage, while the city's second accrues at a very low rate. But if you move out, they'll call the loan, which means you've got thirty days to get them their money somehow before they foreclose.

(They also flatly refuse to subordinate, meaning you're not going to be able to refinance without paying them off, so you'd better choose a fixed rate loan that you can really afford for your primary mortgage in the first place)

There may be municipalities somewhere where this is permitted under their local programs, but I've never heard of one, and I do suspect it's prohibited in the legislation and regulations for the federal administration that funds these local programs. The First Time Buyer programs are intended to stabilize neighborhoods, and make it a little easier for people to be able to afford to buy housing they intend to live in. They are not intended to help you build a real estate empire - as a matter of fact, that's somewhat counter to their purpose. They are also never free of strings. If you intend on taking advantage of these programs, it would behoove you to make certain you understand what those strings are, as well as all of the implications, before you've got a purchase contract. Some of the strings on first time buyer programs are real deal-killers. For example, a city about a half hour's drive from my office has one that looks really nice at first glance, but restricts both who you sell to and what you can sell for, eviscerating the economic benefits of ownership and making you essentially a renter who also pays maintenance and property taxes. Unless you're just going to live there forever, which may not be under your control, that's not a desirable situation. Probably better to buy in the city next door, which has a more useful for your financial future "silent second" program much like the one described above. You need to be careful with first time buyer's programs, lest you end up in a situation that does not justify your expenditures with future benefits.

Caveat Emptor

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Intermediate Information category from December 2007.

Intermediate Information: November 2007 is the previous archive.

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