Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Five Tips to Buying a Short Sale Home

Buyers are throwing up their hands in frustration. "Don't show me any more short sales!" Buying a short sale home is not for the faint of heart.

When short sales first started, people would ask if a short sale was short in time. No, actually if you have ever heard the word Oxymoron and wondered what it means, Short Sales are the perfect example of it (combined words that are contradictory).

However, with realistic expectations patient buyers are getting homes up to 10% lower than the comparable homes. Keys to successful short sales include:

1. Realistic Expectations. Expect lengthy escrows 3-6 months on average. Once the buyers and sellers agree on a price and terms, then the home should either be placed in the "Contingent" or "Pending" status on the multiple listings. This will signify that there is an accepted offer awaiting the bank's approval. The bank must approve the short sale as well as all the terms of the offer. If the seller refuses to choose one offer, and sends all offers to the bank, then it is best to continue to shop because someone else may outbid you. Remember, while most of the time, the banks will approve the short sales, there is no guarantee.

2. Short Sales in Progress. Seek out homes that have already started the process. In the past, if the home had been on the market a long time, everyone always wondered what was wrong with it. However, while short sales wait a long time for the bank to approve the offer, this question goes out the window. Those homes that have been on the market a long time may be just what the buyer is looking for. If a previous buyer changes his mind and the approval has been started, a new buyer may be able to slip into their place, shortening their approval times to 2-3 months.

3. One Loan Homes. Seek out homes with only one lender to get approval from. The more liens a home has on its title, the more complicated and time consuming the process is.

4. Closing Cost Credits. Buyers should ask for the seller to pay up to 3% of their closing costs. In return, the buyers should expect to pay for items that many short sale banks are refusing to pay for including: Termite work, Home Warranties, Repairs, costly second liens and HOA dues in the rear.

5. Vision. When shopping for a home, buyers need to have vision. They need to see the potential in a home. Finding a run-down home in a good neighborhood, can make a lot of sense. There is less competition for the home and the buyer can remodel it to their liking. If the work is more than carpet and paint, a renovation loan can be used to purchase the home. While these loans have a higher interest rate, the lower price can offset that.

So don't give up hope on short sales, they take longer but under the mess is the potential for a beautiful home.

--Virginia Hall
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Direct (619)258-8585 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (619)258-8585 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Sunday, November 28, 2010

San Diego Home Affordability Index Improved

When someone says to me, "that house just isn't worth what they are asking for" and the house is well below the comparable home prices, my first question is, where are you from originally? Not meaning this in a bad way, but when I hear that comment I know they are from a different part of the United States.

Yes home prices in San Diego County seem outrageous to people relocating from Michigan, Florida, and even from people as close as El Centro, where the home prices are up to a 1/4th of the price. However, I quickly remind them that the prices in San Francisco and New York are a lot more and it rains twice as much." I also remind them that they are paying for the weather here in Sunny Southern California.

According to the Union Tribune San Diego's housing affordability has actually improved in the third quarter. Data showed that 51.5% percent of households making a median income of $75,500 can now afford to buy a $325,000 median priced home. The affordability index has improved since May, when San Diego ranked 11th with only 46.6% able to buy.

Looking at the history of the National Association of Home Builders Housing Opportunity index in San Diego, we have come a long way from the fourth quarter in 2005, when San Diego ranked 7th with only 3.6% able to afford the $500,000 medium priced home and to the other extreme last year when San Diego ranked 25th with home prices at $270,000.

While San Diego County is now ranked the 12th least affordable market in the United States, we are still considerably more affordable than New York, who ranked the least affordable with only 22.6% able to buy a $435,000 median priced home, and San Francisco ranking second with only 28% able to afford the $600,000 median priced home.

With California having 7 of the top 10 least affordable cities, you are probably wondering where is the most affordable housing. Drum roll please.....Kokomo, Indiana was the most affordable with 96.1% able to afford the median price home $83,000 with a median household income of $61,400. However, remember while San Diego has an average rainfall of 7" compared to Kokomo with an average 40" and not to mention the average snow fall of around 22".

