Pat Kennedy - Your Washington, DC Real Estate Connection

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A Buyer's Finances: How Much Disclosure Do We Need?

 I have an offer in counter, and one of the sticking points involves financial disclosure of the purchaser's assets to the seller and his agent (who happens to live in the building where my buyer is making the offer).

We sent over an excellent offer with a lenders letter from an extremely reputable local lender.  And the loan officer is an absolute favorite of good agents all over town.  The letter was more thorough than most, explaining that they had already done an income and assets check as well as a credit report.  He had readily available liquid assets sufficient to settle and a very high credit score.  The application had already gone through underwriting and was contingent upon a satisfactory appraisal.

This wasn't a months' old boiler plate letter from internetloansthatmightormightnotfund.com.   And it was updated last week.

Now, I am not comfortable knowing all of my clients' personal business.  So many of my buyers are close friends and relatives that I send them immediately to a trusted loan officer.  I come out knowing how much of a mortgage and down payment they can do, and that's really all I need. 

If a listing agents wants more information, I have my client authorize the loan officer to speak to them.  But I am almost never willing to send over detailed personal information to a real estate office across town's fax machine.

It seems that with upper bracket transactions (or agents who do a lot of them), this approach works.  And while the condo my guy is trying to buy is pretty pricey, the listing agent is with a firm that does most of its business in the mid to low end of the price spectrum.  

In some parts of the country, it's considered rude to expect a buyer to tell all to people he doesn't know from Adam in order to buy a house or apartment.  At the same time, I think it's good for a seller to have a high comfort level that the buyer is able to buy and will actually show up on settlement day with the funds to settle, from his mortgage company or his trust fund.

While I think agents are somewhat more careful than they used to be with other people's personal information, I've been in real estate offices where all kinds of stuff is on top of agents' desks.   

In this day of great concern about privacy and identity theft, I wonder how agents handle financial disclosure around the country. 

Comment balloon 14 commentsPatricia Kennedy • January 28 2008 09:44AM

Comments

Patricia,

Again you make some striking points...I think the reason some of our friends and relatives go elsewhere is because they don't want us to know their personal business...this is a tender and delicate area...I think professional common sense must win the day...whatever it takes to verify but maintain as much privacy as possible, is what should occur! JMHO, Thanks,   Fran

Posted by Fran Gaspari, "The Title Man" - Title Insurance - PA & NJ (Patriot Land Transfer, Inc.) over 12 years ago

I know I don't count as being from a different region, but I'll chime in anyway.  I, too, have seen personal information laying about the fax area of real estate offices. That's the reason I got a personal eFax account and ask that nothing ever be sent to my office fax machine.  I take confidentiality very seriously.  It's why I also don't like the "bullpen" most real estate offices expect agents to work in. But I digress.... I, too, am of the mind that if the lender is reputable and the letter has specific language as you've indicated, that should be sufficient to proceed.  I suppose the problem is there are so many folks writing crap letters that the good ones suffer.

Posted by Gregory Maley, REALTOR, GRI, CBR, SHS, e-PRO, ABR (Sold Buy the Sea Realty & R.E.N.T.) over 12 years ago
Good post - Honestly, I think that in this buyer's market (in most places in the country anyway), your good, non -boilerplate letter is more than sufficient!  If a listing agent is requesting MORE than that, honestly, it's none of their business!  If you're in a real hot market, obviously the seller's going to want to know the buyer is for real, and can close, but still, your letter is more than sufficient!
Posted by Jonelle Simons (Windermere Real Estate) over 12 years ago

Personally I hate the Financial Information Sheet we often use in this market (I wrote a post about it a couple of months ago).

If it is a letter from good - reputable lender - that more than suffices (as long as earnest money isn't $25!).  If it is a lender I don't know - I will at a minimum make a phone call to the lender.  

 

Posted by James Downing - Metro DC Houses Team REALTORS®, CRS, GRI, ABR,MRP, MilRes, When Looking to Buy or Sell - Make the Right Move (Real Living | At Home) over 12 years ago

I do not believe the buyer should ed to disclose anything other than the ability to buy.  Get a couple different lenders to send a letter saying the buyer has the ability. 

I would tell the seller if you are going t see my clients money, then we want to see all yours as well.  the point being.  If you as a seller are not a lender then you would not know if the person can get a loan just from that.  As a lender we do not know just by assets and income. 

