Dangers of Dual Agency on real estate transactions

The dangers of dual agency real estate transactions, and using the same real estate agent to buy your home that is also selling the home is a little more troubling than most home buyers are aware.

It’s common to walk into an Open House, look around, and start talking to the real estate agent listing the home.  If you don’t already have your own agent, but love the home, you may be tempted to just use the agent selling the house.  While completely legal, and while it may seem OK on the surface, it is wrought with possible issues.

The first thing to know is that real estate agents commonly refer to this situation as a ‘hogger’. This simply means they get to keep all of the commission the seller is paying for themselves when they represent both the seller and the buyer. Typically when there is a separate buying and selling agent they split the commissions. On a pretty standard 6% listing fee, the listing agent would keep 3.3% of the commission, and pay 2.7% to the buyers agent. If they can double their pay, an agent might be over  incentivized to close a deal no matter what.

Many buyer think that a dual agent will reduce their commissions, saving them money. While they can do this, it rarely even happens.

But the bigger concern element is that the duty of the agent in this situation is to the seller. They have no duty to the buyer. An example would be that the agent knows the seller is willing to take $10,000 less on the house, but the agent has no duty whatsoever to tell share this confidential information with you just because you are using the same agent.

Also, without your own agent, you have no one advising you if the listing price is even reasonable. If you have your own agent, your agent will generally review similar properties to tell you if this one is priced low, about right, or high. The listing agent will likely defend the listing price as it, meaning you could easily over pay for the home.

TIP: Although you may feel like you have to make the decision whether to accept a dual agent on short notice, don’t be tempted. It’s possible to find a buyer’s agent to step into the transaction and assist you in a matter of hours. Best to always have your own buying agent. Someone fighting for YOU!

If I’ve pre-approved you for your mortgage loan, I’ve worked with hundreds of good real estate agents in the Minneapolis / St Paul area, and can easily get a great one to call you right away.

PROHIBITED BY LAW

A much lesser known, but to me more troubling issue is that when you hire a real estate agent to list your home, and the same company represents the buyer, your agent is prohibited by law to negotiate on your behalf?

WTF?

Yes, its true. It is because of a Minnesota law called ‘Dual Agency’, and companies with hundreds or even thousands of real estate agents end up having many ‘in-house’ transactions. This forces sellers to sacrifice their exclusive representation because even though you have two different agents, they work for the same company.

Before entering into any of these types of dual agency agreements, however, you want to understand the legal implications and how it might affect your ability to get the best possible deal in buying or selling a home. You’ll see dual agency notifications in the piles of paperwork you sign when making an offer, but virtually no one buying a home understands what it means.


Spring real estate has sprung

Spring brings renewed real estate activity to Minneapolis / St Paul

Spring 2016 has seen a welcome2_FTHB_1nice increase in real estate activity in the Twin Cities, MN area, with pending sales rising 12.6% compared to March 2015, and with the median sales price rising to $222,000, a nice 5.7% increase. Buyers signed 5,861 new purchase agreements.

Supply on the market remains a concern, area Realtor associations reported Thursday, with new listings rising only 0.5 percent, keeping supply levels at a 13-year low. Compared with last March, inventory levels fell 20.6 percent to 11,893 active properties.

Low inventory levels, at about a 10-year low is causing increased values, and multiple offers over asking price just days on the market for many homes for homes under $250,000.  As the home price goes up, it typically take longer for the homes to sell.

Mortgage lenders saw a large jump in mortgage loan pre-approval activity in February, which brings anecdotal evidence that there would be a surge of buyers this spring.


Should you trust a Zillow Zestimate??

Everyone wants to know the value of their home. Zillow has  done a fantastic job of putting themselves as the trusted place to get an estimate.  But should you?zestimate

The Zillow has this to say about Zestimates.

(note: everything in red is straight from Zillows web site)

The Zestimate® home valuation is Zillow’s estimated market value, computed using a proprietary formula. It is not an appraisal. It is a starting point in determining a home’s value. The Zestimate is calculated from public and user-submitted data, taking into account special features, location, and market conditions. We encourage buyers, sellers, and homeowners to supplement Zillow’s information by doing other research such as:

  • Getting a comparative market analysis (CMA) from a real estate agent
  • Getting an appraisal from a professional appraiser
  • Visiting the house (whenever possible)=

The Zestimate’s accuracy depends on location and availability of data in an area. Some counties have deeply detailed information on homes such as number of bedrooms, bathrooms and square footage and others do not. The more data available, the more accurate the Zestimate.

