Buying a bank owned property creates a multitude of financing risks—not because a buyer may have any particular problems with their credit or loan otherwise, but simply because the transaction is complicated and timing is difficult to control (read previous post on timing difficulties in buying a foreclosure here.)
It’s critical that buyers protect themselves with appropriate financing contingencies (and make sure that the protections you want are not negated by those pesky bank addenda – read post here.) Buyers take on enough risks in buying a foreclosure—don’t expose yourself to unnecessary interest rate risk as well. Let’s take an example. You make an offer on April 1 (no, there’s no hidden message there just because I’m using April Fool’s Day as my example) when rates are at 5.875%. The bank takes four weeks to get back to you, at which time rates have jumped to 6.25%, or even worse, the 10% down program you were planning to use is no longer available and now you need 15%, which you may not have. Sure, you can still back out of the contract (the upside of having to sign off on the bank addenda mentioned earlier), but obviously the situation is far from ideal. Let’s take a riskier situation: the contract is ratified and the buyer has signed off on the bank addenda. The buyer locks into a rate for 30 days, and settlement is scheduled for day 27. But the week before settlement the bank has a problem with the deed, and needs to delay settlement for a few days/weeks. So much for that rate lock—now your financing is floating with the market, and you take on all that interest rate risk.
Another pitfall to look out for is inconsistencies between your type of financing and the property condition. FHA is a great example; FHA loans require that repairs for issues that “rise above the level of cosmetic defects, minor defects, or normal wear and tear.” In a “normal” sale, the seller has to pay for those repairs. But, as we’ve discussed before in the property condition post, the bank is not about to take their time to hire plumbers and electricians to come in and fix those items—the sale is “as is.” The bank won’t pay. You don’t own the property so even if you wanted to repair it yourself, you’d have some hoops to jump through. So the property needs repairs, the bank won’t do them, and so FHA won’t fund your loan. (There may be some creative ways to still make this happen, but I can’t give all the secrets away here, can I?)
So to wrap up, don’t underestimate the financing risks you take on in buying a bank owned property. It’s not a bargain unless you’re adequately compensated for that risk, in the form of a lower-than-market price.
Read more: Foreclosure Risks: Bank Addenda