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Consider Seller Concessions

November 28, 2022


Concessions Make Your Home More Marketable

Sellers offer concessions as an incentive to encourage buyers to purchase their home.  The concessions, paid for by the seller, benefit the buyer in ways that may be more appealing than possibly, being able to purchase the home for a lower price.

In some situations, buyers have good income, credit, and even the down payment to purchase a home but not necessarily enough cash reserves to pay their closing costs.  Another possibility is that there could be a feature in the home that the buyer wants replaced but can’t afford to do it themselves.  If the seller agrees to make that improvement, it could cause the buyer to act favorably.

Concessions could include paying the buyer’s closing costs, buying down the interest rate, or any possible combination of physical improvements or upgrades to the property.

Sellers, occasionally, question why they should provide concessions to a buyer.  It should be obvious; it improves the marketability of the home.  With less than the normal number of homes on the market, it may appear that the seller has the advantage and may not need to offer concessions.

Today’s market is different.  The decreasing number of sales and increased days on the market are resulting from a smaller than normal pool of buyers.  Interest rates have more than doubled in 2022 which has made houses less affordable.  Buyers who qualified last year but couldn’t find a home to buy, may be able to find a home today but their debt-to-income ratio has increased significantly, causing them to qualify for smaller mortgages.

Most buyers, especially in lower priced range homes, can’t afford to put more money down and human nature tends to discourage them from considering a smaller home.  For that reason, they are forced out of the market until rates come down.

To counteract this dilemma, sellers are willing to consider making concessions, something that builders have successfully used for years to sell their inventory without lowering their prices that will have a direct impact on comparable sales which affects appraisals.

Concessions can take on different forms.  A seller could offer to pay the buyer’s closing costs or pay points for the buyer to get an FHA or VA loan.  Another option would be to pay for a 2/1 buydown that would lower the buyer’s payments in the first two years of the mortgage.

Any number of improvements could be offered to the buyer like appliances, floor covering, countertops, roof, fence, etc.

Typically, these would be included in the listing agreement and promoted in the listing description through MLS and other public media.  When a sales contract is written, it needs to be included so that there is no misunderstanding between the parties and that the lender is completely aware of the concessions.

To avoid possible disputes, it is also recommended that a dollar limit is attached to the concession.  For instance, “Seller to pay up to 3% of the sales price in buyer’s financing concessions” or “Seller to escrow up to $5,000 for appliances at buyer’s discretion.”

Concessions have not been used much in the past fifteen years, but changing times requires us to use different methods to be successful.  Sellers can offer concessions and buyers can ask sellers to make concessions in the purchase agreement. If your agent is not familiar with concessions, it may be that they have never used them before.  They are commonplace and legal, within limits, if they are disclosed.  The benefit is that concessions can improve marketability of a home and put a transaction together between parties that would not be possible otherwise.

Buydowns: Another Tool In The Toolbelt

October 4, 2022

Another Tool to Improve Affordability

The rapid rise in mortgage rates during 2022 coupled with continued appreciation of home prices have limited the number of buyers in the market which is reflected by the lower number of home sales currently.  “It’s a fact that many households are impacted by higher mortgage rates as they no longer earn the qualifying income for the median-priced home.” Nadia Evangelou, NAR Economist

One of the things that agents are doing to help buyers lower their house payments is to suggest an adjustable-rate mortgage.  The rates on these types of loans are tied to indexes that reflect the current market rates and produce less risk for the lender.  The payments adjust on the anniversary date based on the index plus margin named in the note.

While many people think that they only adjust upward, they also adjust downward when the index indicates it.  For the week of September 29, 2022, the Freddie Mac 5/1 ARM was 5.03% compared to the 30-year fixed-rate of 6.70%.

Another tool that experienced agents are using to address affordability issues are interest rate buydowns.  In recent years, there have not been many buydowns used because interest rates were already very low, but now, more people are considering them again.

A buydown is prepaying the interest on a mortgage at the time of closing to lower the payment for a specific period or for the term of the mortgage.  Obviously, it would be more expensive to buydown the rate for the whole term of the mortgage.

Either the seller or the buyer can buydown the rate and it would be specified in the sales contract.  From a practical perspective, sellers in the recent past haven’t had to consider this option because of the high demand and multiple offers that were commonplace.  Now that sales have slowed, and both inventory and market time is increasing, some sellers want to make their homes more marketable and are seeking a competitive advantage.

A common temporary buydown is called a 2/1 which reduces the payment in the first two years of the loan by calculating the borrower’s payment at 2% less than the note rate for the first year and 1% less than the note rate for the second year.  Years three through thirty, the payment would be the normal payment at the note rate.

A buydown is a fixed rate, conforming mortgage that the borrower must qualify at the note rate to indicate that borrowers will be able to afford the mortgage after the first two years of lower payments.

