The REO Guide: 10 Steps to Buying a Bank-Owned Home

Many potential homebuyers and investors overlook bank-owned properties, but for buyers who take the time to understand the REO process, these homes can be a significant opportunity.

Some homebuyers are intimidated by foreclosed and bank-owned homes because they often require more renovations — and a different type of negotiation — than other options on the market. However, some REO properties come at a significant discount, and, if you’re willing to work through some of the nuances of the post-foreclosure market, you can set yourself up for a great deal.

What is a Real Estate Owned (REO) Property?

REO, which stands for “Real Estate Owned,” is a term applied to foreclosed properties whose ownership has transferred to the bank or lender.

In order to become an REO property, it must go through these general steps:

  1. Loan Default. The homeowner/borrower defaults on (fails to make) their mortgage payments for a certain length of time, with the qualifying amount usually specified in the mortgage terms.
  2. Foreclosure. The lender initiates legal proceedings against the borrower to foreclose on the property.
  3. Auction. The property is then offered to the public at a foreclosure auction and typically sold to the highest bidder. If the property sells to a third party at the auction, the bank or lender recoups some of the cost of the outstanding loan balance, interest and fees from the sale of the property.
  4. REO Status. If the home fails to sell at auction to a third party, possession typically passes to the lender and it becomes a Real Estate Owned (REO) property. The lender prepares to sell it, which may involve evicting occupants and removing outstanding liens attached to the property.

REO properties are attractive to homebuyers or real estate investors for several reasons. In many cases, lenders are motivated sellers who do not want to sit on their REO inventory, and (depending on the bank’s history with the property) these homes may be priced at a discount. However, other factors — like the home being sold “as is” — may affect the ultimate price, so it’s important to work through the process methodically to make sure you account for every variable.

10 Steps to Buying REO Properties

The process for buying an REO home is similar to the standard home buying process, but there are a few key exceptions to keep in mind. Whether you’re buying the home to live in or as an investment, these 10 steps should help set you up for success with bank-owned properties.

Step 1: Browse Available REO Properties

Before you get too far into the process, take a look at the properties available in your target market or price range. There are several ways for prospective homebuyers to browse available REO properties:

  • Bank and lender listings: Lender-specific listings, such as PennyMac REO listings, show all available bank-owned properties from a certain lender.
  • Multiple Listing Service: Lenders and Realtors® often use the Multiple Listing Service to list REO properties, making it easy to find options from multiple lenders in one place.
  • Real estate agent: A real estate agent will be able to find REO offerings from multiple lenders in your desired area.
  • Online services: Other online services, such as Zillow, offer tools to look up foreclosures by certain characteristics or in certain areas. Some of these tools are free to use, while others may charge a fee.

Step 2: Find a Lender and Discuss REO Financing

Once you’ve found a property you are interested in, talk to a lender about your financing options. This is particularly important because of the timing of the REO homebuying process; lenders are motivated to sell and want to get these homes off of their books, so the more prepared you are with financing, the better.

One thing that can speed up the REO homebuying process is getting pre-approved by the lender that owns the home. With this pre-approval, the lender that owns the REO property will know that you are financially qualified to purchase the property, making them more likely to accept your offer.

Step 3: Find a Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Who Knows REO Homes

A buyer’s agent is a great partner to have while you navigate the home buying process. Your buyer’s agent helps make sure you are finding the best properties at the best possible prices, and they will use their experience to guide you through every stage of the process. Your agent should also be able to tell you if you need to hire anyone else, such as an attorney or an inspection service, depending on your state and situation.

If you are specifically interested in REO properties, try to find a buyer’s agent who works with REO properties frequently. This way, your real estate agent knows the ins and outs of negotiating with a lender, how to calculate the cost of necessary repairs, how to work within the lender’s timeline and how to prepare you for what comes next.

Step 4: Refine Your List of Lender-Owned Properties

Once you are working with a buyer’s agent, you can start narrowing down your list of REO properties. Some major characteristics that should be taken into account include the following:

  • Listing price
  • Significant repairs needed (and the overall impact on price)
  • Location (and proximity to a school, workplace, or other desired area)
  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Quality of neighborhood and surrounding areas
  • Community resources in the area, such as parks, gyms, places of worship, etc.
  • Lender-specific contingencies or requirements

Once you have taken your “must have” features into account, if you are left with multiple properties, refine your list based on “nice to have“ features like a large yard, a finished basement or an in-ground pool. Share your favorite homes with your agent, who can set up tours for properties at the top of your list.

