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  • Home Financing Pre-Approval vs. Pre-QualificationREALTORS® recommend that buyers get pre-approved prior to initiating the mortgage process to determine the best type of mortgage for you and avoid rushing ...
    Posted Dec 16, 2009, 9:53 PM by Casey Elliott
  • Credit Information For many homebuyers, credit is a big consideration in the buying process. In applying for a mortgage, your credit may be the single factor that opens or closes the door ...
    Posted Dec 16, 2009, 9:51 PM by Casey Elliott
  • Beginning Your Home Search Once you've determined that you're ready to buy, it's time to begin thinking about where you want to look. You'll find there are many questions you ...
    Posted Dec 16, 2009, 9:37 PM by Casey Elliott
  • The American Dream For the vast majority of us, owning a home is part of the American Dream. According to a study conducted by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, 87 percent of those ...
    Posted Dec 16, 2009, 9:32 PM by Casey Elliott
  • Homebuyer Tax Credit Changes Congress has extended and expanded the homebuyer tax credit. The modifications in the column labeled“December 1 – April 30, 2010” become effective when President Obama signs the bill. All changes ...
    Posted Nov 6, 2009, 7:28 AM by Casey Elliott
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“Why Most Home Buyers Lose Thousands Of Dollars When Finding, Buying And

Financing Their Home…”


It’s true.  Even savvy home buyers lose thousands of dollars…even tens of thousands of dollars they could have “pocketed” had they known about the important “secrets” that make up a successful purchase of a great home.


They don’t lose money because someone took advantage of them.  And they don’t lose money because of the economy.  The problem is…


“Most People Don’t Plan To Fail…But Fail To Plan.”


 If you’re in the market to buy a home anytime soon, and you want to find the perfect home at the best possible price, terms, and financing, there are THREE things you need to do up front: 


  • First, understand and get control of your personal emotions about the purchase of your home
  • Second, get the most valuable, important information available so you make a prudent and educated decision. 
  • And third, become informed about the very best financial resources and products to fit YOUR needs…NOW, not later.

After all, buying your home is very different from any other financial transaction.  It isn’t just a “home,” it’s a transaction that affects your monthly overhead expenses…your ultimate net worth…your retirement…your kids education…and much more.   


So it’s no surprise that buying your home may involve a bit of fear, anxiety, frustration…or even excitement for that next move in your life.

The secret is…try not to let these emotions get in the way of a prudent purchase.  This is what we do, we take the bad emptions, fear, and anexity out of buyer a home by giving you the foundation and confidence to find the right home for you! 

Call today to setup your Free Buyer Consultation Today!



  1. 1 Introduction
  2. 2 Search Home Inventory
  3. 3 Home Buyer Incentives
  4. 4 Essential Tips
    1. 4.1 What is an “as is” sale?
    2. 4.2 How long must I live in a house once I buy?
    3. 4.3 Can I buy real estate with no money down?
    4. 4.4 We made an offer on a home that was about 5% below the asking price.  Our offer was rejected.  What can we do to make the owners more reasonable?
    5. 4.5 Where can I get more information regarding accessible housing options?
    6. 4.6 Can I discount the sale price to create a down payment?
    7. 4.7 What is a “due-on-sale” clause?
    8. 4.8 What is a “seller contribution?”
    9. 4.9 Can I rent out a room to help me qualify for a loan?
    10. 4.10 Can we use private financing to buy real estate?
    11. 4.11 We have stock that has significant value and we think its price will increase.  How can we come up with a down payment without selling our shares?
    12. 4.12 How quickly must I apply for a loan?
    13. 4.13 I am getting married in two months.  I have lousy credit, but my spouse-to-be has excellent credit.  Can my future spouse buy a home individually?
    14. 4.14 What rules prohibit discrimination in real estate sales and financing?
    15. 4.15 If the appraised value and the sale price of a home are different, what will lenders use when granting a mortgage?
    16. 4.16 What is “buyer’s remorse?”
    17. 4.17 Can I buy a house after a bankruptcy?
    18. 4.18 What is a “stigmatized” property?
    19. 4.19 What is the difference between a co-op and a condo?
    20. 4.20 What are some of the basic questions to ask when looking at a co-op?
    21. 4.21 We are considering the purchase of a condo in a complex that has an interesting pet rule: You can only have a dog or cat that can be carried into the building.  Is this fair?
    22. 4.22 What is a lender’s escrow account?
    23. 4.23 How are escrow accounts used at closing?
    24. 4.24 What is 3/2 financing?
    25. 4.25 How can I buy real estate with my children using “shared equity?”
    26. 4.26 How can our family buy real estate together?
    27. 4.27 We are buying a home and have a copy of the seller’s disclosure form.  Should we also get a home inspection?
    28. 4.28 What is a “CMA?”
    29. 4.29 What is the difference between a “warranty” and an “inspection?”
    30. 4.30 What is a contract “contingency?”
    31. 4.31 What stays with a home and what goes?
    32. 4.32 What is a lease option?
      1. 4.32.1 Can all the rent paid in a lease purchase be credited toward a down payment?
      2. 4.32.2 What is a seller “take-back” or “carry-back?”
      3. 4.32.3 Is an owner “take-back” a good way to finance a home?
    33. 4.33 Does it make sense to buy real estate for cash?
    34. 4.34 Why does closing cost so much?
    35. 4.35 Must I physically attend closing?
    36. 4.36 What is a “walk-through?”
  5. 5 Buying a REO/Lender Owned Foreclosure
    1. 5.1 What is a Rehab Loan
    2. 5.2 How does a Streamlined 203k Rehab Loan work?

