A quick update to the report we shared September 29th involving USDA’s no-down-payment loans for homes in the Birmingham and Shelby Co. area…
While USDA has announced that its loans will continue beyond the earlier announced September 30th cutoff date, the Agency now says processing of all loans is frozen because of the federal government’s October 1st shutdown.
This also means that the extension beyond September 30th is on hold, as well, until Congress gets the government going again.
If you’re wanting to buy a home with no-down-payment financing in the meantime, we’d recommend contacting some of the Lenders we know in the area who have experience helping people obtain these kind of mortgages and who know about possible alternatives to USDA.
Self-employed people who are applying for loans for home purchases are likely to be affected by the shutdown, as well. That’s because Lenders won’t be able to get tax transmittals from the Internal Revenue Service to help verify income.
USDA no-down-payment financing for people looking to buy homes in the Birmingham area will continue to be available after September 30th, despite earlier reports from the Agency that the popular loan program would wind down permanently at the end of the month.
How long will USDA financing remain in effect? Not even the government—which administers the program—is saying.
The loan program will “continue for some period,” according to Rich Davis, acting Administrator for USDA’s Rural Housing Service.
Many Buyers were concerned that loss of the program would reduce their chances of being able to buy a home in places in Shelby Co. including Chelsea and Calera, areas the government considers rural, and therefore eligible for USDA financing.
In the meantime, a new 100% conventional loan program has been introduced, and which would be a back-up for some Buyers who had wanted to purchase with USDA financing.
If you’re thinking of buying a home, figuring out what loan is best for your particular situation—whether it’s USDA or something else—can get confusing.
Your best bet is to contact a Lender knowledgeable in the many loan programs that are available in the Birmingham and Shelby Co. area before you buy.
Was I nuts?
After all, most Agents would welcome the chance we had: To work with the husband and wife who called a few days ago about a home we have listed for sale in Alabaster.
We really need to find a place, the wife tells me.
Moving here from out of area and pre-approved by their local bank to spend up to $300,000, they tell of their frustrating efforts to find a home in Birmingham.
And yet, I would wind up sitting down with them face to face and telling them what some might consider unthinkable: “Sorry, we can’t help you.”
After determining that the house they called about is not a good match, I ask a little more about their situation, and if they’d like help with finding a suitable property.
I get an earful.
They have put full price Offers on two homes, only to have the houses “sell right out from under us,” the husband says.
They had tried to get help from two other Realtors in the area.
“They’ve put us on the back burner,” the husband tells me during a half hour phone call. “I’ll ask to see a particular home a week ahead of time, and nothing happens,” he says.
There is nothing Colleen and I hate worse than hearing about Agents who are non-responsive to their Clients. This kind of behavior makes all of us in the profession look bad.
In our roughly 15 years combined of helping people buy and sell homes in the Birmingham and Shelby Co. area, one critical step we always follow is to learn as much as we can about our Buyer’s particular situation.
It pays to listen.
The Offers that failed, it turns out, were both made on the condition that the Buyers could first sell their existing home.
From the description of their home—five bedrooms, over 4,000 square feet on a beautiful lake setting, five car garage, in-ground pool and boat dock—you’d sure think it would go easily…especially in today’s market.
I look their home up on MLS and the Internet. Sales price: Just under $600,000.
My conclusion about their place: Very nice.
Sales data I uncover for the property suggests that these folks paid less than half their current asking price when they bought it. Maybe they’ve put some money into the place over the years.
I can certainly understand that one Agent they’d contact would be a dud.
But two Agents? That’s possible.
In my mind, questions are starting to rise.
Then comes the bombshell.
They’ve been trying to sell their home for two years.
No home should be on the market that long.
During one of our phone calls, I ask the husband more questions.
How many Offers have you gotten? Answer: None
How many showings do you typically get each month? Answer: Maybe one.
What kind of Feedback do you get from those showings? Answer: Everyone says it’s a very nice home.
Has anyone ever told you that your home may be overpriced? Answer: Absolutely not.
So, why, then, do you think your home hasn’t sold? Answer: There just aren’t that many people who can afford homes in our price range. Besides, he adds, none of the homes for sale in their area have sold in a long time.