With low interest rates and the risk of prices falling behind us, economist, David Crowe, fears that San Diego may grow less affordable in the future; however, he also sees rising prices ironically representing a sign of a better housing market to come.

--Virginia Hall
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Direct (619)258-8585

Saturday, September 18, 2010

First-time Home Buyer Tips

The following suggestions will help the First-time Home Buyer to make the most of the market:

Find a Real Estate Consultant. The First thing to do is seek out the free advice of a Realtor. You will want to find just one Realtor that can advise you and represent your best interests. You will want a Realtor who is willing to answer questions and educate you on the process. It is not uncommon to sign a Buyer Broker Agreement with an experienced committed Realtor. The agreement outlines the agents' responsibilities, as well as the buyers'. Figure out what is the best way to communicate--be it email, phone, or text.

Discuss Affordability. One of the first people you should talk to is a lender or mortgage broker. They can help you see where you are and where you need to be. How much have you saved for a down payment? How much can you budget to spend each month? Will you need to factor mortgage insurance into their monthly payments? What can you expect to pay in property taxes? Working through questions up front can help you get a better handle on what you can truly afford. Also do not make any large purchases on credit until after the close of escrow to avoid changes in your credit scores.

Discuss Home Ownership Goals. What are your goals and why do you want to buy? How long do you plan on staying in the home? What are your needs in the future? When you first start it is easy to look for your dream home and when you are first entering the market you may need to lower your expectations. Remember that you need to just get on the bus and work your way up as your income improves and you grow your equity.

Match Your Expectations to Your Price Range. Many first-timer home buyers live in small apartments, but when buying will not settle for anything but a house. Understanding that you are at an entry point in the marketplace, and that you are not likely to get all the bells and whistles with your first home in a price range that you can comfortably afford.

Familiarize Yourself with Starter Home Inventory. Begin looking at your market with a fresh eye toward affordable entry-level homes, including properties that may not have been considered before. Falling prices have opened up some areas that have been out of reach to first-time buyers for years. Knowing the inventory inside out will help your expectations as to the type and condition of homes that fit your price range. Once you have a good feel for the homes in your price range, then you are ready to buy.

These are the keys to a successful First Time Home Buyer purchase.

--Virginia Hall
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Direct (619)258-8585

Monday, August 30, 2010

To Remodel? Or Not to Remodel? That is the Question

I am often asked "What should I do to prepare my home?"

1. Clean & Declutter. While most people have cluttered closets and dishes in the sink, now is the time to show the home at its best. The number one thing that I tell people is to thoroughly clean and declutter your home. Everything should shine. This is the cheapest most effective way to prepare your home.

If you are uncertain at what level to thin out your belongings, you can visit some open houses to get an idea. All counter tops should be cleared and closets should be organized.

If your rooms are crowded, you may want to remove over-sized furniture,opening up the room giving it a more open feel. Some people rent storage containers or storage units that they can move many of the items that you are not ready to part with.

Clean out the closets. When people look in your closets, they will be looking for space. If you are squeezing in your clothes, like most of us, it is time for thinning out the closets and making a run to the Salvation Army.

Don't forget to clean the carpet, windows, and the blinds. Buyers get distracted by personal photos, so best to pack them up.

2. Curb Appeal. While you are decluttering the inside, look at the outside and see if there isn't a bush that needs some pruning. Pull up the weeds and throw down some decorative bark in between bushes to give the yard a fresh look.

Right before the For Sale sign goes up. Add some color near the front door. Plant a hardy colorful plant that will make it through the next couple of months.

3. Got Pets? This can be a challenge. You will want to have all dogs outside, if possible or take them for a walk while the home is being shown. If your house has a pet or a cigarette odor, and you do not have the money to replace the carpet, then you will want to keep windows open and try a plug in deodorizer. I found some spray deodorizers that can help including Smell Be gone ( and Fabreeze. Also if you have litter boxes, they must be cleaned out daily.

4. Paint. If it has been a few years since you have painted, it may be time for a fresh coat of paint or touch up. Definitely, patch up any holes and go with a neutral color. For those of you have been watching HGTV, beware of bold colors. When you prepare a home to sell, you should be thinking gentle colors with your furnishings and decor being the contrast.