Search Home Inventory

Home Buyer Incentives

Essential Tips

What is an “as is” sale?

An “as is” property is sold without a warranty as to condition, repairs, or structure.  With an “as is” sale, the buyer is on notice that the seller makes no promises regarding the property’s physical status.  With an “as is” sale, it is extremely difficult to make a claim against a seller if something is found to be wrong with the property after closing.  “As is” clauses should be seen as an absolute requirement to make the transaction contingent on a professional inspection “satisfactory” to you.  With a properly written sale agreement contingency, if you are not satisfied, then the deal is dead and you can get back your deposit in full. 


How long must I live in a house once I buy?

When you apply for a loan, a lender will ask if you intend to use the property as a prime residence.  If the answer is “yes,” then it is expected that you will physically move into the property and live there for some time.  There does not seem to be a set definition in the term “some time,” but what lenders are getting at is this:  They do not want to make residential loans with low rates and little down to investors. 


Thus, if someone gets a residential mortgage, instantly moves out, and quickly rents the place, lenders will be more than unhappy - they may call the loan.  They may also review the loan application to see if fraud was involved.  Lenders do not want borrowers to move in and then rapidly move out, but they will look at the “facts and circumstances” if such an event occurs.  For instance, a sudden job change not known in advance might be a valid reason for a move after several months of occupancy.  What lenders do not want are situations where a “residential” borrower is actually a disguised investor.  Given that most homes are occupied for 8-10 years, a move after several months or a year is likely to set off bells. 


Can I buy real estate with no money down?

Yes.  Millions of people have bought real estate with no money down through the VA loan program. 


If you mean, can you buy real estate at a discount of 20% or 25% with no cash or credit, and then instantly sell or rent the place at a profit, then the answer is probably not.  Why “probably” instead of “absolutely” not?  Because in a marketplace with millions of transactions each year, somebody somewhere has made a deal with no money down and rented or sold at a profit.  But it is also true that somebody somewhere was hit by lightening.  The problem is that the term “no money down” is sometimes in the worst cases a code expression for a deal where someone without cash or credit wishes to buy property from someone who is needy, unsophisticated, desperate, in mourning, etc.  Under the guise of “helping” the owner, buyers offer to purchase property at 20% off, or more, and with subordination and substitution clauses.  Of course, if purchasers really meant to be helpful, they would surely pay full market values.  Let’s be clear.  If no-money-down schemes are so wonderful, why do folks who engage in such investments have a need for “partners” with cash?


Rather than get-rich-quick tapes and seminars, prospective investors are best served by taking a basic real estate license class in your state.  This will explain much about financing, marketing, title, and other issues.  It will also allow an individual to take the entry-level real estate exam and qualify for a license.


We made an offer on a home that was about 5% below the asking price.  Our offer was rejected.  What can we do to make the owners more reasonable?

Who says the owners aren’t reasonable? They have established a market price for their home.  If they can get that price within a reasonable time frame, then they have logically priced their home.  If the price cannot be obtained, they will lower either the price or the property will be withdrawn from the market.  Because your experience in a different market made selling at a loss acceptable, that does not mean the same logic applies in other markets, or that your choice should in any way impact the sellers.  Perhaps it would make sense to restructure your offer - maybe raise your price but seek better terms. 


Where can I get more information regarding accessible housing options?

Try the following sources:

·        State architectural associations. 

·        Local builders. 

·        State and local builder organizations. 

·        Hardware and building supply outlets.

·        University architectural schools. 

·        The library of the National Association of Home Builders in Washington, DC. 

·        Local public housing agencies. 

·        Local chapters of associations that serve those with special needs. 



Can I discount the sale price to create a down payment?

No.  Lenders provide financing based on the sale price or the appraised value, whatever is less.  In the case of a “discounted” price, say selling a home worth $150,000 for $140,000, the sale price is $140,000.  Lenders do not recognize a discount. 


A better approach is to pay full market value but to make the transaction dependent on a “seller contribution” at closing.  The effect is the same, but the accounting makes more sense to lenders. 


What is a “due-on-sale” clause?

When a home is financed, the borrower agrees to make regular monthly payments.  However, if those payments are not made, if they are late, or if the lender’s security is reduced (by not making payments, damaging the property, not maintaining insurance, not paying property taxes, selling the property, selling a part of the property by placing someone else on the title, etc.), then the lender has the right to call for the complete and immediate (say within 30 days) repayment of the loan.  The mortgage language outlining the lender’s rights is generally called a “due-on-sale” or “acceleration” clause.  One effect of a due-on-sale clause is that it effectively prevents a loan from being assumed. 


Borrowers should note that state and federal law may limit the ability of lenders to enforce a due-on-sale clause.  For instance, a title change in the event of an estate situation may be allowed. 



What is a “seller contribution?”

A sale agreement typically includes both a purchase price for the property as well as terms and conditions.  It sometimes happens that a buyer will make an offer subject to certain terms. (I’ll buy your house, but I want to keep the washer and dryer, etc.) 


One possible condition concerns “seller contributions.” (For example, I’ll buy your house if you will pay the first $x of my closing costs.)  Lenders will generally accept seller contributions as part of a transaction providing they are written into the sale agreement, fully disclosed and only represent a limited fraction of the sale price.  Different loan programs have different contribution caps.  Lenders and brokers can provide specific advice. 


