Seven Things Your Agent Should Know About Your Mortgage Approval

While many experienced real estate agents have a general understanding of the mortgage approval process, there are a few important details that frequently get overlooked which may cause a purchase to be delayed or denied.

New regulation, updated disclosures, appraisal guidelines, mortgage rate pricing premiums, credit score, secondary approval layering, rescission deadlines, property type, HOA insurance requirements, title and property flip rules are just a few of the daily changes that can have a serious impact on a borrower’s home loan financing.

With today’s volatile lending environment, it’s obviously important for home buyers to get a full loan approval which clearly defines all contingencies that pertain to each unique home buyer’s scenario prior to spending any time looking at new homes with an agent.

Either way, we’ve listed a few of the top things your agent should keep in mind while showing you new properties:

Caution – Agents Beware:

Property Type –

High-Rise, Condo, Town House, Single Family Residence, Dome Home or Shoe House… all have specific lending guidelines that can influence down payment, credit score and mortgage insurance requirements.

Residence Type

Need to sell one home before moving into another? Is a property considered a second home if it’s in the same city?  What if I’m buying a home for my children to live in, it is still considered an investment property?

These are just a few of several possible residence related questions that should be addressed by your agent and loan officer at the initial loan application.

Rates / Locks

Mortgage Rates are typically locked for a 30 day period, and one of the only ways to get a new rate is to switch mortgage lenders.  Rates also have certain adjustments for property / residence type, credit score and down payment which could have a big impact on monthly payments and therefore approvals.

A 1% increase in rate could literally mean the difference between an approval or denial.

Headline News / Employment

Underwriters watch the news as well.  Borrowers who work in a volatile industry during hard economic times may have to jump through a few extra hoops to prove that their employment and income is secure.

Job changes, periods of unemployment or property location in relation to the subject property are other things to consider that may cause a speed bump in the approval process.

Title / Property Flip –

A Flip is considered a property that has been purchased by an investor and quickly sold to a new buyer within a 30-90 day period.  Generally, an investor will do a little rehab work, fresh paint, landscaping…. and try to re-sell the property for a significant profit margin.

While it seems like a perfectly fair transaction, many lenders have strict guidelines in place that prevent borrowers from obtaining financing on properties that have a previous owner with less than 90 days of documented ownership.

These rules change frequently, and are specific to particular property types, so make sure your agent is aware of all the boundaries associated with your approval letter.

Homeowner’s Association Insurance

Some lenders require Condos and Town House communities to have sufficient insurance and reserves coverage pertaining to specific ratios on units that are owner occupied vs rented.

It may also take a few weeks and cost up to $300 to receive an HOA Certification, so make sure your Due-Diligence period is set accordingly in the purchase contract.

Appraisal Ordering Procedures

Appraisal ordering guidelines are changing quite frequently as regulators implement many new consumer protection laws created to prevent future foreclosure epidemics.

Unfortunately, some of the new appraisal regulations have proven to slow the home buying process down, as well as confuse lenders about the true estimate of neighborhood values.

VA, FHA and Conventional loan programs all have separate appraisal ordering policies, so make sure your agent is aware of which loan you’re approved for so that they document any anticipated delays in the purchase contract.

For example, if an appraisal takes three weeks and the average time for an approval is two weeks, then it probably isn’t smart to write a purchase contract with a four week close of escrow.

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Five Myths About Home Values

During periods of economic growth, when home values are typically just going up, most homeowners do not question appraisals much.

And in times of turmoil when property values are declining, home sellers and even listing agents quite often question and pick apart appraisals.

However, the actual appraisal process changed very little over the course of the housing boom and bust cycle American homeowners witnessed between 2001 – 2009.

Since the topic of home values seems to be a hot discussion, let’s address the top five appraisal myths.

Appraisal Myths / Questions:

“I just put $15K into the property, why isn’t the appraised value higher? ”

Not all improvements to the property are equal in producing added value. A local real estate investment club used to tout buying a run-down, roach-infested property cheap, and after de-bugging and adding a fresh coat of paint and carpet – *presto* – the house would appraise like the new homes up the street.

Even with cosmetic repairs, the property may still be much more comparable to the foreclosure next door than the new home a block away. Look first to the “guts” of the property, the electrical, heating & air, etc. If they are updated, then the number of beds/baths and square footage are the next biggest weight, followed by a genuine updating of cosmetic improvements.

