By Melissa Dittmann Tracey
Your buyer found the perfect home. Your seller found the perfect buyer. Yet, as you near closing, all types of title, mortgage, appraisal, and home inspection problems can keep you from closing. Mortgage expert Tracey Rumsey has seen it happen all too often. In her new book, Saving the Deal (AMACOM, 2008), she offers tips on how to avoid these potential deal-killers that jeopardize or delay transactions. Home listing and homebuying checklists in the book offer you questions to ask your clients to make sure these problems don’t surface later on and cost you a sale.
FROM THE BOOK: 5 COMMON DEAL KILLERS
Any number of pitfalls can arise during a transaction that prevent the buyer or seller from signing on the dotted line. In her book, Rumsey offers common scenarios she’s seen and how to overcome them. Here are five:
1. Title complications. The title is legal evidence of the ownership of the property and is crucial when trying to help your client buy or sell. But problems can arise when such issues as death, divorce, guardianship, and bankruptcy enter the picture. Review the title carefully — this goes for buyer’s agents too. Troubleshoot any potential title issues early on. Direct sellers to a real estate attorney to resolve any problems. And don’t just take the seller’s word when it comes to the title — look it up yourself. Most title companies offer access to a limited amount of title information through their Web sites.
2. Unrealistic equity expectations. Have a talk upfront about all of the costs of selling a home so that sellers don’t end up backing out at the last minute. Rumsey’s book offers a worksheet that you can walk through with your sellers to paint a realistic look at estimated final numbers on closing day. It takes into account such items as mortgage payoff, any mortgage prepayment penalties, sales commission, title insurance for buyers, closing and recording fees, and property tax pro-ration. But what if you crunch the numbers and then the seller realizes she can’t afford to sell? Better to know now than after the cost of your time and money later.
3. Financing snags. Your buyers find the perfect property, you write up the offer, and then their financing doesn’t go through. It’s not just about having good credit when it comes to getting a loan. Educate yourself about the loan process so that you can help buyers foresee any potential problems. For example, a recent job change, a probationary period when starting a new job, and jobs that rely on commission income can pose problems in getting loans. Also, help prepare first-time homebuyers by learning the guidelines of your state’s housing loan programs, which may offer below-market interest rate loans and down payment assistance.
4. Appraisals. When appraisals come in at a value lower than the contract price, you have a major potential deal killer. So listing agents need to make sure they list the home at the right price from the beginning. To counter a low appraisal, you can provide the lender with the process you used to determine the price of the home and appropriate comps. But don’t call the appraiser, unless you were the one who ordered it. Do not expect a request for a second appraisal to be granted; they rarely are. One solution is to drop the sales price to match the appraised value, if it’s a small difference. Otherwise, you may need to take more drastic action, such as offering a commission reduction to get the seller to move forward. “None of us like dropping our profit margin to save a deal, but sometimes it’s what we have to do to get to the settlement table,” Rumsey writes.
5. Pre-approval letters. These letters issued by a loan officer tell you that after a full review of the buyer’s credit, income, and asset status, she is very likely to meet the requirements of closing on a loan. Not so fast. Before your seller accepts the offer, make sure the buyer really can close. There are varying degrees of competency when it comes to loan officers, just like any other industry. That said, some of these letters issued are after a thorough investigation into the buyer’s finances, while others came from a five-minute conversation. Read each letter carefully. Does the letter state the actual sales price that the home the buyer is approved to purchase? Does it state that the buyer’s credit status, income, and assets have been verified? If these questions aren’t answered, call the loan officer for clarification. If the answers are “yes,” you likely found a solid buyer, Rumsey says.
“Deals can be saved by proactive thinking at the beginning of the transaction. Blowups or delays just before settlement, no matter who is at fault, hurt your client and your reputation. Your clients may logically understand that the problem had nothing to do with you, but there may still be negative emotions tied to you that may prevent them from calling in the future when they need an agent.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tracey Rumsey has more than a decade of experience as a mortgage loan officer. She is the chair of the Utah Mortgage Lenders Association Education Committee and is also a mortgage and real estate continuing education instructor licensed with the Utah Division of Real Estate.
Check back on Monday, March 31, to read Rumsey’s responses to your questions.