Beginning the Home Buying Process – Part 2

[photopress:MacCommercial.jpg,full,alignright] The next step in the Home Buying Process is determining how much home you can afford and how much you actually want to spend. When buying your very first property, it is important to note that while a lender may tell you that you can afford a property priced at $350,000, lenders do not actually qualify you based on sale price. It has become common practice for the ease of agents and buyers to quote a sale price. But the actual process qualifies you for a monthly payment that includes Principal + Interest + Taxes + Insurance/HOA Dues.

This is VERY important because a Townhome with very high monthly dues can be more expensive, even though it has a lower price, than a Single Family attached townhome.

There are four townhomes on my desk. Let’s look at these as a real life, current example. Let’s calculate the monthly payment based on 20% down and an interest rate of 6.25%. 20% down is clearly not the norm for a first time homebuyer, but the way to finance the amount of loan on the 20% top portion, varies greatly from one individual to the next. So we are eliminating that factor to make the point that taxes and homeowner dues, can impact the price at which you can purchase, even though your “lender letter” says you qualify at $350,000.

1. Price $315,000 – Taxes $1,559 a year – Dues $310 a month (Condo Townhome)

2. Price $359,000 – Taxes $2,986 a year – Dues $282 a month (Condo Townhome)

3. Price $365,000 – Taxes $2,064 a year – Dues $239 a month (Condo Townhome)

4. Price $375,000 – Taxes $2,460 a year – Dues $75 a month (SFR Townhome)

1. Payment $1,550 + $130 taxes + $310 dues = Total Payment of $1,990

2. Payment of $,1765 + $250 taxes + 280 dues = Total Payment of $2,295

3. Payment of $1,800 + $170 taxes + $240 dues = Total Payment of $2,210

4. Payment of $1,850 + $205 taxes + $75 dues = Total Payment of $2,130

The homes in price order do not follow suit with regard to monthly payment order. The second lowest price has the highest monthly payment.

If the lender qualified you at a purchase price of $350,000 with 20% down at 6.25% using $200 as estimated dues and $200 as estimated taxes, that would translate into qualifying you at a payment of $2,125. Using the real life examples above, you would actually qualify better for the townhome priced at $375,000 than the one priced at $359,000, even though the lender said your max affordability was $350,000.

When you and your agent walk off with a lender letter at $350,000 and buy a townhome or condo at $350,000, but the lender used $200 a month for taxes and the real taxes are $300 a month, and the lender used $200 for monthly dues, but the real dues are $325…the sale can fail on financing issues. Many owners and agents get very angry when the financing fails, but it really falls upon the agent to know the estimate of taxes and dues used by the lender, so they can adjust on a case by case basis before submitting an offer.

Moral of the story is, when a lender hands you a letter saying “you qualify at a purchase price of $350,000”, make sure you know the interest rate, downpayment, taxes and ins./hoa dues the lender used to come up with that number. Then you can adjust, if you are liking a townhome with dues of $425 a month!

We all know that one complex in Bellevue that has high dues and more “Sale Fail Releases” than any other complex in the Seattle area. Now you know why that is happening.

Beginning the Home Buying Process – Part 1

[photopress:matt.jpg,thumb,alignright]My friend “Matt” is a first time buyer beginning his home search/buying process. That is not his picture, or his real name, of course. By giving him anonimity, I can take him through the steps here on RCG, so that others can follow along with us. Think of it like a board game. The “Matt” game. This will be a series that will run up until “Matt” closes escrow, and possibly beyond into his first month or two as a homeowner, and the surprises that may come up after he moves in.

Given a “blog” is a web log, it seems appropriate for a real estate blog to offer a log of real people in the home buying process. So lets log and blog the adventures of “Matt” and his home buying process. I’d love for someone to turn it into a board game at the same time. We can give it to potential homebuyers. Maybe Galen or Robbie. It could be like the game of “Life” and people who are thinking about buying a home, can buy the game and “play” before stepping out into unknown territory.

START: “I’m thinking to buy a home this fall. Likely an (x area) townhome just outside the (x) growth zone. Any advice on what I should be reading/doing to get up to speed for home-hunting?”

Now I am going to make this as transparent as I possibly can, without giving away the identity of “Matt” or the location of the home search, for obvious reasons.

STEP 1: The first step is the most extensive one, as it combines many factors. Home Price, which is determined by monthly payment affordability, cash needed to close, and commission to be paid to the Buyer’s Agent. This is all one big first step, as the Commission Negotiation affects the “cash to close” issue. So let’s do that first.

The target purchase price, as already pre-conceived by the word “townhome”, and specified area in the email, is $295,000 to $495,000. For the purpose of this Step, let’s assume that “Matt” has in mind to purchase something for around $375,000, that he is thinking his monthly payment is going to be about $2,200 and that he has saved $20,000 toward the home purchase. This may or may not be the case, but let’s start with that assumption for now.

The ball is in my court. Since I know that “Matt” works in the Technology Industry, and I believe he is a first time buyer, I have already picked up the phone and called Jennifer Chi at First Tech Credit Union. The number one issue is, do they still have that fabulous first time buyer program that I have not used for awhile, and if so, what is the current interest rate, downpayment requirement, and cost for that program. I am waiting for a call back. Left a message. My expectation is that they require little or no money down, have total lender costs of about $600, and the rate is about 5.75 %. Let’s see how close I am, if in fact that program is even still available.

Some people think the first step is for the buyer to go to “the lender”, without consulting the agent. Not so. As the agent I first want to determine who might be the “best” lender for this particular client, as I have already done. Of course the client can do whatever they want over there on the side, and check out all kinds of lenders and loan programs. But that does not relieve me of the responsibility to seek out the best and special programs, especially when I am already aware of their existince, and the likelihood that he probably qualifies for it.

Next on my “To Do” list is to Negotiate the Commission. Since I already know “Matt”, I don’t have to stick him in my car and interview him to determine the fee. Based on a sale price of $375,000, I would not normally negotiate the fee up front, as in that price range, I need to reserve monies for repairs and other issues. But since we will likely be looking at newer townhomes and he gets that “special friend” treatment, let’s establish a flat fee of $6,000, which should give him an extra $5,250.00 to spend, and still leave me enough to fix a few things and get him a nice housewarming gift 🙂

This is an important first step because if any sellers are offering less than 3%, it becomes “Matt’s problem” and not mine. Everyone makes such a huge big deal about Negotiating Buyer Agent Fees. Look. It is that simple. Matt didn’t even have to put in his $.02. LOL. Of course Matt has other options, but that is my offer and he can take it or leave it or negotiate it back at me. We’ll see what he does.

That’s all we can do until we get that call back from First Tech Credit Union, as we cannot determine the price of property to look for, until we know the monthly payment he can afford, which we cannot know until we know the interest rate and cash requirements for that particular loan, which is the best, if they have it and he can qualify for it. More to come…