Destin, Miramar Beach, 30A and Panama City Beach Fl Condo Financing Questions
From experience with these type transactions is that a buyer in this scenario will face a high percent probability of loan denial regardless of their strength as a borrower. Worse yet, the problems typically surface at underwriting-the last step before loan approval and very close to the closing date. When this happens, a buyer usually has to start over with a local lender and extend the closing date. They may have already paid fees that can’t be refunded and will have to expend more time and effort to re-apply. If a buyer chooses to not apply for a loan through a lender that can finance this property, the earnest money could also at risk because financing contingencies are usually based on the Buyer’s ability to qualify for the mortgage. If the loan is turned down because the buyer chose a lender that doesn’t have a financing program to fit the property even though local financing was readily available, this generally does not entitle the buyer to a refund of his earnest money.
Buyers often turn to their local banks because they have developed relationships with them and trust their judgment. Unfortunately, these lenders have usually had no experience with this type of property. When they say they don’t think they will have a problem, they are telling the truth. They really don’t think they will have a problem. As previously stated of the financing attempts of this type that our company has witnessed have failed and they all had one thing in common: Every single loan officer, often a trusted loan officer of the buyer, was truly sure they wouldn’t have a problem right up until the loan denial. Another reason people choose lenders out of our area is that they think they can search the internet and find a better interest rate or better terms. The same pitfalls apply. These lenders are not familiar with our market or these types of properties and their failure rate is about the same.
Financing a condo, particularly if it is in a property with an onsite rental management program, is very different than financing a primary residence. Financing is readily available through our experienced local lenders.
Gena: We’re using the term “condotel” to include a broad group of properties which typically have one or more “Hotel” type characteristics. Typical features could include an onsite rental office; onsite commercial space(s) such as restaurants, day spas, convenience stores, etc.; PBX phone system; high-level guest services such as 24-hour check-in, daily maid service, concierge, valet parking, etc.
Q. Why is my choice of a lender to finance my condo purchase so important?
Gena: It’s important because in my years of selling condos in the financing attempts through inexperienced lenders have caused more problems than any other single factor, resulting in loan denials most of the time. This is also important because it is the easiest problem to prevent.
Q. Why can’t I just find the best residential mortgage loan program and use it to finance my purchase of a resort condotel?
Gena: Financing is often property-specific and certain loan programs will not work for certain properties regardless of the strength of the borrower. This concept is alien to some lenders. The reasons for this have nothing to do with the quality or location of the property.
Q. Why do lenders resell loans and why does this make a difference?
Gena: The secondary loan market is set up for residential properties for primary residences, second homes, and investment-and there are guidelines to determine what properties qualify. If a property doesn’t qualify, the lender cannot sell the loan through one of the agency entities (Fannie Mae – Freddie Mac). Lenders can still make money on loans they can’t sell (such as they do on commercial loans). However, since they tie up assets for potentially long time periods, the returns (interest rates) generally must be higher to justify these.
Problems arise with inexperienced lenders because many resort like condos are somewhat commercial in nature. They have onsite rental desks, daily maid service (like a hotel), onsite restaurants, etc. These are considered by many buyers and most visiting vacationers to be positive factors. Unfortunately, secondary loan market guidelines cause these type properties to be categorized as a “condotel” and therefore ineligible for the secondary loan market. This is what typically causes a residential loan on a condotel through an out-of-area lender to be denied at the last minute.
Q. Does this mean there’s nothing really wrong with a condotel?
Gena: There is nothing wrong with condotels just as there is nothing wrong with restaurants, hotels, office buildings or any other properties that could typically be described as “commercial” in nature. As previously stated, many of their characteristics actually may make them more desirable to a second home owner than a detached house.
Q. Are the same loan programs available for all condotel buildings?
Gena: No. Available loan programs can vary significantly from one building to the next. Relevant factors may include the service level and the precise location of the rental desk (inside the building or not, for example), the size and configuration of the individual condominiums and whether or not there are timeshare units in the complex, just to name a few. Also, if a buyer already owns another property along the coast this could affect the loan. As noted, interpretations also vary over time and from lender to lender.
Q. Are terms and interest rates the same for condotel loans as they are for primary residence loans?
Gena: Interest rates are sometimes slightly higher than rates for primary home loans and a larger down payment is sometimes required. Also, 30-year fixed rate financing is typically not available. The reason is that lenders consider these to be riskier loans than those for primary residences. If a borrower experiences financial difficulties, they will stop paying on their second home or investment loan before they stop paying for the roof over their head. Even more importantly, since these loans are typically not sold, any profit the lender makes is based on the “spread” between the interest rate charged to the borrower and the interest rate available to the lender. And since this is the case for the life of the loan, lenders want the rates to be able to adjust as prevailing interest rates change.
Q. Are condotel loans risky for the lenders that specialize in them?
Gena: In our area at least, these loans have historically had very low default rates. Most of the Buyers are relatively affluent with strong assets and reserves. They also typically have good credit scores which they will go to great lengths to protect. Of course during times of hardship such as the recent recession, defaults increase as they do with other types of mortgages.
Q. Does it matter which of the local lenders I choose to finance my resort condo purchase?
Gena: Yes, not all of our local lenders can provide financing for all properties. Lenders, like most service providers, often specialize and some do not have programs for condominiums.
Q. Condos are obviously not as easy to finance as detached houses. Should I be worried that there won’t be available financing when and if I try to sell my condo?
Gena: Through the year’s working with condos, there has always been reasonable financing available for qualified buyers although the lineup of the “best” local lenders has changed frequently. This is a lucrative market for lenders and with baby boomers expected to buy millions of second homes in the coming years; it is unthinkable that no lenders would choose to take advantage of that opportunity.
Q. Is it ever OK to use a lender who does not have resort condo experience?
Gena: Yes of course, a “Signature” Loan- In other words, your position with the lender is so strong that your signature will get you a loan regardless of why you’re borrowing the money. The lender is treating this as a ‘portfolio” loan which it does not intend to sell. Commercial Loan- Some buyers put down more money and structure these as commercial loans. There still could be problems if the lender is not familiar with our market.
Q. What if I carefully consider all factors and still decide I don’t want Condotel financing terms?
Gena: The easy answer is to simply buy in a property (Condo) that is eligible for conventional financing (Warrantable Condo it meets Fannie Mae guidelines). There are plenty in our area. Ask me to help you find these properties. The rules are confusing and the list of eligible properties changes frequently as rules are periodically changed or as interpretations change. The other solution is to pay “cash”. This is not necessarily as difficult as it sounds. Many “cash” buyers actually just borrow against some other asset which gives them more favorable terms. Home equity loans, leveraged stock portfolios, etc.
Q. This sounds so complicated—how will I learn all this?
Gena: Good news you don’t have to. Your experienced agent who works with condos can help you. Experienced condo agents constantly monitor the local competition so that they can help their clients connect with some local lenders that can service their needs.