New Trend in Real Estate May Save Sellers Money

In a hot housing market, sellers can make a profit on their property even after paying six percent commission to a real estate agent. But hot markets always cool down, and those who need to sell their properties in a declining market may hesitate to give up that six percent of the sale price to someone else.

What’s a seller to do? He can put a For Sale by Owner sign in his front yard, advertise in the local paper, list the property on the internet, show the property several times a week for several weeks, screen potential buyers, negotiate with a serious buyer, prepare all the necessary paperwork, arrange the closing, and hope the deal doesn’t fall apart because he just put a down payment on his new house.


Or he can hire a real estate agent to it for him.


Six percent, though, is still a good chunk of change to give up. But sellers need not despair. There is a new trend in the real estate industry that can save sellers money, and still provide assistance in the process.


The real estate industry refers to an un-agented property as a FSBO. FSBO means For Sale By Owner, and the slang is pronounced ‘fisbo’. Companies that provide select services to sellers are becoming known as FSBO companies, or FSBO services. Many of these are directed at the marketing piece of the selling process. For a flat fee, they will provide marketing venues, such as space on their website or in magazine distribution venues. But some go beyond that.


At, based in Virginia, a seller can advertise in the For Sale By Owner magazine, and so take advantage of such services as Advertiser Assistance Option. This package assists in the paperwork right through to closing, and for a flat fee of $475.00.


At, sellers can have a web page to advertise their listing, a for sale yard sign with an info tube, a template for a color brochure or flyer to print from any computer for the info tube, a How To Kit for do it yourself sellers, selling contracts and disclosure forms. This package is available for a flat rate of $299.


For those sellers who feel uncomfortable with the legal side of selling, there are numerous books available on the market, as well as an increasing number of real estate attorneys who will prepare and execute the paperwork for a flat fee.


Essentially, the service provided by a real estate agent has been broken down into a selection of services. Where the six percent commission is all-encompassing, the FSBO companies allow sellers to select which services they need, and to pay a flat fee for those services, up front, and so keep a larger portion of the proceeds from the sale of their homes.


Does this trend in selective services for home sellers spell the end of the real estate agent? No, it only means selling through an agent is not the only option. It means sellers who must get the optimum profit from his or her property do not need to overprice their homes to cover that commission, which usually results in extended time on the market.


Increasingly, real estate brokerage firms are offering flat fee services resembling the services offered by FSBO companies. The brokerage, and thus its agents, assemble a package from the array of services that best suit an individual seller’s needs. The do-it-yourself trend in home selling is galvanizing brokerages and real estate agencies to examine the long accepted practice of commissions paid by the seller.


Though using a FSBO company does not guarantee a sale, neither does using an agent. But being able to select specific services gives the seller control over the process, and this control is absent when using a commissioned agent. An agent may allow the listing to languish if the seller is reluctant to lower his or her price. Flat fees for selected services will obligate the agent to perform those duties he or she has been paid to do.


The trend toward selective service and flat fees is still a small part of the real estate industry, and their usage rate correlates to the state of the housing market. But as more homeowners become savvier in the ways of marketing and selling property, the FSBO companies will become increasingly popular.


Sellers want to maximize profits, and the real estate industry needs sellers. Clearly, the trend toward flat fee services will ultimately become typical in the buying and selling of homes, and the six percent commission will be a luxury item, and not the industry standard.


Real Estate Prices Slump While Property Taxes Rise

In all my years of property ownership, I have never seen a market like this one. Recently, Robin and Company (a CNN Broadcast) had a new report on the housing market. They mentioned that in February sales slumped 0.3%. Robin and Company also mentioned that the average median home sale value dropped to $217,000. The biggest point they mentioned was that whole house values slump tax assessed values are on the rise.

Personal Housing Prices Slump while Property Taxes Rise Impact


With my property, I’ve always used the real property search in MD to get a gage of my home’s value. In the past, the real property taxes’ assess value was about half of the real value. We would pay taxes on that small amount. We could get the property appraised and get access to the larger amount. Now that gap has narrowed significantly. I’ve seen the gap go from a few hundred thousand to 1/3 of that.


