Home sellers may encouter surprises

by Dan Krell © 2012

money to close on homeSo you’re planning to list your home in the spring, or maybe your home is already listed for sale…

In an effort to avoid surprises, you consult with your real estate agent and ask many questions. Your agent, also looking forward to a transaction without incident, tries to prepare you for the ups and downs of home selling. No matter how much preparation you and your agent do for the sale, there still can be surprises; here are the three often encountered surprises:

The home buyer failed to qualify for their mortgage:

Real estate agents often do not discuss the truth about lender pre-approval letters (lender pre-approval letters are not all the same). When you receive an offer on your home, there is usually a “pre-approval” letter from a mortgage lender indicating that the buyer is qualified to obtain a mortgage to purchase your home.

Although the pre-approval process typically checks the buyer’s credit, the process sometimes varies when it comes to verifying the buyer’s income and assets. Although many loan officers exercise due diligence and collect income and asset documentation prior to issuing a pre-approval letter; some loan officers feel confident to issue a pre-approval letter solely on the basis of the buyer’s verbal accounting of their income and assets. Make sure your agent is in contact with the buyer’s loan officer; and ask if all the necessary documents have been reviewed before the pre-approval letter was issued.

Unanticipated withholding tax at closing:

Besides negotiating closing costs, your agent will explain that there are additional fees and costs that you should expect to pay at closing. A surprise often awaiting the unsuspecting home seller is a withholding tax; such as the Maryland non-resident seller withholding tax, the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act, and beginning in 2013- the unearned income tax outlined in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. Additional information can be obtained from the Comptroller of Maryland, and the Internal Revenue Service, and your tax preparer or CPA. Before listing your home for sale, consult your tax preparer or CPA to determine your tax liability for any additional real estate related withholding tax.

Your home does not appraise at contract price:

One of the outcomes of the financial crisis was the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC). The HVCC was devised to establish increased accountability and independence in the appraisal industry. You might think that since placing additional regulation on the appraisal industry, appraisals should be more consistent. However, there has been much criticism about the inconsistency among appraisals and difficulty in understanding the standards and methodology used in determining a home’s value. The issue may partly stem from appraisal management companies that are sometimes used by lenders to comply with the HVCC, while the issue may also partly stem from lenders imposing specific underwriting guidelines on various loan products. In preparation, your agent should gather valid sales comparables that can be given to the appraiser as rationale for the contract price.

No one like surprises, so hopefully you’re prepared for the ups and downs of selling your home in today’s market. Although some real estate agents may pride themselves on how they handle surprises to put out the “fires;” the truly skilled agent can anticipate most situations to minimize the surprises that can occur during a real estate transaction.

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of September 24, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.