5. Remodeling. Many people talk about remodeling their kitchens and bathrooms before listing. If you are not planning to move for a couple of years, this is fine. However, if you are doing in hopes of getting more money for the home, you may be disappointed. While remodeling kitchens and bathrooms definitely helps a home to sell faster, you may not recoup the money you put into it. According to most Cost to Value Reports, the average return on the investment for a minor kitchen remodel(average $25,000) is 83 percent and for an average bathroom remodel (average cost $18,000)is 78.1 percent. A lot of hassle and money to invest, when you may not recoup the full cost.

So when preparing to sell your home, it is best to keep it simple with these tips.

--Virginia Hall
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
DRE #01409760

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Relocation Costs

Considering a move to a new city? Before you pack your bags and hire a moving company, be sure to research the potential price tag of relocating. It may cost more than you think.

Cost of living can vary greatly from town to town, so be sure to do some research before taking the plunge. Better Homes and Gardens recommends browsing the local newspaper for grocery promotions, ads, and other local news to track costs so you can put those figures into a worksheet and determine the income you might need. While several cost-of-living calculators are available on the Internet, they provide only general figures and don’t take into account specific housing needs.

Be sure to ask a Certified Residential Specialist in your target area about “hidden” homeownership costs, such as recreation fees, trash collection and community services. Try to obtain a one-year sampling of utility bills for the type of home you’re considering. What can you expect to pay for telephone, cable TV and Internet services? Will you have your own septic tank and water pump, or will the community provide water service?

There are a host of other expenses to consider. What taxes will you pay? Higher taxes may mean better schools, libraries, trash collection and other community services, while lower taxes could mean higher expenses for these services. But it pays to have all the facts before you make a move.

Likewise, transportation and parking costs often are higher in larger cities, while a small-town commute can mean a short walk or bike ride. Also, gas prices can be more costly in some areas than in others.

Leisure time costs can add up as well. How much more will you have to pay for tennis or health club memberships, adult education classes and golf course fees?

Moving away from family and friends can mean more frequent phone calls and trips back home, so be sure to allow for those additional costs as well.

Provided by CRS--Your Home June 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

So What in the World is HAFA?
A New Foreclosure Alternative

By now, everyone knows someone who has lost their home to a foreclosure or undergone a “Short Sale” that seem to take forever. In an effort to help homeowners avoid foreclosures and streamline the short sale process, on April 5, 2010 the Treasury Department enacted the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program, better known as HAFA. The program was developed to provide a viable alternative for struggling homeowners who are unable to keep their homes even after qualifying for the existing Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).

The program includes simplifying the “Short Sale” process by allowing homeowners to seek the lender’s pre-approval of the short sale price and terms prior to listing the property. The homeowner will be able to use the financial and hardship information already collected during the loan modification process to qualify for this program. It requires lenders to fully release homeowners from future liability for the first mortgage debt, and to provide homeowners with up to $3,000 in relocation money. The program also offers financial incentives for lenders to encourage their cooperation.

While it seems these guidelines may be flexible, the general qualifying criteria for the HAFA program are:

1. The property is the borrower’s principal residence;
2. The mortgage loan is a first lien mortgage originated on or before January 1, 2009;
3. The mortgage is delinquent or default is reasonably foreseeable;
4. The current unpaid principal balance is equal to or less than
$729,7501; and
5. The borrower’s total monthly mortgage payment exceeds 31 percent of the
borrower’s gross income.

For more details, visit the Making Homes Affordable Website. The program ends on December 31, 2012.

So help is on the way for struggling homeowners and soon short sales may actually close in less than 45 days. Struggling homeowners are encouraged to contact their local Realtor® today to
discuss alternatives to foreclosure.

--Virginia Hall
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Direct (619)258-8585

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

California First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit--First Come First Serve

The Federal tax credit is gone. However, California enacted a new first time (FTB) and "Brand New" Home Buyer Tax credit 5 percent of the purchase price or a maximum of $10,000 that began on May 1, 2010 that requires you to act now because the credit will only be available on a first come first serve basis. $100 million was allocated to FTB's and $100 million was allocated for buyers of New, never lived in, home buyers.