I recently had an appraisal of one property in January. I really haven’t doing anything new to it. I simply maintained the property. We do upkeep and make certain anything that needs to be addresses in addresses. We have a staff that can handle any and all issues. Roughly 4 months later, I get another appraisal. The homes value dropped 40,000 dollar. I was nearly chocked at the change. The appraiser told me that the values were simply not there right now. He continued to let me know that we all took a hit in the winter. He expected that the value would catch back up this summer.


Client’s Housing Prices Slump while Property Taxes Rise


I worked on a clients home and improved the value significantly. We gave her property an update kitchen, bathroom, and garage. She will have a tremendous increase in her value. She didn’t want to get a new appraisal from her bank. What was her reason. She didn’t want to have the property accessed rise. She didn’t want to pay more in taxes. He current tax assessed value was $420,000. The houses appraised value was only $400,000. In other words the goverment litteraly is charging her more money in taxes than her home is really worth.


I’m working with this client to fight the tax accessed value. However, I wonder how many other have this exact same issue.


Buyers Market as Housing Prices Slump while Property Taxes on Rise


I have another client that was going to purchase a house in baltimore. We went through a few chalenges to get the deal done. At the end of the day. The seller and their agent was unfreindly and not willing to work with the buyer. We ultimatley let the seller walk. There are so many additional homes on the market, we have no need to fight for one with and unfriendly seller.


As a buyer, this market is the best of bother worlds. If you choose to buy and older home, sellers will most likely want to work with you. If you choose to buy a newer home, the builders have insentives to give you a sweatheart deal. I know two investors that bought investment properties in my area with 10,000 down. They got $80,000 in builder incentives. Niether person put up another dime. The moved out of there older home and rented it out to new tenant.


All that said, this is a tough market. It can work to your advantage. You might fight to make it happen. Best of luck in your Real Estate chalenges.


What Real Estate Agents Won’t Tell You About Their Income

People have a misconception that real estate agents have a pipeline of money that flows into their pockets from helpless buyers and sellers.

While there are some very successful real estate agents out there, nothing could be the farthest from the truth in most cases.


Before you beat on your real estate agent, look at what I’ve outlined for you as to how much they actually make.


The National Association of Realtors has stated that the average agent does 7 closed transactions a year. We’ll stick with that for the sake of this article.


If you list your house for $200,000, with a 5% commission rate, the commission you’re paying out would equal $10,000. That’s a pretty hefty chunk of change! No wonder all the agents are driving nice cars!


Breaking that down further, we see that your agent has to split the commission with the selling agent, as over 90% of real estate transactions have two agents involved.


So, there goes $5,000.


Of the $5,000 left, your agent gets to split it with their broker. $2,500 left for your agent.


Since your real estate agent does not have taxes taken out, immediately a portion of that has to be accounted to Uncle Sam. Since I’m not very good at numbers, I have an accountant. Just for the sake of round numbers, I’m going to subtract $100 off to pay federal and state taxes.


We’re down to $2,400.


From that $2,400, since we have the privilege (?) of being self-employed, we have to pay out of pocket for things like health insurance. Personally, this is equal to $1,300 per month. This is a single deduction, in other words – no deductions here for any kind of 401K or retirement plan.


Down to $1,100.


Out of that $1,100, we can subtract the gas in our car driving back and forth to your listing, the postage for all those nifty mailers we did, and the cost of the virtual tours on your house, food for the open house and a whole host of “your house” related expenses. To keep this conservative, and for round numbers, I’m going to use $300.


Down to $800.


Now we get to keep this for ourselves! $800 can pay our own mortgage payment and household utilities, car payment and contribute towards our annual Realtor fees, which in this year run slightly over $800 annually.


If there’s anything left, that’s what we get to feed our family with.


Remember, this is one transaction. One a month and chances are we’re heading straight for the poorhouse. Remember, also, the National Association of Realtors reports an average agent sells 7 houses a year. Can anyone realistically live on that? Especially in a down market when houses aren’t selling like they used to?


So before you go beating your real estate agent up on their commission, ask yourself if you could, or would, walk into your boss’ office on a Friday afternoon and ask for a cut in pay. Real estate agents have families to feed as well.


Comparing Homes for Real Estate Leverage

A buyer has made an offer on the home that you are selling, and you now face the challenge of deciding whether or not to take the offer. You as a seller want to get the maximum dollar potential out of your home that is possible. But, do you know how to determine whether the offer is a fair offer that will reap the best possible benefits? Find out the true value of your home by comparing it to homes that are similar or just like yours in the area. Compare homes that offer some of the same comforts and square footage size as yours. By doing this you can make the best decision when an offer is made.

