Real estate bargains

real estateThe typical real estate investor and the average home buyer have something in common – they both are looking for a home that makes financial sense, a bargain if you will. After all, who wants to overpay for their home? Although the investor’s priority is purely financial, a home buyer’s priority is a mix of lifestyle requirements that fits a budget. Even with priorities in line, both investors and home buyers don’t always recognize a bargain when it presents itself.

Finding a bargain home is not as easy as some will have you believe. Bargain hunters typically look for distressed properties such as foreclosures (also known as “bank owned” or REO homes) and short sales. Although there was abundant opportunity to buying such homes immediately after the housing crash, many were hesitant due to lack of market confidence. However, as confidence was revived in the housing market, the courthouse real estate auctions were once again attended home buyers and investors looking for good buys. And as home prices increased, so did the price for distressed properties; making it more difficult to find the bargain home. Even “motivated” home owners may not be as motivated as you think in today’s market.

real estate bargains

This phenomenon is corroborated by a recent study of “bargain homes” by Trulia’s research blog. Ralph McLaughlin reported on January 7th (Where Is A “Bargain” Really A Bargain?; that advertised bargains were actually good buys in 55 of 100 housing markets. Furthermore, hot markets tend to offer less price discounting than cooler markets; home sellers are less inclined to make price reductions in markets where there is increased buyer competition. Locally, the Baltimore metro region was found to be in the top discounted markets for bargain homes (with an average discount of 11.3%); while the Washington DC metro region was found to be in bottom of discounted markets with an average of 4% discount on a bargain home.

It’s clear now that home prices were at the bottom during 2008-2009. At that time, home inventories swelled and there was an abundance of (what would seem today) “cheap” homes for sale. I wrote at that time (If Cheap isn’t Selling, What is?; May 28, 2008) about how cheap homes were not selling, and how home buyers changed their focus from “buy anything” to buying quality homes that impart value. Of course, one of the main reasons cheap homes were not selling quickly was that there was an additional cost associated with the purchase; most of the cheap homes were distressed and required rehab, or at the very least needed updates and minor renovations.

For most investors, the concept of a bargain home is strictly the result of numbers in a formula; and for some home buyers, the bargain may be about getting a good price. However, a bargain home could be more than just the price tag. Maybe the bargain home is also the “value added” home. Rather than just focusing on price, buyers should also be aware of a home’s potential. Of course there is always risk when buying a home, which we experienced during the financial meltdown eight years ago.

Regardless, many lament having not bought homes at or near the price bottom. But hindsight is 20/20. And what didn’t seem like a bargain just a few years ago, is in comparison to today’s increasing home prices and an active housing market, a missed opportunity.

Copyright © Dan Krell

If you like this post, do not copy; instead please:
reference the article,
like it at facebook
or re-tweet.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Renovate your home with FHA 203k

FHA 203k
Renovate your home with a FHA 203k

If you’re like many home buyers, you’re probably looking for a home that is “turnkey” or an updated home that is ready to move right in.  However, since inventory is tight, competition can get intense.  But rather than passing on the “diamond in the rough,” consider the FHA 203k.

The FHA 203k is HUD’s rehabilitation loan.  The “203k” actually refers to the section within the National Housing Act that provides HUD with the ability “…to promote and facilitate the restoration and preservation of the Nation’s existing housing stock;” in other words provide mortgages to renovate and rehabilitate existing homes.  Although the program is not allowed to provide for “luxury” upgrades (such as hot tubs), the program may be used “…to finance such items as painting, room additions, decks and other items…”

If you’re purchasing a home that is not a total rehab project, there is a streamlined version of the program that can assist you to purchase the home and provide additional funds (up to $35,000) for improvements and upgrades.  The FHA 203k-streamline is a “limited loan program” designed to provide quicker access to funds so your home move-in ready relatively quickly.

The “203k” process is relatively straight forward.  After identifying a home, you should consult your 203k lender and consultant about the feasibility of a FHA 203k.  A project proposal is prepared detailing a cost estimate for each repair/improvement.  During loan underwriting, the appraisal is completed to determine the value of the home after the proposed repairs/improvements are completed.  If the mortgage is approved, the home is purchased with the loan and the remaining funds are placed in escrow to pay for the project.

Much like a typical mortgage, you must qualify for the program by meeting underwriting standards for borrowers.  However, unlike the typical mortgage, additional underwriting requirements include review of architectural plans and repair estimates (materials and labor) from licensed contractors.  HUD approved consultants/inspectors examine and evaluate the project’s progress to ensure work is completed and compliant with HUD standards.  Funds for the repairs/renovations are released in draws to ensure the work is completed as intended as well as meeting all zoning, health and building codes.

Of course, the home must also meet eligibility guidelines.  The home: must be one to four units; must be at least one year old; and must meet neighborhood zoning requirements. The program allows for major rehabilitation on homes that have been razed provided that the foundation still exists.

But what if you’ve decided to renovate your home rather than move?  The FHA 203k allows for home owners to make renovations, updates, and sometimes additions.  The possibilities seem endless (as long as your vision stays within the loan limits).   Besides painting and updating kitchen and bathrooms, you could possibly even expand your existing house with an addition.  The FHA 203k even allows for many “green” upgrades to make your home more efficient.

