Intermediate Information: July 2008 Archives
Today's new consumer article is Procuring Cause and Multiple Agents, which talks about multiple agents and which one gets the commission.
Today's new consumer article is Buying Teardown Properties and Condemned Buildings, a discussion of the basic issues of buying property with condemned buildings, or ones that you just don't like and want to replace.
There's another article set to go for tomorrow. I'm not sure about the rest of the week.
Today's is only an update of a previously written article - but it's an update of one of the most important articles I've ever done, The High Cost of Waiting To Buy A Home. This article looks strictly at the costs you incur by waiting to buy, even if you have a dedicated program of saving for a down payment in the meantime. Delay isn't pretty. In the average case, waiting a single year to buy a $300,000 property costs you over $20,000 in terms of financial results. Considering the current state of the market, that's a very low estimate.
(I am finally scheduled to have that tooth pulled today. I hope to be more or less recovered by the end of the weekend, and back to doing the features I've missed such as Hot Bargain Properties and Real Loans for Real People.)
Today's new consumer article is Buying Your Final Home: Payment versus the Rate/Cost Tradeoff, a discussion of why, even though you may have no heirs and may never be intending to sell, you should still shop for a loan by the rate and cost, not the payment.
I have a toothache that has escalated quite nastily overnight. I'm maxed out on total allowable dosages of all the over-the-counter painkillers in the house, and icing like crazy, so I'm going to try and move my appointment up to today. I may not be able to do anything useful until this is taken care of.
One of the things I see all the time is notations made on the listing that demotivate buyers agents, or give them a reason not to show the property. This practice has had a drastic fall off of late, with listing agents and brokerages desperate to sell after nine months on the market, but it's still there, and it's never in the client's best interest to restrict the field, or to give other agents a reason not to show your property, but that doesn't stop some listing agents from doing it, particularly in hot markets or particularly desirable neighborhoods.
"Seller to select all services." Well, duh, if they're paying for them, which they are in the case of owner's title insurance, and half for escrow. But my client is paying for lender's title and the other half of the escrow, and to say it's not even on the table for discussion tells me that the listing agent or brokerage likely has their hands out behind their backs, and that's a transaction I'd prefer to avoid. Either that, or they want to steer revenue to an escrow company in which the brokerage has an interest. Escrow officers with "captive" brokerage clients have a very high percentage of cluelessness, and their motivations to give top notch service aren't exactly stellar, either. Furthermore, in such cases my client is likely going to end up paying sub-escrow fees due to splitting the title and escrow, and if that's not the most useless waste of money in the business it's darned close. Suppose my client gets cheap rates for title or escrow, or free? Suppose I've got a contract with a different company for cheaper rates? Suppose I simply know of a company that gives better rates for the same product and still has top notch providers? If you're not willing to discuss it with my client and I, there are most likely some issues going on, and unless the seller gets reduced rates or free escrow and title, something that is far more rare than the notation, there is no reason for this notation. A major variant on this is "Title and Escrow already open." This makes me ask "Why?", and the only answer I can see is that they are trying to preempt the choice. The vast majority of buyers need loans, and the title and escrow are going to be ready long before the loan. Yes, the seller could already have filled out a statement of information with them, but that's not important to my buyer clients.
"Buyer must be prequalified" or "Buyer must be preapproved." Neither one of these means anything real. They are both garbage requests. Minimum wage earners can be "pre-qualified" for million dollar properties. Even "pre-approval", which is supposed to be stronger, suffers a very high fall off rate when they actually have a purchase contract. In theory, pre-qualification means that you should be able to afford the payments on the type of loan you pre-qualified for, and pre-approval should mean that the application will be approved as soon as the blanks for the specific property are filled in. In neither case is what's really being done by most loan providers even vaguely in line with the billing. In many cases, the buyers have a hidden issue that has not yet come out, but with several hundred thousand dollars on the line, you can bet that the lender will find out about it before the loan actually funds. In a large number of cases, it may look like they're going to qualify, but their loan officer wants to make a little too much money.
Neither one of these makes difference to the purchase offer I write. No buyers agent wastes their time working with people that they do not believe will qualify for the required loan. Once I've got a credit report, income information and a liabilities statement, I ask if there's anything else that's going to show up, and ask about any changes or bumps in their career situation within the last two years. Providing a good loan officer gets the whole truth at that stage of the game, the loan should go through. However, I've learned the hard way never to trust a prequalification or preapproval that I didn't do, and when I'm on the listing side, I ask for certain concrete information, or failing that, I'm very hard nosed about the deposit in negotiations. If I could get the loan done based upon the information, we've got a live one. If my listing clients gets the deposit if it falls out, they come out okay. But neither prequalification or pre-approval means anything real unless it's done by a loan officer with realistic expectations and the right attitude, something a listing agent has no real way of knowing. Indeed, the request tells me it's a lazy listing agent who doesn't understand how to separate the wheat from the chaff, or is unwilling to do so.
"Must be prequalified/preapproved with lender X": This isn't a demand I'll even consider giving in to. Indeed, under RESPA, it's teetering right on the edge of being illegal. Thou shalt not require the other party to use your lender. Even as a buyer's agent, I would never consider requiring a client to use me for the loan. Carrots only, never sticks.
In most of the cases, the lender specified is one that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Especially not if I want the transaction to close on time. High margin providers who promise something great to get people to sign up and then show up with something completely different at closing.
In a significant number of these cases, the agent has their hand out behind their client's back. Whether it's explicit compensation or just wanting to put the buyer in a situation where they're using a lender that's indebted to that particular agent, and they refer clients back and forth. "I want the listing when this buyer goes to sell, so I'll send all the buyers to the loan officer who will refer them back to me." Agents and Loan officers go to seminars devoted to the idea of cutting out the competition, so they don't have to compete at all. It's not in your best interest to allow them to do so.
Some of them will follow the requirement they are trying to impose about being pre-approved with lender X with "Ok to use own lenders for the transaction." As if that lender doesn't have all my client's personal information. From my first week in the business, I was smarter than that. Of course, my brokers told me about the experiences of other loan officers: Their client was bombarded with multiple calls per day from that loan provider, and when the client tells them never to call again, they sell the client's information to dozens of other loan providers, and so the bombardment gets worse. A prequalification certainly counts as a "business relationship," and it's amazing how often "opt outs" aren't even offered until thirty to sixty days later. So as I said, the smart thing to do is ignore the request. "Here's an offer, take it to your client like you are legally required to do". Many agents won't even honor that, but those agents will get caught eventually. I can understand that they want a certain transaction, but there is no such thing. If they're going to serve their clients, they should know something better to ask for in negotiations.
Finally, it's often a way for listing agents who want both halves of the commission to discourage other agents from showing the property. If I see a demand that a client be prequalified with a particular lender, I'm either going to ignore it completely or not suggest that property to my clients. Perhaps I'll even show them the listing (usually on paper), and tell them why they should stay away or make a really low-ball offer because of how much of a pain the listing agent is trying to be. It all depends upon how good a deal I think the property might be, and whether I think the agent is desperate enough to be reasonable yet. But as a buyer's agent, I don't have a responsibility to any given seller - the listing agent does. Furthermore, neighbors talk. If George down the street gets twenty showings and four offers on a less attractive property than this agent's client, who gets only two showings and no offers (or nothing but low-balls), that listing client is probably going to ask their agent some hard questions. What comes around, goes around.
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