Take a look at the last few homes in your area that have sold. Compare their similarities to yours, and this is a great way to determine the true market value of your home. By checking in the local classified ads in your newspaper or by calling a realtor and finding out how much homes like yours have sold for is the best way to get started in this process. If the homes you compares yours too do not match up with the comforts that your home has to offer or vice-versa, it is a good idea to look at how much typical homes are selling by square foot.


To figure out how much a home is selling by the square foot is very easy. You simply take the square footage amount (let’s say 2000 sq. ft.) and divide it by the total sales price (for instance $100,000). By dividing the two numbers you will find out what a home is selling for by the square foot. You can make adjustments to this price as you see fit, and it is also important to note that you should include the entire square footage not just the heated and cooled square footage (i.e. garage or carport). There are also other factors like the number of bedrooms, living areas, bathrooms, and the location that can also affect the sales price on a home. That reason is why it is a good idea to also compare homes that are like yours to make sure that you find an average price that is best to compare your home to.


If a home has a market value of $150,000 it is good practice to make an offer that is about 10% less than the asking price, but in no case more than the asking price. If you want to make sure that you are getting the best possible price on your home take into consideration these tips and get the best dollar for your property.

Should You Offer a Lease Purchase Option to Sell Your Home?

In today’s real estate market, sellers are frantically searching for someone—anyone!—to purchase their homes for a reasonable price, and turning up empty in the end. It is definitely a buyer’s market, which means that sellers are having to rethink their strategoes for selling their homes.

One of the alternatives to keeping the house on the market is a lease-purchase option, which can be a life-saver for many sellers.


A lease-purchase option is an agreement that resides somewhere between a mortgage and a lease. As the seller, you will essentially be the landlord for the buyer, but the money he or she pays in rent will also be put toward the sale purchase of the home. This gives you a monthly income from rent, and also puts you one step closer to selling the house.


It isn’t a good idea to pursue a lease-purchase option if you need the cash from the sale of your home to buy a new one. Although you might be able to receive a modest down-payment before the lease terms begin, it won’t be sufficient to finance a new place to live. Instead, lease-purchase options are perfect for sellers who already have a new home or have sufficient financial resources to buy one without selling the old.


The most dangerous aspect of a lease-purchase option is the fact that most buyers who request this arrangement are unable to secure a traditional mortgage on their own. They might have defaulted on a mortgage in the past or perhaps they have blemished credit; whatever the case, you have to be careful about offering a lease-purchase option.


The major benefit of a lease-purchase option is that sellers usually make more from the sale of their home in this agreement.


Commercial Mortgage and Commercial Hire Purchase Terms

In commercial mortgage a commercial real estate is used as collateral to secure repayment. Though it is similar to a residential mortgage, here the collateral is a commercial building such as office, industrial building, medical buildings, shopping malls, instead of a residential property. The multfamily housing buildings also fall under commercial property. However, commercial mortgage is generally taken on by incorporated business, or limited company instead of individual borrowers.


The common applications loans include acquiring land or commercial properties or refinancing the already existing debt. Common commercial properties are generally mortgaged for office, retail,  amp; industrial purposes.Commercial Mortage is generally made with less than 10 years terms but can be much longer than this also.


A commercial real estate can be taken on for mortgage for a variety of purposes such as:


For purchasing the premises of the business


To extend the existing premises


For residential and commercial investment


In order to develop the property in other manners


Commercial loan broker acts as the intermediary between the borrowing business and the commercial lender. The broker is basically a middle man having information about all the lending criteria of the funding sources. The broker gets paid in commission for each deal made.


As the markets for mortgages have grown in recent times, the role of the mortgage broker has become very pivotal.


On the other hand in Commercial Hire Purchase (CHP) the customer hires a financial product from the financier. The product is generally hired over a set period of time for a fixed monthly repayment charge.In this case the customer generally hires a vehicle for a fixed period of time.


However, under (CHP), the financier agrees for purchasing the car on behalf of the customer, for hiring it back over afixed time period.


At this situation the customer is not the owner of the car. However, when the contract term gets over the total price of the vehicle including the interest charges have to be paid in full. After the full payment, the customer gets the ownership of the car.


