All About Owner Financing Mechanics

by William Bronchick, Esq.

To sell a house quickly, it must be attractive and so should the terms. By fixing your home to present it in the best light and offering flexible terms as well, you have in fact given your buyer an “offer they can’t refuse.” When offering your house for an all-cash purchase only, you limit your market. If you’re flexible on the financing terms of the property, you increase your pool of buyers and thus the demand for your house.

Let’s discuss the mechanics of the owner financing, which is different if the seller has existing financing on the property. If you are new to this, you may want to secure the services of a mentor or attorney familiar with the aspects and paperwork of Owner Financing.

1. Property Owned Free and Clear

Let’s begin the discussion with a simple explanation of owner financing with a property that is owned free and clear of any mortgage liens; that is, there is no debt owed on the property. Let’s say Sally Seller owns her home “free and clear” — that is, she owes nothing to the bank and there are no mortgage liens on the property. Sally agrees to sell her property to Barney Buyer for $100,000, with the terms of 5% down and owner-financing for $95,000 (95% of the purchase price). At closing, Barney tenders $5,000 in cash and signs an I.O.U. (known as a “promissory note”) for $95,000. Sally executes and delivers a deed (ownership of the property) to Barney. The promissory note is secured by a mortgage that is recorded against the property as a lien in favor of Sally. In this case, Sally is essentially acting as a lender to fund part of the purchase price of the house.

Sally can set a balloon date in the promissory note by which the loan has to be paid in full, at which time Barney must either sell the property or get a new loan from a traditional source such as a bank or mortgage lender. When the new loan is obtained, the loan to Sally is paid off and the mortgage lien is removed from the property. In some states, a different form of mortgage called a “deed of trust” is used. A state-by-state list can be found in the resource directory in the appendix of this book.

2. Seller Has a Mortgage, But Some Equity

The preceding example is for illustrative purposes only, because if you’re reading this manual you probably owe money to a lender secured by a mortgage lien on your property. Let’s consider a more common example — a house that has some equity because it has appreciated since it was purchased, or was purchased with a sizeable down payment.

Let’s say Sammy Seller owns a property worth $100,000 that’s encumbered by a mortgage of $80,000. Sammy agrees to sell the property to Betty Buyer for $100,000. Because there’s $20,000 in equity ($100,000 value minus the $80,000 loan), Betty offers to pay $10,000 down and borrow the balance of the $90,000 from Manny Mortgage Lender. At the last minute before closing, Manny decides that Betty Buyer’s eyes are the wrong color and refuses to fund her loan. Instead, Manny offers to lend $80,000, which is $10,000 short of the amount Betty needs to close. One choice is for Sammy to drop the price of $90,000. Another choice is for Sammy and Betty to part ways and for Sammy to put the property back on the market to find another buyer.

A third choice is for Sammy to accept a promissory note for $10,000 as part of the purchase price. At closing, Betty will pay Sammy $10,000 down, borrow $80,000 from Manny and give Sammy a promissory note for $10,000. Sammy signs over to Betty a deed to the property, and Betty signs a mortgage lien for $80,000 to Manny, who will possess a first lien on the property. Betty also signs another mortgage lien to Sammy, who will have a second mortgage on the property. In a year or so, Betty gets a new loan for $90,000, paying off both the first (Manny’s) and second (Sammy’s) mortgage liens. In the meantime, Betty can make Sammy payments of interest on the $10,000 promissory note, which is a nice income stream for Sammy.

3. Seller Has a Mortgage, and Little or No Equity

If the seller has little or no equity but a reasonably low payment on his note (whether a fixed-rate loan or fixed for a few more years), he can sell the property by using a wraparound transaction. A “wraparound” or “wrap,” is an arrangement wherein you sell a property encumbered with existing financing by accepting payments in monthly installments, leaving the existing loan in place. The seller uses the payments he collects from the buyer to continue making payments on the underlying mortgage note.

For example, Susie Seller owns a house worth $100,000 and she owes $90,000 to First Federal Financial on a favorable 6%, 30-year, fixed-rate loan. Her principal and interest payments on the loan are roughly $600 per month. She can sell the property for $100,000 for cash, but this might take a few months and $6,000 or more in broker fees and concessions, leaving breadcrumbs on the table after Susie pays off her loan. Susie advertises the property as for sale by owner (FSBO) with owner financing and sells the property to Barry Buyer for $100,000, taking $5,000 down and carrying the balance of $95,000 at 8% for 30 years. Susie doesn’t pay off her underlying loan, but rather collects payments from Barry (roughly $700 per month) and continues to make payments on the underlying loan (roughly $600 per month). Susie collects $100 per month cash flow on the “spread” until Barney refinances.

Mechanics of a Wraparound Transaction

A wraparound is commonly done with an installment land contract. The installment land contract is an agreement by which the buyer makes payments to the seller under an agreement of sale. The transaction is also known by the expressions, “contract for deed” or “agreement for deed.” The seller holds title as collateral until the balance is paid. In many ways, the installment land contract is similar to a mortgage, in that the buyer takes possession of the property, maintains it and pays taxes and insurance. However, the deed remains in the seller’s name until the balance of the debt is paid by the buyer.

An Installment Land Contract usually contains a forfeiture provision, under which a defaulting buyer may be evicted like a defaulting tenant. Under the contract, legal title remains in the seller’s name until the purchase price is satisfied. When the buyer satisfies the indebtedness, legal title passes to the buyer.

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About the Author William Bronchick

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