Remember those roughly 15 years selling homes I mentioned? They’ve taught us other things, too.
Experienced Agents know that when homes fail to sell, it’s almost always for at least one of three reasons:
With the setting on the lake and the home’s general appearance, I’m able to eliminate two of the three causes immediately.
Price, then, can be the only reason.
My exchanges with these people make it clear to me that there is a lot they may not understand, including the changes that are taking place in the Birmingham and Shelby Co. area housing market:
- Inventory has dropped;
- It’s not a Buyer’s market any longer;
- Sellers have more clout than they did a couple of years ago;
- Multiple Offers are occurring again;
- More homes are starting to sell in shorter amounts of time (sometimes, new Listings go Under Contract within one to two weeks of going on market);
- More Sellers who price appropriately and have their homes in top condition are getting full asking price or close to it
I realize, too, the probable effect of a recent local MLS rules change on our Buyers, which they may not be aware of.
The rules change requires homes that go Under Contingency Contract be removed from Active Listings and moved to a different category. This reduced exposure, while waiting on the Buyer’s home to sell, is not likely to be attractive to most Sellers.
As a result, many Sellers—at the advice of their Agents—are not accepting home sale Contingency Offers unless the Buyer’s home is already Under Contract to sell. This is understandable; Sellers want at least some assurance that they will be able to actually sell their home, as opposed to losing valuable time on market, only to have the Contingency Contract fall apart if the Buyer’s home fails to sell.
It’s time, I decide, to share some market and general buying knowledge with these people. I sit at the computer and start drafting an e-mail with information they should find useful.
In the meantime, I get a text message.
They’ve found a home for sale in the area they’d like to see today. It’s a Short Sale. They want to know if we can show it to them that afternoon.
I look the home up on MLS. It’s available, and it’s occupied.
There’s a hitch: Lenders in a Short Sale will not accept Contingent Offers based on the sale of the Buyer’s property.
I also look at personal considerations: We would be asking the occupant to let us show their home to people I now realize have very little chance of actually being able to carry through with a purchase at this point in time, even if they wanted to.
We’ve learned—and our Broker, Keller Williams Realty, preaches a lot—that successful sales need to be a win-win for everyone involved.
This means that we need to assess carefully the viability of our Clients to actually carry through and meet their goals.
While I might represent the Buyers and not the Sellers, is asking to show this home under these circumstances appropriate? Is this likely to be a win-win for everyone?
I respond that I can’t show them the home. Instead, I decide, it’s time to have a conversation.
I recommend that we meet in person at our office that afternoon. They agree.
“This is the situation I see you in,” I say, while seated at our conference table. I hold up a note pad.
“First, your main focus is trying to find a home here in the Birmingham/Shelby Co. area,” as I scribble point number one. “And you’re finding it difficult.”
Heads nod in agreement.
“Second,” as I write point number two, “You’re not getting help from the Realtors you’ve called, and you’re finding that extremely frustrating.”
“Absolutely,” I’m told. Heads are really nodding now, with facial expressions providing more confirmation.
“And third,” as I keep writing, “You’re still dealing with trying to get your own home sold, something you’ve been unable to do for two years.”
I almost hear an ‘amen, brother.’
There is total agreement; husband and wife relate 100% to everything I’ve said.
At this point, I describe what’s happening right now in the Birmingham area real estate market. I talk about how homes are selling. I explain why Sellers are unlikely to find their Offer—even at full price—attractive.
“One hundred percent of nothing is still nothing,” I tell them.
I share other valuations I’ve found for their property. And while I stress that none of those numbers should be considered reliable for pricing their home, there is such a wide disparity between them and the current asking price that I look straight at them and say, “I think this is a huge problem.”
I point out that inventory in the Shelby Co./Birmingham area can change substantially in less than a 60 day time frame. With no immediate prospect of selling their existing home, I tell them that, by the time they might actually be able to move ahead with a purchase, they would probably have to look at a different set of homes to choose from than is on market right now.
I then offer recommendations.
“First,” I say point blank to them, “Stop what you’re doing. It’s not working.”
