The six critical factors to be aware of when buying or creating a real estate-backed note include the buyer/borrower, the collateral, the down payment, the terms of the note itself, seasoning and the associated paperwork. We’ll go through these one at a time.
The most important of these is the person buying the property and getting a loan from the seller. Most seller-financed loans are created for people with a credit score of 600 or greater, although most banks have a 620 minimum. Just like with banks, the better your score, the better the interest rate you can get.
If you are creating a note you can protect yourself from an applicant with poor credit by getting a larger down payment and charging a higher interest rate. These are things a note buyer will look for when considering the purchase of a loan.
The second thing to analyze is the property being offered as collateral. A pretty 3-bedroom home in a nice suburb would be worth more than a single-wide on 35 acres, 20 miles from the nearest grocery store. A well-built apartment building would be worth more than 50 acres of dirt.
When buying a note you must affirm that the property is correctly valued. If you get that number wrong, the whole deal starts off on shaky ground. While you may want to check a home’s value on Zillow, or Trulia, or eppraisal.com, your most accurate number will come in a BPO (Broker’s Price Opinion) created by a local realtor who has actually driven out to see the property. Sold comps and listing comps will be more accurate than anything produced by a software package like Zillow.
The third factor to consider is the down payment. Consider two people who each by a house worth $50,000. One puts down $800 and the other puts down $5,000 (10%). The note that has the great down payment will be worth more than the other if everything else is equivalent. If a buyer has enough “skin in the game” they will be more likely to make paying their mortgage a top priority since they have more to lose if they default.
The fourth thing to look at are the terms of the loan. What is the interest rate? Currently, a rate between 8 and 10% is pretty common in the seller-financed world. Much above that will make it difficult to pay. A note with a rate of 5 or 6% may pay too little to make it attractive to an investor who will be forced to deeply discount their offer to get their required yield.
The payback period can also affect the perceived value of a note. Generally, a short amortization period is more attractive because an investor will get her money back quicker.
If a note has a provision to collect escrows for taxes and insurance, that should bring a better price when sold than one that doesn’t. In the latter case the lender is counting on the buyer to set aside funds to take care of these payments, but that’s asking for a lot of self-discipline from someone who has shown via their credit score that they may not have much.
If the buyer can’t make the insurance payments, you as the investor may have to attach forced-place insurance, an expensive option to keep yourself covered.
Property taxes will be collected eventually and generally have a lien position ahead of the first mortgage. Non-payment over a period of years can lead to the loss of the property at a tax sale.
The last thing to look at on the note itself is the overall payment. An investor making an offer to buy a loan will want to feel comfortable that the buyer can afford to make the payments and still have enough left over for all their remaining living expenses. Also, if local rental rates are higher than their mortgage payment, that’s another incentive for the buyer to keep up their obligation to pay on time.
The fifth factor is called seasoning. That’s simply the amount of time the borrower has been making payments. A note buyer will offer more for a note with three years of seasoning than one where the new owner has only made three payments. A good track record gives an investor confidence that payments will continue being made on time and can even offset the negative affect of a low credit score.
Sixth and last, all the ancillary paperwork contributes to the overall value of a note. Here’s a list of documents to ask for from the note seller: title policy, tax certificate, mortgage or deed of trust, the allonge (showing the transfers of the loan), the mortgage transfers, credit report, payment history and original application including the social security number of the borrower. If you are creating a seller-financed note, having all these documents will keep the value of your note as high as possible.