Commercial Hire Purchase terms:


Time period ranges from two to five years.


The residual value is according to the contract and it is made on fixed interset rate


The monthly repayments are fixed for CHP and deposit (either cash or trade-in) can be used


If the vehicle is used for business purposes, a tax deduction is available


GST charges is not applicable on the residual payment


Commercial Hire Purchase (CHP) is helpful for organisations, partnerships and sole traders account ing for GST on Accruals basis.They can claim the GST to their next Business Activity Statement (BAS). When the hirer is registered for GST, Input Tax Credits can be applicable. However, individuals using vehicle for business purpose can also opt for CHP.Here the hirer is eligible to claim depreciation up to the limit .As a tax deduction method, the hirer can also claim the interest charges on the contract.


Strategies Required for Selling a Business

Selling a business is a much more complicated, tricky, and involving affair than selling a real estate. Some important steps are required but it is often highly recommended to use the services of a business brokers who might be equipped with the proper and specific sets of skills to getting fair value. The function of the broker during the sale is to facilitate buying and act as a go-between for the buyer and the seller.

As a summary of steps that are required, begin by listing the business that is on sale with the brokerage company. The broker should be from a reputable and well known firm to avoid mischief, fraud, or avoidable losses. They should be met and talked to about the sales process well in advance. This not only assists them in selling the business but also helps them to have it sold at the best price possible. It is recommended to list the business with a broker because when one wants to sell it confidentially. This is a wise step since one can use the resources of a professional intermediary to guide them throughout the selling process.


The second step should be determining the selling price. The very first thing potential buyers will require to know about a business is the price so that they can gauge and find out if they will purchase or even compare to other similar businesses that are on sale. The issue of pricing is one that a broker can easily assist with assuming that they have prices of other similar businesses and can make rough estimates on the costs.


For larger or more complicated businesses, get the services of a professional business evaluator who would be more accurate in determining the selling price. The cost is determined by some factors such as what is actually being sold such as assets, shares, and the work that is or was in progress before the decision for the sale was made so that it is transitioned to appropriate price, inventory, and accounts receivable. These minor and major details should be discussed with the chosen broker and the personal accountant. The process of determining the selling price of the business is an important step of the process.


The other critical thing would be the business information profile where buyers should be presented with a brief snapshot of what the business is all about. The description should be put in a way to leave the prospective buyers with the urge to know more. A good broker should come up with a brief and strong description of the business which should work as a selling point for the business as well. It should also give a brief financial statement indicating performance.


The broker should then qualify the potential business buyers who might have shown interest by responding. The buyer would then hold a conversation with the broker where the brokers have got to find important information such as the buyer’s objectives and what they are looking for. The broker’s responsibility at this stage is to qualify the buyers or fine tune the list according to their financial abilities, aptitude for the business, “seriousness” and other factors. The appropriate and potential buyers are then invited for the signing of a non-disclosure agreement, where the buyer is now presented with further information with regards to the premises. This would include information about the operations of the business, number of employees, a brief summary of the financial performance and any other pertinent “general” information about the business. The general description of the business is set under strict non-disclosure rules to help ensure confidentiality of the sale but at the same time help the potential buyer on deciding if they would want to take their interest to the next level.


The buyer is then shown the business. The business must be in line with any photographs that may have been supplied earlier. The experts recommend preparation at this point ought to be honesty. Presentation is one of the major steps on the selling process. The picture portrayed on its financial matters must be very accurate. It is quite clear to any risk-taker that any business will have some speed bumps and it is very important for them to know any that may be existence for the business. A good broker should remember that this is a precious time to showcase the business potentials and therefore they ought to emphasize on the strength and the hard work that has been done to make it a success other than dwell on its weaknesses. One should expect a lot of questions at this point from the buyer and the best procedure should be trying to answer everything. This is a point where potential buyers will make conditional offer to satisfy themselves through the due diligence process.


A good broker should be in a position to accept or make offers. Majority of these business offers are conditional offers concerning many different issues. During this process, one should confirm some of the facts such as assuring the buyer of getting financing, assuming leases successfully or obtaining franchise approval. In line with specialists, “A condition offer is usually made with a refundable deposit’, this is for the reason that when the deal does not go through, then the risk is partially if not fully catered for.