I take my pen and abruptly strike through the bullet points I had just written down.
They seem a bit taken back.
No matter what home they find, and when they find it, I tell them that they can’t move ahead with buying until they sell their current home.
Getting your current place sold, I tell them, needs to be your absolute top priority over anything else.
I tell them that I feel very sure their home is overpriced, and that Buyers are, in fact, responding to this.
The silence Buyers have created for two years is deafening.
The husband reminds me that no other lake properties in the area have sold. I have a quick answer. That’s something we have seen before. “It may well be that they’re all overpriced,” I tell them.
“Every home will sell. There are Buyers out there.”
The husband mentions that they have to be able to walk away from the sale of their home with a certain amount of money.
“I completely understand,” I answer.
While I tell them I realize that how much money these folks clear from the sale of their home is very important to them, I point out that it’s of no concern at all to a Buyer.
The true value of your home, I tell them, is the figure at which a Buyer and a Seller agree to sit across from each other at a closing table.
I write down a new set of bullet points on my pad.
Number one, I recommend, is to get an appraisal. It’s the best independent assessment of their home’s actual probable value.
The husband mentions that they can use an appraisal from two years ago. Nope, I respond, that won’t work. It needs to be no more than about six months old. After looking at a current appraisal of their home’s probable selling price, I tell the couple that they’ll have a decision to make.
Number two, as I continue scribbling, is to adjust the sales price. And, I tell them, they have to keep adjusting it until they get sufficient interest—and an Offer that turns into a Contract—on their home.
Number three, as I talk and scribble, is to get their home Under Contract.
I conclude by scribbling item four: Start looking for your next home.
When they make it to point number three, I tell them, is when it’s time to pick up the phone and call us for help with finding a home in the Birmingham area.
And that’s more promising to be a win-win for everyone.
I tear the sheet off the notepad and hand it to the husband.
“Colleen and I would love to be your Agents,” I tell them, “but now you understand why we can’t help you with looking at homes right now.”
While our meeting concludes on a friendly tone, I sense that these folks are not walking out very happy.
Will we ever hear from them again?
Did we manage to lose a potential Buyer Client and sale?
I have no idea.
But my conscience is clear.
It’s about being honest and giving people information they need to know.
Even when they may not want to hear it.
If you’re thinking of buying a home in several areas near Birmingham using 100% loan financing through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, you’ll have to go a different route.
Effective October 1st, homes in Chelsea, Calera, Moody and Pleasant Grove—areas that have been eligible for USDA’s no-down-payment funding—will no longer qualify.
Current loans that are already in USDA’s processing system as of October 1st will be honored.
The removal of these areas comes as a result of a decision that these communities are no longer considered rural.
USDA’s loan program has been very popular…Colleen and I have helped many first time Buyers over the years with purchasing a home using this financing.
This does not necessarily mean that you’re out of options if you’re trying to get a 100% financed loan for a home in these areas.
A new 100% conventional loan program has just been announced that may be a suitable alternative.
Offered by several area Lenders, the new loan program is currently available at a fixed rate of 4.75% to Buyers who qualify, and has reduced mortgage insurance. And, unlike USDA loans, this new loan is not restricted by area.
Here are a few Lenders in the area you can contact for more information:
First Federal Mortgage
Home Mortgage of America, Inc.