A seller contribution can be a useful bargaining chip in slow markets.  (Buy my house and you can have a credit of $x at closing.)  It’s a thought that goes a long way with cash-strapped buyers. 


Can I rent out a room to help me qualify for a loan?

Generally no.  Lenders have no assurance that such income will be regular and continuing. 


Can we use private financing to buy real estate?

In theory, yes.  In practice, not really.  The odds against private financing are substantial.  In 1997, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, 74% of all first-time buyers obtained financing from mortgage companies, 19% from commercial banks, 1% from Saving & Loans, 1% from “other” sources, 1% from credit unions, and 1% from private investors. 


We have stock that has significant value and we think its price will increase.  How can we come up with a down payment without selling our shares?

This is an increasingly common and delightful problem.  A home purchase typically requires either a sizable down payment, say 20%, or some form of backing by a third party, perhaps the FHA, VA, or a private mortgage insurance (PMI) company to buy with less down.  With a third party, loans with 15, 10, 5, and 3% and even nothing down are possible.  So, one choice is to look for financing with as little down as possible.  A second choice is to look at RAM financing, a reserve account mortgage. 


With a RAM loan, you might get 100% financing.  At the same time, you would deposit an asset with the lender; say the stock you do not want to sell.  The lender then holds onto the stock until the property has a certain level of equity caused loan amortization (reducing the size of the loan through payments) and, hopefully, increasing property values.  The borrower has 100% financing. 


RAM financing raises important questions:  Who gets the interest on the account?  What if the value of the securities declines? How is the new value for the property determined? What is the monthly payment? Is all interest deductible? Mortgage lenders and securities brokers can provide additional information.       


How quickly must I apply for a loan?

Many sale agreements require buyers to apply for a mortgage within a specific time period, say seven days after the contract is signed.  This is a negotiable item, however, and can be any period agreeable to both parties. 


This is an important matter because if an application is not made, then a buyer may be in violation of the sale agreement.  A violation of the sale agreement, in turn, could be grounds to forfeit the deposit.  Thus, buyers should go through the sale agreement with great care before signing to assure that all obligations are known and understood.  Work with an appropriate professional such as a buyer broker when reviewing a sale agreement. 


When you meet with a lender, be certain to obtain a letter stating that you met and showing when.  Immediately provide this letter to the seller’s broker in the manner required by the sale agreement. 


I am getting married in two months.  I have lousy credit, but my spouse-to-be has excellent credit.  Can my future spouse buy a home individually?

Yes.  However, he or she can only borrow based on one income and his or her credit standing.  Together you might have far more income.  Lenders, incidentally, will probably want both parties on the property title even if you are not on the mortgage.  This removes a barrier should foreclosure be required. 


What rules prohibit discrimination in real estate sales and financing?

The Fair Housing Act is the major legislation prohibiting discrimination in real estate.  It provides that there can be no offer to sell, rent, buy, or exchange property that contains any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, or familial status, or an intention to make such preference, limitation, or discrimination. 


This federal law applies to the sale and rental of housing, residential lots, advertising the sale or rental of housing, real estate financing, the provision of realty services, and the appraisal of real property.  It also prohibits the practice of “blockbusting.”


         Other federal laws that offer protection include:

·        The Civil Rights Act of 1866

·        The Civil Rights Act of 1968

·        The Americans with Disabilities Act

·        The Equal Credit Opportunity Act


State and local laws may also identify additional discriminatory factors that are prohibited. 

Brokers, lenders, and attorneys can explain such matters in detail. 


If the appraised value and the sale price of a home are different, what will lenders use when granting a mortgage?

Whatever is lower.  Lenders want as little risk as possible, so they will look at both the sale price and the appraised value and then make a loan based on the lower of the two numbers. 


What is “buyer’s remorse?”

With some frequency it happens that buyers often have a sense of remorse after contracting to buy a home.  Why?


A home is a very large purchase.  Not just in terms of dollars, but also in the sense of status, ego, and commitment.  And because it is such a transforming event, it naturally and reasonably causes some concern. 


But not to worry.  Buyer’s remorse typically passes in quick order. 


Can I buy a house after a bankruptcy?

Probably.  There are two issues to consider. 


First, lenders like to see two years of good credit after a bankruptcy is resolved.  However, there are instances where lenders will finance with a year of good credit. 


Second, lenders want to know why you have gone bankrupt.  There is a substantial difference between a bankruptcy that is caused by reckless financial habits and simple financial disasters (a car wreck, medical costs, the plant closed after 30 years, the town was underwater for three weeks, etc.).  In other words, not every bankruptcy is a by-product of financial negligence. 


What is a “stigmatized” property?

There are properties that are in flawless physical condition but may nevertheless present unusual marketing issues.  For instance, homes that have been the site of murders, suicides, or that are reportedly inhabited by ghosts are known as “stigmatized” properties.  This is a home with a condition that is psychological in nature rather than a matter of bricks and mortar. 


The subject of stigmatized houses is complex.  While some people may want a house with a ghost, others do not.  The subject gets tangled even further when one is asked whether murders and suicides at a property must be disclosed. 


The rules on this matter vary by state.  Some say a given condition must be disclosed, others say “no.”  Some say disclosure is not necessary after so many years, and some states say nothing one way or the other.  For specifics, please speak with a broker or real estate attorney in your community.


What is the difference between a co-op and a condo?

In general terms: A co-op is a corporation that owns real estate.  If you belong to a co-op, you own stock in the corporation and the exclusive right to a given unit.  There is usually an underlying mortgage on the property and your co-op fee includes some or all mortgage payments as well as other costs. 


