Tag: realestate

Too Clever by Half is Dumb

Recently, I came across a post on Facebook by an agent that was supposed to demonstrate why it’s so much smarter for a seller to use a realtor versus the relatively new concept of an iBuyer.  Being “in the business” I knew this to be a truth as incontrovertible as water is wet and fire burns, and I’m not the intended audience for this post, but I was curious to read through it to see how she chose to demonstrate this incontrovertible truth.

From the outset, the post recognizes that there are some things about using an iBuyer that can be attractive to a seller, chief of which is the “convenience” of being able to close the transaction in a matter of days.  In fact, the headline reads “Is the convenience worth the cost?”  Cool.  Then it goes on to outline other figures with sales prices, commissions, service charges, etc. – and that’s where the wheels fall off of the proverbial bus.  At the bottom of the post, below the pertinent numbers, you see two figures: one is “Total Net using a Realtor”, and the other is “Total Net using an iBuyer”, both followed by numbers with NEGATIVE signs.

Even though I’m “in the business”, I had to stop and readjust my brain to put these numbers into context and see what they meant.  After I did that, I immediately thought your average seller is going to think two things after reading it: (1) what?, and (2) selling a house is a NEGATIVE experience with or without an agent, just less negative with an agent – weird.  The POSITIVE message of the entire post was completely lost – the question posed in the headline (“Is the convenience worth the cost?”) goes unanswered – because whoever created the post was trying too hard to be too clever by half.

I’m inserting here a version of the Facebook post that actually answers the question and leaves EVERYONE with a clear understanding of why it’s better to sell through a Realtor and how much more money can be made with the Realtor’s help.  If you want something like this for posting on social media, send an email to ggreene@plmnow.com, and I’ll brand it for you and send it back in a post-friendly format.

In this business, we all use jargon and terminology when we’re communicating with one another – it’s faster in most cases – but the moment we’re standing in front of a customer (literally or figuratively), we need to stop talking “Nerd” and use English.  Not only does it ensure everyone understands one another, it makes the customer feel more comfortable, that we’re not talking down to them or over their heads.  Communication only takes place when the message is UNDERSTOOD.  If not, then we’re all just a bunch of Talking Heads, and we need to START making sense.

Rates Don’t Have to be a Gamble

Since the Fed’s announcement last week and the ongoing . . . uneasiness surrounding a trade war with China, the markets have been a little less than settled.  And that’s been a very good thing for interest rates.  In real estate and mortgage circles, I’m not hearing any complaining.

What we do continue to hear, though, are borrowers thinking out loud about how much lower the rates can go and whether they should act now or wait.  Speaking for myself, I’m not a wizard of wall street, and I don’t have a crystal ball to tell me exactly where rates will be at 10:37 a.m. on September 2, 2019, so I will admit that my GUESS about what rates will or won’t do is just a guess.  Now, I’ve been doing this long enough and surround myself with some VERY SMART people so I have experience and resources to have a fairly good idea where things are headed.

With that said, let’s get back to all the financial armchair quarterbacks who are stuck in analysis paralysis.  I’m going to share one thought with you that one of those very smart people I know has shared with many.  It’s not meant to give you any additional insight into what the market will or won’t do – it’s simply intended to act as a loving but resolute slap in the face and snap you out of your self-induced trance.  Here it is:

“Don’t fight for an extra eighth down in rate unless you’re willing to lose a quarter.”

We will always seek out the very best rate for you and your borrowers for obvious reasons, and we’ll lock it when it’s to your advantage.  We’ve done this a couple of times before.  In many cases, we have a “float down” option so that even after the rate is locked, if market conditions change favorably between the lock and when we close, we can float the rate down to take advantage of the favorable change.  On the flip side, if you’re trying to outguess the market and want us to hold off because you THINK it’ll drop from 3.875 to 3.75, that may not end the way you hope it will – the market, like a three-year-old, is unpredictable.  Let us do a little babysitting for you so you can enjoy the experience of buying a home!

Underwriters Are Not Evil (Not All of Them)

On a recent loan, we needed one simple document from the borrower’s bank, nothing more.  We weren’t seeking lost pages of an Ernest Hemingway novel (I’ve read some of his stuff, and anything lost can stay that way, if you ask me).  The borrower went to one branch and was told that what we were requesting was impossible.  We’ve obtained this type of document hundreds of times before on other loans, so I was extremely confident we weren’t asking for anything exotic.  Nevertheless, the teller insisted to the borrower that they couldn’t provide what we were seeking and gave him something else – something that WOULD NOT fly with the underwriter (which I was fairly certain it wouldn’t in the first place).

