Shawn Sullivan, Broker Associate, CRS's Blog
An active housing market has reduced the number of foreclosed homes in inventory, but there will always be foreclosed homes available to purchase. Many buyers are not aware of what to expect when purchasing a foreclosure. Here are some home truths about buying a distressed home.
You’re not always getting a deal.
Many buyers believe foreclosed homes sell at rock-bottom prices. They expect massive and unrealistic discounts. While the bank may be willing to sell for well below the fair market value, their goal is to recover the loss they incurred when providing the original mortgage. Additionally, foreclosed properties may have long-standing maintenance issues that require a substantial investment to remedy.
The bank may not have the only lien.
A foreclosure removes the primary mortgage debt, but a distressed property may have other claims for money owed in back taxes, for mechanical work and contractors’ fees. A complete title search should tell you if there are liens that need satisfaction when you purchase a property. Your real estate agent can guide you in how to discover unsatisfied liens or judgments against the property
You may find maintenance problems.
Most owners do not simply move out of the property when they can no longer afford to make payments. When an original owner loses income, maintenance often becomes a low priority. And, if they have a medical disaster, a decline in health often means a decline in care for the property. Storm damage, pests, and other hidden issues mean damage to a home that gets overlooked when the owner has different priorities.
You may find vandal activity.
Although there are some stories of angry owners vandalizing the foreclosed property that they invested their life savings into, more often are issues with opportunistic thieves. They remove plumbing and light fixtures, paver stones, and other readily accessible objects from an abandoned property.
Schedule a thorough inspection before you purchase if possible so that you know what you're getting. Your real estate professional specializing in distressed properties can connect you with an unbiased inspector. They will report on your potential new home and help you uncover any hidden costs lurking there.
House owners frequently remodel, upgrade, or otherwise make changes in their homes for which they do not secure a permit. While some changes do not require permitting, others do. The challenge comes when you attempt to sell the home. You may run into a problem when a buyer makes an offer on such a property, and their inspector discovers unpermitted changes. Their mortgage lender may be unwilling to give them a loan until you remedy the permit issue.
Additionally, since building codes often change from year to year and certainly from decade to decade, and the property may have changed hands more than once before it came to you. Even if the upgrade occurred before you purchased it, you might be the one responsible for fixing it with your municipality.
What can you do? When you believe your home has unpermitted construction, learn as much as you can about it:
When did installation take place? Before you took ownership of the house? After?
What is the construction? A pergola? A sunroom? That necessary second bathroom?
In the year or era of construction, was a permit required? Is there a permit in place of which you're not aware?
Can it be grandfathered?
What is “Grandfathering”?
The term “grandfather clause” refers to an exception to a code, restriction, or legal requirement. It allows anything already done legally “at the time” to continue even if a new limitation would not allow it. Regarding unpermitted home upgrades, if the construction was before the change in the code, check to see if the code requires retroactive compliance. In that case, exceptions typically pose a danger to anyone living in the home or on the property and need remediation. When code changes do not require retroactive compliance, knowing the date of the construction puts you in the clear.
When you discover retrofits, additions, upgrades, or renovations in your home, search city or county records for a permit. Ask for help to see if that type of work in the year(s) of its completion required one. If it needed a permit, and you do not find one in place, either request a retroactive authorization or plan to sell your home "as is" to a willing buyer. Municipalities often have methods in place to offer retroactive permits. Check to determine the total cost of the permitting process. In addition to the permit fee, you may have to pay fines, inspections, and other fees. Any modifications required because of the permitting process become your responsibility. When the total cost of obtaining retroactive permits and related fees and construction costs is higher than the return on your investment, consider the “as is” process.
Selling Your Home "As Is"
When you choose to sell your property "as is," you no longer need to disclose to the municipal building department that you may have unpermitted construction. Until you are sure you want to request a retroactive permit, do not disclose information when you communicate with building code offices that might trigger an inspection.
In the selling process, however, fully disclose to your real estate agent all items you know about for certain. That is, tell them about additions or upgrades you installed while in ownership. Make sure a sale is not delayed or falls through because a lender requires a permit. Have an appropriate "as is" clause written into the sales contract.
Confer with your real estate agent to determine if seeking a permit is in your best interested when selling with unpermitted additions.
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Believe it or not, selling a home may prove to be a good idea. In fact, there are many reasons why selling a residence could be beneficial, and these include:
1. You can earn a profit from your home sale.
If you have allocated significant time and resources to maintain your residence, you may find there will be lots of interest in your house if you add it to the real estate market. As such, you could earn a profit from the sale of your home.
Of course, it often helps to craft a home selling strategy before you list your house. This strategy will enable you to determine the steps you'll need to take to optimize your home sale earnings.
2. You can downsize or upgrade.
In some instances, a homeowner may find his or her current residence is now too big or too small. If you encounter this situation, there is no need to worry, as you can always list your residence and downsize or upgrade as needed.
Selling a home allows you to reconsider your living situation. Thus, if your current house is too big, you can sell your home and move into a smaller residence. On the other hand, if you need more space than your current home offers, you can list your residence and pursue a bigger home in the city or town of your choice.
3. You can find a new home close to family members and friends.
If you have to travel great distances to visit family members and friends, you may want to consider moving closer to these loved ones. Thankfully, you can sell your residence and relocate to a new home near family members and friends.
Clearly, there are many reasons why selling a home may be a good idea. If you hire a real estate agent, you can receive comprehensive assistance throughout the property selling journey.
A real estate agent will do whatever it takes to help you achieve the optimal home selling results. First, he or she will meet with you and find out why you are selling your house. A real estate agent next will offer tips to help you prepare your residence for the housing market. Then, when you're ready to sell your home, a real estate agent will promote your residence to prospective buyers. And if you receive an offer to purchase your house, a real estate agent will help you analyze this homebuying proposal and make an informed decision.
In addition, a real estate agent is a home selling expert. He or she will respond to any of your home selling concerns and questions, and by doing so, ensure you can achieve your desired results.
If you decide to sell your residence, you may want to hire a real estate agent. Because if you have a real estate agent at your disposal, you can get the help you need to simplify the property selling journey.