While these credit are available for taxpayers who purchase a qualified principal residence until the end of the year, the California Association Realtors® expects "the money will be used up very quickly".

Besides the limited funds, another issue that has come to light is the refunds are divided over 3 years and applied towards what the home buyers owe in state taxes. So many taxpayers may not be able to utilize the entire credit, if they don't owe as much as the credit. Taxpayers should consult their tax accountants to see how to take full advantage of the tax credit.

Please see the State of California Franchise Tax Board website for more detailed information.

So if are wondering if now is the time to buy a home and take advantage of the tax credit. Now is definitely the time, before the money runs out.

--Virginia Hall
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Direct (619)258-8585

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Three FHA Loan Changes

In 1934, the FHA was created with the intent of helping those with low and moderate incomes to buy homes. In the past, FHA increased its market share during housing market slumps and played an important role in stabilizing the market. While a 10% share is optimal, FHA insured nearly 30% of all home loans in the past year. Even government officials believe this may be way too large.

So the FHA has made some more stringent changes to reduce their risk:

1. This month, the 3.5 percent down-payment requirements on loans insured by the FHA have increased to 10 percent for borrowers with credit scores below 580. Borrowers with credit scores of 580 or above still will be able to put down the traditional 3.5percent down.
2. The upfront mortgage insurance premium increased from 1.75 percent to 2.25 percent
3. The closing cost concessions that sellers could give buyers has been reduced from 6 percent of the loan amount to 3 percent.

However, these changes are encouraging some home buyers to return to Private-Mortgage-Insurance (PMI), who have also made changes to their policies. In the recent past, PMI was not available in an area with a declining market, such as California. Although, according to Lew Sichelman of The Los Angeles Times,"one private mortgage insurance company now will insure five-percent down-payment loans to borrowers nationwide."

Buyers need to remember that premiums for both private mortgage insurance and government-insured FHA loans may be tax deductible. Also, after gaining 20% equity in the home, with an appraisal, the mortgage insurance can typically be canceled.

--Virginia Hall
"2010 Five Star Real Estate Agent"
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Direct (619)258-8585

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Limited Time $18,000 in Combined Homebuyer Tax Credits

Wow! What an opportunity for first time California homebuyers and move-up buyers purchasing brand new homes. Between now and April 30, 2010, if a first time buyer enters into an accepted contract and closes before June 30, 2010, they may qualify for up to $18,000 total in Federal and California State tax credits during a brief window of opportunity.

Move-up buyers, who are not first-time buyers, purchasing a brand new home and have lived in their present home for at least five years, may also use the same time frames to receive up to $16,500 in combined tax credits as permitted under the federal law.

According to the California Association of Realtors, "Under a newly enacted California law, a home buyer may receive up to $10,000 in tax credits as a first-time buyer or buyer of a property that has never been occupied. The new California law applies to certain purchases that close escrow on or after May 1, 2010 (see Cal. Rev. & Tax Code section 17059.1(a)(4)). California law generally allows buyers of never-occupied properties to reserve their credits before closing escrow, but buyers seeking to combine the federal and state tax credits will not be able to satisfy the timing requirements for such reservations (see Cal. Rev. & Tax Code section 17059.1(c)(1)(A)). Other terms and restrictions apply to both tax credits."

California lawmakers allocated $100 million to first time buyers and another $100 million for buyers of brand new homes to be applied in equal amounts over a period of three taxable years. So the new tax credits will only be available until the funds run out and there are certain limitations. The funds are limited, so don't dally.

For more information and details, visit the official
California Franchise Tax Board website

--Virginia Hall
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Direct (619)258-8585

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Buyer's Representation is Free, Free, Free!

I recently had a friend call me after he had entered into a contract on a home, only he used the listing agent to represent him,as the buyer. He thought that by using the listing agent with a cash offer, that he was more likely to get his offer accepted. Which may be true, since the agent will be double ending it--walking away with the full commission rather than just half. Can't blame the agent. Dual agency is legal in California. In most cases, an agent can represent both parties fairly...or so it seems.

Regarding commissions, the standard of practice in Southern California is the seller pays the full commission to their listing agent who splits it with the buyer's agent. Therefore the buyer who believes he is saving money and still getting the best representation, may be sorely mistaken.

