Q: My husband has taken a new job in St. Louis so we will be selling our present home. His new employer hired a relocation service which appraised our house at $115,000. That seems low to us and to the two realty agents we've talked with. One says she can get at least $130,000 and the other says the value is about $128,000. We are thinking of listing the house for sale with one of these agents for 90 days. If it doesn't sell, we'll let the relocation company buy it for $115,000. Does this sound like a good plan?
A: Yes. Before you list your home for sale, be sure you know its true market value. Unless it is a very unique home, the value can be accurately determined from recent comparable sales of similar nearby homes.
Ask those two agents to prepare written "competitive market analysis" forms for you. Then you'll know recent sales prices and terms of nearby homes which have sold, listings which expired with the homes unsold and current listings (your competition). By adding or subtracting the value of the good and bad features of your home, you'll arrive at a fair asking price for your home.
Don't over or under-price your home. It should be priced and "packaged" correctly. That means the asking price should not be more than 5 percent above true market value and the offered terms must be reasonable.
If you're expecting an all-cash sale in today's market, your home will appeal to only a few buyers and they will expect a big discount from market value for their cash. Most sales in today's buyer's market involve seller financing so expect to help your buyer buy with a second mortgage, lease-option, land contract or other seller financing. That relocation company's cash appraisal reflects this reality.
Q: I've just started investing in small income properties. So far I own one rental house and a small office building. Do you think I should get a real estate salesman's license?
A: No. If you have a real estate sales license and expect to share in the sales commission on your property purchases, you'll find other agents reluctant to tell you about the "good deals." Of course, if you plan to make a career of actively selling real estate for other owners, then you'll need a real estate license.
Q: As president of a modest-size savings and loan association, I strongly disagree with your remarks about mortgage lenders raising interest rates on new loans to "shut the loan window." When we have to pay 13, 14, and 15 percent on T-Bill certificates, we must charge higher rates on new mortgages just to break even. Also, your telling people how to avoid mortgage due on sale clauses doesn't help us either. Our average loans used to get refinanced at higher interest rates every five years or so. Now they will probably go up to 10 years average life because people aren't moving as often.
A: Nice try. But S&Ls aren't as bad off as you imply. You neglected to point out the average cost of funds for most savings associations is 8 to 9 percent while average mortgage portfolio yield is 10 percent or higher. The truth is many savings associations won't make mortgage loans today because they can earn higher yields on short term bank certificates of deposit and government securities.
The solution, used by some S&Ls, is to offer borrowers refinancing of their old low-interest-rate mortgages at below-market interest rates of 10 to 12 percent. The result is the yield on the new cash loaned is at least 13 to 15 percent, yield on the "old money" part of the loan is raised, and the borrower has cash to invest elsewhere.
Q: Buying a home today is tough, as you know. My wife found one we both like and it can be bought for only $2,000 down payment. The problem is it is located in a very high crime area part of town. Should we buy?
A: Never buy property with a serious incurable defect. Examples include bad floor plans, noisy locations, or rough neighborhood. Even if the purchase terms are attractive, your safety is more important.