With a condo, you own real estate and you have access to certain common facilities.  The condo is typically responsible for exterior maintenance and you pay a monthly condo fee.  You have your own title and mortgage, so mortgage costs are not part of the condo fee. 


What are some of the basic questions to ask when looking at a co-op?

Co-op ownership raises a number of issues that should be of concern:

1.  What is the value per unit of the underlying mortgage?  

2.  What is the voting system (one vote per unit or voting based on unit size)? 

3.  Is there a reserve fund for repairs?  If so, is it adequate?

4.  Are major repairs anticipated in the next two years? If so, how will they be funded?

5.  Is the co-op now facing or likely to face a lawsuit for any reason? If yes, what are the possible damages?

6.  What pricing trends are associated with the co-op? Are prices rising? Falling? Can you review all sales for the past year?

7.  Is a property tax rise known or expected?


We are considering the purchase of a condo in a complex that has an interesting pet rule: You can only have a dog or cat that can be carried into the building.  Is this fair?

The obvious intent is to limit larger dogs since domesticated cats can be readily carried by most adults.  The real test here is the strength of the owner rather than the size of the animal. 

Not all animals make good pets, regardless of size.  Venomous creatures, wild animals, and endangered species are certainly inappropriate. 


A more difficult question concerns larger dogs.  There are noise and sanitation issues, and there are special questions regarding breeds with a history of attacks.  It may well be that Rover is the best of his breed, but if Rover has a bad day and mauls a child the liability could be substantial. 


The condo association, for the protection of unit owners, raises a valid issue.  However, a better approach would be to speak with insurance carriers to determine how pet coverage is handled, exclude animals not covered, evolve a more precise pet standard, and make certain that owners understand both the condo policy and their personal liability. 


What is a lender’s escrow account?

When homes are bought with 80% or more financing from a single lender, the lender generally requires the borrower to make monthly payments to a lender “escrow” (trust) account. 

The purpose of the lender escrow account is to accumulate money to assure that the borrower’s property taxes and property insurance are paid (and thus reduce the lender’s risk). 


Lenders typically collect 1/12th of the annual costs for property insurance and taxes each month.  They are allowed to keep as much as one full year’s worth of tax and insurance payments in the account, plus a two-month safety margin, plus $50.  The only time the account is likely to have 12 monthly payments plus the two-month cushion is just before property taxes or insurance are due. 


Lenders must account to borrowers annually with a statement showing how much is in the account, whether monthly payments will rise or fall in the coming year, and whether any surplus or shortage appears in the account.  If the surplus is more than $50, the excess must be returned to the borrower.  Note that some states require lenders to pay interest on escrow accounts, others do not. 


How are escrow accounts used at closing?

It sometimes happens that not all agreed promises found in a sale agreement can be fulfilled by closing.  For instance, if closing takes place in January in a cold climate it may not be possible to test the air conditioning system. 


How does the buyer know the system works? It is best to wait until warmer weather to test the system.  But what if something is wrong with the system?  To resolve buyer concerns, an “escrow” account can be created at closing.  In this situation, money from the seller is held in reserve to pay for needed repairs as defined in the escrow agreement.  If repairs are not required, or if the cost is less than the amount of money set aside, the difference is returned to the sellers. 


What is 3/2 financing?

There are a number of loan programs directed toward first-time buyers that allow the purchase of property with as little as 3% down. 


The way they work is that a purchaser puts up 3% of the sale price and another party puts up 2%.  Who puts up the additional 2%? Programs differ, but some choices include:

·        A friend or relative providing a gift. 

·        A friend or relative providing a loan. 

·        An employer providing a loan. 

·        An employer proving a loan that does not have to be repaid if the individual stays with the company for a certain amount of time. 

·        A community group providing a loan or grant. 

·        A government agency providing a loan or grant. 

·        Amazingly enough, a lender who provides both 95% financing and a 2% loan. 


For details, please contact local lenders and real estate brokers. 


How can I buy real estate with my children using “shared equity?”

Shared equity is generally seen as a way that families can buy real estate together.  The kids live on the property and get the benefits of property usage and ownership tax advantages while Mom and Dad get an investment write off equal to their proportional interest.  (Shared equity arrangements, incidentally, can also be among friends, relatives, or business partners.)


Under a shared-equity arrangement, if you own half and the kids own half, you must pay half the mortgage, taxes etc.  The kids must pay their half, plus they must pay a market-rate rent for your half of the property in order for you to have a deduction.  Of course, once they have paid, you can also give them a gift equal to some portion, or maybe all, their rent. 


You will need to work out an equity-sharing arrangement with the help of a local attorney and CPA.  A broker can find an appropriate property.  Both you and your children will need wills, living wills, and a proper equity-sharing agreement.  You will need to understand what happens if your kids are laid off (you are responsible for the mortgage), or if you and your children become estranged.  You will also have to consider the interests of any other children you may have. 


How can our family buy real estate together?

There are a number of choices including:  Equity-sharing deals.  These have potential for everyone if a home in poor condition is purchased and the adult child will put in the sweat equity required to fix it up.  Partnerships.  Family partnerships are common but everyone has to understand their obligations. 


A corporation could be formed, with shares for everyone.  The problem here is selling shares in a small entity if someone wants out.  All familial arrangements should be based on a written agreement developed by an attorney, wills and living wills for everyone, and advice from a tax professional for each party.  Also, speak with lenders before making a final arrangement.  Some approaches may be easier to finance than others. 


