Be Prepared to Repair Home Before You Purchase It!

by Dan Krell
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The FHA mortgage has recently changed to accommodate the changing marketplace. Due to its broad availability and higher loan limits, the FHA mortgage is more prevalent now than it has been in the recent past. So, if you are a home buyer, it’s a good chance that you may be applying for a FHA mortgage to purchase your home.

You can expect the FHA underwriting to be flexible yet careful and thorough. You know that FHA underwrites your credit as a buyer, but did you know that FHA underwrites the property condition as well?

FHA underwriters and appraisers are required to assess a home for security, safety, and soundness. To protect your interests as a home buyer (security), as well as the interests of the FHA and lender, the home you are buying must meet minimum health and safety standards, as well as being structurally sound. Any deficiencies identified by the FHA appraiser will be required to be repaired prior to your closing (HUD.gov).

Having a home inspection may allow you to identify easily seen deficiencies within the home. If there are any safety or structural issues, you can be fairly certain that the FHA appraiser will see these as well and require these items to be repaired. However, since your home inspector is not an appraiser nor is the appraisal a home inspection (and having different purposes), there may be disparity between the two.

Items that are often identified by the FHA appraiser as needing repairs include (but not limited to): defective (peeling or chipping) paint surfaces in homes built before 1978; broken windows; roof having less than two years of useful life remaining; drainage problems; lack of handrails on stairwells of three or more steps; pest infestation; damaged and/or non-functioning electric, plumbing, or HVAC systems; foundation and structural defects; underground fuel (i.e., oil) tanks; and any other health or safety issue (fhainfo.com).

The FHA addendum (GCAAR form 1330 in this area) explains who is to make the required repairs: the buyer typically gives the seller notice what repairs are to be made. However, if the seller refuses to make the repairs the buyer has the option to make the repairs themselves. If both the buyer and seller refuse to make the repairs, the contract becomes void.

Many times, the buyer and seller negotiate as to how the repairs are to be made prior to closing. However, if you are purchasing a bank owned home, the bank usually prohibits the buyer from making any alterations to the home prior to settlement- including repairs.

If the home is in poor condition, however, the FHA appraiser will likely reject the home for FHA 203b financing. Don’t worry, though, you can apply for the FHA’s renovation mortgage (FHA 203k). Additionally, you can apply for a FHA 203k if the home you are purchasing is conveyed “as-is” (such as a bank owned home or short sale) and repairs are required. Be careful though, not all FHA lenders offer the 203k loan; you can find a FHA 203k lender at HUD.gov.
The FHA mortgage is an excellent way to finance your home purchase. However be prepared because property condition can sometimes turn a seemingly good deal into a no-deal.

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 29, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.

Real Estate Tax traps You Need to Know About

by Dan Krell

It is unfortunate that many home buyers and home sellers neglect to consult with experts and sometimes enter into situations that may not be in their best interest. There are several common situations that are associated to real estate transactions that seem beneficial, but may actually incur a tax liability to those involved. The situations are the “short sale,” rebate programs, and the use of a down payment assistance programs.

The short sale has gained popularity recently as a sluggish market has forced some desperate home sellers to reduce the price of their home below what is actually owed. A short sale is when the lender agrees to accept an amount that is less than the payoff amount in order to sell a home. The concept is simple although the process is sometimes problematic. Although there is no net profit from a short sale, the financially challenged home seller can find some relief when they engage in such a process.

Although the short sale can help you out of a mortgage crisis, the IRS looks at the difference between the actual mortgage payoff and the negotiated payoff as a financial gain to you. You will most likely be issued a 1099 at the end of the year by your lender.

Another popular practice that seems beneficial but may have some liability is the rebate program. Rebates are offered to Home buyers and home sellers as a business incentive from organizations, brokers, and Realtors to use their services. Some organizations and credit unions offer buyer rebates as a value added service to its members if an affiliated broker or Realtor is used. For example, Costco offers rebates to its members of up to 0.75% of the price of the home when affiliated service providers are used. USAA offers its members up to $3,100 when the MoversAdvantage® program is used. If you participate in such a program, you may receive a 1099 as you may have incurred a tax liability.

Although they have been scrutinized by HUD and the IRS, down payment assistance programs have been used by millions nationwide to assist in the purchase of a home. Down payment assistance programs are non-profit organizations that assist home buyers with limited funds to purchase a home by providing the money needed for their down payment. The funds provided to the home buyer are typically received by the program as a gift from the home seller. These programs have been criticized as being a circle scheme funneling extra money from the home seller to the home buyer to assist in the purchase of the home, circumventing the underwriting guidelines.

Last year, the IRS revoked the non profit status of some of these programs citing that that the amount given to the program from the seller is directly related to the amount provided to the buyer. Additionally, the amounts in question are only provided to the program if the sale closes. If you use such a program, you should consult the IRS on the tax exempt status of the program as well as any tax liability you may incur.

As any real estate transaction may have tax ramifications, you should always consult a tax expert for advice.

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 May 21, 2007. Copyright © 2007 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