7 Tips on Seller Financing/Owner Financing

Seller Financing/Owner Financing -- How to Structure the Best Mortgage Terms - 7 Key Tips

Seller Financing/ Owner Financing can provide benefits for both the seller and buyer of real estate, but the seller should be careful to structure the terms of the mortgage to maintain the value of the note. Here are 7 key tips for creating a mortgage note that will maximize the value of the mortgage should you decide to sell it at a later date.

Seller Financing/ Owner Financing can provide benefits for both the seller and buyer of real estate, but the seller should be careful to structure the terms of the note to maintain the value of the note.

For the seller, the best reason for offering seller financing is it allows a much larger pool of eligible buyers for the property. Today there are interested buyers, however many of them do not fit the narrow criteria that would allow them to attain traditional financing. Offering these potential buyers an opportunity to obtain financing privately will dramatically increase the chances of selling the property. Traditionally, seller financing allows the seller to obtain a higher price because of their willingness to extend financing terms to the buyer. For the buyer, utilizing seller financing means they do not have to pay the points and fees and go through the "red tape" at the bank. Buyers will also consider this because a privately held mortgage does not show up on a credit report or a balance sheet. This allows the buyer to get additional loans that he/she would not be able to obtain through a bank or other lending institution. The bank considers debt to equity ratios and income necessary to repay the loans. Once that threshold is attained, the banks will not lend any further on any other properties.

A common mistake made by sellers when offering seller/owner financing is creating terms that facilitate the sale of the property but result in a mortgage note that does not hold its value should they attempt to sell it. Most people defer to their realtor to make the lending terms, which is great for the sale of the property and the realtor's commission, but not great for the value of the mortgage.

Jerry D. Remien MBA & CMI, President of Mortgage Buyers Inc., a company specializing in buying seller financed/ owner financed mortgages since 1991, offers the following advice for maximizing the value of a privately held mortgage note, "There are 7 important keys to creating a note that will allow the seller retain as much of their equity as possible. I will go through them in order of importance. Many of these points are adversarial to making the sale, so the 'art of creating the note' is to strike a balance between creating terms that will sell the property and terms that will sell the note. The realization of the equity in the property consists of the selling price of the property and the retention of the value of the note in a future sale."

Seven Keys to Creating a Seller Financed/ Owner Financed Mortgage Note

1. Down Payment

This is the most important point in creating a note. Get at least 10% down in cash, 20-25% is ideal. The equity in the down payment makes it much more difficult for the buyer to stop making payments and get the property taken from them in foreclosure. It is a measure of the buyers' commitment to the property and the principal source of repayment for the loan. Be certain to document the down payment with the closing title company or attorney. Make a copy of the check whether you close at a title company or on your own. If you do close on your own, deposit the entire amount of the down payment in your bank account as a single deposit. Do not accept the down payment in cash and only record the balance in the Mortgage or Deed of Trust. Provide an auditable trail of the full amount paid including down payment and mortgage note. People attempt this to lower the taxes for the next owner, but it dramatically lowers the purchase price of the note. There is no credit given for a down payment that was actually paid at closing, but not properly documented.

2. Credit Score

This is a very important point. You are about to lend a stranger a large sum of money and their credit score is a measure of their past financial performance on their other financial commitments. This is the best indication we have as to how they will pay our note. In addition, depending on the number of commitments, or the total dollar value of their debt, one may want to see a financial statement to see if they have the income and/or the equity necessary to pay the note and still meet their other financial obligations. It is a measure of the potential risk and the terms of the note should be adjusted accordingly to that risk. Common sense dictates that you should see a person's financial track record prior to lending them money. The best advice is not to lend to anyone with a credit score under 600 with any of the three rating agencies.

3. Interest Rate

A typical seller-financed note should have an interest rate that is 250-300 basis points higher than the banks are currently lending its best qualified customers. For example if the banks are lending at 5.00% to well qualified individuals, seller financed notes should be written at 7.50% to 8.00% or greater. After all, you are not in the lending business and if they do not like the rate, they are welcome to apply at their local bank to see if they can get a loan for less. Real estate sellers make this classic mistake and it can have an enormous impact on the pricing of the note.

4. Amortization

This is the time period it would take for the note to fully pay out and reach a zero balance. Generally, the shorter the amortization period the higher the price for the note. Avoid making an interest only loan. These loans never amortize and require an alternative source of financing to replace them or face foreclosure of the property to repay the equity in the note. In addition, it is best to make the pay periods on a monthly basis rather than quarterly, semi-annually, or annually. Monthly payments are much more widely accepted and easier for the servicing companies to track.

5. Balloon Date

The balloon date is a date specified in the note where the balance of the loan is to be paid in full. Balloon payments are an effective means for shortening the duration of the loan and will raise the pricing for the loan as long as it is achievable. Many people create balloon payments based on their personal timeframe and need for the cash. The balloon payment should be set at a time when it is feasible that the loan could be refinanced by the outside lending community. A rule of thumb is to set the balloon date to one third of the amortization duration. For instance, if you have a 360-month amortization, set the balloon for 120 months from the inception of the loan. This will give the balance a chance to decrease and the property value to increase, which gives the lending community a realistic chance to make the loan to your payor. If you want a shorter balloon time period shorten the amortization accordingly.

6. Pay History Documentation

An actual pay history that can accurately be tracked is very often the difference in getting the loan sold or not. Make photocopies of the checks when they arrive and deposit them in full as a single deposit in your bank account. This will give the buyer of the note the confidence necessary to buy the note. Do not accept cash under any circumstances have them go to the post office and get a postal money order if they do not have checks.

7. Personal Guarantee

This is only necessary when the buyer of the property is an organization and not an individual. Have the head of the organization personally guarantee the transaction. This will immediately have a negative impact on the pricing if there is not a personal guarantee. Many buyers attempt to sign as an LLC, Corporation, or Limited Partnership specifically to avoid personal liability.

Remien concludes, "Do your own due diligence, do not rely on other opinions when it comes to your money. Create the terms of your own note. Many people allow their real estate agent or attorney to make the terms and conditions of the financing. Both of these individuals have a vested interest in having the deal closed so they can receive their fees. I hope that these tips will help you create the best note that you can and attain the best balance between selling the property and selling the note. If both are done correctly you will realize the most equity possible out of the transaction."

For further questions or if you are interested in getting a lump sum for your mortgage note, contact Mortgage Buyers, Inc. toll free at 800-949-0888