We are buying a home and have a copy of the seller’s disclosure form.  Should we also get a home inspection?

Most states have a mandated seller disclosure form that must be used for most properties, but not all.  This form provides an opportunity for the seller to answer certain questions regarding the property’s condition.  Just ask the broker or the owner for a copy. 


But a seller disclosure form is not a substitute for an independent examination by a professional home inspector.  A seller may well complete a form to the best of his or her ability, but without knowledge of home construction, that ability may be limited.  And a state-written form may not ask the questions you want answered.  For example, when was the owner last in the attic to check for leaks?  When was the furnace last examined?  Does the home have aluminum wiring?


What is a “CMA?”

When owners offer a home for sale, they logically want the best possible price and terms for their property.  A “comparative market analysis” or “CMA” is an estimate of value prepared by a real estate broker or salesperson that shows recent past sales for like properties and suggests a possible asking price for the owner’s property. 


What is the difference between a “warranty” and an “inspection?”

A warranty and an inspection are different creations.  An inspection shows the condition of a home at a particular time.  A warranty provides compensation if an approved repair is required during the warranty period.  Not all warranties are alike.  Some cover repairs only above a certain minimum (that is reasonable).  Some have defect lists, but the standards for each list vary (some lists are vastly more liberal than others are).  Some warranty programs charge an inspection fee for each item. 


What is a contract “contingency?”

A sale agreement between buyer and seller typically outlines a series of obligations for each party.  Also, usually a sale agreement has one or more clauses that make the transaction dependent on certain events.  Such contract language is a “contingency” and the agreement itself can be seen as a “contingent” arrangement.


For example, you will buy the Smith house if you can get a mortgage at not more than 8% and one point.  If such financing is not available, if the contingency has not been met, then a contingency may provide that the deal will fall through and your deposit will be returned in full.


The words used in a sale agreement outline important rights and terms and should be written and reviewed with great care. 


What stays with a home and what goes?

In general, items that are physically attached to and intended to be part of a home are expected to stay.  Example, if there is a built-in dishwasher it should stay.  If the sellers take it, there would be a large hole in the kitchen cabinets. 


Items that stay are called “fixtures” but it is sometimes difficult to determine what is or is not a fixture.  Moreover, one can “create” a fixture in a purchase offer by saying that as a condition of the deal, the backyard swing set (or whatever) will stay. 


The best approach to fixtures is to list what stays in the purchase offer.  For details, speak with a broker as appropriate. 



What is a lease option?

It sometimes happens that a buyer does not want to purchase, or cannot purchase, immediately, and a seller does not want to sell, or cannot sell, immediately.  In this situation, both parties may want a “lease option” arrangement. 


In general, a lease option is an arrangement where a prospective buyer moves into a property as a tenant.  The buyer has the right to buy the property for a specific price during the option period.  The monthly rent is equal to the fair market rental rate plus an additional sum.  The additional sum is credited to the buyer at closing, should the buyer exercise the option to purchase.  If the buyer does not buy the property, then the additional monthly payments go to the owner. 


Lease option properties can be located by real estate brokers.  Lease options contracts should be reviewed by attorneys for each party to the transaction before signing.  Also, before entering into a lease option arrangement, speak with lenders to review current financing requirements. 


Can all the rent paid in a lease purchase be credited toward a down payment?

If the purchase is being financing by a commercial lender, the lender will want to know the fair market rental for the property.  Anything above the fair market rental can be considered a credit toward the purchase, anything below a fair market rental represents a discounted sale price.  A lower price, in turn, means the lender will not provide as much financing as buyer and seller may have wanted.   Speak with lenders for details. 


What is a seller “take-back” or “carry-back?”

A seller “take-back” works like this.  A home is worth $100,000 and has an assumable $60,000 mortgage.  You assume the mortgage.  Instead of taking $40,000 in cash from YOU, the seller instead takes back a note, secured by the property.  For example, the seller might take-back a note for $30,000 if you will put up $10,000 in cash. 


A seller take-back is just like a loan from any lender.  It must be repaid according to the terms and conditions outlined in the note.  If not repaid, the property can be foreclosed.  The rules that apply generally to mortgages may not apply to seller take-backs.  For example, some attorneys argue that a seller take-back is not subject to state usury rules (interest rate caps) because a seller take-back is NOT a loan, no money changed hands.   


Is an owner “take-back” a good way to finance a home?

Such financing is fine as long as it meets the usual standards you would expect with a loan.  These would include a competitive interest rate, no short-term balloon note, the right to prepay in whole or in part without penalty, or a deed of trust rather than a “mortgage,” so there is a trustee to accept a pay-off in case the owner is not available. 


But since a commercial lender is not involved, you will want many of the protections lenders require such as a title search, title insurance, termite inspection, survey, a proper deed, etc. 


Does it make sense to buy real estate for cash?

Probably the best answer works like this: Is there a better place to put your money? Is there an alternative investment that will produce like returns with equal risk? Is it simply more comfortable as a matter of personal preference to pay cash? The decision to pay cash or not pay cash includes both economic considerations and personal choices.  Many people simply prefer a home that is free and clear of all debt.  Several advantages can be obtained by paying all cash.  There is no mortgage application and no need for private mortgage insurance.  There is also no mortgage interest to write off. 


However, if you elect to pay all cash, be sure to insist on the protections that a lender would want  a title inspection, title insurance, survey, termite inspection, appraisal, etc. 


It may be worthwhile to sit down with a tax professional or a fee-only financial planner to review the consequences of paying all cash or financing. 