Step 5: Get an Appraisal on Your Ideal Property

Some REO homes go for a great price, but buying a bank-owned home is not an automatic bargain. An REO property may be discounted based on an undesirable location or severe damage, or it can be overpriced based on comparable sales in the area or the lender’s desire to recoup the money spent. Either way, it’s a good idea to consider getting an appraisal so you know how the true value compares to the asking price.

An appraisal will help you get an objective estimated value, which you can compare to the bank’s asking price to see if the price is fair. During the appraisal, a licensed appraiser will take inventory of major systems (i.e., HVAC, plumbing), the structural integrity of the home, and check the prices of comparable homes in the area.

Note: An appraisal, which tries to estimate true home value, is different from a home inspection, which tries to take inventory of current and potential issues. An appraisal will help you decide whether or not the asking price is fair; an inspection will help you understand the repairs and renovations needed, which is critical for a bank-owned home.

Step 6: Make an Offer

Once you’ve found a property that is right for you, it’s time to make an offer.

Your agent will help you decide what kind of offer is likely to be accepted, put together the offer and submit it to the lender. Depending on the lender, you may need to submit special contract forms or paperwork. It is also common to attach an earnest money deposit check to your offer. This check (commonly 1-2% of the purchase price) is usually held in an escrow account until the purchase is finalized.

Make sure to consider the inspection process as you are making your offer. You may choose to make the offer contingent on inspection so you are protected if the inspection uncovers significant (and potentially dangerous) issues. If necessary repairs are well-documented, you can use that documentation to make your case for a low offer. Talk to your agent to understand your options when it comes to inspection contingencies.

Step 7: Have the Property Inspected

An inspection should be part of buying any home, but it is crucial for bank-owned homes. Real estate owned properties are typically sold “as is,” meaning the homebuyer is on the hook for any repairs — including major structural issues — that need to be fixed. An REO home may have been vacant for weeks or months, it may be neglected due to the homeowner’s financial trouble, or the previous owners may have removed items or damaged the property before vacating. Additionally, it’s possible that the property has gone through non-permitted renovations.

With that in mind, you need to be 100% sure you know what needs to be fixed before finalizing the loan. Having a home inspection done is the best way to take a thorough inventory of what repairs need to be made. The cost of these repairs should be added to the asking price so you have a better idea of what the home will cost you (and whether it’s still a good deal after repair costs are factored in).

In some cases, the lender may conduct an inspection when the home becomes bank-owned. If so, make sure you get a copy of the inspection report and review it thoroughly to decide if it is comprehensive enough to help make your decision.

Step 8: Negotiate Details

For better or worse, negotiating with a lender for a bank-owned home is different from negotiating with a homeowner.

On one hand, dealing with a bank instead of a homeowner means you don’t have to worry about emotional attachments to the home influencing the decision. You are also usually dealing with a very motivated lender who wants to get rid of the property (especially if it’s been on the market more than 30 days).

On the other hand, banks typically take longer to respond to an offer (or a question) than a homeowner because the offer must be reviewed by several individuals or companies. When the lender does respond, they will expect you to respond quickly to keep the process moving.

Working with a lender also means jumping through more corporate hoops. Banks are also more likely to present a counter offer because they must demonstrate they tried to get the best possible price for the property. In addition, the lender may ask you to sign a purchase addendum (which you should thoroughly review with your real estate agent or lawyer) and your final offer may be contingent on corporate approval.

Step 9: Finalize Your Loan

Now that you have submitted an offer, several things will be going on at once: the home inspection, negotiations with the bank, and the finalizing of your loan. During this time, you will be filling out paperwork and sharing information with your lender to ensure your loan is the right fit for the offer you have submitted.

Now is also the time to verify the status of the title. The bank typically clears the title before selling a bank-owned home but you can never assume this is the case. Contact the lender to see if the title has been cleared. If not, the lender may have a title company standing by to perform these services. If you are expected to do so yourself, hire a title company to run a full, insured title search before closing the deal.

Step 10: Closing

Once all of the paperwork is in place, you’ve wired in your down payment and your loan funds are in place, it’s time to close.

Closing on an REO property is similar to any other closing, with a few notable exceptions. If you’re unable to close by a predetermined closing date, the lender may charge a penalty for each day beyond the deadline. (You can try to avoid these delays by getting pre-approved for a loan and getting assurance that your financing will come through by a given date.)

At the closing, you and the lender representative will sign the documents necessary to transfer the house into your name and to finish your mortgage. After you’ve signed everything and the money goes to the right place, you’ll get the keys and a new title: homeowner.

Is an REO Home the Right Fit For You?

A bank-owned home can be a great opportunity for homebuyers or investors to find a good deal — but only if you’re willing to be patient and thorough. Dealing with a lender rather than an individual seller may mean slower response times and a more difficult negotiation, but it can lead to a potentially lower price from a motivated seller that has already handled outstanding taxes.