The conditional offer phase allows the potential buyers to conduct their due diligence were they confirm facts, go through the financial statements, or records and review the overall business operations carefully.


When the buyer is fully satisfied that everything is ok, they waive any other conditions and close the transaction by signing documents through respective lawyers and exchanging the agreed amount.


How to Save Hundreds Annually on Home Ownership Costs – with Just a Stamp and a Few Minutes

With a simple call or a quick form, a presumed “fixed” cost associated with home ownership need not be quite so fixed. Other than a refinance to address the loan terms, the other pillar of assumed fixed costs is real estate taxes. And unlike a refi, the cost of pursuing this option is a 44 cent stamp and a few minutes of your time.


For the first time, I really looked at my bill and then the town’s on-line assessment database. I was surprised to learn that the taxes were based on an assessed value about $20,000 more than the current listing price I had on my property ‘” a price at which I was unable to sell! Most towns and cities have their assessment data bases on-line and all the data you need is just a couple clicks away. A simple Google search should bring you to your town’s site.


I assumed the tax assessment process would be confusing and mired in bureaucratic red tape. In reality, it was far simpler. After consulting the town’s website and downloading the form, I simply had to state what I felt the assessed value should be and why. My rational was simple: this property had been actively marketed for an extended period of time at a value $20,000 below the current assessed value. Given the current market and diligent efforts to sell, it was clearly over-valued. I filled out the form and mailed it in.


Though the response was not exactly what I suggested for the new valuation, it was significantly less than it had been. It was so quick and easy, I repeated the process with an additional rental property as well as my own residence. Some municipalities have a more complex process, but assuming so is a big mistake. It takes only a few minutes to find out and could save you big bucks.


It has become increasing common to see real estate advertisements for properties being sold “Well Below Assessed Value”. “Well Below Assessed Value” is simply another way of saying “Taxed Way Beyond Its Current Worth”.


But therein lies the problem ‘” the difference between assessed and appraised and the tendency for most homeowners to utilize them interchangeably. Appraised value is what an independent professional determined the home to be worth in the current market- taking into consideration recent sales, listings, etc. It is done sporadically ‘” generally at the time of applying for a mortgage. Assessed value is generally determined on a regular basis by a municipality, sometimes as infrequently as once per decade. It is used as the basis for determining a town’s total valuation and therefore the necessary tax rate to meet its obligations.


In determining the value, the town considers all data available on your property and may send out representatives to document specific features. Appraisals can be incorrect for a variety of reasons. The most common is just simply incorrect factual information ‘” the number of beds/baths, the square footage, property features, etc. In my case, these minor inaccuracies only strengthened my over assessment contention. I didn’t have a fireplace or hard wood floors — all things the town had assumed when determining the value.


If you intend to stay in your home and cannot point to an unsuccessful list price as justification for a lower valuation, there are plenty of other resources to help you prove your case. Starting with,, and your town’s database are all ways to provide factual data that shows your home is worth less than the town previously determined. Cite recent sales in your neighborhood and compare the features of those properties with yours. Always remember it is a fact-driven process, not an emotional one.


It is not in a town’s interest to make the process simple or to encourage property owners to contest their valuation. But by putting aside assumptions and focusing a few minutes of research, I was able to successfully drop the town’s valuation of my property and lower my tax bill, all the while making it more attractive to investors who know that a lower valuation simply means lower ownership costs.


Residential Real Estate Loans

Residential real estate a place where people reside may be a single family or multi family housing set up. A residential real estate may have commercial space for business, some such areas may even exclude the use of such commercial set ups.

To purchase such residential real estate, a huge amount of money is required. Money can be borrowed from banks/ financial institutions or brokers in the form of residential real estate loan.


Like any other loan, a residential real estate loan involves the borrowers and the lender. The lender initially pays a sum to the borrower which is paid back in installments. These installments may be regular or otherwise. With the home loan market booming with several loan products, it is easy to shop around for a loan product that suits our need and budget.


Another type of loan which is very similar to residential real estate loan is “reverse” mortgage. A reverse mortgage is generally available to elderly who have very little money for their needs but enough equity in their homes. It helps such retired people to get a steady cash flow from their homes without having to sell it.