Ironically my friend called me, someone he trusts, to ask if I knew of someone that could look over his paperwork. He hadn't used agent in his last real estate transaction and didn't understand all the paperwork. I had to explain to him that I could not, nor would any ethical realtor, review the paperwork after hiring the listing agent to represent him. This would be interferring with their agency and could land myself or the other realtor in hot water. So I had to refer him to a real estate lawyer. And they aren't cheap.

I explained that the next time, he would be better off hiring a separate agent to represent him and then he would feel like someone is really looking out for his best interest. Often the listing agent has established a relationship with the sellers, making it difficult to be impartial; as well as it is often difficult to keep certain confidential information from slipping out.

While I have done dual agency in the past, and believe that in certain circumstances it may be a good way to sell a more challenging home. However, I firmly believe the best way to buy a home is with your own FREE representation.

--Virginia Hall
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Direct (619)258-8585

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hidden Treasure

Tax day is just around the corner, and many homeowners forget that they’re sitting on a wealth of potential savings — in their home. Tax deductions for homeowners are plentiful, so keep these guidelines in mind as you prepare your return this year.

First, know that if you deduct home expenses, you have to file form 1040 (also known as the long form) and itemize your deductions on Schedule A. While it can be a headache, the rewards might be worth it.

Remember that the mortgage on your home is deductible — at least the real estate taxes, qualifying interest and premiums, for a loan up to $1 million, according to the IRS. Note that fire or homeowner’s insurance premiums and the principal mortgage amount are not deductible. Here’s how to calculate what’s deductible: Enter your total real estate taxes for the year, and enter the number of days in the property tax year that you owned the property. Divide the number of days by 366, and multiply that number by your total real estate taxes for the year.

Paid off your mortgage early? The penalty you might have received is tax deductible as home mortgage interest, as long as it’s not for a specific service performed or a cost connected with your mortgage loan.

You may have heard that home repairs can qualify for tax deductions, but home improvements are the real winners. An improvement is classified as anything that adds to the value of the home — for instance, making a room handicapped accessible or adding a deck to the back of your home. Always keep receipts and records — and remember, if you borrowed money for that improvement, the interest on the loan is tax deductible, just as it is with the mortgage payments.

Another item many homeowners forget is deductions for loan origination fees, better known as “points.” One point is equal to 1 percent of your loan. Depending on how many points you’ve accumulated, you may be eligible to deduct them. There are rules about deducting points, but a financial professional can help you sort through them.

And finally, don’t forget that if you upgraded to energy-efficient Energy Star windows, stoves or water heaters, those may be eligible for a tax credit. Check to see if your improvements are included.

Reprinted from The Residential Specialist "Your Home" March 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

6 Tips to Get Rid of the Cigarette Smoke Smell

Yes indeed, the vacant home was beautiful. It had a manicured lawn and yellow daffodils lining the home entrance. However, when I opened the front door a wall of stale smoke took my breathe away.

After roaming through each orderly, well decorated room, when I asked the buyer what they thought of the home, the buyer said, "It is absolutely beautiful." He hesitated looking at his wife, "But we can't live with this smoke smell."

While some odors are easy to fix, empty the trash and litter boxes, eliminating the smell of smoke can be more challenging. Here are 6 Tips to help. Always be sure to test any products mentioned below on small areas that you are cleaning, before proceeding forward to avoid damage.

1. Stop Smoking In or Near the Home and remove all ashtrays.

2. Clean All Washable Surfaces including windows, screens, counters, etc. with 1 part vinegar and 3 parts water. Change all air filters. For all those surfaces that can't be washed, a couple of products that you can find online that have been recommended by others for eliminating smoke odors are "Smells Begone" or "Vamoose!" .

3. Prime and Paint Your Walls. First prepare all walls, by washing them with vinegar water and allow to dry. Then use KILZ primer before painting the walls. The KILZ is known to conceal stains, and seal the odors from emerging after painted.