Why does closing cost so much?

State and local governments have discovered that real estate transfers are wondrous opportunities to tax with little political responsibility.  If a politician says that taxes should be raised, the individual may well be out of work when elections next roll around.  But if real estate transfer taxes are raised, the game changes because many of those impacted by the higher tax will move elsewhere, and thus they cannot vote against the politician.


The result is that transfer taxes and “stamps” often amount to thousands of dollars per transaction, income that is enormously profitable to states and local communities. 


Must I physically attend closing?

Check with your closing provider, but in most jurisdictions, if not all, the answer seems to be “no.”


The purpose of closing is to assure that all requirements of the sale agreement have been met.  The closing papers need to be signed by all parties to the transaction, and often notarized or witnessed. 


However, the signing process need not be done at the closing table.  Documents can be reviewed and signed away from the closing table and sent to the closing provider by overnight delivery. 


What is a “walk-through?”

When you purchase an existing home, you enter into a sale agreement at one point but only close on the sale some weeks later.  To assure that the property is in substantially the same condition as when the sale agreement was signed, a buyer will “walk through” the property just before closing. 


If you are a buyer, be sure to allocate enough time for a thorough walk-through. 

In the case of a new home, the situation is a little different.  Typically, there is a walk-through with the builder’s representative.  Items not completed, or not properly completed, are entered onto a “punch list.” The punch list items are then detailed at closing and the builder is obligated to make required repairs and completions. 


When going through a new home, buyers should make their own punch list and compare it with the builder’s representative to assure that nothing is missed by accident.   

Buying a REO/Lender Owned Foreclosure

 blah blah balh

What is a Rehab Loan

Most mortgage financing plans provide only permanent financing. That is, the lender will not usually close the loan and release the mortgage proceeds unless the condition and value of the property provide adequate loan security. When rehabilitation is involved, this means that a lender typically requires the improvements to be finished before a long-term mortgage is made.

When a homebuyer wants to purchase a house in need of repair or modernization, the homebuyer usually has to obtain financing first to purchase the dwelling; additional financing to do the rehabilitation construction; and a permanent mortgage when the work is completed to pay off the interim loans with a permanent mortgage. Often the interim financing (the acquisition and construction loans) involves relatively high interest rates and short amortization periods. The Section 203(k) program was designed to address this situation. The borrower can get just one mortgage loan, at a long-term fixed (or adjustable) rate, to finance both the acquisition and the rehabilitation of the property. To provide funds for the rehabilitation, the mortgage amount is based on the projected value of the property with the work completed, taking into account the cost of the work. To minimize the risk to the mortgage lender, the mortgage loan (the maximum allowable amount) is eligible for endorsement by HUD as soon as the mortgage proceeds are disbursed and a rehabilitation escrow account is established. At this point the lender has a fully-insured mortgage loan.

How does a Streamlined 203k Rehab Loan work?

It used to be that you bought a home and then applied for a home equity loan to fix it up, resulting in two loans. But many lenders won't make rehab loans. Some won't fund equity loans at closing, especially if there is no equity.

A Streamlined 203K loan is figured into the original loan balance, resulting in one loan.

It can be an adjustable-rate or fixed-rate mortgage .

The mortgage balance can exceed the purchase price of the property.

Borrowers are not required to hire professional consultants, licensed engineers or architects.

The appraiser or home inspector can put together a list of recommended repairs / improvements.

Eligible Repairs & Improvements
The Streamlined 203K loan allows for simple repairs that can be easily estimated and completed. Many are considered light cosmetic repairs, but some will require hiring a licensed contractor if it falls out of the borrower's area of expertise. Here is an approved list of repairs / improvements from HUD:

Roofs, gutters and downspouts
HVAC systems (heating, venting and air conditioning)
Plumbing and electrical
Minor kitchen and bath remodels
Flooring: carpet, tile, wood, etc.
Interior and exterior painting
New windows and doors
Weather stripping & insulation
Improvements for persons with disabilities
Energy efficient improvements
Stabilizing or removing lead-based paint
Decks, patios, porches
Basement completion and waterproofing
Septic or well systems
Purchase of new kitchen appliances or washer / dryer

Special Conditions & Terms

No minimum loan balance required.
Borrowers must occupy the property.
Property cannot be vacant for more than 30 days.
Work must be completed within six months.
Work must be professional.
If job requires a permit, borrowers must get a permit and a sign-off.
Work must commence within 30 days from closing.

Repairs Not Permitted

Landscaping or yard work
Major remodeling
Moving a load-bearing wall
Room additions or add-ons to the home
Fixing structural damage

Requirements to Perform the Work

Borrowers can select among licensed contractors.
The lender will review the contractor's experience, background and referrals.
The lender will want a copy of the contractor's estimate and the agreement between the contractor and borrower.
Borrowers can also arrange to do some or all of the work under a "self help" arrangement.
Do-it-yourself projects require providing the lender with documentation supporting the borrower's knowledge, experience and ability to perform the necessary work.

Disbursement of Payments

Maximum of two payments to each contractor, including the borrower, providing the borrower works under a "self help" plan.
No more than a 50% advance is allowed.
Do-it-yourself allowances do not include labor; only materials costs are allowed.
Final payment is paid after submission of evidence of payment to sub-contractors / suppliers or other possible lien claimants.

Reasons to Apply For a Loan Below $15,000

The lender is not required to inspect the completed work.
The lender is not required to authorize a third party to inspect the completed work.
A letter from the borrower or copies of contractor receipts will suffice as notice of completion, providing the lender has no reason to determine a third-party inspection is necessary.