Data Coverage and Zestimate Accuracy

Nationally, the Zestimate has a median error rate of 8%, which means half of the Zestimates in an area are closer than the error percentage and half are farther off. For example, in Seattle, Zestimates for half of the homes are within 6.6% of the selling price, and half are off by more than 6.6%.

To improve Zestimate accuracy, we allow homeowners to edit their home facts and then we incorporate this information into our Zestimate calculations.

Be aware that in some areas, we might not be able to produce a Zestimate at all, but we do have some basic information on the homes.

zestimate

This accuracy data chart for this area is pulled right from Zillows web site.  On a $300,000 home, a medium error of 6.90% in our area of Minneapolis / St Paul is $20,700!  Yikes… That is a lot. What about a 20% error rate?  Geez, even just 5% is a big number.

Zillow does the best it can with the information it has but it can’t account for important factors such as location, current market trends, local house inventory, school district, updates, granite counter-tops, poor maintenance, physical obsolescence (appraiser speak for being next to a highway, under power lines, etc), and many other details.

Zestimates give consumers an estimate on what a home might be worth. It is fun to look at, but don’t take the number seriously.

The next most popular quick peek value people look at is the county tax value.  Just like Zillow, the county tax value might be close, or very far out of line. It could be high, it could be low.

The bottom line is simple: For setting a sales price for your home, you need a Real Estate Agent. When looking to see if a home is priced right that you want to buy, you need a Real Estate Agent. When refinancing a home, lenders will send a real appraiser to your home.

If you need a good Real Estate Agent in the Minneapolis, St Paul area, I’ve worked with hundreds over the years, and would be happy to put you in touch with one.


Twin Cities real estate market hits 10-yr high

Minneapolis, MN: The Minneapolis, St Paul area real estate market reached a 10-year milestones in June 2015, with signed purchase agreements rising 19.2 percent to 6,266. Last year, closed sales had increased 22% to 6,928.

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This is all welcome news, because the last time demand was this strong was back in June 2005, according to a release Monday from the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors.

The June 2015 median sales price climbed 4.7% to $229,900. This puts the AVERAGE home price to within just 3.5% of the record high set back in June 2006, which was at a then record median high of $238,000. Typical price per square foot, now at $128, is about 18.5 percent below its June 2006 record high.

The local real estate market continues to be a sellers market, because of the ongoing imbalance between the supply of homes for sale, and the number of active buyers looking to buy a home.

Sellers are getting on average about 99.6% of their last list price, with large numbers of homes selling within days, with multiple offers, and over list price.

For buyers, this means you need to be fully mortgage lender pre-approved, with pre-approval letter in hand, and ready to make an offer immediately on anything you love.

 MN first time home buyer programs


Twin Cities Home Prices Rise

The Twin Cities real estate market continues to defy the traditional assumptions of supply and demand as year-on-year home prices rise while supply also increases.

worth_balanceOne reason for this is that so-called distressed properties, short sales and foreclosures, continue to disappear from a market they once dominated. These properties — where the mortgage balance due exceeds the home’s value — artificially depressed home prices. Now, it’s the resurgence of so-called traditional sales that is inflating prices.

St. Paul and Minneapolis Realtors’ associations reported recently that the local median sales price rose 7.2 percent, year-on-year, to $209,000 in October. Inventory rose 4.3 percent. The median was$205,000 in September.

The local trade associations also noted a decline in deal activity, with pending sales down 1.3 percent from last year. This also can result in higher inventory. New listings decreased 2.3 percent.

Traditional new listings rose 6.7 percent, while foreclosure and short-sale new listings were down 42.4 and 31.3 percent, respectively.

Months’ supply of inventory was up 10.8 percent to 4.1 months. Days on market is down 4 percent to 72 days.

Both associations counted the developments as a positive, citing greater inventory for buyers, with better prices for traditional home sellers, super low Minnesota mortgage rates, and plenty of loan programs for first time home buyers.


Underwaters homes dramatically lower

Minneapolis, MN: Since the real estate market collapse, many home owners found themselves owning much more than their home was worth on the fair market. This created many problems, from the inability to sell and move, foreclosure from the inability to sell, and a hard time refinancing because of the lower value.