FHA guidelines have been revised in recent years, and may undergo further revisions.  It is important for home buyers and others who are interested in the FHA 203k to consult with an approved FHA lender for borrower and home qualifying guidelines, loan limits and 203k acceptable improvements.  Additional information (including a list of lenders) can be found on the HUD website (

Original published at

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector

By Dan Krell

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Is there risk in buying distressed properties?

foreclosureby Dan Krell &copy 2009

It’s not a secret that home buyers are flocking to distressed properties for the perceived bargains. Bargain distressed properties (including bank owned homes and short sales) are listed below retail prices, mostly due to the condition and other factors. “Buyer beware” is a saying that home buyers should consider when purchasing distressed properties.

Experienced real estate investors know the risks involved in distressed propeties, which they calculate in their purchase prices. However, the average home buyer may not know the extent of the risk at the exciting prospect of buying a lower priced home.

Not all distressed sales are the same. To understand the differences, you have to know who owns the home as well as the lender’s role in the sale. A short sale is an owner resale where the home owner is selling for less than what is owed to the lender. Although approval from the seller’s lender is required for such a sale, the bank is not the owner yet as the home has not been foreclosed on. On the other hand, bank owned homes (also known as REO property), has been foreclosed on and is now owned by a bank due to non-payment of the mortgage.

During a short sale, the seller’s lender goes through the loss mitigation process to determine how much of a loss they are willing take on the sale. This process is what typically extends the time to closing, sometimes more than three months. Whereas the loss mitigation process is usually completed prior to listing the home, the sale can be delayed too – but usually for title issues.

Both sales require you to purchase the home “as- is;” however because the short sale seller is usually accessible, you may have the opportunity to negotiate some repairs. Additionally, the short sale listing is sometimes in better condition than a bank owned home because the home is usually still occupied by someone as well as having recent updates.

Bank owned homes are vacant and the condition may vary due to the bank’s decision to make repairs prior to listing the home. However, since the home is vacant, vagrants, animals and weather can further deteriorate the condition of the home. If the home is in need of repair, the bank will not make the repairs nor will they allow any repairs to be made prior to settlement. If the previous owner made improvements without permits and/or there is termite damage, you are stuck with any remediation.

A short sale home seller will usually provide common ownership community (such as HOA) resale documents to you as required. Fines incurred for late fees and other issues are usually cleared by the seller. However when purchasing a bank owned home, you typically need to approach the common ownership community to negotiate any fines and pay for the resale documents.

Additionally, sellers in both sales urge you to use the title agent assisting them with the sale. However, you should choose a title attorney to represent you to minimize title issues and ensure you have a marketable title.

Without risk, there is no reward. You cannot entirely eliminate risk; however, due diligence, conducting inspections, and hiring the proper representation can reduce the risk that is inherent in purchasing a distressed property.

This column 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 August 17, 2009. Copyright © 2009 Dan Krell

Finding a real estate bargain

Many first-time home buyers and investors whom I encounter typically ask about foreclosures and handyman-specials. Essentially they are looking to buy a real estate bargain. When is the best time to by a real estate bargain?

A foreclosure is a home that has been repossessed by the holder of the mortgage note, usually a bank. The process of foreclosure varies depending in which state the foreclosed home exists and what type of mortgage document exists on the home. To make a long story short, the home is either auctioned to the highest bidder, or the home is taken over by the bank to be sold on the market. The foreclosed homes that are put on the market are also called REO, which stands for real estate owned by bank.

Foreclosed homes can also be bought at auction. Auctions are usually conducted at the courthouse by a local auctioneer. These types of auctions are also known as a trustee’s sale or substitute trustee’s sale. If you are interested in attending an auction, you can find the advertisements for the auctions in the local papers’ classified section. To bid on the home, you must have the minimum deposit in the form of certified funds. The minimum deposit is usually posted in the advertisement. If you are buying a foreclosed home at auction, you are essentially buying it “as-is” without the ability to do a home inspection prior to close.

When the bank has taken title to a foreclosed home, a Realtor is usually hired to list the home on the Multiple List Service (MLS). In this scenario, you have an opportunity to view the home before you decide to submit your offer. The home is generally sold “as-is.” Hopefully, you will have a Realtor of your own to advise you of the value and general condition of the home.

Generally, the process of buying a foreclosed property can be bumpy due to foreclosure process. Sometimes the previous owner will damage the home (sometimes on purpose), or take valuable materials out of the home such as copper or other fixtures. Additionally, the home is locked up for months, often without utilities. Mold growth is typical due to water penetration, and/or other structural and environmental concerns.

A handyman special is a term that is often used when a home is sold by the owner. The home can have deferred maintenance or other damage.  The home could be a rental property in need of “TLC.” Many times, a handyman special will require mostly a great deal of cosmetic work, such as painting, carpet, etc. Sometimes, there are some structural concerns, such as (but not limited to) replacing a roof, or fixing walls.

Overall, when considering a real estate bargain whether you will have to determine if the home is worth the price you want to pay. In addition to the acquisition cost, you will have to consider the total cost to repair the home, as well as the costs to make updates. It is also important to look at the recent neighborhood comparables to see if the price or adjusted price (price plus costs for repairs) is in line.

If the market is depressed or a buyers’ market, there may be some choices in a real estate bargain.  However,  if the market favors the seller, there are fewer bargains. In a sellers’ market, distressed properties can sell for close to market value.

by Dan Krell © 2005