Browse PennyMac REO listings to see available bank-owned properties from PennyMac, or call a PennyMac Loan Officer to discuss your options today.

Source: pennymacusa.com

Refinance soon to avoid the FHFA adverse market refinance fee

FHFA fee starts on December 1, but rates will go up before that

Starting on December 1, a new “Adverse Market Refinance Fee” will be imposed on most conventional refinances.

But homeowners won’t pay the new fee at closing.

Instead, lenders will cover it by raising refinance rates — likely by as much as 0.125% to 0.25% on average.

To avoid higher rates, you’ll want to refinance before the fee takes effect.

But there’s a catch: to avoid FHFA’s fee, your refinance loan needs to be closed and delivered to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before December 1.

Homeowners who want the lowest-possible refinance rate should apply 2-3 months before December 1 — which is pretty much right now.

Find and a low refinance rate now (Feb 9th, 2021)

What is the Adverse Market Refinance Fee?

On August 12, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced they would assess a new fee on all conventional refinance loans.

The fee is equal to 0.5% of the loan amount.

That means if you had a $200,000 refinance, the new fee would amount to an additional cost of $1,000.

Refinances take a long time to close and deliver, so a September 1 start date meant the fee was already being added to refinances in process.

Originally, the fee was meant to start on September first — meaning it would have applied to all loans not yet delivered to Fannie or Freddie by that date.

But because refinances take a long time to close and deliver, the fee effectively started being added to loans that were already in process prior to September 1.

However, Fannie and Freddie have since changed the rules (and delayed the start date for the fee) in response to a strong industry backlash against it.

Changes to the FHFA refinance fee

On August 25th, FHFA announced two changes to the new refinance fee.

  • The start date moved from September 1 to December 1
  • The new charge will not apply to loan amounts below $125,000, or to HomeReady and Home Possible loans

This is good news for borrowers. It means rates may stay a little lower, a little longer.

It also means that borrowers who were already in the process of refinancing might not see their rates go up as a result of the fee.

In fact, loans currently in the pipeline might have their loan costs re-adjusted in borrowers’ favor, notes Matthew Graham of Mortgage News Daily.

But each lender will handle its own loans differently, so make sure you talk to your mortgage company if you were in the process of refinancing.

Also, note that loans must be delivered to Fannie or Freddie before December 1 to avoid the fee.

That means the refinance will have to close much earlier (in October or early November), so time your refinance accordingly.

Find and lock a low refinance rate (Feb 9th, 2021)

The new fee could push refinance rates up by 0.125% or more

When the new fee does go into effect, borrowers won’t pay it directly.

Instead, it’s likely to be charged to borrowers in the form of higher rates.

“The fee is 50bps [0.50%] in terms of PRICE, and that equates to roughly 0.125% in terms of interest rate,” says Graham.

Though others have estimated that refinance rates could rise as much as 0.375% on average when the fee goes into effect.

Either way, that’s a significant difference in refinance rates for borrowers.

For those who planned to refinance in the near future, it makes sense to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.

The earlier you start your refinance, the better your odds of closing and having the loan delivered to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before the fee once again goes into effect.

Find a low refinance rate today (Feb 9th, 2021)

Will all refinances be affected by the new fee?

The Adverse Market Refinance Fee will only apply to refinance loans sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In other words, it applies to ‘conventional’ refinance loans.

But other types of mortgages could be affected indirectly.

In fact, the initial announcement set off higher rates for both purchase and refinancing loans, including some not intended for sale to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Those who had not locked in rates suddenly faced higher interest costs.

So in the coming months, it seems safe to assume that conventional refinances won’t be the only type affected by rising rates.

No refinance fee on loans under $125,000

One piece of good news from Fannie and Freddie’s most recent announcement is that the refinance fee won’t be charged on loans under $125,000.

Note, that’s based on the loan balance — not the home’s value.

So if your home is worth significantly more than $125,000, but you’ve paid down a lot of the balance, you might end up refinancing less than $125K and the fee won’t affect you.

In addition, the fee won’t be charged to those refinancing a Freddie Mac Home Possible loan or Fannie Mae HomeReady loan.

Why was a new fee developed?

We have faced the COVID-19 economy for months. Some 55 million people have filed for unemployment, and lenders have had to adjust many of their policies to account for the added uncertainty.

But did something new happen to justify this extra fee?

According to Freddie Mac, the new fee was necessary “as a result of risk management and loss forecasting precipitated by COVID-19 related economic and market uncertainty.”