Homes for sale - real estate - MinnesotaThe housing market has been slowly climbing up the ladder, and according to a report from Zillow, the share of homes underwater has now dropped to under 20%

The same report stated that the underwater rate is currently about 19.4% of all homes. This is an improvement of about 3.9 million homes going back above water in 2013.  This is down from about 27.5%  of all homes underwater in late 2012.

As values increase, millions of people who may have had a pent up demand to move, but couldn’t, now suddenly find themselves once again above water.  More people are likely above water than actually realize, as many people rely on county tax statements for their value estimates. But tax value and fair market value, or what you could actually sell the home for, are many times two dramatically different numbers.

I advise anyone thinking of selling, to contact a local Real Estate Agent to get a fair market assessment of their home, and to contact a mortgage broker in their area to see what they would qualify for in a new home, or to see about refinancing.

The market is expected to slowly continue the climb towards a more balanced market, with the report estimating the negative equity of homes nationwide to drop even further, to just 17.2% by the end of 2014.


Losing offers to cash buyers? Here is how to win with a loan

You are fully pre-approved, and actively looking for homes with a Real Estate Agent.  You find the perfect home, but there are multiple offers, and one of them is cash.  Panic sets in, but don’t worry.

Sellers love cash buyers for two main reasons. The first one is super obvious – quick closings.  The second, but bigger scare, is any lender related issues.  Is the client “really” qualified?  Will the house appraise OK? Will the lender require something to be repaired?  How long will it take to close?

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Ways to beat cash offers: 

If possible, try these tips to make you are your offer as good, or better than a cash offer.

Bigger Down Payment

While it has no bearing in reality, both Real Estate Agents and sellers think you are a more qualified buyer if you put more money down.  So try a bigger down payment if you possibly can afford it.  Interesting, the #1 best performing mortgage loan with the least foreclosures in the market is a zero down payment VA Loan.

Forget the Official Inspection

Most buyers opt to have a home inspection done. Most official inspections find no major items that you likely didn’t see already yourself.  Most buyers end up nit-picking minor little items, then ask the seller to “fix” everything. This is very annoying to sellers.  Look the house over good by yourself, and then skip the official inspection.

Change your price point

Are you constantly being out bid?  Everyone else seem to be willing to pay more?  Consider looking at homes in a slightly lower price point. By looking at less expensive homes, you can be the one that puts in an offer over the asking price, and winds the deal.

Closing Costs

All loans have closing costs.  It is very common to ask the seller to pay your closing costs. The seller isn’t really paying anything, rather it is just a way for the buyer to pay the costs over time, versus paying up front at closing.

For example: If you offer $205,000 and ask the seller to pay $5000 on your behalf, the sellers net is $200,000.  If you offer $200,000 without asking for anything, the sellers net is still $200,000. Unfortunately, most sellers feel like you are ripping them off when you ask for seller concessions. They add up in the sellers mind, which works against you. Try not to ask for ANY concessions, not even a “Home Warranty” (99.9% of the time you’d never need anyway).

Try to talk to the seller

Buying and selling a home can be very emotional.  Talking to the seller about how you’d love to raise your three kids there, just like the seller raised their kids there has serious emotional pull.  It goes a long way when fighting against a typically lower cash offer from someone who just plans of flipping the home.

Winning a bid with a loan

Fighting cash buyers can be discouraging. But, just because they’re dealing in cash doesn’t mean they win. Many investors think they can low-ball with cash.  Show you are super serious with these ideas, and you’ll have a winning bid!


How many homes should we look at before buying?

You are fully pre-approved with your mortgage lender, and out looking at new homes.

How many homes should we look at before buying?

Minneapolis, MN Real Estate - Mortgage BrokerReal Estate Agents and lenders get this question all the time. The answer? It depends.

Realistically, most people only physically need to look at between 5 – 7 homes before deciding on which one to make an offer on. Some look at 1 or 2 homes before making and offer, and some look at 20 plus homes. The trick is to work with your Real Estate Agent and Loan Officer to have realistic expectations of your wants, needs, goals, and affordability.

The first step is to get pre-approved with a local Minneapolis area mortgage broker.

