by Neal Frankle
As you probably already know, it can be almost impossible to obtain a bank mortgage with bad credit. If you otherwise can’t get a loan because you have a troubled credit history, one alternative to a traditional bank mortgage is to obtain one from the seller. Seller financing has its benefits, as well as its risks. You also need to know how to find the right seller to meet your needs.
Why sellers might consider financing a mortgage
These days, real estate prices have dropped yet property owners are still having a hard time selling homes. That means more owners are desperate to sell. As a result, more sellers may entertain using this unconventional approach.
Interest rates are also low. This can make seller financing more attractive to property owners, especially those who aren’t reinvesting in more real estate but are looking for income-producing investments. Banks offer investors less than 2% interest. If you come along and offer 4%, that could be engaging for the right seller.
The benefits of seller financing
First, if you have some financial challenges in your history and need to build your credit score, conventional lenders may not be willing to give you a loan. If that’s the case, this may be the only alternative you have to take advantage of the current low real estate prices.
Second, when you get a loan directly from your seller, you save all kinds of fees. These purchases are typically made directly. That means you save on real estate commissions on top of all the loan fees and points you keep. Compared to a conventional purchase, you could be saving tens of thousands of dollars when you consider all the commissions, points and fees.
On top of that, you could possibly arrange a much lower interest rate. For example, if you have impaired credit, you might get a loan from a bank but it might be very expensive. On the other hand, a seller might be persuaded to view your credit history differently and extend a lower rate as a result.
How to find the right seller
To be sure, most people who sell real estate are not in a position to back your loan. And even those who are may need to be persuaded. But you only need to find one seller who is willing.
You are looking for people who are downsizing and those with a ton of equity or better yet, no mortgage at all. Get the word out to friends and family. Spread a wide net. Use your social circles and social media such as Twitter and Facebook to get the word out. Search ads in Craigslist and actually place an ad there and in your local paper. Don’t give up and don’t stop there. Let people in your church, synagogue, or other communities know what you are looking for and ask them to keep their eyes open.
You can even approach real estate agents and brokers. Let them know what you are interested in doing. Speak to many brokers and follow up with them. Ask friends if they know good real estate professionals who either specialize in this or who are seasoned veterans. Realtors who have been active for many years have the greatest chance of knowing clients who might be the perfect match for you.
How to convince a seller to do business with you
As I said, most sellers will be hesitant to carry your loan. That’s because they don’t want to have to foreclose should you be unable to make your payments. And they think you are a greater risk since they know banks won’t grant you a loan.
Your job is to help them overcome their fears. You do this by coming into the deal with a very large down payment. Also, prepare a “resume” of sorts that shows them how stable your income is. Be upfront about credit blemishes and explain what you’ve done to correct your mistakes.
As a last resort, get another person to co-sign the loan. This is certainly far from ideal and it may be difficult. But like finding a seller to finance, remember, you only need to find one person to co-sign in order to make this happen.
Buying a home using seller financing is not without risk. If a bank feels it’s better off not making a loan to you, they might know something you don’t. If you take on a debt that you can’t afford, you’ll end up losing the property, your down payment and your good credit score.
Make sure if you go this route you are sure you know how much house you can afford — then buy a home that is a bit cheaper than that.
Buying a house and having the seller carry your mortgage can be a great way to take advantage of today’s low real estate prices and interest rates. It’s not easy to pull off but it’s well worth it if you have no alternative. And, while difficult, it’s far from impossible if you follow the steps outlined above.
With rules that take effect next month, federal regulators have hopes of greatly streamlining the short-sale process.
Starting June 15, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, will require both agencies to give short-sale buyers a final decision within 60 days. (In a short sale, a lender agrees to accept less than the balance on a mortgage.)
Fannie and Freddie must also respond to initial requests for a short sale within 30 days of receiving the buyer’s submission.
“Short sales are huge right now,” said Peter Spino, the foreclosure services manager for Community Housing Innovators in White Plains, N.Y., a housing counselor certified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Distressed homeowners often prefer them to a foreclosure, he noted.
Expedited sales as a result of the new directive will benefit the entire housing market, said Michael McHugh, the president and chief executive of Continental Home Loans and the president of the Empire State Mortgage Bankers Association, a trade group. They could also remove some risks for buyers — many of whom previously had to wait months for a decision and then ended up not getting the house they wanted.
In March, the most recent month for which data were available, short sales represented more than 14 percent of existing home sales, according to CoreLogic, a data analytics company, compared with 12 percent for all of 2011 and about 10 percent in 2010. And as the number of short sales has risen, foreclosures have fallen. Completed foreclosures represented 25.3 percent of home sales in March, versus 34.9 percent in all of 2011 and 42.7 percent in all of 2010.
Lenders favor short sales because they are less costly and more efficient than foreclosures. Yet the homeowners, trying to exit as gracefully as possible, never know how long the process will take or how badly their credit will be hurt.
Although short sales have a reputation for being easier on credit scores than foreclosures, “that’s a fairly common misperception,” said Rod Griffin, the director of consumer and public education at Experian, one of the major credit bureaus. If there is a difference in impact, he said, it is slight. Both short sales and foreclosures remain on the credit report for seven years — but foreclosures don’t appear until the legal paperwork is filed, and that could take months, Mr. Griffin said.
The effect was measured in an analysis by VantageScore, a provider of credit scores used by lenders. The higher the credit rating a consumer has, the more points he or she would lose in a short sale.
If consumers started with, say, an 830 score, they would most likely lose 100 to 110 points from a short sale, 120 to 130 points from a foreclosure. But a homeowner with a 625 score, who is behind on his mortgage and some credit card payments, would lose 15 to 25 points from a short sale and 10 to 20 points from a foreclosure, the VantageScore analysis shows.
One major downside to a short sale has been the length of time it takes to process the transaction. “I have done short sales in 60 days, and I’ve also had them take a year,” said Peter J. Goodman, a real estate lawyer in Brooklyn. He typically tells clients to expect them to take 90 to 120 days.
Short sales today are being completed faster than they were a couple of years ago, Mr. McHugh said. About one-fourth of his mortgage business comes from short sales; five years ago it was almost zero.
Speeding up the short-sale process could be especially worthwhile in states like New York, where judicial foreclosures can take a year or longer. “There should be a significant improvement in the turnaround,” he said.