Fannie Mae explained that it was adding the fee “in light of market and economic uncertainty resulting in higher risk and costs.”

But on August 25th, a different answer emerged.

According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) — the regulator that runs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — the new money was “necessary to cover projected COVID-19 losses of at least $6 billion at the Enterprises.”

“Specifically,” says FHFA, “the actions taken by the Enterprises during the pandemic to protect renters and borrowers are conservatively projected to cost the Enterprises at least $6 billion and could be higher depending on the path of the economic recovery.”

This refers to relief packages passed during COVID-19, which allowed borrowers to skip mortgage payments without penalty and prevented lenders from foreclosing on any delinquent loans.

But this amount is a fraction of the $109.5 billion in profits Fannie and Freddie have added to government coffers, even after paying back bailout funds they received during the 2008 housing crisis, according to ProPublica.

Using a small percentage of past years’ profits to help homeowners through a worldwide pandemic seems like a good idea to us, anyway.

Will Congress stop the new fee before it goes into effect?

The Adverse Market Refinance fee is now set to start after the November election.

So, could the results of the election impact whether or not the fee actually goes into effect?

That’s not certain. Both Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, and Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO), Chair of the Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance, oppose the new charge.

If opposition to the fee is strong enough, there could potentially be an investigation into the fee and an attempt to stop it. But there’s no guarantee this will happen.

What to do if you want to refinance

Rates are still sitting near record lows — below 3% in many cases. This is basically unheard of in the mortgage world.

Rates are likely to go up as the new refinance fee start date nears. But that’s just one of the many, many factors that can impact mortgage and refinance rates.

If the economy starts to see a real recovery any time soon, rates could start going up regardless of what happens with the refinance fee. On the flip side, they’re not likely to go much lower than they are now.

So for borrowers hoping to refinance at record-low rates, it makes sense to get started sooner rather than later.

Verify your new rate (Feb 9th, 2021)

Source: themortgagereports.com

Housing, civil rights groups ask Congress for $25B

A large partnership of housing and civil rights organizations reached out on Monday to congressional leaders advocating for further relief for homeowners in the next COVID-19 stimulus package.  

The letter was signed by representatives of more than 350 housing and civil rights organizations, including American Bankers Association, Mortgage Bankers Association, National Association of Realtors, National Association of Home Builders and the Housing Policy Council, the NAACP, National Urban League, National Fair Housing Alliance and National Consumer Law Center.

The letter calls for $25 billion in direct assistance to homeowners facing hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least $100 million for housing counseling, and just under $40 million for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program.

Of the approximately 3.8 million homeowners past due on their mortgages, over half of them are persons of color, according to Census Bureau.

Recent homebuyers that relied on low- or no-down payment loans from FHA, VA or the Rural Housing Service are at particular risk, the group contends, noting that even six months of forbearance can put borrowers underwater on their mortgages, owing more than their home is worth.


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“Moreover, these borrowers are predominantly Black and Latinx families, first-time buyers and low to moderate-income families,” the letter says. “Mortgage payments assistance will be critically important to the nearly 3 million borrowers that remain in long-term forbearance plans from their mortgage servicers. We cannot begin to tackle the racial homeownership and wealth gaps if we do not take steps to prevent a wave of COVID-induced foreclosures and loss of home equity.”

The group is hoping the bulk of the requested $25 billion comes through the recently reintroduced Homeowner Assistance Fund, which can be used by state housing finance agencies. In the letter to Congress, the group states that the HAF can help homeowners by providing direct assistance with mortgage payments and get into affordable loan modifications, while assisting with utility payments, property tax and insurance payments, homeowner association dues and other support to prevent the loss of home equity.

The outreach from housing and civil rights groups comes at a pivotal time for the American housing industry. Recently appointed Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said she will play a key role in pushing the Biden administration’s economic agenda on Capitol Hill – which includes aggressive aid distribution in order to avoid an even longer recession.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly said his administration is focused on providing aid for those in need of affordable housing, and his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was recently voted into the budget reconciliation process in order to speed up passage. The plan calls for an additional $30 billion in funding for emergency rental, energy and water assistance for hard-hit households, plus $5 billion in emergency assistance to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

All of this at a time in the country where Black homeownership has declined year-over-year, according to a recent Census Bureau report, and the percentage of Americans experiencing housing insecurity has risen to 9.5% – up from 7.2% in late 2020.

“A critical lesson of the Great Recession is that the communities most impacted need targeted, early intervention,” the group wrote in the letter. “Acting now to include these key provisions in the pending COVID-19 relief package will help stem what could be a damaging housing crisis in the U.S. concentrated in low income communities and communities of color.”

