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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Selling Your Home in a Down Market

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You’ve been married so long that you’ve forgotten how to be single.  Your t-shirts all have holes in them, you don’t shave on the weekends, and you haven’t consumed a “Diet” anything in years.

While your spouse may love you despite the fact that you have completely let yourself go, you are in for a rude awakening if you ever find yourself back on the market.  Flaws are only endearing to loved ones, not strangers.  Before you hit those nightspots, you’ll need a new wardrobe with the latest fashions.  You’ll need to cut that hair and clean underneath those fingernails.  Don’t even get me started on the unibrow.  You need to put your best face forward if you are to attract one of those cute, little minx.

But what about when it’s your house that you are divorcing?

You look at your home, and you know that things just aren’t working out.  Either you have lost that loving feeling or it’s simply time for a change.  It may be amicable or there may be irreconcilable differences.  Maybe you’ve always known that this house was only “Mr. Right Now.”  Regardless of the reasons for your split, it’s time to move on.  All of those things that you have lived with over the years?  The creaky front door hinges?  The balky A/C unit?  The old, pale yellow linoleum that you originally detested, but grew to loathe?  It’s all gotta be gussied up.

Now you can’t take every middle-aged home and turn it into a supermodel overnight, and that’s okay.  You don’t necessarily have to be the best looking house on the planet, just the hottest little number in the club.

When you are elbow to elbow with competing properties, you don’t want your fly to be down.  That’s not how you drag home a buyer of which your mother would approve.  No, that’s how you pick up that other kind of buyer.  You know the type.  Offers you a hundred thousand off of list price and demands umpteen thousand dollars to repair things that cost a couple hundred.  That is one coyote ugly buyer.  Keep such buck-toothed, cross-eyed suitors at bay by using the right bait.

Trolling for a trophy buyer? Change out those tired carpets, paint those grimy walls, oil those squeaks.

Fishing for carp?  Throw a big wad of Velveeta around your hook and toss it out there.

We have all heard the reports about the overwhelming levels of housing inventory.  Vastly more homes for sale than qualified buyers.  It can be quite discouraging to a seller.  I have been through a great many of these properties, however, and the poor showing condition many of them display never ceases to amaze me.  There may be a glut of houses for sale, but in my own myopic view, there is a whole lotta rough for every diamond.  If I had to speculate, and I will, I’d hazard that many sellers have either given up hope or refuse to spend any money that they don’t expect to recoup in full.

Don’t fall victim to this mindset.   Now, more than ever, you need to get your home standing tall if you plan to sell it any time soon.   I know that these are lean times, but if you can afford to carry a non-selling house for months on end, you can afford to stage it properly to expedite the process of finding a new beau.  After all, the sooner you find the next Mr. or Mrs. Right for your home, the sooner you can stop writing those alimony checks.

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