This way you’ve already discussed mortgage loan programs, down payment and loan requirements, and have set a realistic home purchase price. How can you even start looking at homes if you don’t know this information?

Meet with the Real Estate Agent

With mortgage knowledge in hand, now you can meet with a local Realtor to go over your housing needs, Bedrooms, neighborhoods, yards, features, priorities, and more. Your agent will discuss all of these items, and figure out a realistic plan. Usually they will then set up some automated listings to be sent to you by Email that meets your criteria. When you find some that you like, now it is time to physically go look at homes.

Because you’ve already discuss financing, and set good expectations with your Realtor, you can usually achieve the dream of home ownership without looking at dozens of homes. It’s all about educating them up front and getting on the same page.

First Time Home Buyers

Many first time home buyers in the Minneapolis, MN area look at a little high average, more like 7 – 10 homes before buying. This is OK, as they sometimes need to discover features and options on homes that they may have not been as familiar with as a move up buying looking at their second or third home.

The Bottom Line is that there is no set number

Each person is different. But if you’ve physically looked at more than 10 homes, it is probably time to sit down with your mortgage and real estate professional to re-examine your housing wants, needs, goals, and affordability.before they find the right home.


Three Great Reasons to Buy A House Today

real1Thinking about buying a new home, but maybe still sitting on the fence? Here are three great reasons to buy a home today:

1. Home Prices Rising:  The Minneapolis, St Paul market, home prices have risen 15.1% in the last 12 months. The bottom of the market has come and gone. But there is a lot of room for upward movement. If prices continue to rise, and you buy now, your equity will begin to build as soon as you close.

2. Builders Are Building Again: Land costs more, materials cost more, labor costs more. This means new home prices are going up, too. Buying today may be your best option because the cost of new constructions isn’t likely to decrease.

3. Mortgage Interest Rates Still Historically Low: Interest rates are up from a few months ago, but still in the mid 4% range (as of today). This is still considered fantastically low. Mortgage interest rates are projected to be in the mid 5% range next summer, so buying today and locking in a super low rate is a smart move.


St Paul Home Price continue to climb

Minneapolis and St Paul area home owners continue to see an upward climb in the value of their homes. The median sales price soared up 17.5 percent over last year.  According to the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS®, the June 2013 average value was $210,000, the highest it’s been since December 2007, just as the market was starting to crash.  By the way, mortgage interest rates at the time were about 6.10%.

house_from_wordLess homes for sale than what we’d like to see, combined with fewer foreclosures, and low mortgage rates continue to fuel these price increases.  New listings were up in June by over 20% from last year, but still there are more buyers than sellers,  sparking competition amongst buyers.

While mortgage interest rates are still historically low, they have increased about 1% from the lows back in May 2013 to around 4.50% today. This increase has put more pressure on the home prices as those who were sitting on the fence are jumping into the water before rates go even higher.

In the sub $250,000 price range, considered the “most affordable”, many homes are selling very quickly with multiple offers just days on the market.  Therefore all prospective buyers need to be fully lender pre-approved and ready to make an offer the moment they see a house they love.

Rising home prices and higher mortgage rates caused housing affordability to decrease by 15.9 percent from last year. However, home prices remain well below pre-housing-crisis levels and mortgage rates remain historically low, even after the rate increase.

 


Homebuyer jump into market as rates rise

Mortgage rates have risen about 1% since May 2013, and that is clearly making potential home buyers jump into purchase contracts more sooner than later according to a recent Fannie Mae housing survey.
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The survey shows 57% of people expect mortgage rates to rise in the next 12 months, with just 7% responding that rates will remain stable. The previous survey indicated only 46% of people expected mortgage rates to rise.

Potential home buyer clearly see the writing on the wall, and anyone even close to purchasing a home realize interest rates, while up from previous lows, are still historically good.  Given the fact home prices are rising and rates are rising, homebuyers have decided that now is time to get off the fence and get serious about buying real estate.
Americans’ outlook on the economy deteriorated slightly, though many were more optimistic about their personal situation. The share of people who expect their own personal financial situation to improve over the next year jumped to 46%, its highest level in three years, while  16% said they expect their situation to worsen, unchanged for the third consecutive month.


Twin Cities home prices rise again

St Paul, MN: The most recent reports and data for the Minneapolis St Paul real estate market shows continuing signs of rebound with both increased home prices and increased building permits for new construction.

newconThe University of St Thomas’ monthly residential real estate price report index shows that the mediam sales price was up 6% over March of 2012, with the current average now 209,900.