Now that we have understood the means of a residential real estate loan we should also know the various disadvantages that such loans have. One such hiccup is a default in repayment. In case the borrower is unable to repay the loan installments for 30 days then the borrower would make a phone call to make their monthly payment. After a period of 60 days the lender sends a reminder letter along with a phone call to make the payment. After a period of 90 days the lender sends a “pre foreclose” letter explaining the terms of the mortgage agreement due to default. Here a lender can ask for repayment of the installment due plus interest along with any later fees applicable. In even of non-payment of all these dues the lender can file a law suit to repossess the house.


Residential Real estate loans are primarily used to improve, buy or to refinance a property which is of residential use. These loans are of help to people with poor or bad credit scores but with a lot of money on their hand. Such people can opt for this type of loan as the bankers will only look at its money making capacity rather than the credit history of the borrower. Residential Real estate loans are considered as commercial loans as the borrower can make money out of the property by renting it out.


Another important criteria in these loans is the ratio of cash reserves and loan to value.

For a residential loan, a buyer’s credit history, the ratio of loan-to-value and cash reserves is major criteria.


There are many advantages of residential real estate loans. It is a long term investment plan which is more viable than commercial loans which require a huge down payment and unpredictable rates. Residential real estate loans are easier to get as the it is easy to product proof of profitability.


Residential real estate loans are for those who want to get the best loans with low interest rates and even earn money from the investment.


Foreclosure Follies

There I stood on the steps of the Bronx County Courthouse one chilly day in February 2007. No one was there except me and the cousin of my brother’s professional real estate investor friend who had bought, refurbished and sold dozens of seized buildings throughout the city.

The situation was dire. My rent-stabilized apartment had been bought by a new landlord who was playing hardball, trying to remove the former tenants so that he could renovate the apartments and rent each one for $1,300 dollars or more. Little old rent stabilized me had simply outlived my usefulness.


Although my 1912 vintage 3rd floor walk-up had always been creaky, and I had tacitly accepted the responsibility of caring for things such as painting and plastering that technically were my landlord’s responsibility, I never knew real suffering until my latest landlord took over. In the year that I was his tenant, I had suffered complete turn-offs of heat on twenty degree days for days at a time.


I would call Housing Preservation and Development and they would promise a response within three days or so. Perhaps I would speak to them, if I did not die of exposure, that is assuming my arthritic limbs would carry me to the door. Men were working on the adjacent apartments night and day, and holes had been bored straight into my bedroom, which I covered with cardboard for decencies sake.


Now was the time for me to get a piece of the American dream while I was still above-ground to enjoy it. Like it or not, I was poised to become another bubble aloft in the bubble of the Century.


How to describe the madness of the last few years now that the fever has broken? Well, picture a bespeckled 40 something clerk. Few savings, low paying job, anteing up real money to buy something that I was not even allowed to see beforehand. Talk about a pig in the poke. There might be no floors, no ceilings, the aroma of 88 cats or an angry occupant with a shotgun waiting for me.


Yet here I stood, and winning this game was a fight for life itself. The auctioneer and attorney for the building appeared a few minutes after the official start time for the auction. They stalled while hoping that some red-blooded competition would emerge-but alas, I was the only pigeon. Having been briefed beforehand, I wagered $100.00 over the minimum bid and secured my prize. Not having expected the property to go quite so cheaply, we were short one certified check for the extra $10.00 representing 10% of the offered bid of $52,100. After a brief consultation, it was agreed that my certified checks in the amount of $5,200 plus $10.00 in cash were kosher.


So began a six month journey ending in heartbreak. Why was I here? Well, they say fools rush in where angels fear to tread, but so do the very desperate. With a middling clerical job and modest savings I could not even begin to look at $1,200 or 1,300 /month apartments. I feared being attacked and having my property destroyed as had happened to several unwary friends who had invited raving psychopaths into their lives in a vain attempt to stake their claim to a tiny New York apartment.


How about going the real estate agent route? Well I had looked at several tiny pied a terres, including some just large enough to be my coffin and conveniently located next to the road that every Hindu in Jackson Heights traversed daily in their pilgrimages from home into Manhattan. Even these losers were beyond my reach financially. I had set my sights on a peanut-sized apartment in Forest Hills, across the street from my brother, and after divesting myself of many cherished possessions, including my late mother’s favorite coat, I was informed that the Board would not accept such a low price. Offered an opportunity to participate in some hanky-panky to hide the real price, I decided to avoid a career in bank fraud and let someone else claim the prize. Face it. Good apartments in move-in condition started in the six figures.


