Category Archives: Buying a Home

Real Estate Agents and Buying a Home

Did you know that many real estate agents spend just as much time with home buyers as home sellers? This is something that a lot of consumers are not aware of. The reason for this is that you can purchase a home without the help of an agent. But with the competition and details that need to be taken care of in today’s day and age, getting help from an agent is almost necessary.

The question is: are certain real estate agents better at helping home buyers than others? This is a difficult question to answer, and one that is based on the agents who do business in your area. Generally speaking, if an agent is familiar with the area and has experience, they should be able to help you to find a home. In other words, real estate agents do not do anything out of the norm when it comes to helping home buyers; they all pretty much offer the same services.

When it comes down to it, you will want to find a real estate agent that has experience helping buyers in your part of the country. Even though any agent will be able to lend some sort of help, only those who know where to look will be the most beneficial to your situation. When a real estate agent has knowledge of an area, he or she will be able to pass this along to you, the buyer. Remember, if an agent does not know where to look for homes, they could point you in the wrong direction which could end up being quite harmful in the end.

The nice thing about getting the help of an agent when buying is that they will never charge you for their service. Instead, they will split the commission with the agent that is selling the property. This means that you get all kinds of professional help without having to pay for it. Does it get any better than that? Too bad home sellers cannot get the same deal!

Overall, more and more real estate agents are helping home buyers just as much as home sellers. If you are in the market, find an agent who you are comfortable doing business with.

Lease to Own

I’m not sure why a lot of people are looking for this, but I’ve been getting a lot of inquiries regarding rent-to-own or lease-to-own arrangements.

With the recent changes in the FHA limits – credit in our area is easier to come by. Unless you have poor credit, you should really think about buying straight-up. And of course, I’d be happy to help you with that.

If you’re interested in a rent-to-own purchase, then here is some information for you:

For the Seller – From the Orlando Sentinel:

Lease-to-Own Primer

Lease-to-own agreements can help sell a hard-to-sell property during a sluggish housing market. Here’s how they work:

  • A seller agrees to rent a property to an interested buyer for a set period of time, usually one to three years. At the end of the lease, the buyer has the option to purchase the home at a preset price.
  • A portion of the monthly rent paid during the lease is usually counted toward the down payment. To cover that, the seller charges a rent increment or monthly premium of $200 to $300 compared to comparable rentals.
  • Many owners also charge an option fee for taking the property off the market, usually 1 percent to 2 percent of the sale price. This may be applied toward the purchase.
  • Sellers have no guarantee that renters will buy at the end of the term, but if they don’t, they keep the option fee and the amount of the rent that would have gone toward the down payment.

Source: Orlando Sentinel (03/09/08)

And for the Purchaser – From About.com

* Buyer pays the seller option money for the right to later purchase the property. This option money may be substantial or as little as $1.

* Buyer and seller may agree to a purchase price now or the buyer may agree to pay market value at the time the option is exercised. It is negotiable. However, most buyers want to lock in the future purchase price upon inception of the option.

* The term of the option agreement is negotiable, but the common length is generally from one year to three years.

* Option money is rarely refundable.

* Nobody else can buy the property during the option period.

* The buyer can sell the option to somebody else.

* If the buyer does not exercise the option and purchase the property at the end of the option, the option expires.

* The buyer is not obligated to buy the property.

Basics of a Lease Option

* Buyer pays the seller option money for the right to later purchase the property. The lease option money may be substantial.

* Buyer and seller may agree to a purchase price now or the buyer may agree to pay market value at the time the option is exercised. It is negotiable. However, most buyers want to lock in the future purchase price upon inception of the lease option.

* During the term of the lease option, the buyer agrees to lease the property from the seller for a predetermined rental amount.

* The term of the lease option agreement is negotiable, but the common length is generally from one year to three years.

* The option money generally does not apply toward the down payment.

* A portion of the monthly rental payment typically applies toward the purchase price.

* Option money is rarely refundable.

* Nobody else can buy the property during the lease option period.

* The buyer generally cannot assign the lease option without seller approval.

* If the buyer does not exercise the lease option and purchase the property at the end of the lease option, the option expires.

* The buyer is not obligated to buy the property.

Basics of a Lease Purchase

* Buyer pays the seller option money for the right to later purchase the property. This option money may be substantial.

* Buyer and seller agree on a purchase price, often at or a bit higher than market value.

* During the term of the option, the buyer agrees to lease the property from the seller for a predetermined rental amount.

* The term of the lease purchase agreement is negotiable, but the common length is generally from one year to three years, at which time the buyer applies for bank financing and pays the seller in full.

* The option money generally does not apply toward the down payment.

* A portion of the monthly lease payment typically applies toward the purchase price.

* Option money is nonrefundable.

* Nobody else can buy the property unless the buyer defaults.

* The buyer typically cannot assign the lease purchase agreement without seller approval.

* Buyers are often responsible for maintaining the property and paying all expenses associated with its upkeep, including taxes and insurance.