“But my home really compares to some of the properties in the neighborhood across the way…”

For example, if a homeowner preparing a house to sell adds $150,000 in upgrades to the kitchen, built-in cabinets and flooring, it may help the property show better in an open house and in magazine advertisements.

However, the seller might still be stuck with a $450,000 appraised value like the three comparable properties on their street vs the $750,000 they were hoping to list it for.

Even though the neighborhood across the main street had similar homes in the higher price range, especially after the seller’s extensive upgrades, appraisers will always use homes from the actual neighborhood to establish value first.

So basically, the seller simply over-improved their home for their specific neighborhood.

“This appraiser included foreclosures as comps – that’s not fair”

It isn’t fair, especially if your home is well-kept and in great condition compared to the run-down foreclosures in the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, if every recent sale, or nearly all sales, are foreclosures at reduced prices, then the appraiser is forced to use the recent sales and trends as comparable values.  High foreclosure rates generally depress values and show a trend of lowering prices. 

And abnormally high foreclosure rates generally depress values and show a trend of constantly lowering value.

“But I just put in a $50K pool, doesn’t that count for anything?”

Pools and professional landscaping rarely see a dollar for dollar value add on a property.  The value is going to mainly be based on comparable sales in a neighborhood.

“How can similar homes in the same neighborhood appraiser for such different values?”

This is a typical question for older neighborhoods where similar models may have drastic price differences.

Additional rooms and square footage can be the main reason for one property appraising higher than another.

Keep in mind, just because the market trend in a particular neighborhood is improving over time, the individual properties need to meet the same conditional improvements as the others in order rise with the tide.

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An appraiser is looking at several things when determining the value of a property: improvements, size and square footage of the living area, neighborhood amenities, location and the market trends around the area.

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Important Factors To Consider When Getting Financing On A Foreclosure, Short Sale or New Construction

Short sales, foreclosures and new construction homes all have caveats that need to be considered when pursuing financing.

If the guidelines and potential pitfalls are not properly understood, you could face delays in closing or potentially even a denied loan.

Short Sales & Foreclosures -

Short sales and foreclosures are everywhere. They often represent great value when looking to by a new home.

However, they also present a unique set of problems that homebuyers need to be aware of and plan for.

1.) Property Condition

Typically, when homeowners are facing foreclosure or looking to short sell their house, it means they lack the financial means to pay the mortgage or maintain the property.

A property in poor health can cause many financing issues for traditional financing.  FHA loans have specific rules requiring that the property is move-in-ready, unless you’re using a 203(k) Rehab Loan.

2.) Timing Challenges

Short sales typically come with awkward timeframes for purchase contract approval and loan closing.

Each bank is different, but approval can take anywhere between a week to 120 days.  As a general rule, the larger the bank the longer it takes to get short sale approval.

The lack of a set timeframe for short sale approval makes the timing of loan submission, rate locks and closing very challenging. You have your approval conditions cleared to close on time, just to find out that new appraisals, income, employment and asset verifications need to be updated by an underwriter to cover the most recent 30 days. Worst case, purchase contracts and legal documents may have to be re-submitted to a bank for an updated approval.

Either way, be prepared for a lot of redundant paperwork when purchasing a short sale property.

New Construction -

Home buyers looking to purchase new construction using FHA financing will have more hoops to jump through than those purchasing through conventional (Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac) financing.

If you want to use FHA financing to purchase new construction then you need to be aware of a number of issues that can trip you up.

First, you MUST have a certificate of occupancy (C.O.) certifying that the property is complete and move-in-ready. If you do not have this then you typically CANNOT go FHA. You’ll need a renovation loan, but a FHA 203K WILL NOT work.

You’ll need to employ the Fannie Mae HomeStyle for a property without a C.O.

In addition to the C.O. you’ll need some combination of the following documents as dictated by your lender and your unique situation:

  • Builder’s Certification
  • One Year Builder Warranty (10 YR Warranty may be required)
  • Termite Inspection (when applicable)
  • Septic Inspection (when applicable)
  • Well Test (when applicable)
  • Construction Permits

There are a number of factors which go into exactly what combination of documentation will be required to satisfy your lender and FHA, so it is best to work with an experienced loan officer when purchasing new construction with FHA financing.

If you plan on using conventional Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac financing you’ll still have hoops to jump through, just not as many as FHA. You’ll also have a higher down payment requirement and the credit qualification guidelines tend to be stricter.

Whether it be FHA financing, conventional financing or renovation financing, it’s important to have a qualified home buying team in place that can lead you through the maze of paperwork and negotiations.

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