Improvements to the housing market are attributed to an

New construction builders are also complaining about a lack of quality lots within the metro area that have current access to utilities. This forces builders to pay premium prices for prime lots, which of course increases the price of the new home.

 


Average home price in St Paul Minneapolis up 18.9%

St Paul, MN: The median price of a home in the Twin Cities rose 18.9 percent in the past year and stood at $192,557 in March, according to a study by an online real estate website.

The study, released Thursday, April 25, reflects a well-documented shortage of homes for sale in the Twin Cities, which has contributed to an increase in prices.

READ THE FULL STORY

 


What clients and Real Estate Agents Don’t Understand about Appraiser Independence

What clients and Real Estate Agents Don’t Understand About Appraiser Independence

Minneapolis, MN:  Real Estate Agents constantly call our mortgage office to ask if an Appraisal was ordered, or if it is completed yet.

appThe first question is pretty silly…  Of course it was.  The second question is tougher to answer until the completed appraisal physically shows up on the lenders desk.

Recent lender rules require what is known as “Appraiser Independence”.  This is a double down on the old rules that no one is allowed to influence or pressure the appraiser to obtain any pre-determined value on the home. The rules also means that no one who will be compensated on the file can have anything to do with picking the appraiser.  It has to be totally blind and randomly assigned.  This is very different from years past where the client or the Loan Officer could pick any appraiser they wanted.

Once the appraisal has been ordered, there are varying degrees of what the Loan Officer may or may not know about the status of the appraisal.  Most mortgage companies use a middle company, known as an AMC, or Appraisal Management Company, to handle all aspects of the appraisal. This easily means the lender will meet the “independence” guidelines. Some AMC’s are better than others in letting the lender know the status, giving them the expected date the appraiser will visit the property, and the expected appraisal completion date. With many others, the lender is completely in the blind. In the vast majority of cases, I don’t even know who the appraiser is until the appraisal is completed.

To further complicate the issue, while it is technically possible for a Loan Officer to speak to an appraiser on a very limited number of questions, the vast majority of lenders completely forbid this contact to avoid even the remote likelihood of influence complicity.  It is much easier to respond to regulators that “our loan officers are forbidden”, then to claim they didn’t do anything wrong.

As a mortgage lender, it is very frustrating when real estate agents constantly bombard me with appraisal question.  If I know, I will tell you.  Do not yell at the Loan Officer if they don’t know the answer or say they can not talk to the appraiser.


5 Star Blog Review

Minneapolis, MN: Lender411.com has review our Blog,  the MN Real Estate Daily, and given it a 5 Star Rating.

Lender411 is a mortgage resource portal on the web.  They provide free and educational mortgage information while matching you up with possible lenders for each unique mortgage loan situation.

READ OUR REVIEW on Lender411

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Minneapolis Area Medium Home Values UP 12.4%

Minneapolis, MN:  Metro area home prices were up 3.3% in March according to the widely watched Case-Shiller home price index.

This report confirms what what I have been saying for some time now – that home prices in the Minneapolis / St Paul area are increasing, the market is stabilizing, and that especially in the sub $200,000 price range, good houses are going fast with multiple offers above asking price just days on the market.

All real estate is local. Our increase bucks the nationwide trend.  Overall, U.S. home prices fell in March, ending the first quarter with some of the lowest levels scene since the housing crisis began in mid-2006. During the first quarter, home prices nationally reached new lows, falling 1.9 percent year-to-year.

Nationwide, average home prices are down roughly 35 percent from their peak in the second quarter of 2006.

Demand for homes has been showing some serious signs of stabilization, as low mortgage rates, low home prices, and improved job growth have pushed first time home buyers off the fence and into the housing market.

According to information from the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, March marked the first time since 2010 that median home prices had risen in the Twin Cities.  The Minneapolis / St Paul median home price rose 6.4 %, to $149,000. The positive news continued in April, when a shrinking supply of homes on the market helped drive the median sales price up 12.4% to $163,000. Foreclosures and short sales also made up a smaller share of sales in recent months, which helped boost prices.

Forget the national reports. In this market, everyday you wait is going to cost you. Get pre-approved today, and be in your own home next month.