For me to flee the grim fate of being frozen or buried under falling plaster I would have to mobilize my contacts and my blue collar birthright. So here I was with cousin on the steps with my new purchase wondering what the devil I would do next.


I began by visiting ACORN, a low-income advocacy group, in hopes of scarfing up a nifty subsidized loan featuring no closing costs, a break on points, and a grant toward down payments. This was a specialty item offered by one or two banks, and in my case the bank was Citibank. After I had spent days assembling the paperwork, I was told that I would have to have the house inspected before I could qualify for the loan.


Oh, my God, what was the point? If it could pass an inspection, no one would have let me have it. I knew that I would need Mr. Goodwrench, Mr. Goodhammer, Mr. Goodsaw and every other honest workman. I would be channeling the entire bench strength of my brother in law’s Electrician’s Local 3 as well as getting recommendations and labor from Mr. Knowledgeable Real Estate investor and Cousin. I was certainly the original dumbbell, and I put my trust in wiser heads.


I inveighed the Coop Management into letting me into the apartment with my chosen engineer, in spite of the fact that they were not required to let anyone into the place until the final check had cleared. After getting a checklist of things plumbing, electrical and structural to be repaired. I submitted the results to ACORN only to be told that I could only have the loan if I repaired the defects first. That’s right, the bank expected me to fix property that I did not yet own as a condition of buying it!


So much for that theory. So much for the weeks of work, paperwork, distraction from my job and cost of the engineer’s report, all to no avail. After my brief fit of apoplexy, my brother encouraged me to try again with a more aggressive division of Citibank versed in the vagaries of commercial investment.


Although I had given up the special perks, was perfectly willing to pay a higher interest rate, had fully documented my finances, savings, job stability, and credit, that original caveat came back to haunt me. Although irrelevant to a standard loan, the original conditions imposed by HUD were appended to the new loan and the bank thought it would be just dandy if I fixed it up before I bought it. Never let it be said that bankers lack imagination.


Fierce battles ensued and my more business-oriented loan officer was able to bring the dreamers back down to earth. They reluctantly concurred that it was unlikely that someone would agree to spend thousands to fix a property that they might never own.


Now came the fun part. My original attorney had fled the field of battle when he realized that I was trying to drag him into a foreclosure mare’s nest, so my brother enlisted a stalwart veteran of many deals to be my knight in shining armor. Now started the latest sally, the lien search. While the lawyers were searching liens, and I was writing checks for said research, I made arrangements to meet the coop board for my interview.


Even though I had agreed to lay out $52,100 on an uninhabitable hovel of an apartment in the Bronx, my entrance into the hallowed halls of coop owners would not be complete without their approval. Winning the right to enter into their esteemed presence required the writing of several other large checks so that my employment, criminal history and credit history could be independently ascertained . I was giving complete strangers carte blanche to stick their noses into my business and to sit in judgment of my finances and character, all for the privilege of handing over my life-savings and indebting myself to a 15 year mortgage.


I took another day off from work to match the day off I spent on the frigid steps of the Bronx County Courthouse, and the day I had spent with the engineer. I met with my prospective fellow owners, a perfectly amiable crew, and passed with flying colors.


Now it was time for my lawyer, and their lawyers, and the banks lawyers, and every lawyer on earth it seemed to reach an agreeable time for doing the deed. In the fullness of time, July 7th was agreed upon.

At last!


Hours before I was to sign the papers, I got the news. The deal was off. One of those apparently innocent liens which both my attorney and my lawyer brother assured me was nothing, sunk my ship. Apparently two liens had been placed on the property. The first was quickly disposed of, but the second hung on like the dead hand of fate. Although there was every indication that no true debt existed, the satisfaction documentation had never been filed and the lien never removed, even though it was in all probability paid.


Thousands of dollars and six months later, still no apartment. I would later narrowly escape being killed when my ceiling was collapsed onto my floor and forced to flee into a sister’s apartment while they rebuilt. I enlisted the help of a very kind and very powerful local politician and avoided homelessness by the skin of my teeth. Although I sympathize with everyone upside down on a mortgage and know I narrowly avoided being one of them, I pray every day for the housing market to come down just a little bit more so that I can buy through a real estate agent and never go through this again.