DEAR BOB: Our home has been for sale since January. The market here is slow. The only offer we received was for a lease with option to buy in two years. The buyer offered to pay $10,000 "consideration for the option." We were hoping for more, but at least it's an offer. However, the buyer wants the option price to be today's price, not what the home will be worth in two years. Also, the offer provides for all the rent to paid to be credited toward the purchase price. Although we're anxious to sell, we're not desperate. Should we accept this offer? Mrs. L.W., Rockville.
Dear Mrs L. W.: Lease-option offers, like regular purchase offers, are negotiable. In return for favorable lease-option finacning, you should demand benefits too. Lease-options are great for buyers and sellers, but don't let your buyer take advantage of you.
Home values are expected to increase at least 10 percent per year for the next few years. So it would not be unreasonable to set the option purchase price two years from now at least 20 percent higher than today's market value of your home.
As for the full credit toward the purchase price for rent paid, although I would write that if I was making the offer, partial rent credit such as one-half or one-fourth would be reasonable. Just because it's a buyer's market, don't give your home away.
DEAR BOB: Although I've learned a great deal from your real estate articles, I find your ideas on home seller financing disgusting. We are trying to sell our house. Real estate agents have told us, even showing us your articles, that sellers have to help finance if they want to sell.
Shame on you for promoting these ideas. I have over $40,000 equity in my home and I expect to get it out when I sell. This "creative finance" business is a bunch off baloney. Why should I, the seller, finance my buyer's purchase when what I want is cash? Walter S., Annandale.
DEAR WALTER: Most of your equity is "bonus equity" due to inflation. You didn't receive that equity all at once, so why should you receive the cash from your home sale all at once?
In today's home sale market the reality is that most home buyers cannot qualify for new "hard money" mortgages from banks and savings associations. The wrap-around or all-nclusive mortgages, land contracts, lease-options, and other ideas are called "creative finance" because they aren't traditional mortgages.
Suppose your home is worth $100,000 and a buyer has $20,000 for his down payment. If your home has a $50,000 assumable first mortgage, that leaves a $30,000 finance gap. In today's market you, the seller, are the best and cheapest source of a $30,000 second or wrap-around mortgage to help the buyer buy the home. While you may want more than $20,000 cash, in today's market that's all you can relatistically count on.
If you're buying another house, buy it the same way your buyer is buying. Get your seller to finance your purchase. You can even offer as part of your down payment the second mortgage you took back from the buyer on the sale of your former home. Think creatively. It's the best way in today's home sale market.
DEAR BOB: We've just started looking for a home to buy. Every realty agent we talk to starts out by asking "How much do you want to invest?" Our reply is, "As litle as possible." Then the agent usually says something like "How much do you earn?" or "How much can you afford for monthly mortgage payments?" Isn't this pretty snoopy? Or is it customary for realty agents to probe for this personal information? Dave N., Laurel.
DEAR DAVE: Those agents are trying to save your time and theirs. In the "good old days," agents used to waste time showing prospects homes they couldn't afford to buy. Today, wise sales people cut the preliminaries and get down to business fast.
Chances are you can't afford to buy the type of home you really want. So agents probe your financial situation so you will be shown only houses you can afford to buy.
Be honest with your agent. Tell him or her what you earn and how much you have to invest in the down payment. If you're short of cash for a down payment, don't hide this fact from your agent, as there are dozens of ways to buy a home with little or no cash. Not every home can be bought this way, of course. but smart agents know which listings are good candidates for low or no down payments.
A probing realty agent also wants to find out if you are eligible for special home finance programs such as VA, FHA, or special state and federal mortgage programs. Asking questions is the only way to do this. While some agents may seem snoopy, they are just trying to help you buy a home.
DEAR BOB: We're taking your suggestion and trying to find a home to buy where the seller will finance the sale. It's not easy. But we did find one "perfect house" where the seller will finance our purchase. However, he will only carry the mortgage for two years. Do you think this is long enough? Mrs. D.G., Upper Marlboro.
Dear Mrs. D.G.: That's called a "short fuse" mortgage. If you can't refinance it with a new mortgage from a bank, savings association, or mortgage broker within two years, you may lose the house by foreclosure.
Try to get the seller to take back a mortgage for a longer term, at least four or five years. This will give you plenty of time to build equity and arange a new mortgage when interest rates and terms are favorable.