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As a buyers agents, our role is not only to secure the property and deal with the negotiations and due-diligence and post-contract processes. We are there to guide our clients through the maze of property selection; from helping them understand their brief (and the constraints which can go with a brief!), through to steering them clear of bad choices.
Blogger: Cate Bakos, director, Cate Bakos Property
Property is exciting, but it is far from being black and white. It is all shades of grey and there are many elements to selecting good property that are paramount to the process. One of the most significant however, is understanding how the banks feel about the subject property. It is in fact so pragmatic for the bank that they refer to the property as the security. Security is important to understand – it reflects how the bank really feels about lending the client the money based on their property selection. If the bank likes the property enough to finance it to 95% (and better still, like it enough also to offer capitalised Lender’s Mortgage Insurance; LMI), then we can rest assured that one important step in the process has been covered off. LMI is important to understand also – in fact, in many cases, the Lenders Mortgage Insurer has the last – and most critical – say. Loans for full-doc applications are assessed by LMI when the borrowings exceed 80% (and lesser again for low-doc lending). Some could define the LMI step as the most highly scrutinised part of the process. I’ve seen plenty of situations where the bank says yes and the insurer says no.
So why would a lender apply scrutiny to a security? And why would a mortgage insurer say “no” to a particular security? The answer is - for plenty of reasons; and if they feel that the property could either be hard to sell, a challenge to sell in a reasonable time frame, an atypical type of title, a zoning which is prohibitive to mainstream buyers, an asset which is located in a compromised location or postcode, positioned in a high risk area, considered unsuitable for inhabitants to reside in, or worse still – for reasons unrelated to all of these possibilities and perhaps related to the bank’s reluctance to exceed their existing exposure to the block or the development. In fact, there are MANY reasons why a lender could apply tough scrutiny on a property and while we can’t predict them all, we can certainly recognise some of the warning bells before our clients get too excited about an inappropriate or compromised property.
Taking all of this into account, clients often respond to my word of caution on a particular asset with “But Cate, we don’t mind. Our borrowings won’t exceed 70% and our bank has already told us that we’ll be fine.” Their ability to finance the property is not of concern to me. What is of concern is that they will be potentially buying an asset which is challenging for anyone else to buy. Not only this, but other nearby properties, or properties in the same block – or comparable properties – will most likely be exposed to the same level of scrutiny. What THIS means is that my client’s compromised property will have its value directly underpinned by the other comparable properties which are exhibiting lower-than-expected sales results based on their difficulty for mainstream buyers to finance – and this in turn will mean that the capital growth rate and relative value to the rest of the market will be compromised also. Take a recent example of mine – I inspected a neat and tidy villa unit in Melbourne’s lovely Moonee Ponds a few months back. The agent hadn’t received the contract from the vendor’s solicitor at this stage - and knowing my values in the area, I discussed the likely price tag of the soon-to-be-auctioned property with her. Diplomatically she indicated that the price would be likely to exceed $460,000. I knew as well as she did that $480,000 was a more likely price-tag given the finish, landsize and location that this unit offered. Anyway, the contract didn’t arrive until Thursday night before the auction – and to everyone’s horror the title was in fact Company Share (as opposed to the more accepted and less scrutinised Strata Title). The implication for all of the buyers was that they would need between a 20% and 40% deposit depending on their lender’s policy on Company Share units. This blow knocked out all but one buyer and the unit sold for $407,000 with little or no competition.
I’ve seen situations where a ‘renovator’ for the most enduring of renovators have been declined by the lender, and where postcodes which have suffered bushfire or flooding have been rejected. The worst decline I’ve witnessed was by a lender which determined that the number of comparable sale properties in the area was inadequate enough to support the price on the contract. The client had done nothing wrong and the price was fair and reasonable based on historical sales; yet the lender’s policy stipulated that three comparable property sales within a three month period needed to be sighted by a valuer for the loan approval to proceed.
So when my clients are nonchalant about buying unconditionally (whether it be at auction or on a private sale contract), I still scrutinise the asset myself. I tell them “Cate doesn’t like properties which the banks don’t like.”