After reviewing the document he sent over from the bank, I regrouped with the borrower and asked him to return to the bank and ask in a different way.  He called me back about twenty minutes later and told me that I would never believe what just happened.  I told him I’m pretty sure I’ll believe him because I see weird stuff every day:  He went to a different branch this time and the teller gave him EXACTLY what we had requested the first time.  I burst into laughter and then quickly collected myself and apologized to the borrower saying, “I’m sorry about that.  I shouldn’t laugh, but it’s all I can do when I come across these situations, and they happen fairly regularly.”  To that, the borrower said, “I don’t see how you can deal with this kind of thing on a daily basis without drinking on the job.”  This is coming from a guy who teaches high school so his own level of “grin and bear it” has to be through the roof.

I shared that little piece of . . . absurdity so I could share this with you – there’s a very solid reason underwriters are so extremely persnickety and insistent that things be done in a certain way and documents look just so.  You could say it’s because they hold the gold, so they make the rules.  Or, you could say that they’re getting ready to lend, perhaps, the largest chunk of money an individual will ever borrow in her/his lifetime, so they want to make sure everything is in order.  Either of those two answers is partially correct, but the REAL answer is far more simple: they’re covering their butts.  Everything they do from the moment they touch a loan application is to make sure they can’t be blamed for anything.  (What must their home lives be like?)

In the case of my teacher buying a house, the form he needed had to show the money being transferred out, but it also had to show the transactions before it to show that the account had enough money to make the transfer in the first place.  To a normal human being, the fact the statement showed that after the transfer was completed there was a balance of $XXX should be sufficient to prove there was enough money in the account for the transfer to go through.  To an underwriter, though, they have to show that the account holder didn’t walk in that day, hand the money to the teller, and then transfer that money out.  Sourcing and seasoning rules don’t allow that, and the underwriter has to make sure of that. The underwriter didn’t make that rule (or any of the rules they’re tasked to follow), but their continued employment depends on their sticking to it – they’re forced to be the devil about the details.

Whether you’re a seasoned real estate agent or a first-time homebuyer, the next time you think the underwriter is being unreasonable or especially stubborn, bear in mind that 99% of the time they’re just doing their jobs – they’re just covering their backsides.  If they’re like me, the older they get and the less exercise they undergo, covering that area becomes a bigger job by the day. To borrow a notion from the Rolling Stones, have some sympathy – even if you still think of them as the devil.

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Once in a while, someone will ask me to name my favorite loan type.  VA?  Conventional?  FHA?  USDA?  My answer: it’s none of those; my favorite type is one that is CLOSED.  That was cheesy, for sure.  I felt my eyes rolling as I typed it.  Sorry about that.

Regardless of the eye rolling and the groaning, it’s the truth.  If the loan is closed – no matter which one got us to that point – that means the client was able to reach their goal, long or short term, and they can move on to the next project/passion in their life.

Quite often, though, what I do get from a number of people is the attitude that an FHA loan is a second-class citizen in the land of loans, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Sure, if you’re buying or selling a sizable property overlooking the valley, someone qualifying for an FHA loan isn’t going to be in your pool of prospects.  That’s not snobbery; that’s math.

Sometimes I get sneers from the borrower when I mention an FHA loan; sometimes it’s a look of “give me a break” from an agent when I tell them their client is going to use an FHA loan to purchase their home.  For buyers and agents alike, that really needs to stop – not because I’m a thin-skinned crybaby who’s starting to take it personally but because you’re missing out on more than one of the great benefits that the FHA loan has to offer.  Rather than don my buckler and shield and stand a mighty defense for this oft-maligned and misunderstood princeling of a loan product, let me show you some simple math.

Same borrower is qualified to purchase a $250,000 home with either an FHA or a conventional loan:

                                                                                                  FHA                         Conventional

Interest Rate                                                                               4.125%                     4.875%

Down Payment (%)                                                                   3.5%                         3%

Down Payment ($)                                                                    $8750                       $7500

Monthly Payment (P&I w/Mortgage Insurance)                $1359.22                  $1659.21

Money Spent in 1st Year                                                          $25,060.64               $27,410.52

Money Saved in 1st Year                                                          $2349.88                  —

Money Saved Each Year After                                                $3599.88                  —

Money Saved in Seven Years                                                  $23,949.16               —

Most first-time homebuyers stay in their homes for seven years (or fewer), and then they move on to the next house.  Whether the buyer went FHA or conventional, in the first seven years of ownership, the mortgage insurance would still be in place on either loan.  The FHA loan, though, would allow them to have $300 more per month to spend on something else or save, and it’s always nice to have options, right!