As an example, on a $4000,000 sales price with a 90% mortgage at 5.54% interest for 30-years, the normal principal and interest payment would be $2,053.08.  By using a 2/1 buydown, the payment for the first year would be at 3.54% interest, 2% lower than the note rate, making the payment $1,624.61.  The second year, it would be at 4.54% interest, 1% lower than the note rate, making the payment $1,823.63.

The buyers’ payment would be $428.47 lower each month for the first year and $220.45 a month lower for the second year.  The total savings would be $7,787.04 which becomes the cost of the 2/1 buydown.  This amount must be paid at the time of closing by either the seller or the buyer.

2/1 Buydown Example1st Year2nd Year3rd … 30th Years
Interest Rate4.7%5.7%6.7%
Principal & Interest Payment$1,867.10$2,089.44$2,323.00
Monthly Savings$455.90$233.56 
Annual Savings/Total Savings$5,470.80$2,802.72$,8,273.52

The most prevalent providers of buydowns in the past have been builders.  It is a concession like paying closing costs or upgrades for the buyer.  As sales have started to slow, some builders in particular price ranges and areas are currently considering this benefit to close more sales.

To summarize: a buydown is a fixed-rate mortgage where the interest is pre-paid for a period to help the borrower with lower payments for a time.  A 2/1 buydown allows the buyer to have significantly lower payments in the first two years which will give them time to settle into the house while they can be confident of what the payment will be in years three through thirty.

The pre-paid interest is deductible for the buyer, even if the seller pays for it.  This is something that the buyer will want to talk about with their tax advisor when they are doing their income tax for that year.

If you are selling a home, talk to your listing agent about this option to increase marketability.  If you are a buyer, discuss this as an affordability option.  If your agent isn’t familiar with buydowns, ask them to research it with a trusted mortgage officer.  Buydowns are legal and have been available for decades.  The determining factor may be whether the market has softened enough that sellers are willing to consider them.

Rising Mortgage Rates Cause Shock

September 26, 2022


Cause to Pause

Rising mortgage rates are causing some would-be buyers to pause their decisions until they determine whether rates are going to come back down.  While it may be possible, the probability is that prices are going to continue to increase past this current shock situation.

On December 23, 2021, the 30-year fixed-rate, according to Freddie Mac, was 3.05% and is at 6.29% as of September 22, 2022, a 106% increase! On a $360,000 mortgage, the principal and interest payment went from $1,528 to $2,226.  The $698 difference represents a 46% increase in the payment.

It seems understandable to pause and see if rates will come down again, especially since they went up so fast, but it probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon based on the Fed’s position on controlling inflation.

The fact that inventories are growing slightly, and market times are increasing doesn’t negate that supply cannot keep up with demand and homes are continuing to appreciate, albeit, not as much as they did in 2021.

If a person waited a year to see if the rates come down but, in the meantime, the prices increased 10% and the rates stayed the same, the home in the example above, would have a $226 larger P&I payment.

As an alternative strategy, the buyer could purchase the home on a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage with a 4.64% rate for five-years.  Instead of $2,226 for the P&I payment for the fixed rate at 6.29%, the payment on the ARM would be $1,926, a $300 savings.

They would have purchased the home at today’s prices, avoiding appreciated prices and would have five years to refinance at a lower fixed rate should they come down.  Assuming the rate adjusted upward the maximum amount at each period, it would take over seven years to exhaust the savings on the lower payments for the first five years.

It is unfortunate that some buyers missed a window of opportunity to purchase last fall when mortgage rates were near an all-time low.  That window has closed, and it may not open again.  People who can still afford to buy, even though rates are significantly higher, are taking a risk waiting for rates to come down.  Even if they are correct, the prices will be higher, offsetting any possible savings. 

If they are wrong, both prices and rates will be higher, and they may be priced out of the market.

In the 1980s, when mortgage rates topped 18%, the best real estate agents in the country presented alternative financing choices to buyers.  If your agent hasn’t had conversations with you about alternatives to fixed rate financing, there could be options available that you need to consider.

Depending on your price range and individual situation, investigate local and state financial assistance programs, ARM Comparison2/1 Buydown, and Cost of Waiting to Buy and download our Buyers Guide.

Down Payment Gift Increase!

September 12, 2022

Gift Amount Increased for 2022

The limit for tax free gifts for 2022 is $16,000 and no tax is due to the donor or the donee.  There are provisions that would allow gifts higher than this amount providing the total lifetime gifts above the annual exclusion of $12.06 million for 2022 has not be met.

The donor and donee can be separate persons so that the aggregate tax-free gift for one-year amounts to more money.  For instance, a father and mother can gift $16,000 each to their married son in 2022 and an additional $16,000 each to the daughter-in-law for a total $64,000.