* The buyer is obligated to buy the property.

Doing a Lease Option / Lease Purchase

Hire a real estate lawyer to draw the documents and explain your rights, including those of possession and default consequences. The property might be encumbered by underlying loans that contain alienation clauses, giving the lender the right to accelerate the loans upon sale.

Sometimes sellers give the option money to their real estate agent as full payment of commission. Agents are not always involved in the exercise of lease options or fulfillment of lease purchase agreements and, even if you have retained real estate agent representation, you still need a real estate lawyer. Agents are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice.

In the event of a lease purchase, obtain all the disclosures and do your due diligence just like you would on a regular sale. This means:

* Get a home inspection.
* Examine the title policy.
* Obtain an appraisal.
* Read seller disclosures.
* Consider obtaining pest inspections, a roof certification, home warranty plan and hiring other qualified inspectors.

Lease Purchase Benefits for Sellers and Buyers

Lease purchase agreements are commonly offered by sellers of hard-to-sell properties. Think about it, if the property was easy to sell, the seller would sell it to a conventional buyer who would pay the seller cash.

* Sellers generally get market value at today’s prices and relief from paying a mortgage on a vacant property.

* Although the lease payments may exceed market rent, the buyer is building a down payment and banking that the property will appreciate beyond the agreed upon purchase price.

* Buyers generally make a small down payment, with little or no qualifying, making a lease purchase an attractive way to ease into the benefits of home ownership.

* Buyers also receive a forced savings plan since part of the lease payment is credited toward the purchase price at the end of the lease option agreement.

* If the buyer defaults, sellers do not refund any portion of the lease payments nor the option money and may retain the right to sue for specific performance.

For more information, contact a real estate lawyer or your local Anne Arundel County Realtor.

Locking in your mortgage rates

This story in the Washington Post: Mortgage Rates Change in the Blink of an Eye highlights the uncertainty in today’s real estate market.

A lot of factors go into making things uncertain right now. For instance, the media continues to foster the idea of a national real estate market – when no such market exists. All real estate markets are local or regional. And now that the government is working an economic stimulus plan through the system, more and more volatility is going to be present in the markets as the mortgage industry figures things out.

In the mean time keep the following in mind: if you’ve been in your house for more than three years, and you’re looking to buy another house that you’ll be in for more than three years – then now is an excellent time to move-up. Interest rates continue to be at or near historical lows, government backed lending limits have been raised to all time highs, and your house has still gone up in value (at least in Anne Arundel county and surrounding areas).

Have your lender keep an eye on interest rates and make sure you lock in your rate when the time is right. Locking in the interest rate on a mortgage loan before it goes to settlement can save you money if rates go up after you lock. At the very least, a rate lock allows you better plan for closing – since you’ll know what your interest rate and cash requirements will be at the settlement table.

Keep in mind however that lock-ins only last so long – usually 30 to 60 days – so if you don’t have a firm date for your settlement within that time frame you might have to pay extra to keep the locked in rate if interest rates go up. This is especially worrisome when it comes to new construction which may be delayed due to weather or other problems, and it can also be an issue if you’re buying a home but don’t yet have yours sold – but you need to in order to qualify.

Get yourself ready to lock-in at a low rate by getting the appraisal done early, providing all necessary paperwork to your lender, and staying in contact with your lender.

Once you get everything done and you feel comfortable with where the rates are today – be ready to act if rates drop to where you want them.

I spoke to one mortgage guy last week who said that rates dropped low but only for a few hours. He called up his clients and asked them if they wanted to lock (most did). A few said they wanted to think about or they wanted some additional information. By the time they were ready to make a decision, rates had already gone up again.

Should you Rent or Own?

If you need somewhere to live, you have two options available. You can either rent or you can buy. Of course, there are other setups that you can look into, but all in all, these are your two best options. Although it may sound easy enough to choose, when it comes down to it, deciding to rent or own can be a very difficult decision. After all, there are some benefits and drawbacks of each one. You will want to make sure that you are sure of what you are getting into no matte which option you choose.

First off, take a closer look at what renting has to offer. The main benefit of this is that you will not have to pay any large sums of money out of your pocket up front. In other words, you do not have to pay for a down payment or closing costs. At most, you may have to pay a security deposit in order to protect the landlord. On the other side of things, when you rent a home or apartment you are not building any equity. You are basically paying somebody else for a space based on your lease. When you leave you leave. You do not have to sell anything, and you do not own any stake in the property.

On the other side of things, buying a home means that you are going to more than likely need money for a down payment and closing costs. There are some loan programs that may work with you as far as the down payment is concerned, but generally speaking, you are going to need some money in order to finalize the transaction. But of course, when you own you will be building equity in a piece of real estate. And if you are lucky enough to finally pay your home off, you will be in a position to live mortgage free. This is a day that a lot of people look forward to.

As you can see, there is no way of saying if you should rent or own. You need to decide what benefits you the most, and then make your move. The decision should be yours, and after doing research into both options, you should be able to make up your mind.