Here’s a look at how many homes are for sale in some of the Birmingham area’s more desired neighborhoods, followed by lowest to highest asking price (data is provided by the Greater Alabama MLS, Inc.):
Shoal Creek … 13 ($579,9K – $13,900,000)
Mt. Laurel … 14 ($240K – $699,9K)
Greystone … 112 ($149,9K – $6,900,000)
Greystone Ridge … 2 ($149,9K – $189K)
Greystone Legacy … 34 ($404,9K – $1,699,000)
Greystone Village … 1 ($259,9K)
Greystone Cove … 5 ($449K – $1,140,000)
Highland Lakes … 52 ($287,9K – $1,097,900)
Eagle Point … 11 ($184,9K – $675K)
Trace Crossings … 43 ($239,9K – $899K)
Lake Crest … 6 ($327,9K – $499,9)
Ballantrae … 46 ($179,9K – $899,9K)
High Hampton … 1 ($325K)
Mallard Pointe … 3 ($198,5K – $209,9K)
Riverwoods … 8 ($229K – $400K)
Hillsboro … 4 ($193,9K – $264,9K)
Sterling Gate … 4 ($129,7K – $214,9K)
Cedar Grove … 3 ($134,9K – $279,9K)
Grande View … 11 ($152,9K – $304,4K)
Wynlake … 2 ($199,9K – $379,9K)
Lake Forest … 7 ($152,K – $294,9K)
Kentwood … 1 ($199,9K)
Weatherly … 10 ($109,9K – $204,9K)
Birmingham area homes for sale by general area…
Liberty Park/Vestavia … 342
Homewood … 216
Bluff Park/Hoover/Riverchase … 108
No. Shelby/Hoover … 498
Chelsea … 259
Helena/Pelham … 323
Alabaster/Maylene/Saginaw … 179
Calera/Montevallo/Wilton … 264
In many communities around the greater Birmingham area, the number of homes for sale is down significantly, compared to previous years. This is creating more pressure on people looking to buy a home than in the past, since there are fewer homes to choose from.
We always appreciate getting notes from our Clients, like this latest one from Rick and Deborah Halbrooks. When we first spoke with Rick, he said something that really caught our attention: Rick said he had been living in the same house for over 40 years!
“You and Colleen did a wonderful job of representing us and earned every cent of your commission.
As a sales manager, it irritates me to have a sales rep get a big commission check when they don’t do much work; this was certainly not the case with you two.
You were always available, quick to research anything you didn’t know and answered our questions promptly.
You were available to meet us at the house on numerous occasions, made the arrangements, coordinated schedules and generally made us feel like we were the only customer you were working with (I know this was not the case — you are constantly juggling lots of deals).
We appreciate your efforts and for helping us make the only move in 42 (me)/31 (Deborah) years a pleasant experience.”
If you’re looking for a home for sale in the greater Birmingham/Shelby Co. Alabama area, give us a call.
We’re ready to help!
You’re looking at what was almost a $2,500 cat.
Colleen and I had a great time helping Juergen and Helga Lauer of Lake Forest in Alabaster sell their home.
The Lauers were moving to Germany.
Getting everything shipped overseas went pretty smoothly…until it came to the Lauer’s two cats.
The moving company said, ‘sure, we’ll ship them—for $2,500 each.’
We guess that was almost enough to put Juergen and Helga into a—pardon the pun—catatonic state.
Surely, the Lauers wondered, there must be a less expensive way to transport two cats from Alabama to Germany!
After some more research, the Lauers found their solution: Delta.
$200 each, flown/done.
No word on what the cats thought of the trip…
Looking for a home for sale in the general Birmingham, Alabama area?
Here’s an update we’ve produced on market activity in Lake Forest, a popular Shelby Co. neighborhood that’s an easy drive into downtown Birmingham:
Let us know if we can help…
When you can get into a nicely upgraded 3BR home (with new granite counters, new stainless appliances, new paint, new flooring and more) for less than $103,000 and, then, on top of everything else, get a no-down-payment loan…well, that’s a seriously good deal.
This is yet another case where you could own your own home for less money than it would cost to rent.
The home is located at 2148 15th St in Calera.
It’s less than a ten minute drive to I-65, making access north into Alabaster, Pelham and downtown Birmingham easy.
What makes this so outstanding is the price: $102,900.
Check out our narrated video that shows the treats awaiting inside:
If you know of someone who might be interested (or if you are), we’d suggest acting sooner, rather than later. Deals like this don’t last long…
If you’re looking to buy a home in the Birmingham area, Lake Forest in Shelby Co. is one of the neighborhoods where you can’t go wrong.
Folks love this area because of its surroundings, which include a lake, walking track, playground and more.
Here’s a look at sales activity in the neighborhood during 2012:
If you’d like help with finding a home anywhere in the greater Birmingham or Shelby Co. area, let us know.
There are plenty of good opportunities out there…