Home Financing

posted Dec 16, 2009, 9:52 PM by Casey Elliott

Pre-Approval vs. Pre-Qualification

REALTORS® recommend that buyers get pre-approved prior to initiating the mortgage process to determine the best type of mortgage for you and avoid rushing into a mortgage decision. Pre-approval is an official agreement by the lender specifying the exact amount for which you've been approved. In order to get pre-approved, you'll meet with a loan officer who'll review your credit history and often suggest a mortgage type that fits your situation. This process requires supplying the lender with various financial documents discussed in the Financing section. By receiving pre-approval before making an offer to purchase, you'll demonstrate your serious intentions and financial ability to the seller.

Pre-approval is not to be confused with pre-qualification, however. Pre-qualification provides an informal means to find out how much you may be able to borrow. Before setting your price range for how much you can spend on a new home, you may want to pre-qualify for a mortgage. You can be pre-qualified over the phone by answering a few questions about your income, long-term debt and the amount of your downpayment. Getting pre-qualified gives you a ballpark figure of the amount you may have available to spend on a home.

Downpayments and Financial Assistance

Even first-time buyers are usually aware that they'll be required to make a downpayment in order to secure a home. But what you may not have heard is that within the past decade, downpayment assistance programs have been developed that either lower the deposit dramatically or eliminate it altogether. Before making your downpayment, you'll want to investigate these programs to see if you qualify. Several California and federal assistance programs are outlined in the Financing section.

While low downpayments might seem attractive to cash-strapped buyers, keep in mind that the larger the downpayment, the smaller the mortgage loan -- thereby allowing you to develop equity quicker. You'll also want to consider that mortgages with less than a 20-percent downpayment usually require mortgage insurance. When determining the size of your downpayment, you may want to weigh the other costs involved, including closing costs and relocating expenses.

You'll find information about the various types of mortgages, application process, homeowners' insurance and more in the Financingsection.

Credit Information

posted Dec 16, 2009, 9:50 PM by Casey Elliott

For many homebuyers, credit is a big consideration in the buying process. In applying for a mortgage, your credit may be the single factor that opens or closes the door to purchasing the home you want at a low interest rate. You may believe you have a strong credit rating but have never actually seen your credit report. Or perhaps you're concerned that past credit problems will come back to haunt you as you apply for a mortgage

Whichever boat you're in, the first step is the same: Obtain a copy of your credit report for a small fee and review it for accuracy. Credit reports are maintained by three credit reporting agencies: Experian,TransUnion and Equifax. It's a good idea to obtain your credit report from all three agencies, since each may contain different information and you don't know which agency will be supplying your report to your lender.

If there is incorrect or missing information that would improve your credit score, report it to the credit bureau. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers have the right to review and contest information in their credit reports. Even if your credit report reads exactly like you expected and your credit is in fine shape, going into the mortgage application procedure with peace of mind is worth the nominal fee.

What is credit?

Credit is a record of a person's debts and payment history. Credit bureaus compile individual reports of consumer debt through an array of sources, including credit card companies, banks, the IRS, department stores and gasoline companies, and any other entities granting loans. A credit report is a résumé of your financial performance, with information on your payment standing for all the accounts you've held for the past seven to 10 years (seven years for accounts not paid as agreed and 10 years for accounts paid as agreed).

What is a credit score?

Credit scores, also called "beacon scores," are composites that indicate how likely you are to pay on a loan or credit card as agreed based upon your payment history, amount of debts, length of credit history and types of credit in use. The credit grantor reviewing your loan application compiles your score based on information from your credit report and other data, including your income level.

Fair, Isaac and Company (FICO) developed the mathematical formula for establishing scores. Scores range from 300 (poor) to 850 (excellent), and the rule of thumb is the higher the score, the lower the risk to lenders.

In the past, consumers have not been allowed to view their credit score or be informed of the factors that determined their scores. However, C.A.R.-sponsored SB 1607, signed by California Gov. Gray Davis on Oct. 2, 2000, granted California homebuyers access to their credit scores and pertinent information about what factors determined their scores. The legislation, which becomes effective July 1, 2001, also allows consumers to receive their credit scores when they request copies of their credit files for a nominal fee.

What role does credit play?

Lenders review credit reports to determine debts owed and if they are repaid according to the terms of the initial contract. If you have any outstanding debt, lenders will analyze your debt-to-income ratio and how that debt will factor into your ability to make your mortgage payments.

What do I do when I get my report?

Read through it carefully, paying extra attention to the section on your account payment history.

How do I establish credit?

If you have never taken out a credit card or borrowed money from a financial institution, or if your accounts are young, you can establish credit history by having your rent payments to landlords and monthly payments to utility companies added to your credit report.

How do I re-establish good credit?

If your credit report contains negative information, such as frequent late payments, repossessions, collection activity or bankruptcy, you may want to wait to apply until after you've improved your credit record. Rebuild your credit by showing strong payment history in the years following any problems. Most lenders prefer for three years to have passed since a foreclosure on a mortgage and at least two years since bankruptcy. Lenders are willing to forgive past black marks on a credit report if you establish a pattern of responsible debt repayment.

How do I correct a mistake?

Follow the directions of the credit bureau issuing your report. The bureau will contact the source of the information in question and attempt to resolve the dispute. Also, if late payment information is accurate but you have a good explanation (e.g., you were laid off from work or became very ill), you are allowed to add that information to your report.

