Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Everybody's Buying a Foreclosure

I think I have had only 2 deals this year that did not involve some kind of foreclosure/short sale/distressed property.

My buyers are pretty good at recognizing a bargain and are willing to go through the agony of it all to end up with a good house.

Last night I was lying in bed thinking about how fewer "normal people" are listing their homes and more and more the selection for buyers is mostly bank-owned property.

I dug through a report put out by the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors called Foreclosures and Short Sales in the Twin Cities Housing Market. A quote illustrating my point is here:
The market share picture is similar for home sales, with foreclosures and short sales comprising a larger portion of overall sales than they have before. In Q1 2008, 27.6 percent of total residential closed sales were mediated by a financial institution, up substantially from the first quarter of the two years prior. And the number of traditional closed sales fell from 8,896 in Q1 2006 to 4,790 in Q1 2008, while the number of bank mediated sales increased from 324 to 1,828 for the same time period comparison.
So we are talking almost ONE THIRD of all sales in Q1 2008 were foreclosures. That's not ending anytime soon, either.
Read the full report here:

I'm seeing lots of bank-owned and soon-to-be bank-owned in Lakeville and Apple Valley, where I have some buyers. This is going to hit the suburbs, and it will be tough, very tough.

And when one third of all listings are foreclosures -- just by mathmatical odds -- a third of all of my sales should be foreclosures. We are all dealing with this, not just the "inner city," or the late-night infomercial watchers. It's here.

Land Ho!

I've been talking with my friend John from Shelter Architecture about how now is a good time to build your dream home in the city.

Here's why -- it's really hard to find a lot in the city. However, the glut of cheap foreclosures could allow someone to tear down an existing house to build a new house. With houses selling for as little as $7,000 in the metro, it's a good time to jump on this. And yes, there are foreclosures in all neighborhoods -- from Bald Eagle Lake and North Oaks to Kenwood and Crocus Hill.

Financing is tight right now, but I think this is a nice opportunity time for a lot of people.

It's also a good time to take a shell of a house and turn it into something new.

Incredibly Lucky

Serendipity seems to strike every once in a while in real estate.

I was in the office making my open houses flyers and the front desk paged me. There was a walk-in customer that wanted to talk to an agent.

I was rushing to get to my opens and I did not have much time to talk. I went away with some doubts -- first time homebuyers, small budget, grand ideas. Not sure this was going anywhere, but I agreed to meet him next week.

I was really busy and scrambled to put together a couple houses to show them. I thought at least I could talk to them more and find out if buying was a possibility for them, or just a dream.

I showed them two houses in their price range - both foreclosures on the West Side. One was a grandpa house that needed a lot of work. The other was a beautiful house that had been overlooked for a long time because it was a foreclosure. It had just been reduced in price, and the buyers loved it. It was in great shape and just needed appliances.

It's unusual to find a beautiful house in a great neighborhood for dirt cheap, and my buyers knew it. They acted quickly, and found out that night that they were approved for $5,000 less than the list price.

We wrote the offer for $5,000 less than the list price -- exactly what the buyer was approved for. The next day I was sick with the flu, and the bank counters with a few thousand over the level the buyers can spend. I was demoralized and I told the list agent we would work with the lender to get my buyers approved to go to the new level, which might be hard. While I slept off the flu, I got an email that the list agent had simply re-submitted our offer and we got it!

I was thrilled. It's so rewarding when you have a buyer with a small budget and you can find them a beautiful house in a good neighborhood. We are all thrilled, I'm excited to see this one close.

Forcing It

This year I have had several closings (all related to distressed properties, go figure) that were pretty brutal. A closing usually takes about an hour and I have had several now that have taken 3 or more hours. Yesterday was a whopper -- I was at the closing office for almost 5 hours.

The property was incredible, in the historic district, and cheap cheap cheap. About 30% less than the previous owner paid a few years ago. It was a real once-in-a-lifetime for the buyer.

My buyer was incredible -- smart and motivated and charming to boot.

The deal was less than incredible. A short sale, with Countrywide, while they were going through a merger with Bank of America. The seller lives in Europe and was hard to reach, and maybe did not want to be reached.

Luckily, the list agent was a gem. She worked really hard on this but she almost gave up on the deal because Countrywide was not approving any short sales during the BOA merger and was giving them the runaround.

About 5 months after we wrote our offer, Countrywide decided to take it. It was a huge effort by the list agent to get Countrywide to accept a big loss. It was a definite relief, but it was not the end of our hurdles.

It was FHA financing, and there is nothing FHA loves more than to require a house to be painted before it is sold, or not allow it to be sold at all. And yes, this big old Victorian needed paint, and fast. The buyer got to work and had it painted in less than 3 days. I was shocked and stunned, and knew this closing had a chance to happen.

Yesterday at the closing table we were missing a few elements, but the buyer began signing anyway. As he signed the last few papers, we still did not have an email or phone call back from Countrywide with final approval on our numbers.

We let the buyer go and I got on the phone. I called the number we had. I called other Countrywide numbers I found online. I could not reach the "only person" that would be allowed to approve this sale. We had to have it wrapped up in 48 hours or the entire deal would be lost. It was high stakes and I was not going to let it fall apart.

Finally I checked Countrywide's SEC filings and called the number that connected me to the office where the executives are. I was connected through to one of the VP's admins and she was more than happy to stop coloring spreadsheets and pulled a few strings for me. After more than two and a half hours on the phone, Countrywide approved the sale.

I think it took six days off my life, this closing. It's kind of a miracle it happened at all -- the list agent filled me in on some details that I did not know before that make it clear this is a real miracle.

I had champagne on the buyer's new deck last night with his friends and family. It was very rewarding to have this one done. As I was going to sleep that night, all of my adrenaline came rushing through and my heart was just palpitating. I had spent so long keeping a cool head that it all fell on me right then. I don't think anyone other than other realtors know what we go through to keep it together sometimes.