If the son and daughter-in-law used the money as a down payment to purchase a home, depending on how recent the gift occurred, the mortgage company might require a gift letter from the parents stating the amount was a gift and is not expected to be repaid.  Lenders may ask the exact amount of the gift, where it came from and the relationship involved.

Family members and friends with financial resources can become the catalyst that allows buyers with good credit and income but without a down payment to purchase a home.  Sometimes, the gift is looked at as an early inheritance that allows the recipient to show their gratitude and the donor to see the enjoyment and benefit of the gift.

In some situations, the buyers have saved enough money for a minimal down payment, but the gift allows them to put more money down that may help them get a lower interest rate or eliminate the need for private mortgage insurance.

The important thing involving gift funds is to have complete disclosure with the lender.  It is best discussed during the pre-approval process.  Your real estate professional should also know about it so they can guide you through the process.

Consider an Adjustable Rate Mortgage

September 6, 2022

Housing Affordability – Call to ARMs

Housing Affordability is negatively affected by both rising home prices and mortgage rates.  A 20% increase in nominal home prices and a 2% increase in the 30-year fixed rate mortgage since January have contributed to a 46 point drop in the NAR Housing Affordability Index.

The Index was 143 in June 2021 and is 98.5 in June of 2022. The Housing Affordability Index indicates whether a median income family can qualify for a mortgage loan with a 20% down payment and 25% qualifying ratio for monthly housing expenses to gross monthly income.

100 points is considered the tipping point.  As the Index rises above that point, housing is considered more affordable and as it declines, it is considered less affordable.

With affordability threatening to limit buyer’s ability to purchase, more borrowers are considering an adjustable-rate mortgage.  For the last ten years, fixed-rate mortgages have been so low, only about 3% of borrowers used adjustable-rate mortgages.  

There is a lot of misinformation about ARMs that keeps some would-be buyers from even considering them.  Even before the housing crisis of 2007, many safeguards were put into place to protect borrowers.

“As long as the ‘spread’ between ARMs and fixed-rate mortgages continues, more first-time home buyers may choose ARMs because the lower mortgage rate gives them a purchasing power ‘boost’ over the 30-year fixed mortgage rate.”  Mark Fleming, First American Chief Economist

The potential ARM candidate is probably not a first-time homebuyer.  They should be tolerant to risk and more financially savvy with predictably increasing income.  These buyers may recognize that they do not intend to stay in the home for a long time. 

Adjustable-rate mortgages, generally start out at a lower-rate than a fixed-rate but can adjust, up or down, based on an independent index plus a specified margin and anniversary date that are referenced in the note.  Most ARMs have stated interest rate caps that limit the amount of adjustment of the rate both on a periodic basis and a lifetime.  FHA ARMs have a limit of 1% per adjustment period and a 5% lifetime cap over the original note rate.  Conventional loans, more commonly, have a 2% per adjustment period and a 6% lifetime cap.

A particularly popular type of adjustable-rate mortgage is referred to as a 5/1 which means the rate for the first period lasts five years and then, each adjustment period after that is for one year.  This allows a buyer to have stability in the rate during the first five years.  If they plan to sell in less time than that, they will not have to deal with the adjustment.

A 5/1 ARM will have a lower payment for five years because of the lower initial rate and assuming a worst case scenario, a conventional ARM could increase a maximum of 2% at the end of the first period which would put the rate at higher than the fixed rate at the time they started.  However, that is not where the breakeven point occurs.  It is not until all the savings from the initial period have been exhausted, that the ARM will become more expensive than the fixed-rate alternative.

An ARM Comparison can help buyers to determine breakeven point.  Let’s compare a 5.66% FRM with a 4.51% 5/1 ARM with 2 and 6 caps.  A $450,000 30-year term loan amount will have a P&I payment of $2,600.41 for the fixed compared to $2,286.76 for the ARM.  The $317.65 monthly savings will accumulate for 60 months plus a $6,673 lower unpaid balance on the ARM due to a lower interest rate. 

The total savings in the first period would be $25,732.  If you assume that the payment would increase to the maximum at each adjustment period, the breakeven point will occur at 7 years and 4 months.  If you were to sell the property prior to the breakeven, the ARM would produce a lower cost of housing. 

One of the benefits for lenders making adjustable-rate mortgages is that they have less risk because the yield can change to reflect the current market.  Most ARMs must adjust down as well as up which means if rates do come down, the buyer can continue with the ARM at a lower rate or convert it to a fixed-rate at the, then, current rate.

Use the ARM Comparison to see where the breakeven point will be for you.  Get mortgage rates for FRM and ARM mortgages from Freddie Mac and download our Buyers Guide.

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