Beginning Your Home Search

posted Dec 16, 2009, 9:34 PM by Casey Elliott

Once you've determined that you're ready to buy, it's time to begin thinking about where you want to look. You'll find there are many questions you must answer about the type of house you want to purchase. For example, are you interested in an older home or a new one? How big of a home do you need? Would you like to move closer to certain major roads or freeways? Your REALTOR® can answer many questions about the homes and communities you're considering, and in the meantime, there are myriad resources available for you to begin your research.

Location Is Everything

Do you want to live in a particular city or neighborhood? If you're a parent, you're probably considering school districts and other child-friendly options like the proximity to parks. If you're relocating to an unfamiliar area, you can contact the city or county government for information about the community. It's a good idea to investiage crime statistics per neighborhood when you're narrowing down the areas of your home search.

Or perhaps location is the reason why you're buying in the first place -- to move closer to your work, your spouse's work or your extended family, or to live within a particular school district's zone. As you're probably aware, the location of your home can have a dramatic effect on its price.

Size Matters

You may have experienced growing pains in your current home, which prompted you to pursue buying a new abode. Or you're entering a self-employed profession and need a home office. Consider all your space requirements before you start searching for a new home. There's no reason to waste time looking at two-bedroom condos when you really need a four-bedroom house.

Locating Listings

Once you've narrowed down the specifics of your ideal home, where do you find listings? Your REALTOR® has access to thousands of listings in your area through the Multiple Listings Service (MLS).  CLICK HERE TO BROWSE HOME LISTINGS :)

The American Dream

posted Dec 16, 2009, 9:31 PM by Casey Elliott

For the vast majority of us, owning a home is part of the American Dream. According to a study conducted by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, 87 percent of those polled cited owning a home as the number one criterion for defining "the good life." Owners and renters alike considered homeownership desirable for the following reasons: the pride of ownership, their dislike of paying rent, and the ability to change features of their homes to match their individual tastes and needs.

In addition, owning your own home provides a sense of security and well-being that's hard to beat. Home is where we raise our families, have friends over for summer barbeques, paint the baby's room pink or blue, and find refuge from the outside world.

Owning a home offers other advantages as well. For instance, as a homeowner, you have control over your environment. Not only can you change your home to meet your needs, but you also aren't subject to the terms of a lease or a landlord. As a homeowner, you can experience the emotional and financial security that comes from knowing what your housing expenses will be from year to year. Unlike rents, which can increase annually, most mortgages have fixed or capped monthly payments. So, as a homeowner, you can have a much better idea of what proportion of your paycheck goes toward your home. Think of it as the ultimate savings plan.

Bottom-Line Benefits

And it only gets better. Homeownership is the primary component in the creation of wealth for many Americans. Data from Harvard University's Joint Center of Housing Studies illustrate not only that the median net wealth of homeowners is 34 times greater than that of renters, but also that over half of that wealth is generated from home equity. As you pay down your loan amount each month, you accumulate equity, a growing ownership interest in your property. If you need funds, you can borrow against this equity in the form of a home equity loan. Further, interest on a portion of home equity is tax-deductible.

Most homes appreciate in value over time and can be a source of income for you, especially if you've lived in your house for many years. When you retire, you can sell your home if you need the funds or make use of a home equity conversion mortgage.

Finally, don't forget about the significant tax advantages of owning your home. Interest on a home mortgage and property taxes are deductible. For most of us, mortgage interest provides the largest tax deduction. Also, a home is the single most important factor that determines whether you will be able to file a return which takes advantage of the wide range of allowable itemized deductions.

Homebuying Means Getting Back To The Basics

Recently, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® surveyed homebuyers to find out what they considered to be important in the purchase of their homes. The largest percentage, 27 percent, considered the mere ownership of a home as the most important reason to buy. Moving to a better neighborhood (17 percent), wanting a larger home (10 percent), and realizing the tax advantages of homeownership (8 percent) were other reasons cited for buying homes. Seven percent focused on investment value as their primary motivation for homeownership.

Over the years, your home likely will be the best investment you'll ever make. But more importantly, it will be the place that offers you and your family shelter, security and stability. That's some return on investment.

Homebuyer Tax Credit Changes

posted Nov 6, 2009, 7:27 AM by Casey Elliott

Congress has extended and expanded the homebuyer tax credit. The modifications in the column labeled
“December 1 – April 30, 2010” become effective when President Obama signs the bill. All changes made
to the current credit become effective on that date, as well.

Life Too Short To Rent?

posted Sep 6, 2009, 3:30 PM by Casey Elliott

By Renting you are throwing away 60% of your income?

Let me show you how paying $1,500 a month in rent will result in you throwing away $45,000 a year!

Gross income for the year.

Puts you in a 37% tax bracket (federal and state combined)
75000 x 37% = $27,750

Rent is $1500 a month.
1500 x 12 = $18,000

61% of your income is being thrown out the window!!!
27,750 + 18,000 = $45,750

Now we can find you a home with a payment of $2500 a month, lets see what that does for the numbers.

Gross income for the year.

Mortgage interest for the year.
12 x 2500 = $30,000

Taxable income for the year.

Puts you in a 33% tax bracket (federal and state combined)
45000 x 33% = $14,850

There is no way to beat the system, but this is how the system can work for you!!!

Tax money now going toward your future!

Rent money now going towards equity!

Owning instantly puts all this money that your were throwing out the window towards your future! With out effecting your life style at all.

Who can afford not to own a home?

Call today for your FREE consultation.

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