X-Pert Information: March 2007 Archives

All too often, these days, I have to tell desperate people who've found me on the internet some bad news.

Nobody can match the rates they've got at a price worth doing.

This is just a sample of what I've seen:

I bought a house in DELETED in Aug 04. It was my first house, and I was pumped about it. Now, it's become a liability. I want to leave soon, and pursue an (advanced degree). I've been extensively preparing for my (test), and I expect to qualify for some 'almost top-tier' schools out east. So what do I do with my house? Bad market = hard for me to sell.

I am looking to rent my house out. The largest hurdle comes from the fact that DELETED has very low rents, and very high housing prices. To give you an idea, a typical 4-plex has a yearly NOI of around 5% of the total property cost. Yeah, a 5% return. My mortgage (I'll detail it later) costs $1500/month (PITI). Market rent is about $1k-$1200/mo. I looked at other mortgages, but it seems to me that most brokers are a waste of oxygen. You say what you need, and then they offer you a loan that makes them the most commission. I had a few people try to talk me into a Neg AM/option ARM loan. I did some math... Total waste of money. What I need is something to lower my payment while I hedge my position.

Rents are increasing, and I believe that the market will be less of a buyers market in a few years. I am working with a mentor and put together a Lease to Own deal, which may solve my issues, but I would like a Plan B.

My house is worth no less than $268k (zillow estimate, I think it's low. $275k would be better) I owe ~$253k

I have an 80/20. The 80 is 5.125% interest only for 5 years, then goes ARM on me. The 20 is a HELOC currently at 10.125%. My FICO is between 750-775. The property is located at DELETED. It is a normal detached house. This would only be a refinance for a few years, until I can sell the property in a better market, but if a locked option presents itself, I would continue to rent that place forever! I don't need any cash out money, but I will take any available, because I am getting around 10% return on my Funds.

Now this particular person makes some errors in his thinking and in the email, but they're forgivable in non-professionals. The meat of the matter is that he, like so many, cannot afford the current payments under the new circumstances.

This guy has a 5.125% interest only loan. Last I checked (a few days ago) I could just barely do that with one lender for something north of four points, and could not do 5.00 at all. Even if adding roughly $15,000 to his loan amount was worth keeping the same interest rate a little longer, just the fact of adding $15,000 to his loan is going to raise his payments.

In this case, like so many, there literally is no loan I can do for this person that's worth the cost of doing it. I could cut his payment for a while with a negative amortization loan, but only at the cost of raising his real interest rate about 3%, which means it's really costing him about $6000 per year extra, while sticking him with a prepayment penalty in the area of $8,000. A classic case of pay me now, keep paying me, and pay me later, too. Well, I couldn't do that to anyone, much less someone wearing the uniform in times of war, as this man is. Even if this guy had been in California, I would have told him the same thing I did: There's no loan out there right now that will help him in the classical sense of the word help. What he needs is cash flow and time. A negative amortization loan would provide that, but at a much higher cost later - too steep for me to believe it's worth paying. A lower interest rate or longer amortization or even interest only might help some people, but none of those options make sense for someone who has already got 5.125% interest only. I can tie 5.125 by adding over four points plus closing costs to his loan, but I don't need to consult my rate sheets or get out the calculator to know that adding $15,000 to break even on the interest rate is not going to really help him.

Now, this is not to say that refinancing into a higher rate is never justified. If it was going to do something he needed it to do and it makes sense in other ways, yes, I can see it. For instance, if he was going bankrupt due to some bills, but consolidation will prevent that from happening, it might be the lesser of two evils. But that doesn't appear to be the case.

Now when his loan hits it's first adjustment, chances are pretty much 100% that I'll be able to do something worth the cost of doing it. But that adjustment would be to roughly 7.25% if it happened right now. Whatever it is, the way that rate adjustments work is underlying index plus a set margin, determined by your contract. Lenders think of hybrid ARMs as teaser rates; they're always offering rates less than the index plus the margin to start with. Which is one reason to be careful with hybrid ARMs. I love them, I do them for myself; but they will go up when they adjust.

This man is only one of millions out there in similar situations. I can't speak to his specifics, but there were lots of people who bought with loans such that they could only afford the payment interest only or worse. The fact of the matter is that they were poorly advised, or not advised at all if they kept everything quiet and never told the person who might have warned them. They probably should not have bought the property they did, but somebody talked them into it. In most cases, it was someone with a fiduciary responsibility to them who should have known better.

I don't have a problem with interest only loans as purchase money. I do have a problem with negative amortization loans as purchase money for a primary residence. Interest only, though, can be okay if they can afford the fully amortized payment but choose not to. For instance, this gentleman could have afforded more, but was getting a better return on his money elsewhere. Sophisticated user and all that. He knew the risks going in, and chose to take them.

However fantastic an investment real estate is, however, it is not a risk free investment, and sometimes the bet does go sour. Members of the real estate profession were doing all they could to push rapidly appreciating prices, and members of the loan profession were doing everything in their power to aid and abet. Both groups were pushing past results to illustrate future performance, and I saw or heard the phrase, "nobody loses money on real estate," so often and in so many places I stopped getting angry at it for a while. Both groups were pushing people into bigger and bigger loans for bigger and bigger properties, and more and stronger bidding wars, and rationalizing it on any basis that happened to be convenient and hadn't been debunked in the client's presence within the last fifteen minutes.

Once again, I'm embarrassed by members of my professions, and not just for their avaricious advice to the unwary, but also for their limited understanding of economics and markets. Trusted professionals are supposed to know better. People with fiduciary relationships are supposed to know better. People earning thousands of dollars more for their "expertise" per transaction should definitely know better.

So what do you do if your payment goes up, and the best rates available to you don't help the situation enough?

Sell for what you can get.

Right now, this is a really rotten thing. Many markets are in the tank completely. If you don't have to sell, you shouldn't be in the market when there's thirty sellers per buyer. That being said, if you can't make the payment, selling is the least bad alternative available to you. Even a short sale is not as bad as being foreclosed upon, and if you don't make the payments somehow, foreclosure is going to happen. It's only a question of when. You want to have sold before that happens.

There are a very few exceptions. But pretending that you are one of them when you're not is a good way to take a very bad situation and make it worse. The first rule of getting out of holes is to stop digging, and denial digs deeper.

Please, if you're in a hole, don't keep digging.

Caveat Emptor


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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the X-Pert Information category from March 2007.

X-Pert Information: February 2007 is the previous archive.

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