Well I can go on forever on this.  I better not.  I hope it works out.

Posted by Dave Cheatham (INC Financial ) over 12 years ago
I have not run into that before. I wonder if it is a tell of things to come - a change in the market?
Posted by Kevin McGrath, Long & Foster Real Estate Companies (Long & Foster Real Estate Companies- Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania) over 12 years ago
Patricia - I have never had that problem. Sellers down here are so happy to get an offer on their home, if the offer has a prequalification letter that is all that they normally ask for. Sounds like things are done really differently up there in DC.
Posted by Billnulls Blog Florida Realty Professional, AHWD (Charles Rutenberg Realty) over 12 years ago
Pat, if the contract is not contingent on financing, what business is it of the sellers agent or the seller for that matter.
Posted by Danny Thornton, WordPress Guru (R & D Art) over 12 years ago

I try to stay out of my customer's financial situation as much as is practical - I rely on my trusted mortgage partners to inform me on that score.  I haven't done a buyer cost sheet myself in years.  Of course, in a problem scenario I'll want every piece of relevant data, though.

Posted by Jeff R. Geoghan, REALTOR, Marketing Manager (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 12 years ago
Patricia, the only thing we provide besides the mortgage letter is proof of sufficient funds to settle, that is, down payment and closing costs.  Usually, that's a letter or account statement with the number blacked out.  I've never been asked for more than that and can't see how more information would be relevant.  After discussion with my buyer, I would just restate the information already given and assert that it was sufficient for this transaction. 
Posted by Elaine Hanson, REALTOR - Topanga, CA Real Estate Agent (Compass) over 12 years ago

Pat,

It sounds like you had a great lender letter and had done your homework. You, sad to say, are the exception and not the rule. 

You also allude to the lsiting agent working in an office that works primarily in the mid to low tier of the real estate market.  Well, that's another reason he may have been overly cautious.  In the mid and low tiers it's common for both consumers and lenders to lie, lie, lie.  I'm with James Downing.   The Financial Infomration Sheet is near worthless to me but I've had listing agents tell me they wouldn't present my offer without one (!!!). And the lenders are are constantly trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  At least until investors wised up and caused underwriting to tighten up the way it should be.

My personal approach is to review the lender letter.  If it's a good letter from a reputable (i.e. known) lender and/or loan officer.  That's enough.  If the earnest money is a nice chunk of change, even better. 

In the upper tier, if you can't trust the Buyer's Realtor to have done their homework to make sure their client isn't wasting their [the Buyer's agent's] time ("Can we look in Avenel? I got the money. Trust me on this.") why even bother?

In the mid to low end you get agents and lenders all the time trying to shoe horn their clients into property. 

Posted by Ken Montville, The MD Suburbs of DC (RE/MAX United Real Estate) over 12 years ago

I too do not want to know all my buyer's personal financial information...I don't have a need to. As long as the lender is known for their work ethic and verifying that everything is in order and will close, there should not be a problem nor a need to request asset information.

I ran into a similar situation a few years back and my buyer had his bank draft a letter to the seller stating that they have done business with him for "x" number of years and that his personal accounts were quite sufficient to cover the purchase of this property.

I think that is the best way to handle these situations. Let the buyer decide what and how much they choose to divulge. The seller and their agent need to be quite careful that requesting this information could lead the buyer to not want to go through with the deal and one does not want that to happen in this market.

Posted by Cris Burlew, Broker ~ St Pete Beach FL Real Estate (Beach & Luxury Realty, Inc.) over 12 years ago
Well alot of disclosure is needed if there are countering offers as it is the only way for a seller to truely choose the stronger offer
Posted by Jeffrey Dolfinger, NRBA Member (24/7 Realty Inc.) over 12 years ago
I have run into this a few times, and really think it is nobody's business how much a buyer has in their savings or liquid fund accounts.  I have had buyer's obtain a letter from their bank as well stating that they are in a good financial position, without disclosing any personal information.  I've actually used this myself, and our banker of 17+ years has been happy to oblige.  I've never had anyone question it or turn it down, and I think it might give a bit of additional comfort to the seller along with a lender's approval letter.
Posted by Jeannie Kontis over 12 years ago

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