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Chuck Braxton, REALTOR's Blog

By Chuck Braxton | Agent in Meredith, NH
  • New Requirements for Rural Development Loans

    Posted Under: Financing in Grafton County  |  May 13, 2009 6:09 AM  |  2,681 views  |  No comments

    In December 2008 I completed the sale of a property in which the buyer had used USDA-Rural Development financing.  Everything went smoothly and the staff at RD was very responsive.  As I recall the water quality test was the only extra requirement.  This is a terrific program for buyers who qualify.  However, sellers who have property that may fit the requirements of buyers using RD financing will want to know about this. 

    When another listing of mine went under agreement with RD financing in March, the buyers' agent and I were surprised by the number of new requirements that we encountered.  This note is not a criticism of the RD program or the staff at RD who turned in the same responsive effort that we have come to expect.  However, there was a long list for the scavenger hunt to keep the transaction together. The major new requirements were for code enforcement inspections (electrical, plumbing, fuel burning appliances) and a certificate of occupancy.  Since many of the towns in NH where buyers can find affordable properties do not do code enforcement inspections and do not issue certificates of occupancy, this may disrupt your transaction. We were able to deal with this, but a brand new home might run into more challenges.  Another factor is that most towns update their assessments on roughly an annual cycle and will have flagged a number of properties to be visited by the assessor in the coming year.  If the property is assessed as land only and there no building shown on the assessment, that can cause a problem in RD underwriting as well.  The town may not want to incur special charges for an out of cycle visit by the assessor.   

  • Financing That Recreational Land Purchase

    Posted Under: Financing in Grafton County  |  May 13, 2009 5:43 AM  |  4,011 views  |  No comments

    An earlier post of mine discussed sales of undeveloped land with recreational and conservation features.  A crucial factor for sellers to keep in mind with such properties, and buyers would do well to consider as well, is that financing secured by such properties may not be possible or if mortgage financing is available the terms may be onerous.

    For qualified borrowers, land loans are available at about 20% down for 20 years from most lenders.  However, the general criteria for lending on these terms will include evidence that the property is buildable based on soil tests for a septic system and compliance with town rules and state regulations.  This will apply to the loan whether or not the buyer intends to build a permanent structure.  Soil testing can be performed just about anywhere so that is not a limitation.  However, town rules may affect the use of the property.  For example, can the property be developed in compliance with zoning ordinance setbacks.  Note that some towns also have additional tough standards tucked away in their subdivision regulations regarding setbacks from wetlands and watercourses.  Finally, towns have different approaches to allowing construction on private roads and Class VI roads.  Some towns will allow development if the owner executes a waiver, but other towns prohibit permanent structures on Class VI roads.  Land with such restrictions will not qualify for typical financing.  Finally, state regulations may affect development of the property.  The NH Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act sets rules for development on lakes and ponds of 10 or more acres well as on a list of so-called fourth order streams.  It is on these streams where additional rules may apply to recreational properties and the lender may require state permits as well as town approvals to demonstrate that a property is indeed buildable.

    If a property is not buildable, the list of secured financing options gets very short and very expensive. While underwriting standards change almost daily, in a recent case we found only one local savings institution out of a half dozen contacted that was willing to lend on unbuildable property.  The terms were 65% loan to value (e.g. 35%+ down) and a maximum term of 10 years in a selection of adjustable rate mortgages.  Closing costs started at $2,200 plus 0.75% (3/4 of one percent) state transfer tax to the buyer based on the contract selling price. 

    Sellers of recreational property need to understand how financing may affect marketability of their property. For buyers the best option may be to shop for recreational land with an equity line of credit on their primary residence to supplement any available cash resources.  Given the lower appraisals that homes are receiving today, sellers need to keep in mind that buyers' budget limitations are real.  Pricing within 5% to 7% of fair market value is crucial to ensure a sale.  Best Regards,  Chuck Braxton, REALTOR® GRI

  • Bright Spots in the Real Estate Market

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Grafton County  |  May 13, 2009 3:33 AM  |  1,577 views  |  No comments
    While sales of residential building parcels reflect a dramatic decrease versus the 2003-2005 period--a 60% percent decline in general--there are bright spots in the market for undeveloped property in the Lakes&Mountains Region of New Hampshire.  The greatest buyer interest for the past couple of years has been on what I would characterize as land with recreational and conservation features. 

    One group of buyers seek a place where they can place a camping trailer, tent platform or yurt (google that if you are not familiar with these delightful structures) and perhaps build a permanent dwelling in the future although more buyers are thinking strictly of recreational use with the addition, perhaps of a septic system and well on the property as the extent of improvements being considered.  Appropriately priced properties with a water feature (stream, brook, river, small pond of an acre or so, marsh, wetland) should attract a great deal of interest.  Most buyers seem to be working with budgets of up to $50,000 with some able to go as high as $70,000 for outstanding features on a parcel that has potential for construction of a year round home.  At a lower price point (under $35,000), suitable land in a quiet location where camping is allowed also seems to attract attention. 

    The other type of properties that are enjoying strong buyer interest are larger parcels of 20 to 250 acres or more.  Buyers seem to have an strong interest in conservation and preservation coupled with some consistent activities and limited development for personal use.  Sellers are surprised to learn that these buyers are comfortable with parcels on which conservation easements have been granted with provisions for in-holdings for one or two separately deedable homesites and that such easements may have little or no effect on the asking price for a property. 
 
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