Can You Afford That Bank-Owned Bargain?

In many respects, the heralded Real Estate bargains to be had in Scottsdale and the greater Phoenix area should come with the disclosures required of weight-loss product testimonials.

“Joe Homebuyer’s results not typical.”

“Always consult a physician before launching an intensive home search program.”

“Stretch thoroughly and lift with your legs before attempting bank-owned property heist.”

For the purposes of this piece, we are going to focus on the first caveat.  Every Valley resident has at least passing knowledge of some fortunate homebuyer who leveraged the current market to score a honey of a bank-owned deal.  As big a nobody-turned-celebrity as the 170 pound guy in a Nutrisystem commercial holding up a pair of orca sized slacks as evidence of his former girth, Bob from accounting is the new gold standard for idolatry after securing the housing buy that set the office abuzz.  Before following in Bob’s considerable footsteps, however, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.  His results may not only prove atypical, but in extreme cases, constitute patently misleading advertising.

The hidden “gotcha” to many bank owned purchases right now are property taxes.  While the institution that owns the property should pay off any back taxes as a condition of conveying clear title to the purchaser, many buyers fail to properly account for the bill they will be saddled with for the next couple of years (at a minimum).  Unlike other parts of the country, where taxes are based solely upon purchase price, Maricopa County taxes are based upon the assessed value of the property.  Many falsely assume that the home they are buying for $350,000 will reflect a tax basis commensurate with that value.  As our budget revolves around 2 year property evaluation schedules, odds are very good that your current tax basis will reflect a value closer to the $1.1 million that the home sold for back in 2006.

*Click here for information about Maricopa County property taxes

*Maricopa County residents are entitled to appeal all new evaluations from the county assessor (typically go out in early Februaruy), but must do so within 60 days of the date they were mailed.  Click to begin the Maricopa County property tax appeal process online.

Another thing to bear in mind is that while the assessed value of the property is likely to decline rather dramatically over the next several evaluation cycles, expect tax rates to rise in contrast.  You should see an overall reduction to your bill in the future, but our strapped municipalities aren’t going to let go of all that revenue without a fight.  Already firmly entrenched in the red, it is an almost foregone conclusion that the tax rates will be fully maxed out to legally allowable levels to offset as much of the lost potential revenue as possible.  Your friendly, cash-strapped local government at work.

Another hidden sniper to these bank-owned bargains are Homeowner Association expenses.  While monthly fees are typically disclosed upfront (or easily determined through a few well placed phone calls), former million dollar neighborhoods are fodder for massive asset preservation and capital improvement fees/impounds.  You might well afford the $120 monthly fee, but the bulbous community enhancement fee that is due at the time of purchase could blow an unsuspecting buyer’s budget right out of the water.  Given the many amenities that some such high end subdivisions boast, it would also be wise to expect and budget for future special assessments involving their maintenance.

There really are some amazing deals floating around the market right now, just make sure you can afford them.  We are looking for a home you can maintain and afford, not a fad purchase that will lead to a lifetime of yo-yo budgeting.

You don’t want to end up back in the fat pants.

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Paul Slaybaugh is here to sell houses and chew bubble gum. He's all out of bubble gum. More About Me >>>

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