4. Professionally Clean or Change Carpet and Upholstery. If you are unable to change the carpet or furniture, read the manufactures cleaning instructions first to avoid damaging them or voiding any warranties you might have. Again after testing a small area, sprinkle baking soda on your carpet and leave it for three to four hours before vacuuming. Leave boxes of baking soda open in the rooms to help absorb. Then have your carpets and upholstery professionally cleaned.

5. Replace, Wash or Dry Clean fabric window coverings.

6. Open Windows and Place Boxes of Baking Soda around the room and leave them for several days. Baking soda should absorb any lingering cigarette smoke odors. You may need to repeat this process several times to completely get rid of odors.

When buyers are looking at homes to purchase, they use not only their sight but they also their sense of smell. So don't let your home be remember for its cigarette smoke odor.

Virginia Hall
ABR®, CRS®, e-Pro®, GRI®
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Direct (619)258-8585
DRE License #01409760

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Short Sale--An Oxymoron--A Word for Wait

People hear "short sale" and think "Great! It won't take too long". Unfortunately, the term short sale refers to the home selling for less than the sellers owe on it. So they will come up "Short" of what they owe.

Because the banks aren't anxious to take the loss, they mull over the sellers' financial records and the process takes anywhere from 3 months to 6 months on average to get an acceptance, if the bank approves it. There are circumstances where the bank won't approve the short sale, and the home moves into foreclosure.

What happens while you wait and wait for an answer to your offer? Once your offer emerges from the bottom of the piles, the bank starts by reviewing the seller's financial records. In variably, they are missing or need updated records. Next they order their own appraisal or a Broker Price Opinion (BPO) to insure the offer price is reasonable. Then they ask for the breakdown of the closing costs to see what they can cut there.

So you wait and wait, and then finally the day comes when they send an approval letter. Now the race is on. The banks will typically give you no more than 30 days to get it closed and will coerce you with late fines.

So is all the waiting worth it. If it is the home you have been searching for, it is usually worth it in the long run. You can usually get a home at a good price, and if nothing more you learn a valuable lesson in patience.

“Patience and fortitude conquer all things” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Virginia Hall
ABR®, CRS®, e-Pro®, GRI®
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Direct (619)258-8585

Thursday, January 28, 2010

They're Back....Multiple Offers in the San Diego Housing Market

While the medium home prices in San Diego County may be climbing slower than in 2003 in, due to the uncertainty of the economy, the bidding atmosphere with Multiple Offers is back.

As the inventory of homes decreases below the normal 6 months of inventory in most areas of San Diego County to 2-to-3 months and the number of buyers increased 10%, compared to a year ago, the competition for good homes is driving buyers into a competetive bidding frenzy. Buyers are making offers on multiple properties, and sellers in the lower end of the housing market are getting multiple competing offers.

"My goal is to get a house this year," said one of my serious first time home buyers. Many are racing towards that goal before the $8,000 Tax Credit expires, before the giant carrot disappears from underneathe their noses April 30th. To add to the mix, the government added in a $6500 tax credit for repeat buyers. And then there are the investors buying while prices are low.

Sellers and banks are looking for the cash to back up those rising offers, should the appraisal not come in and the buyer may have to pay more cash to make up the difference.

So what are buyers to do?

1. Lite Fixer. Look for a home that may not be perfect. Look for the potential in a home. Cosmetic repairs can always be done one at a time. Look beyond the stained carpet and scuffs on the walls. Ask the seller to help with your closing costs so that you can use that money to replace the carpet and paint. Also, the tax credit can be used in the near future for needed repairs or updating. But beware, avoid homes that require too many "honey do's" unless you have lots of money to sink into the home. Watch "The Money Pit" with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long before jumping into a home with lots of issues.

2. Buy Low. Buy a home below your means, below your maximum preapproved price, so that you have room to bid up. While you think you are doing good by giving the seller his asking price, multiple offers pushes the price upward and you may need room to meet that higher price.

3. Be Realistic. Most importantly, listen to your Realtor's advice and be realistic. Listing agents toss the low ball offers aside, unless you have "all cash" for a quicker sale. Know what the comparable homes are running in the area and plan to make a fair market value offer.

