Tough Real Estate Market? What are buyers and sellers supposed to do?

The real estate market today is one of the toughest in recent history. A large number of foreclosed homes on the market is marking it tough on the traditional home seller. While every market is different, most areas have seen a significant drop in value.

The mortgage industry has tighten lending, with a virtual elimination of all non-traditional financing and “creative” zero down type options (although VA and USDA are still around and great zero down options). Most programs today require 3.5% to 5% down MINIMUM and good credit. Gone are the days of easy lending.

Washington has tried “fixing” mortgage lending, but has essentially failed with bad programs like FHA Secure, Help For Home Owners, HARP, and HAMP. They’ve made industry changes that have cost home buyers more money, like HVCC, and LO Compensation. They’ve created more confusion with the new three page Good Faith Estimate, and the whopper of them all… Only requiring half of the Loan Officers to have a license!

Traditional sellers have the upper hand and an easier time in most cases in the “condition of the property” category versus a foreclosure, but it is still very tough when the banks are liquidating foreclosed properties, and the prices they are giving some of them away at.

So, what is a seller and buyer to do? How does a seller sell and a buyer buy in today’s market?

First, understand that because of the large volume of foreclosed properties, it is a great time to be a buyer, whether you are a move-up buyer or a first-time buyer.

For sellers, now is not the time to try and sell your own property. You need the help of a FULL-TIME, experienced Realtor to help guide you through the process. Buyers need the same help to guide them through the maze of properties, both traditional and bank-owned. Having a good agent is extremely important. Take some time to interview your Realtor. How long have they been in business? How many sales have they completed? How many buyers have they helped? Can you get references? Don’t just pick your agent from an open house, or use your sisters best friend who got her license last month.

For move-up buyers, you may have to give in to a lower than you like selling price, but you should reap a nice reward on any new home you buy. This is especially true if you are moving from the low $200k to the mid $300k range, as homes that were selling in the $400k range are now in the $350k. Therefore, even if you have to give up a little on your current sale price, you should more than make up for it on the buy side. Remember, a house priced right, and realistic, will sell even in today’s market right away. Furthermore, with today’s standard fixed rates hovering around 5%, you can still lock in historically great rates!

For first-time buyers, it is a great time to find aggressively priced homes, whether it is a bank-owned foreclosure, or a motivated traditional seller. Not all buyers are ready, or want to tackle “AS IS” foreclosures, so be sure to be honest with yourself about what you are doing to avoid a potential disaster down the road.

Today’s prices are again extremely affordable in the first-time buyer starter home category. Even though most zero down programs are no longer available, with proper negotiation, you can get the seller to pay most, if not all of your closing costs.

This means you can buy a $150k home for just $5250 out-of-pocket. With programs like FHA, the entire down payment can be a gift from family members, or community assistance programs. That is how it was always done prior to about 1999… and somehow people bought houses then, so don’t sit back waiting. NOW is the time to buy!

Finally, one of the first things you should do is get pre-approved with a quality lender who will discuss with you your qualifying ability and program options in today’s market. Someone who has the knowledge, expertise, and full range of programs (like FHA) to bring you to a successful no surprises closing. This is never the guy on the internet posting the lowest rate, or the unlicensed bank representative at the 1-800 number bank call center.

A word of caution. If you are shopping for a lender based on rate, be prepared to get screwed. Be sure to read these informative articles for more information: “Rate Shopping – How to do it right“, and “Lender Shopping – How to do it right“.

No matter what your real estate needs are, buying or selling, with the proper guidance of full-time professional Realtor and Loan Officer, you should be able to have your dreams come true.


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