If your mind isn’t quite completely blown, let me throw in this little stick of dynamite to finish off the job.  On the same $250,000 purchase, the only way to get the monthly payment on a conventional loan to be almost identical to the FHA payment is to put down 10%, or $25,000.  Let me remind you: on the FHA loan, the minimum down payment of 3.5% is only $8750.  So, in order to get your monthly payment (principal, interest, and mortgage insurance) to be roughly the same, you would have to spend $16,250 MORE UP FRONT – all for the sake of having a conventional mortgage.

This may seem like overkill, but I’m going to do it anyway: remember, FHA loans allow a higher debt-to-income ratio than a conventional loan.  This means that if the borrower can qualify for a payment of $1659.21 (under conventional guidelines and a LOWER allowed DTI), that same borrower could use an FHA loan to purchase approximately $50,000 more house, or $300,000.  What agent wouldn’t want that type of “cushion” for search and negotiation purposes?   And what buyer wouldn’t want more options?

The next time you hear the letters FHA being bandied about, think of them as standing for Flexible Homebuying Alternatives, because being conventional isn’t always the best thing to do in life – allow yourself to take a walk on the wild side.

The Costs of Generosity

Someone sent me an article this morning about a major bank that will be offering a program to help people get into a home by providing them with up to $10,000.  Honestly, as I read deeper into the article, rather than sitting there and mumbling to myself that this is another cheap shot by the big boys to grab market share, I thought, “Good for them,” (and then I grumbled a bit about them grabbing market share).

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, and there’s nothing nefarious about it – this type of program is projected to help up to 20,000 families and individuals get into a home, and that’s a good thing.  However, before any of you accuse me of becoming a shill for the big banks, let me make my point – because I do have one.

On a $200,000 30-year fixed mortgage at 4.5%, the principal & interest payment is $1,013.37/month.  Over the 30-year life of that mortgage, the borrower will have paid $364,813.20 – that’s $164,813.20 that the bank will make off that loan.  If this big bank added NOTHING (like, say, an increased interest rate) and spent $10,000 to get that new loan, that $10,000 is only 6% of the overall profit.  Lest you think me a fool for believing a bank would just GIVE UP that 6%, let’s take this to the next logical step.

It’s HIGLY likely that the interest rate for this program is going to be at least a point higher than the going rate for a 30-year mortgage – they have to have SOMETHING to compensate them for “giving” away $10,000.  Same amount ($200K) at 5.5%, the principal & interest payment is $1,135.58 for a 30-year total of $408,808.80 and a $208,808.80 profit.  By adding that simple point, they increased their overall profit by almost $45,000.  Still, there’s absolutely nothing tricky or underhanded about this: they’re offering a service that requires something in return, a higher interest rate.

For some people, this is a perfectly acceptable trade-off, and they’ll sign on all day, and twice on Sundays.  Before anyone you know jumps at this “free” money, give them this little thought nugget to chew on and digest:

The difference between the monthly payment at 4.5% (the rate given to someone NOT accepting the “free” money) and 5.5% that comes with this generous program is $122.21.  If you take $122.21 and invest it every month in something earning as little as 5% interest, you would have $10,279.48 in just six years.  That’s over $10K in YOUR POCKET, not anyone else’s, and that’s a good thing, right?

Big banks have bigger fees, without a doubt.  Someone’s gotta pay for all those commercials filled with beautiful people driving nice cars and acting like money is the least of their concerns.  That’s not a slam on big banks (ok, maybe a LITTLE), just a fact.  The $10K they’re “giving” you gets used up a lot faster by their fees and whatnot (I love that word).

Here’s my recommendation: GO to the big bank (I mean it) and have them put together a loan estimate for you (including all their incentives), and then come to us, a broker.  And after we’ve helped you buy your house, come back in six years (or sooner) with that money you’ve saved and invested, and we can show you how to make even more money with it.  THAT’s independence, for sure.  Happy Independence Day!!!!!