Source: housingwire.com

What Is Mortgage Insurance?

If buying a home is your next financial goal, then you may have heard about mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance is probably not what you expect it to be. We will cover what you need to know about mortgage insurance before you buy your future home.

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What is mortgage insurance?

Mortgage insurance is a way for lenders to protect themselves from high-risk borrowers. The mortgage payments allow lenders to compensate for any losses due to defaulting on a mortgage loan.

When you think of insurance of any kind, you typically think that the insurance would help you in times of need. Instead, this helps mortgage lenders to limit the risk from borrowers, which allows for more lending to happen.

The mortgage insurance payments protect the mortgage lender. It does not protect you in any way if you fall behind on your monthly payments.

Mortgage insurance makes the home buying process more expensive for the borrower. However, it will make it possible for some to buy a home at all. If your down payment is less than 20%, then receiving a loan with mortgage insurance attached may be the best (and only) way to secure a home loan.

How Mortgage Insurance Works

As the borrower, you would need to pay extra money to the lender as a form of insurance. The method of payment can vary by lender.

You may need to pay an upfront fee or a monthly insurance payment that is added to your mortgage payment. Some lenders may even require both an upfront fee and an additional monthly payment.

The payment amount will vary widely based on your own credit, loan amount, and ability to pay the mortgage. Typically, low-risk borrowers will be entitled to lower mortgage insurance costs. High-risk borrowers should expect to pay a higher mortgage insurance premium.

The borrow is basically paying for the privilege of borrowing the money even though the borrower has a high associated risk.

Why would I get mortgage insurance?

Borrowers are required to pay mortgage insurance if they make a down payment of less than 20% of the home purchase price. Many federal programs like the FHA and USDA loans also require mortgage insurance as a part of the loan conditions.

If you are purchasing a home through a loan, your lender may require that you purchase mortgage insurance. You may have no choice in the matter if your lender dictates that you must purchase mortgage insurance to receive the loan.

It is generally not helpful for your financial situation to sign up for mortgage insurance. If you have the option to skip mortgage insurance, then that may be a good choice, depending on your situation. Otherwise, you will be paying for your lender to be protected, but you will not gain anything in the process.

What are the common types loans that require mortgage insurance?

There are many different kinds of home loans. Each type of loan has a slightly different type of mortgage insurance associated with it for some high-risk borrowers. We will cover the most common kinds below.

Conventional Loans

Conventional loans are typically offered through private companies. Depending on your down payment amount and your credit score, the private lender may require private mortgage insurance (PMI) as a condition of the conventional loan.

The amount of private mortgage insurance will also vary based on the down payment, loan amount, and your credit history. Higher credit scores and down payments will generally lead to lower required mortgage insurance premiums.

With private mortgage insurance, the premiums are usually paid out monthly with no initial upfront fee. You may also have the ability to cancel your private mortgage insurance in certain situations.

Department of Veterans’ Affairs Loans

If you are a service member or a veteran, you have likely heard of the VA loan. The idea is to help these honorable men and women purchase homes.

The VA will back your loan, so there are no monthly mortgage insurance fees required. However, you may need to pay an upfront funding fee that will act as mortgage insurance. The initial funding fee will vary based on your military history, down payment, credit score, and several other factors.

Although the upfront funding fee is not termed as mortgage insurance, the idea is the same.

US Department of Agriculture Loans

USDA loans offer great mortgage rates meant to help low to moderate-income home buyers in rural areas. The hope is that these loans will help to infuse life back into rural areas.

The loans offer zero down payments to home buyers, but mortgage insurance is required. A USDA loan requires that you pay an upfront premium as well as monthly premiums.

Federal Housing Administration Loans

FHA loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration but are completed through private lending companies.

FHA loans offer another low down payment option for people with lower credit scores. However, there is an enforced maximum loan limit that varies by county.

Every loan insured by the FHA requires mortgage insurance. You pay the annual mortgage insurance premium (MIP) monthly for the life of the FHA loan. The upfront and monthly mortgage insurance premium amounts vary by loan, but you can expect to pay it with FHA loans.

See also: FHA Loan Requirements for 2021

Can I avoid paying for mortgage insurance?

The easiest way to avoid mortgage insurance is by making a down payment of 20% or more. Of course, this is not feasible for every situation. Depending on your current financial picture, you may need to pay for mortgage insurance in order to purchase a home.

Alternatively, you can request to have your PMI canceled once the equity in your home reaches 20% of the purchase price or appraised value.

Bottom Line

Mortgage insurance is a required expense for many home buyers. If you are unable to make a 20% down payment on your home purchase, you will likely be required to pay for mortgage insurance.

Source: crediful.com