For more tips on being a successful buyer in this challenging market, read 5 Tips How FHA and VA Buyers Can Succeed

--Virginia Hall
ABR®, CRS®, e-Pro®, GRI®
"2009 & 2010 FIVE STAR Real Estate Agent(SM)”.
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Direct (619)258-8585

Saturday, January 16, 2010

5 Tips How FHA and VA Buyers Can Succeed

First time home buyers grow frusted! Good homes at good prices are being snatched up by All Cash and Conventional buyers. Homes that are priced well below the market value, a technique called Power Pricing, are meant to get multiple offers in record time. The frenzy created by a low priced home creates an atmosphere of desperation amongst buyers. Each buyer outbidding one another in an effort to secure the great deal.

Unfortuately, there is a heirarchy of loans: "All Cash" is the best, then Conventional, FHA and lastly VA loans. How is an FHA or VA buyer to compete?

1. Representation. Serious buyers must employ the help of a qualified Realtor who can help them catch the brass ring. However, they need the experienced agent to help them understand that everyone is looking for the elusive great deal! They need a representative that can help find a home with their needs in mind, at the same time being realistic.

When buyers are first exploring the market, there are many websites (i.e.,,, etc.) for them to investigate on. However most of these websites have a 48hr filter delay. In this market, those great deals may have multiple offers and not even available in 48hrs.

A Realtor can set up an automated search that is directly connected to the MLS, such as Gateway, notifying buyers immediately of new listings or changes.

2. Ready to Jump. Buyers need to check their personalized online searches daily. They have to be ready to go, to make a quick decision. While a buyer is thinking it over, another one has put an offer in on it. What buyers need to remember is that they can change their mind within a certain period of time defined in the purchase agreement without risk of losing any money.

3. Closing Costs.For sellers, FHA & VA buyers are less desirable when compared to "All Cash" and Conventional loan buyers. The FHA and VA buyers have less down and are less financially stable, often needing assistance from the seller with closing costs, and may not qualify for a loan at the end of the road. Where the all cash and conventional loan buyer may have more money and if the appraisal comes in low, they are more apt to pay the difference. So what is an FHA and VA buyer to do? The price and conditions are the only way to stand out.

The all cash and conventional buyers know they have an advantage and may make lower offers. However the FHA and VA buyer has to come up to the plate with a reasonable or higher offer. With a Realtor's assistance, carefully analyse the comparable home prices and consider the condition of the property and make a reasonable offer. The offer may be higher than the asking price.

If you have the money for closing costs, pay your own closing costs. While you are searching for a home, continue to save your money for the down payment. This will help give you an advantage. If you need the closing costs paid for by the seller, you will need to add those costs into the offer.

4. Ask for Less. When buying a Bank owned property or a short sale, the less a buyer asks for the better. In a normal market, the buyer may ask for appliances or additional items such as a home warranty that the seller would typically pay for. However, the banks don't want to give any frills.

While normally in Southern California, the termite inspection is paid for by the seller, in Northern California the buyer pays for it. In the case of Short Sales and Bank Owned properties, the tide seems to be turning. While VA buyers have to have a termite inspection and clearance, the buyer should put a maximum price tag on the repairs. Banks don't deal well with unknowns.

FHA buyers may want to avoid asking for a termite inspection with repairs altogether, if the appraiser will allow it. Especially, on condominiums where the HOA usually pays for the exterior termite inspections once a year. Buyers should let the home inspector know this so that they can look for any issues of wood rot under sinks.

In regards to houses, if the seller of the short sale home purchased it in the past few years it more than likely had a termite clearance at that time and less likely to have costly damage and repairs needed. However, if the house shows lots of signs of deferred maintence, this may not be the house for a first time home buyer. The bank wants to give you a great price for the house "as is".

5. Stand Out. Buying a home is an emotional purchase. By appealing to the emotional side of a seller, buyers may beat out the competition. In a letter, buyers should give the seller a little history of themselves and reasons for them to like them. Especially Veterans, they need to use their service to our country to their advantage to tug on those heart strings. Even add a nice photo.

These tips will hopefully help a FHA and VA buyer succeed. But the biggest tip is to patient and persistent.

--Virginia Hall
ABR®, CRS®, e-Pro®, GRI®
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Direct (619)258-8585DRE#01409760