September 12, 2008

5 Reasons L.I. Real Estate Deals Fall Through


Buyers have made an offer; the sellers have said yes. Sometimes, that’s not enough.

John and Mayra Sassano of North Massapequa still remember the “crushing” blow of losing a home they put a bid on nine years ago.

“We spent many months looking at houses throughout Nassau,” says John Sassano, 42, a software engineer. “Eventually, we saw a house that we loved. We talked with the real estate agent and worked out an offer based on his suggestions. Plus, we let him know that we could definitely go up, if needed, to secure the house. He called us back and said the house was going into contract to someone else. It was not for much more money – certainly well within the range of where we would have gone, probably even less. We were crushed.”

Getting outbid is one reason real estate deals fall through, but there are myriad others. Following are the top five, according to Long Island agents and attorneys, and how you can make sure they don’t happen to you.

1 Financing

Experts say that financing – either the buyer can’t get it or had it and lost it – is the primary reason real estate deals fall through these days.

“Really, what this business is all about is structuring the deal,” says Bob Moulton, president of Long Island-based Americana Mortgage Group, which has offices in Manhasset and Southampton. “Borrowers don’t show enough, they’re self-employed or have a fluctuating income or one that’s commission-driven, and they can’t get a loan.”

Lior Aldad of Roslyn, a Manhattan real estate attorney, says buyers should ensure their credit is sufficient to satisfy the lending institution’s requirements. “Finding out at the last minute that you have failed to qualify for a mortgage is a sure, and embarrassing, way for a real estate deal to fall through,” he says. “Seek pre-approval for your loan, and make sure that your property is appraised at the proper price.” Your real estate broker should have data on three similar area properties that sold at a similar price, he said.

Additionally, attorney Joseph Milizio, managing partner for Capell Vishnick in Lake Success, says many times buyers will get mortgage commitments contingent upon their selling their current residence, and, when they can’t sell, the problems begin. “That can put buyers in a difficult situation with the seller, because even if the buyers cannot sell their home, the seller can turn around and say you have a firm commitment and that you are committed to buying my home at this point,” he says.

Yael Lazar, a Garden City real estate attorney, recommends buyers close on their current home before purchasing a new one: “Trying to time everything perfectly very rarely works out and causes additional stress. It may mean finding temporary housing for a few months, but it is definitely less stressful.”2 Paperwork

2 Paperwork

Even simple real estate transactions are much more complex than people realize; contracts include thousands of words in addenda and riders that are not easily translatable. A misunderstanding of the contract, or a deliberate misrepresentation of the property on the seller’s behalf, says Aldad, can cause confusion and collapse of the contract.

Mary Ann Horne, vice president and sales manager of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty’s Manhasset office, says buyers and sellers should ensure all permit and mortgage payout paperwork is complete and duly recorded.

“Many real estate transactions are plagued by home improvements performed without permits or, in the case that a permit was obtained, it was not properly closed out,” she says. “Mortgages and home equity loans may also have been satisfied, but if they were not properly recorded by the bank or filed with the county, a transaction will not be able to close. Sellers may want to run a title check on their property before sitting at the closing table.”

Buyers need to give mortgage advisers complete and correct information, adds Lazar, or risk being prequalified incorrectly. They also should make sure paperwork doesn’t languish. Lazar says if a buyer takes too long to return the contracts and sellers are anxious – and there are multiple offers – sometimes the contract that comes back first signed by a potential buyer gets it. “Is this ethical? No,” says Lazar, “but sellers are getting burned. Remember, you don’t have a legal contract until the seller signs it. The seller is not obligated until he signs the contract.”

3 Negotiation

When buyers and sellers begin to negotiate the sale of a home, the process can be fraught with sticking points on both sides on any number of issues. “Negotiation isn’t only about price,” says Moulton. “It’s about occupancy dates, down payments, financing, whether you’re buying a house ‘as is’ or ‘subject to. ‘ The buyer and seller need to agree to all the ingredients. ”

Milizio says that, particularly in the current market, buyers and sellers will agree to a price, but the purchaser may decide that he or she wants to hold off in order to see if the price of the home will come down even further. Once sellers negotiate their lowest price with a buyer, and the buyer walks away, the sellers might be very willing to go to the next potential buyer with that price – or with less of a price.

“They’re usually disappointed that the first deal didn’t go through and they’re very motivated to sell,” he says. “Often sellers become so disenchanted with buyers who keep asking for more and more that they don’t want to deal with those buyers. ”

Indeed, “too much” negotiation, says Lazar, can tick people off, particularly buyers who are asking for a lot of credits or items to be repaired. “If it’s a sellers’ market, buyers can’t ask for too much. Sellers may find buyers difficult and decide to find a less-picky buyer, or vice versa: Buyer finds a different home if seller is being too difficult.”4 Home inspection

4 Home inspection

Structural issues, major insect infestations or mold, lack of permits and other “surprises” can be deal breakers. “In this market, in particular, where real estate prices have fallen, I often see buyers who negotiate the best possible price with the seller and then do the home inspection and find that things will need to be replaced and repaired,” says Milizio. “They go back to the seller and say, ‘I’ll have to put more money into the home and need to reduce the price,’ and the seller already reduced the price to what they think is the maximum deduction they can give. And now the purchaser comes back and wants more. That’s often a stumbling block. ”

Hector Gavilla, a licensed broker associate with Prudential Douglas Elliman in Melville, says the key to avoiding this, for sellers, is to have an inspection done on the home before putting the home on the market. “Having an inspection prior to listing helps the seller make a sound decision and gives them much more time to make necessary repairs,” he says.5 Unprepared buyers

5 Unprepared buyers

Buyers may be unrealistic about what they can afford, may not be ready to buy a home, may start having second thoughts, may squabble with their spouses or may not have done enough research to know what they want.

“With such an overabundance of inventory in this market, buyers have so much, sometimes too much, to choose from,” says Renee Weinberg, a Prudential Douglas Elliman agent located in Long Beach. “As Realtors, we are finding that indecisiveness because of too many options is delaying the entire negotiating process. ”

Experts agree that a thorough self-analysis – Am I ready to buy a home? How much can I afford monthly? How much space do I need? What areas of town do I like? – can save time and aggravation throughout the process. “Ensure that you do the proper research when purchasing real estate and that your income is substantial enough to cover all aspects of your investment,” says Aldad. “Simply put, the best and only way to enter into a real estate contract is to be prepared. This means securing counsel, doing your homework and ensuring all of your finances are in order.”